IN-DEPTH: Peter David

Peter David is one of the rare professionals in any industry where his public persona is equally as entertaining and passionate as the characters he creates. Affectionately known to his fans as PAD, the writer's worked with nearly every major comics publisher, written novels, films and television, and has left an undeniable mark on every property he has handled.

Perhaps most memorably, David made Marvel's "Hulk' a must-read mega-hit, and later gave DC's Aquaman his harpoon hand that helped firmly establish the character as a man not a man to be laughed at simply because he talked to fish.

Never shy and always outspoken, Peter David talks with CBR News about his projects past, present and future.

CBR: When did you first take an interest in comics? Do you remember what got you hooked?

PETER DAVID: When I was a kid getting haircuts. My barber stocked an assortment of Harvey Comics and I got into the adventures of Casper and Wendy. I was drawn into superhero comics because I was a fan of the George Reeves "Superman" television series, and at the end of every episode the announcer said, "Superman is based on the character appearing in Superman magazines." And I wanted to check out the magazines.

What got you started writing? Did you aspire to be a writer early in life?

My father was a reporter, and that spurred my interest in becoming a writer. Actually, I thought I'd become a reporter.

Your first published writings were not in comics, but in journalism and fiction. At that time, were you trying to write for comics at all, or did that come later?

No, I was initially planning to be a journalist. But that didn't work out for a variety of reasons and I gravitated to fiction.

Your entry into comics originally started in the sales department at Marvel. Did you hope to move into the creative side from sales at some point or was it just a job to pay the bills?

I wouldn't call it "just a job." It was a dream job. My career trajectory at the time seemed to be in the sales side of publishing, and I had landed a job in the sales department of a company I'd loved since I was a kid. I wasn't thinking all that much of breaking into the writing side of things; that came later.

Then-editor Jim Owsley - now-writer Christopher Priest -- gave you your first published Marvel work on "Spectacular Spider-Man." How did that come about?

You have to understand where Owsley's head was at the time. When he was assistant editor under Larry Hama, people would routinely come into the office looking for Larry. And if Larry wasn't around, Owsley would say, "Can I help you?" And they'd say, "No," and wander off. He took that personally, which I didn't know. Now me, if I went into their office and needed help-solicit information or something-and Larry wasn't around, I didn't hesitate to ask Jim for help. It literally never even occurred to me not to. Nor did it occur to me that he genuinely appreciated it. I just figured I was doing my job, he was doing his, and that was that. Plus, whenever Jim needed something from me, I was perfectly happy to accommodate him to the best of my abilities. I thought he was a good guy and did his job well. When he became editor of the Spider-Man titles, he remembered that.

Meantime, I had been pitching story ideas from time to time to various Marvel editors and been repeatedly shut down. I don't mean they didn't' like my ideas; I mean they literally never read them. There was a vast divide between editorial and sales and I was being stonewalled. So there was Owsley and all of the people who didn't give him the time of day when he was an assistant suddenly wanted to be his new best friend. And he was in no hurry to hire any of them.

So in comes Peter David, who no other editor would touch, and who always had time for Owsley before he became an editor, saying, "Hey, I have an idea for a Spider-Man story." And Owsley was immediately saying, "Hit me with it. Whattya got?" That story developed into the story with "Blaze" that ran in "Spec Spidey" #103, I think it was. And one thing led to another, and next thing I knew, I was handed "Spec Spidey" on a regular basis. Which set off shock waves through editorial. They hated the idea. Despised it. I hate to say it, but I think Owsley's putting me on Spider-Man, while it was the start of my career, went a ways toward kneecapping his, because it stirred all manner of resentment and I'm not sure he ever recovered from that.

When Marvel asked you to take over the writing on "The Hulk," did you have any idea going in that you would have such a lengthy run with the character?

No. I figured six months. A year at most. That's why it breaks me up that Marvel puts out collections called "Peter David: Visionary." As if I had the faintest idea what I was doing.

During your run on with the Hulk, he went through many incarnations: mindless monster, Mr. Fixit, Banner Hulk or Smart Hulk. Was it your idea to get into the psychology of Bruce Banner and relate it to the Hulk personalities?

