BRAND NEW (MAY) DAY: DeFalco talks "Amazing Spider-Girl"

In the third of CBR's exclusive five-part interview with Joe Quesada, the Marvel Editor-in-Chief suggested that fans angered by the controversial "One More Day" storyline – in which Spider-Man's marriage to Mary Jane was retroactively dissolved -- and looking to read about a happily married Peter and MJ should turn their attention to "Amazing Spider-Girl," which sees #16 on sale this Wednesday, January 16.

The alternate-future series stars the teenage daughter of Spider-Man and has long been a favorite among its loyal fans, although it's struggled to achieve a larger readership. However, with the outcry over "One More Day," some readers have indicated they are ready to take Quesada's dare and cast their lot with young May "May Day" Parker, Spider-Girl. CBR caught up with "Amazing Spider-Girl" writer Tom DeFalco to discuss the attention the Spider-books are receiving, and what this ultimately means for Marvel and superhero comics in general.

DeFalco emphasizes that Quesada's endorsement of "Spider-Girl" should not come as a surprise. "Joe Quesada has always supported Spider-Girl," DeFalco told CBR News. "Way back when 'Spider-Girl' first appeared on the scene, Joe said how much he liked it. His dedication and support of the book has been fantastic. There were a handful of people in beginning who said, I'll be surprised if you get six issues. Others said, you should be doing more of this. Joe was in the 'you should do more of this' camp. It's not the first time he's shown support for 'Spider-Girl,' and I'm sure it won't be the last."

But will Quesada's remarks create new "Amazing Spider-Girl" fans, and, if so, will these émigrés find what they're looking for?  Rather than buy "Amazing Spider-Girl" in a show of support for a married Peter and MJ, DeFalco hopes fans will come to root for the book's star instead. "Are Peter and Mary Jane married? Yes! Do we show a very positive family dynamic in 'Spider-Girl?' Yes. Are readers looking to read about a happily married Peter and Mary Jane going to be happy? I don't know. The book is called 'Amazing Spider-Girl.' It's about Spider-Girl. Peter and Mary Jane are members of the cast."

As to whether readers will follow-through on their threats to toss "Amazing Spider-Man" aside-possibly in favor of "Spider-Girl"-DeFalco observes that fans' passions often play out in tricky ways. "I have been on the receiving end of that uproar through the years," said DeFalco, who hasn't yet read "One More Day." "So I view that sort of uproar in the very different sort of way from most people. When I was on 'Fantastic Four' with Paul Ryan, people would constantly tell me how much they hated it. They called me 'The Great Satan,' I still get that on the Fantastic Four message board from time to time. But every issue, the sales went up. In many regards, in comics, it's better to be hated than loved. When people hate you they buy more of your books. In some ways, I wish I could make more people hate what we're doing in 'Amazing Spider-Girl.'"

Reverse psychology aside, DeFalco sees the attention generated by the "One More Day" storyline as a positive. "I applaud what's going on in 'One More Day' and 'Brand New Day' because everyone is talking about Spider-Man today," he said. "Everyone. I turned on a sports channel to see what commentators had to say about the upcoming football playoffs, and they're talking about Spider-Man breaking up with Mary Jane. For people who love comics, who love the hobby, this is wonderful."

For those just joining "Amazing Spider-Girl" with this week's issue #16, DeFalco assures that no prior knowledge of the series is necessary to enjoy the new issue nor any other in the series. "['Spider-Girl' artist] Ron Frenz and I believe that you don't have to know anything before you pick up your first issue," DeFalco said. "We always tell people in the course of the book that she's the daughter of Spider-Man. There are some in-jokes and references to other issues, but if you don't get it, that shouldn't affect your enjoyment of that issue. We are an old school style comic book with a modern sensibility. Old school in that Ron Frenz and Sal Buscema, who've studied the craft and take it very seriously, believe it's our responsibility to tell a story in every issue. Even if it's part three of six, that part three should be a full story. You only have to read one issue of 'Spider-Girl' to tell if you like it, because that issue will tell you."

