Marvel Comics held a press conference today with writer Tom DeFalco to discuss the upcoming mini-series “Last Planet Standing” as well as the 100th and final issue of the long-running “Spider-Girl.” Also contributing on the call were Executive Editor Tom Brevoort, Sales Manager David Gabriel and series editor Molly Lazer.
CBR News has a full transcript from the call now available, as well as a handful of preview art from “Last Planet Standing” #1.
Tom DeFalco began the call by bringing everyone up to speed on the history of the “Spider-Girl” title and where “Last Planet Standing” sprang out of.
Tom DeFalco: For the past eight or nine years we’ve been doing this little comic book called “Spider-Girl,” which features the adventures of Peter Parker’s daughter and occurs in an alternate universe. “Spider-Girl” began with a one-shot story, which we thought at the time would be an only-shot story. To our surprise it sold well enough to interest the powers at be at the time to say, “Hey, let’s do a regular comic book.” We started out with the plan to do only 12 issues, but then they asked to do six more. And six more. [laughs] And six more up until now. I think our six more is finally going to run out with issue #100.
“Spider-Girl,” aside from the first story, the title has been aimed at all-ages. We’re basically following the old Stan Lee/Jack Kirby/Steve Ditko/Merry Marvel shenanigan type of stories, which we hope will appeal to everyone from 6 to 60. And to our surprise, the title has lasted a heck of a lot longer than any of us thought and may finally, possibly be drawing to an end. Since I’ve tasted the end so many times, I don’t quite believe it! [laughs]
“Last Planet Standing” is, I guess, a sort of kind of sequel to last year’s “Last Hero Standing.” Last year the crew and I were asked to pitch in and do a five issue limited series. We put together a story that incorporated a lot of the people from the MC2 and Regular Marvel Universes and we had a grand old time doing it. To our surprise and delight, the readers seemed to have a lot of fun with it. In some regards it was a spin-off from the “Spider-Girl” stuff and yet it sold like twice what “Spider-Girl” does, which is kind of embarrassing to us! [laughs] To our utter delight, people seemed to enjoy it a lot and, again, to our surprise we were asked to come back and do another one. The gang and I got together and knocked together a bunch of ideas and realized we hadn’t seen a real exciting cosmic story in Marvel for a lot of years. So, let’s do something that’ll blow everybody’s socks off. At the time, we didn’t know Marvel was planning on doing “Annihilation.” Anyway, our story features Galactus and it’s a story about evolution because all living things want to grow and that includes Galactus. In his case, he’s going to have to make some small sacrifices, i.e. most of the rest of the universe, but that’s a price he’s willing to pay.
During the course of working on “Last Planet Standing,” we were informed that “Spider-Girl” may come to an end with issue #100. The gang and I sat around and said, “You know, what do you want to do? They don’t need this universe anymore!” So, we haven’t done the last five pages of issue #5 yet because we’re not quite sure yet what’s going to happen. We can go one of two ways. I personally believe this universe can not live without Spider-Girl. Without Spider-Girl, life is just not as much fun. I’m betting on a happy ending.
Tom, you’ve certainly run the gamut of experiences at Marvel. Do you think this alternate universe has an ongoing place there? If you had your druthers, would you tie your universe in more with the main Marvel universe, or would you want to expand yours more?
TD: If I could, I would like my universe to expand. I think that the MC2 universe worked best when we had a couple of titles because they could play off each other. That works well editorially as well as sales wise. To have two titles, you can cross promote them and have them sell better than one individual title. But that’s old-fashioned sales marketing and publishing ideas that may no longer apply to the new marketplace.
In a perfect universe, Spider-Girl would have been a part of the regular Marvel Universe, but she really can’t exist in the regular Marvel Universe. If we transported her from her world into the current world, it would be an entirely different series. It would be a series about a young girl who’s now a fish out of water and has to get back to her old family. As I look at the “Spider-Girl” series, it is about May Parker, our central character, but we have created a living, breathing cast of characters that surround her and without that cast of characters it just wouldn’t be the same anymore. I don’t think it would be as much fun.
That sounds like a great storyline — a character not in the universe of her own and desperate to get back to her universe.
The hassle with that is that it’s a temporary story that has a closed door at the end. I admit that as a creative person I do miss the regular Marvel Universe, but I’m not allowed to play there anymore so I’m going to have fun with the MC2 Universe. [laughs]
You’ve had this be a part of you for a long time now, Tom. Are there places you wanted to go with the character that you weren’t able to?
“Spider-Girl” has been a creative persons dream assignment. Because we’re a store built off to the side, nobody has really interfered with us. The editors who have come on and our current editor, Molly Lazer, have always been so damn supportive. They’ve allowed me and the team to do pretty much whatever we’ve wanted to do, unless it’s something stupid! In terms of things to do with the characters, we pretty much had carte blanche all along. Is there more we’d like to do with them? I assume so. Every time I look at these characters, I find new shades within the gray.
The wonderful thing about being a writer is you can keep digging and digging into characters and their themes and you’ll find an endless source of inspiration. I think artists unfortunately get to draw a character in every pose conceivable, and then it’s time for them to move on. But characters are just like people — when you think you know them, they throw a curve ball at you.
I’m curious about the art on the mini-series. I think you mentioned at a convention that Pat’s trying to outdo his previous work?