The types of examinations that I explored were certainly my idea, but all I was doing was building upon the work done by my predecessors. Bill Mantlo, Barry Smith, and all the way back to Stan Lee, laid down the trackwork. I just took my turn driving the train.

Were there any Hulk incarnation ideas that you ended up not using?

The version of him that he saw briefly in the flash forward/backward in my last issue. Rick recounts the last time (in my continuity, at any rate) that he saw Bruce Banner. And the way that Bruce is depicted in that sequence is pretty much the way that Bruce Jones wound up writing him. That's the next direction that I was going to take him: Bruce Banner as the baddest mofo in the Marvel Universe, capable of changing at will. I wanted to do some very heavy Banner stories, much as Bruce Jones did. Unfortunately I wasn't afforded the opportunity.

Do you have a personal favorite version of the Hulk? Is there one you personally relate to the most?

I'm still fond of what I called the merged Hulk. I thought he was intriguing because all of the Banner/Hulk conflict was there; it was just internalized instead of externalized.

You abruptly left the Hulk after over a decade with the character. Was there a specific problem or reason that caused you to leave the title?

Well, yeah: they didn't want me writing it anymore. Marvel wanted to have the Hulk be nothing but a mindless berserker, issue after issue of the Hulk just going around and destroying everything in sight. Banner would not be a factor in the stories; there would be no psychological underpinning; it would just be an inarticulate Hulk fighting everyone in sight. I felt that it would not be remotely challenging creatively and would be a disaster from a sales point of view. I told them I wasn't interested in writing that and tried to convince them that it would be a mistake. They didn't care about the second half of the sentiment; as soon as I said I didn't want to write that, I was told not to let the door hit me on the way out.

[Editor] Bobbie Chase was devastated; she was the one who had to pull the trigger, and she was literally sobbing over the phone. I wound up consoling her, and she was the one who still had a job. And Marvel produced exactly the stories they wanted and sales went straight down the crapper until Paul Jenkins came in and started doing all the psychologically based stuff that Marvel had refused to let me write anymore. Then sales went up. Go figure.

"Future Imperfect" showed a future version of the Hulk as the Maestro. Would that have been the future of the Hulk had you stayed on the series or was it never intended to come true?

Would that have been his future if I'd stayed on the Hulk for the next hundred years? Yes.

Are there any Hulk stories you still want to tell or are you done with that character?

There's always more stories to tell.

Early in your freelance career, you wrote a four-issue "Phantom" miniseries for DC Comics. Was the Phantom a character you were interested in or were you more interested in the opportunity to work for DC?

I've always loved the Phantom. It was just serendipity that the assignment was available.

When putting together the cast of characters for your X-Factor team in '90s, did you have much choice on who could be in the book? Was there a draft-type thing to pick mutant team members? Or were you just given those characters not already slated to be in the two other X-Men titles?

I had zero input. That was the classic good news/bad news meeting. "Peter, we want you to take over writing 'X-Factor.'" "Wow! Outstanding!" "Yeah, except it's going to be an entirely new team. Instead of the original X-Men, you're going to be writing Havok and Polaris and Multiple Man and Guido..." And I'm going, "Guido? Multiple Man?! WTF!" But I soon decided that it would be an opportunity to work with characters who had considerably less baggage than the main line X-Men.

Was the concept of a government-sponsored mutant team your idea or one handed down from editorial?

Handed down.

Is it difficult to work on an X-title given the amount of crossovers they are involved in? Is it hard keeping continuity constant between books on characters with multiple monthly titles?

Back then? It was murder. I'd be working on setting up various storylines and suddenly it would be, "Okay, drop what you're doing, time to plot the next three-month long crossover." It was hard to get any sort of momentum because my story arcs were always being derailed and suddenly I found myself writing entire issues with Wolverine and Cable and none of the X-Factor cast...which, of course, sold much better than typical issues. It was a major part of what drove me off the series in the first place.

Nowadays, crossovers are handled much differently; most of them have an opt in/opt out policy, and those few that are indeed mandated are done so far more smoothly and effectively with much more notice. When we did "Messiah CompleX," for instance, I had a half a year's warning. So not only was I able to clear the decks with time to spare, but I could actually write material that led into the crossover so that it was organic to the series rather than being slapped in.

