'Amazing Spider-Man #36' reacts to the WTC disaster

[Amazing Spider-Man #36]Since the September 11th attacks on America we've all been dealing with the aftermath on a daily basis. From the daily updates on our campaign in Afghanistan to recovery work being done in New York City and Washington D.C., we are surrounded by reminders of the attacks. For readers of "Amazing Spider-Man #36" there will be another such somber reminder

As reported in September "Amazing Spider-Man #36" will address the events of September 11th directly. Today CBR News received images from this special issue and spoke with artist John Romita Jr. and editor Axel Alonso.

This issue, written by J. Michael Straczynski, shows Marvel Comics heroes reacting to the tragedy and helping with relief efforts, working side by side with New York Fire Fighters, Police and relief workers. While the issue itself is part of the regular series, it isn't exactly part of continuity.

"It fits into Spider-Man continuity insofar as it interrupts our regularly scheduled programming," Axel Alonso told CBR News on Friday. "The events in the issue occur between the events in issue #35 and issue #37. However ... one need not have read issue #35 to understand what's going on in this story. In many ways, the issue is a Marvel Universe statement about the events of Sept. 11.

"This story is a stand-alone issue. It speaks for itself."

[Amazing Spider-Man #36]While series artist John Romita Jr. may live in Southern California now, he was born and bred in New York City and returns to the Big Apple regularly. As a native New Yorker it was especially difficult for him to supply the artwork for "Amazing Spider-Man #36."

"[This issue] caused me to lose a lot of sleep for the month that I drew it," said Romita. "It gave me a lot of nightmares. With the news and radio, you can just put it off or down. But with this work, I had reference material plastered all over my office. I had to be exact, down to the patterns of rubble. I wanted it to be perfect."

For that accuracy and attention to detail, Romita paid an emotional price. While the work would often overwhelm him and he'd want to stop to take a breath, he'd be reminded of the tight schedule he was under. He wanted to make sure that he put his all into this issue, so there was no time to stop and take a break.

In the Stanley Kubrick film "A Clockwork Orange" doctors try to cleanse the soul of Alex DeLarge, played by Malcom McDowell, from his love of "the ultra-violence" by forcing his eyes open and subjecting him to horrible imagery. Romita compared his experience of drawing "Amazing Spider-Man #36" to that scene, having been constantly surrounded by the reference material for the month it took him to complete the issue. He couldn't escape the devastation. But after working on the issue, Romita feels he has changed a bit.

"I feel a little stronger than I did before as an American. As a New Yorker, I'm still fucking pissed off. I'm very proud to be a New Yorker. These people that live in Manhattan are as tough as the come.

"[Working on this issue was] the most difficult and most rewarding work. It's a quality product and I'm very proud of it and proud of the people that worked on it."

[Amazing Spider-Man #36]"John's work has been nothing short of a career mark, as you'll see," Alonso said. "He sweated blood drawing this story. I know that it was a gut-wrenching experience for him to draw this story, even if it was somewhat cathartic once it was done."

"I was blown away when I read JMS's script for the first time," continued Alonso. "I closed my door, put my feet on the windowsill overlooking the city, and just relived the event. Understand, we entered into this issue with some trepidation. When I asked JMS if he thought it would be odd just to go on without acknowledging what happened on September 11th, he just said, 'Give me 24 hours to see if I can come up with anything.' I thought he needed 24 hours to decide whether or not he COULD say anything that made sense in the 22 pages of the issue. But 24 hours later, there it was -- a complete script. I know that it took him some time to make up his mind whether to proceed or not, but once he started writing, it came to him.

Marvel's promotion of "Heroes" and "Amazing Spider-Man #36" has been very aggressive. The response by the mainstream media has been phenomenal.

"This book -- along with "Heroes" -- has gotten amazing coverage in the mainstream press. From an extensive article in the New York Times, to a mention on MTV's news clips, to an article in today's USA Today. I've lost count of the articles."

Look for "Amazing Spider-Man #36" in comic book stores Wednesday November 14th.

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