Heh, yeah. I’m so blessed to be working with guys like Pat Olliffe and Ron Frenz. Pat Olliffe, about half way through “Last Hero Standing,” well, we were kind of rushed on that book. In the course of that, we started to name that project “Last Creator Standing.” Pat came down with the flu, Molly was almost killed in a car accident and I faced some tragedies of my own. We kept getting stung by real life. About half-way through the series, Pat Olliffe said to me, “You know, Tom, I really want to talk to you about the art I’m doing. I’m sure you’ve been looking at it. I like the fact you’re being supporting, but I know I can do better.” And I’m looking at this artwork and said, “Huh?” He was not really happy with the job he had done and I thought he had done a fabulous job. He told me he was going to do even better this time. I don’t know how he did it, but he actually has. I thought the last one was terrific, but this one is so head-and-shoulders above what he did last time that it just kind of blows me away. I know you guys are used to hearing this type of hyperbole from every creator and I’d like to say your lives will be incomplete if you don’t support “Last Planet Standing,” but I think you can have great lives without following this book. It won’t be as entertaining, but it’ll be great none-the-less. However, Pat Oliffe’s artwork in this, you owe it to yourself to treat your self to at least stop and take a good look at it. He’s creating new standards for artwork.
I have one quick question from David Gabriel, then back to you. David, are there plans to move forward with more “Spider-Girl” digests?
David Gabriel: I just had this conversation with Tom a little while ago. We do plan on continuing the digests. So, when we say that she’s not going away, she’ll absolutely still be there in the digest form. The “Juggernaut” digest that just came out did very well, so you can look for an “A-Next” digest coming out in August and I think we’re also looking at doing “Fantastic Five” either later this year or early next year. So, the digests are continuing.
We just started a recent program with hard covers of individual “Spider-Girl” stories and that is going to continue for the next couple of years.
Are there going to be future issues of “Spider-Man Family” stories? And if so, will Spider-Girl and the current creative team be involved?
DG: Yeah, “Spider-Man Family” did surprisingly well when it came out.
TD: Why Surprisingly? I was writing it! [laughs]
DG: Well, I didn’t mean that! We have another one slated for August, you’ll see that in the solicits, but it’s a little too early to give that one away. I’ll tell you there’s a 25th anniversary in the Spider-Man universe coming up and that will be the feature story, so you guys can figure that one out for yourself. We actually do have another couple of Spider-Man Family’s slated for this year.
Tom, will the “Spider-Girl” #100 issue feature the finale you had planned for the previous “cancellation scare,” or will that story be lost for now?
TD: Once I write that story, I’m done. So, I’d prefer not to comment at this time.
DG: We’re actually saving that for the “Spider-Girl Omnibus.” [laughs] That’ll be the special, never before seen story.
“Spider-Girl” has always been under the threat of cancellation. Tom, If #100 is the end, will you have any sense of relief that you reached that mile stone?
Tom Brevoort: I don’t know about Tom, but we in the editorial offices having worked with Tom for 100 issues, we feel great relief! [laughs] Great, great relief that we’re finally done.
TD: Hey, every time I think I’m done, they pull me back in! [laughs] You know, I think that for the readers maybe they’ll be able to breathe a sigh of relief. I know for me and the guys we’re all planning nice, long vacations. As for the characters, they have other things to do afterwards so I don’t know if they’ll be breathing a sigh of relief.
DG: Oh, I’m going to miss getting all those letters from the “Spider-Girl” fans. [laughs]
Was there any or will there be any special consumer marketing for “Spider-Girl” #100 or “Last Planet Standing?”
DG: Uhhh, this? [laughs] Nothing beyond what you’ll be seeing in Previews. I jokingly said “this,” but generally we’ve used these conference calls for really large scale pushes and launches, so I think this says a lot both for Tom and the series that we’d doing this on a smaller book. I think that’s probably about it.
TD: Yeah, a smaller book that’s about to get cancelled! [laughs]
The Ultimate Universe spun out of the Marvel Universe and it garnered a whole new audience, while at the same time the Marvel Universe didn’t seem to suffer in sales. Is there any chance we’ll see something like “Last Planet Standing,” not necessarily with that title, but as an ongoing series that would be all ages featuring the marvel characters in more all-ages stories.
TB: That’s pretty much what the Marvel Adventures line is.
One of the things about the Marvel Adventures line, though, is whenever a company launches a specific all-ages line, it tends to kind of fall on deaf ears for the long time fans. But if done in a more covert manner, announcing this as an ongoing series without calling it specifically the all-ages line, would there be any call for that?
DG: There might be at some point in the future. W e wouldn’t be against it. We have two new launches in the Marvel Adventures line that are coming out, but I do see your point.
TD: The trouble with a lot of all-ages titles is they look like they’re aimed at little kids. I think one of the things “Spider-Girl” had going for it is it looked like a regular Marvel comic.
DG: But we did try to make the latest issue of “Avengers/ Power Pack” seem a little older. [laughs] We’ll see how the sales go on that and how we can incorporate that into the rest of the line. [laughs]
Molly, one of my forum members said that since you came on the title, the comic has been reinvigorated and the series has seen some of the best Spider-Girl stories ever. How much of an editorial role do you play in the series?
Molly Lazer: I spend a lot of my time going back and forth with Tom DeFaclo about story when he sends in plots and I confer with Ron and Sal on the art, making sure that everything is flowing in the right direction. And I spend a lot of time on the other aspects of production, making sure the book comes together in the best way it can.
TD: Molly’s still enthusiastic as opposed to the other corpses in the office [laughs] and we consider her a member of the team.
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