You helped launch the 2099 line for Marvel with "Spider-Man 2099" and stayed with the title for a couple of years. Did Marvel give you any guidelines for the character, or were you given the freedom to create the future version of Spider-Man any way you liked?

It was nearly twenty years ago and, as the saying goes, I didn't know there was going to be a quiz. I don't remember exactly which aspects of the 2099 were already part of the initial setup when I came aboard. I do know, though, that there was almost nothing specific for Spider-Man other than that he was, well, Spider-Man and (I think this was part of what I was handed) an employee of Alchemax. I was the one, though, who came up with his identity, the way his powers worked, the supporting cast, all of that. I even had a hand in designing the costume; not that I could draw a lick, but I sat there with Rick Leonardi during the first 2099 get together and described to him what I wanted, and he executed it perfectly, building upon what I suggested and improving it. I watched that costume come to life for the first time under Rick's pencil. It was one of the single best collaborative moments in my life.

Is it true you left "Spider-Man 2099" to protest the firing of the 2099 line editor Joey Cavalieri?

Yeah. And it wasn't just me. A number of us felt that Joey was the heart and soul of the 2099 universe, and if he was gone, we didn't feel it right that we should continue. Of course it was a hollow gesture considering they canceled it a few issues later, but even so...

Aquaman is a character you have worked on several times over the years, first with "The Atlantis Chronicles," then "Time and Tide" and a series re-launch. Is Aquaman a character that you personally like? Is he one that you have sought to write?

I think Aquaman's great. I love Aquaman. He's Tarzan underwater. After I wrote "Atlantis Chronicles" I was dying to write Aquaman, but when the series was restarted they chose another writer over me. Which was, of course, perfectly within their right. But once he was departed, the editor knew of my interest and brought me on.

Did you know going in to his ongoing series you wanted him to lose his hand and get a hook?

It was something I had to clear going in with editorial, so yeah, I knew going in. I wanted to do something dramatic that would truly shake up the character and also spark interest from the readership. And it worked. I'd be discussing the upcoming series and I'd tell fans, "Well, we're going to be bringing back Mera." "Yeah, that's nice." "And we're going to be a storyline in which Atlantis is raised to the surface." "Yeah, that's nice." "Oh, and he gets his hand eaten off by piranha and replaced by a harpoon." "Yeah, that's...wait, what? Huh? What do you mean?" So at least it got people aboard. I'll tell you, a lot of people complained about it, but sales went up.

Aquaman is the brunt of a lot of jokes due to his fish-centric powers. Was that a consideration in your take on him, maybe try to toughen up his image a bit?

Yes, absolutely. That was one of the reasons for doing the Superboy issue. I had him expressing the same disdain that a lot of fans had for Aquaman. Being dismissive of him and such, saying he wasn't impressed. So then a few pages later, Aquaman attacks the island army base that Superboy is guarding and he creates a tidal wave while astride a whale and shouting, "Hey! Punk! Impressed yet?!" It was making a statement to the fans that Aquaman is not to be screwed with.

Are you ever surprised by the uproar caused by changes like Aquaman's hook? Do you often find that the uproar is more a vocal minority and that fans in general like changes in the status quo for characters?

Number one, it's a freaking harpoon. Can we get on the same page with that? It's not a hook. It was never a hook. Second, uproar is good. Lack of complacency is good. The whole point of the harpoon was that it was a symbol of the two worlds that Aquaman strides. That's he's taking a harpoon, one of the main weapons used by surface men against aquatic life, and using it as a weapon against the surface men. Which is why the whole water hand thing never made sense to me. I mean, it was perfectly well executed, I guess, but he's already in water, so why does he need a hand made of it? Nor is it particularly threatening. A guy comes into an office waving a harpoon at you, and you don't want to mess with him. A guy comes into an office waving a hand made of water, and it's, "Yeah, okay, just take a seat, someone will be with you in a while." It wasn't symbolic or threatening. It was just kind of there. Say what you will about the harpoon, but at least it had a point. Get it? It was sharp, so it had a...yeah, never mind.