But just in case some readers are uncomfortable just diving in, DeFalco offered a bit of background on the "Amazing Spider-Girl" series. "Peter and Mary Jane got married, they got older and had a daughter," the writer explained. "When she became a teenager, she discovered she had these spider-like powers. Her name is May; they call her 'May Day' because she was on the basketball team and she was sort of a kamikaze player-she didn't realize it was because she had spider powers. Around this time, she also discovered that her dad, who worked as a forensic scientist for the police department, was Spider-Man.

"What we were trying to do is the first real second-generation superhero," DeFalco said. "There's been a lot of fake second generation superheroes, where a new hero shows up and turns out to be the son or daughter of hero we've never heard of. By the time May Day learns about her powers, Spider-Man is an icon. He's a living legend. The thing we know about living legends is that they never have doubts; they never second-guess themselves. But readers know that isn't really Spider-Man. So his daughter's trying to live up to a legacy that never really happened.

"She's a different person than Peter," added DeFalco of his heroine. "If you ever do have children, you find out to your utter horror that they will become their own persons, they will have their own ideas, and they won't be mirror images of dear old dad. Peter, who was swinging around as Spider-Man at sixteen, seventeen years old, is horrified that his daughter is putting herself in the same danger."

Continuing on his theme that "Amazing Spider-Girl" has certain "old-school" sensibilities, DeFalco pointed out a difference in storytelling that is not often commented upon: the size and make up of a hero's cast. "What makes 'Spider-Girl' very different from most comics being sold today is that she actually has a supporting cast," DeFalco said. "She spends time outside of her superhero act with people who are not superheroes. In comics today, people in costumes only talk to other people in costumes. In 'Spider-Girl,' there are whole issues where she never got into costume. Every member of her supporting cast has their own story and it's a continuing story."

Some of those non-powered friends include May Day's best friend Courtney Duran, and Moose Mansfield, who was Spider-Girl's biggest fan until an attempt to cure his ailing father failed, which he blames on our heroine. "But he confides all of his problems to May Day Parker," DeFalco added.

Other prominent cast members are Davida Kirby, class president and May Day's teammate on the basketball team, and "the type of person who believes it's always good to have a good looking guy on your arm but never same one twice;" and adversarial assistant principal Mr. Slattery, who has just hired Spider-Girl's mom as a part-time counselor at the school.  This, of course, could be unbearably embarrassing for May Day, and DeFalco hints there may be further conflicts between mother and daughter arising from this arrangement.

Spider-Girl's costume is reminiscent of one seen in another highly controversial Spider-man epic, and DeFalco notes emphatically his title has nothing at all to do with that story. "A lot of people who don't read 'Spider-Girl' are convinced it's all about the Clone Saga," DeFalco said, but "the vast majority of our readers, who buy through Scholastic Books, don't know anything about the clone saga, they've never heard of it."

"Amazing Spider-Girl" #16 starts off running, says DeFalco. "On the first page, we introduce a brand new supervillain, who is essentially an invisible assassin who is trying to go after Spider-Girl. In the course of this issue, Spider-Girl, our friendly neighborhood superhero, discovers that someone really wants her dead and is willing to bring in a highly trained international assassin to make that happen. She has to discover how to beat someone she can't see. She also faces the challenge of trying to discover who hired this person and why. We also have a big action battle! It's some fun stuff."

Whatever sales push may or may not materialize in the aftermath of "One More Day," there is a feeling that "Amazing Spider-Girl" will continue to succeed through the efforts of its loyal core fanbase, an active readership that has more than once saved the title from cancellation through letter-writing campaigns and online efforts. "'Spider-Girl,' through the years, has been on the chopping block a few times, and it has been saved by its fans," DeFalco said. "It's only around because of its fans. The people who read 'Spider-Girl' tend to love it, and they love it in such a positive way that they convince the company to keep publishing it. We're very thankful for our fans."

This appeal may be due to the title's inherent honesty of approach, and its emphasis on fun in a genre that often seems to have lost its capacity for wonder. "We're a friendly neighborhood comic book," DeFalco said. "If you're looking for the meaning of life, you're not going to find it in 'Spider-Girl.' If you're looking for the meaning of life in a comic book, you're looking in the wrong place anyway. But if you're looking for likable people, who have their struggles, but believe in heroism, and give that extra inch, this could be the book for you."

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