What eventually caused you to leave the Aquaman series and did you have any stories left to tell for him?

Sure, plenty. In fact, major elements of the stories I had to tell showed up in subsequent issues by other writers... after I'd been told I couldn't write them. Basically I was becoming frustrated by conflicting editorial directions. I was told that Aquaman should be depicted as a leader... but they wanted him to be a loner. I was told that they wanted stories with Atlantean politics... but they wanted me not to set stories in Atlantis.

The final straw came when I did a storyline in which I killed off Aquaman with the intent that he would be dead for a time, and Aqualad would take over the mantel of Aquaman. Then eventually Aquaman would return as a water elemental, a being made of water, at which point his relationship with Mera would eventually bring him back from that status and restore him to humanity. And the entire idea was squelched by editorial after I'd already put it in motion; they informed me that they had no intention of killing off Aquaman, plus the idea of bringing him back as a water creature was ridiculous. Between my story being truncated and the incessant editorial conflicting instructions, I felt it had become impossible for me to continue on the series. So I left. And of course, eventually they killed off Aquaman and I sat there waiting for him to return as a being made of water, which is basically what happened.

With the "Last Avengers Story" you got to tell a dark tale of the future and the final fate of many of these heroes. Is it liberating to be able to tell a story of this nature without the restrictions often placed on characters?

It's liberating I suppose, but there are still restrictions. The characters still have to be recognizably themselves; the stuff that happens to them has to be unique to them. You have the freedom to plot it as you wish, but Hank is still Hank, Hawkeye is still Hawkeye, etc.

Your column for "Comics Buyer's Guide," "But I Digress," has been running since the '90s. You have never seemed to shy away from speaking your mind, be it problems you see with publishers, creators or even fans. Do you think it's important for creators to use their voice to express opposition publicly? Do you think many do not for fear of being "black listed" by editors or officers in publishing companies?

I think it's important for creators to do what they feel is right for them. I've gone out on limbs for other creators any number of times. When I see them being screwed over or getting a raw deal, either from publishers or from fans, I say something. Loudly. I've received e-mails and phone calls from the creators in question, thanking me profusely. But they say it privately. They're relieved that I've said the things they wanted to say, because then they don't have to. They can continue to be beloved by the fans.

Of course, on the occasions I've found myself in the center of some shit storm, most of the time-with rare exceptions--I've been on my own. In fact, some of the people I've helped out earlier wind up joining the dog pile. I suppose the reasoning is that I can defend myself. Whatever. It would be unreasonable to expect others to share my Quixote complex. When I see something that I feel is wrong, I just feel compelled to do something about it. That's my problem and gotten me into a lot of situations I could easily have avoided if I'd just kept my mouth shut.

Probably, I will reach a point in my life where I'll decide that it's just too much trouble and not do anything about it if I see someone being ill-used or screwed over, or if I see obnoxious behavior that I think should be addressed, or perceive a topic that no one else seems to want to discuss and I open up a dialogue about it because, to quote the representative from Rhode Island in "1776," "In all my years I've never heard, seen or smelled a subject that was so dangerous it couldn't be talked about. Hell yes, I'm for debating anything." But I haven't reached that point yet.

One famous disagreement years back was with Todd McFarlane. It eventually led to a public debate at a convention. Do you think that debate helped settle things? Have you and McFarlane buried the hatchet?

I have no idea. I don't think the debate settled anything. It was a waste of time and I should never have let myself get dragged into it. I mean, realistically how would one bury the hatchet with Todd? Accept his word for it that everything's okay now? Ask Neil Gaiman how good Todd is at keeping his word. Don't get me wrong: I don't wish ill on him. I think he's a smart guy. Hell, when people were slagging him about buying the home run baseball, I was saying it was a smart business move because it bought him national publicity worth many times what the ball cost him, plus toy contracts with MLB. My only issue with that was that he should have told his wife ahead of time. If you're going to blow $2 million on an investment, you really should give your spouse a heads up. Unfortunately it's hard to believe him when he tells you anything. At this point I don't have any issue with him other than that he screwed over Neil Gaiman, who made the mistake of believing promises he'd made. And I just wish he'd man up, admit he did wrong, make restitution and move on.

You've worked on Star Trek both in comics and novels. Do you prefer one medium over the other? Is there a huge difference in your method of writing for each or is it pretty similar?

Novels. "Star Trek" stories aren't always the most visual of beasts, and as such work better in novels, I think. There's only so many ways you can draw people talking on the bridge or in the briefing room.

Is working on a property such as Star Trek more difficult given the oversight of a company like Paramount? Or is it essentially the same with any corporate-owned property like Spider-Man or Superman?

Whenever you're working on someone else's property, there are always going to be needles you have to thread. Working on Spider-Man is much more of an ongoing relationship/partnership with an editor. With television shows or film properties, you're dealing not only with an editor, but people in the licensing divisions who don't always have a clear sense of story requirements. They'll say "Change this" without a clear idea that if you make Change A, it's going to require changing B, C and D.

You have been a novelist nearly as long as you've been in comics. Do you think certain material, such as science fiction perhaps, works better in one form than the other? Or do you think a good story is simply that, a good story, and can be made to work in any form?

I think it depends on the story. I think every story has a venue in which it's best suited to be told. The style, topic, and plot of the story dictates that venue. After that, it's a matter of learning to adapt.

"Sir Apropos of Nothing," for instance, works as a character in comics or novels equally because he's always going new and different places, he has the first person narrative style that carries you over the storytelling, and there are fantastical elements. "Fallen Angel" would likewise work as a novel if I were so inclined to write one. The "Harry Potter" movies work perfectly fine to movies.

On the other hand, there are some stories that just don't make the transition well. "Flowers for Algernon" worked brilliantly as a short story but was overblown and much less effective as a novel. Some novels are simply un-filmable. It really depends.

You wrote two of the issues for the "DC vs. Marvel" series. What did you think of the series overall? Was it a difficult project to write given that it was a joint venture between two competing companies?

That was one of the most exciting collaborative efforts I've ever been a part of. This was back when Marvel and DC were talking to each other and you could actually have that sort of collaboration that was spurred by nothing but the pure love of comic books. It was Mark Gruenwald and Mike Carin and Ron Marz and me, all gathered at Mark's apartment, hammering out the specifics of what we were going to be doing. We developed the story of these two cosmic beings who were almost like brothers but in competition with each other, and the subtext of that was really that it was about Gruenwald and Carlin. The cosmic beings were just substitutes for the two of them, making it an oddly personal storyline.

Originally, Ron and I were going to collaborate on the script of every issue, switching off every few pages, but we drafted a first script and it didn't work. Our styles were simply too dissimilar. And I think I was the one to suggest that we simply each write two entire issues. And Ron said, well, who would write which ones? And I said I wanted to write #2 and #4. Which both stunned and thrilled Ron, because he wanted to write #1 and #3. I couldn't blame him. They were the most high profile. The first issue was, y'know, the first issue, and the third issue was going to feature the fan-voted-upon fights.

Me, I didn't want to deal with either one. I wanted to avoid the first issue because it was going to be all setup, and I didn't want to be hamstrung by the fan votes with the third issue. I was far more enamored of writing the issue with the battles that the group of us had decided upon, and the fourth issue because it would be a challenge to wrap the whole thing up. So it was one of those rare instances where a compromise was reached and both parties felt they'd gotten the better part of the deal.

"Supergirl" was another title you had a lengthy run on. Was the "Fallen Angel" series a way to keep this story going once the book was cancelled?

Yes. "Fallen Angel" grew from plans that I had originally had for "Supergirl" after "Many Happy Returns." Bete Noire didn't exist as such; she was going to be relocated to San Francisco. But it was going to be creepy and nourish. Curiously, that hadn't been my first choice. I was hoping that DC would let me keep Kara Zor-El around. But DC wouldn't allow that because they didn't want Kara Zor-El to have a permanent presence as Supergirl in the DC universe. And of course they changed their mind about that as well.

You moved "Fallen Angel" from DC to IDW and have since worked with them with other titles including "Spike." How has working with IDW been?

It's been great. The guys at IDW took on "Fallen Angel" for the best reason of all: they just wanted to see what would happen next and couldn't stand to let the story end where it did. J.K. Woodward's work on the art has been stellar.

Your creator-owned title "Spyboy" with Pop Mhan had several stories published through Dark Horse. Where did the idea for the series come from? Any plans to return to the characters?

"Spyboy" wasn't creator-owned. The basic idea came from Dark Horse and they own it. I did all the development work on it-worked out the names, the situations, the back stories, the spy outfits, the gadgets, all that. But the notion of a teen superhero spy name Spyboy was definitely a Dark Horse concept. I was always frustrated with where we ended it. It didn't occur to me that they wouldn't continue the series; if I'd known, I'd never have left it on a lady-or-the-tiger cliffhanger. I remember when we did the Spyboy/Young Justice crossover. The book had already been canceled and fans read the crossover and made comments like, "We really love this Spyboy character. How come no one's done a series with him?" That just leaves you banging your head against the wall.

You ad ChrisCross's run on "Captain Marvel" eventually saw Genis-Vell go insane from his Cosmic Awareness. Was that a pitch that was a hard sell to Marvel? It seems like a completely logical problem one would have coping with that power.

It wasn't a hard sell at all. First of all, the pitch was simple: If great power brings with it great responsibility, then what does too much power bring with it? Obviously, too much responsibility, as we saw. Second, I developed the storyline to play to what I saw as Chris's strengths as an artist. In this case, his strength lay in drawing people who looked as if they were nuts. Even his sane people seemed to have a screw loose. He was masterful at doing that sort of facial expression, drawing what Robin Williams would call "Helter Skelter eyes."

So I developed the entire storyline to cater to that strength. Which worked fine when we re-launched, but then bang, Chris was gone after less than half a dozen issues. I should have bagged the storyline right there, but instead I soldiered on (hoping that Chris would come back, really) and a variety of artists came through, all of whom had different strengths but none of whom could portray lunacy quite like Chris. And readers started bitching about it. To this day I'm convinced that if Chris had stayed with the book, people would have loved it because it was designed to be right in his wheelhouse and he would have continued to knock every single one out of the park. But that's life in the big leagues.

In "Young Justice," you took the three major kid sidekicks and had them essentially form a new version of the Teen Titans, at one point even having a young version of Lobo join the team. Was it disappointing to have the book end simply to re-launch the characters in Teen Titans? Did you get to say everything you wanted to with the characters?

I had all kinds of things I wanted to do with them, particularly since both Impulse and Superboy were getting their books cancelled. That would have freed me up considerably. It was a shame I never had the chance. What was particularly depressing was that the mandate of the book was to try a team book that would skew young and thus serve as a bridge for new readers. I was told at the time that the editorial plan was for younger readers to get hooked into the DCU via "Young Justice" - an actual mainline title intended for younger readers, as opposed to separate "kid" books off in their own little realm somewhere - and eventually "graduate" into the older skewing "Teen Titans." When DC cancelled "YJ," I felt as if they were not only abandoning the title, but the prospective younger readers. Perhaps they felt that editorial mandate wasn't working, or maybe they'd flat out forgotten it was what they wanted. I really couldn't say.

You wrote the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for Dreamwave. What was that experience like? Would you do it again?

Only if I could write it the way I wanted to. When Dreamwave asked me to write it, they told me the first four issues had to tie-in very closely to the first episodes of the new animated series. I felt that was an unfortunate and limiting choice. I almost passed on the project but my daughters were saying, "Dad! It's Turtles! You have to do it!" So against my better judgment I took it on, doing the best I could with the restrictions I'd been handed, and bided my time until issue #5 when we could start doing the kinds of stories I really wanted to tell.

Unfortunately, as I feared would be the case, readers checked out the first issues, said, "Oh, it's just a tie-in to the cartoon," and stopped reading. It killed sales; absolutely killed it. I was so frustrated. At the time they pulled the plug, I had this big four-parter planned, a full blown Terminator send-up called "T4: The Turtlenator." First two issues were scripted and I think the artist had already started. That's how little warning I had.

"Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man" launched within the Spider-Man storyline "The Other." Was that a difficult beginning, working with writers Reginald Hudlin and J. Michael Straczynski on a story that ran through several titles? And did you like the changes being made to the character that were the end results of "The Other?"

It wasn't particularly difficult in this instance since I was writing three issues, then Reggie was writing three, then Joe was writing three. It was a little frustrating though because by the time I came aboard-I was a last minute replacement for Mark Waid-the story of "The Other" was already pretty much set in stone. And I read it over and I said, "Well, wait, I have this problem with it and this problem with it, and maybe this would work better if we did this other thing." But it was too late; the story was already locked. The only wiggle room I really had was in what would be "FNSM" #4, because basically the plan was that the last three issues were all about Spider-Man feeling good about himself because he'd come back from the dead. And I wasn't sure that was enough.

Plus I felt that something more definitive should come out of the crossover than some power increases in Spider-Man's power (and for the record, I thought the stingers were cool.) I mean, the guy had died and come back from the dead. I felt there should be some major blowback from that. Plus I thought the entire concept of "the other" was a bit obscure. So I developed the notion of the spiders devouring the remains of Peter's body and reconstituting as the creature called Ero, which Reggie then took and ran with in the follow-up installment. And she wound up being a major component of the rest of my run. So that was something, at least.

Spider-Man seems like a natural fit for you as a writer, especially given your tradition of blending humor into a story. Is Spider-Man a character you enjoy? What do you think has kept the character so popular over the years?

I love Spider-Man. I think he's great. As for what keeps him popular, there's half a dozen answers that I or various other folks could give you about him being an everyman, or an underdog, or easy to pull for, etc. etc. But you know what? Nobody knows for sure. No matter what they say, they don't know, and the proof of that is that if anyone REALLY knew what kept him so popular, they'd make another character who had that same level of popularity.

You retuned to "X-Factor" first with a Madrox miniseries then with a new re-launch. Did you miss working with these characters?

Actually, I hadn't worked with more than half the group. But yeah, I had a lot of fun working with them the first time around.

Did you always plan for Rahne Sinclair, Wolfsbane, to leave "X-Factor" or was that largely due in part to the forming of the new title "X-Force?"

I never planned for that. I thought she was going to be in both "X-Force" and "X-Factor." That, like "Mission: Impossible," she'd be called in to work with X-Force when they needed her but otherwise she'd still be with X-Factor. I didn't know we were losing her until I was told I had to write her out of the book. I guess I just didn't understand the concept of "X-Force" requiring that she be exclusive to that book. I still miss her.

You recently wrote "The Scream" for Dark Horse with Bart Sears on art. Was that a creation of yours or one provided to you by Dark Horse that you fleshed out?

That one was another Dark Horse concept. It was a bit more fleshed out than "Spyboy" was. Again, I named the character, worked out his backstory, personal situation and supporting cast. But the basic concept of the character, the way his powers worked, the tone and style of the series all came from [Dark Horse Publisher] Mike Richardson.

You had a brief stint recently on "She-Hulk." Do you think there's a shortage of female leads in comics? What do you think makes She-Hulk an interesting character?

Well, there's a shortage of female leads, but that probably goes hand in hand with the shortage of readers who will support a book with a female lead. As for what makes her interesting, you've got this woman with all this superstrength and power for whom solving a problem with her fists should be the LAST thing she would want to do. Her instinct is going to be to talk things out, to negotiate, to proceed through a system. And what interested me at the time I was writing it was that she felt the system she embraced had completely betrayed her. She'd been lied to and betrayed about as thoroughly as anyone could be. And I thought it would be incredibly interesting to explore someone who felt so ill-used and rudderless. Unfortunately, not enough people agreed.

Are there any new projects you've got coming soon you can announce?

New projects? Yes. That I want to announce? Not yet. I'm excited about the return of "Fallen Angel," because I'm having a ball working with Illyria and I think it's J.K. Woodward's best work ever. "Halo" has been a kick to work on, and is giving me serious street cred with my high school daughter's friends. And my "Peter Pan" pastiche, "Tigerheart," is coming out in paperback. We're finally going to see a new "But I Digress" collection coming out in the summer, just in time for San Diego with any luck, plus a new edition of my book on writing comics. It's an exciting time.

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