The 1980s were an intriguing time for fans of Marvel Comics' Spider-Man, and much of that was because of the writing of Roger Stern. The industry veteran has penned over fifty stories featuring Spider-Man, and contributed classic elements to the Spidey mythos like the villainous Hobgoblin. Sterns also authored beloved classics like "The Kid Who Collected Spider-Man" and the wall-crawler's legendary confrontation with the unstoppable Juggernaut in "Amazing Spider-Man" #229-230.
Naturally, many longtime Spider-Man fans were excited to hear Stern would be returning to the character with this week's "Amazing Spider-Man" #580. CBR News spoke with the writer about the issue, how it feels to be back, and whether he'll be taking the web-slinger out for another spin in the near future.
When Roger Stern was making his mark on Spider-Man in the 1980s, Peter Parker was still a bachelor. Peter Parker didn't marry Mary Jane Watson until 1987's "Amazing Spider-Man Annual" #21, which was published three years after Stern ended his run on the title. Last year's "One More Day" depicted the ending of Peter and Mary Jane's marriage, and proved controversial to many Spidey fans. But the contentious story actually revitalized Stern's interest in the character, both as a reader and as a writer.
"I started reading 'Amazing Spider-Man' when I was in high school and I didn't miss an issue until Marvel had Pete and Mary Jane get married. That's when the train went off the track for me," Stern told CBR News. "I always thought their marriage was a mistake. I understand that some fans disagree, and I sympathize. But I'd written those two, and they just didn't work as a married couple to me.
"Over the intervening years, I occasionally read some of the Spider-titles. I even wrote a few issues here and there--I got to put things right with 'Spider-Man: Hobgoblin Lives,' got to collaborate with Kurt Busiek and Tom Lyle on a Spider-Man annual that crossed over with Kurt's 'Untold Tales' annual, and got to set up the 'Revenge of the Green Goblin.' But whenever Pete and MJ were on panel together, I couldn't shake a nagging feeling that something was off.
"I'm happy to say that feeling isn't there any more. I haven't missed an issue of 'Amazing Spider-Man' since the Brand New Day storyline began. For my money, Pete, Spider-Man, and the whole cast are finally acting like themselves again."
Since the Brand New Day era began at the start of this year, the cast of "Amazing Spider-Man" has grown by leaps and bounds. Numerous villains and supporting players new and old have entered Peter Parker's life, and Roger Stern finds just about all of these characters compelling. "It's been a great bunch of new villains. Also It's kind of freaky having Harry Osborn back among the living--can't wait to see how that happened," the writer remarked. "I can't wait to see what happens next with Jonah's father. And that Carlie Cooper is just as cute as a button."
Another element that has come with Brand New Day is the use of extended plotlines and mysteries, like the identity of the serial killer known as the Spider-Tracer Killer, and the ongoing New York City Mayoral race. Stern's initial story doesn't involve those elements, but that doesn't mean he plans on taking it easy on Peter Parker.
"As the story opens, Pete is on the phone in the middle of a conversation with his Aunt May," Stern explained. "May had been standing in line at her bank when someone came in to rob it. Pete hears this, and he's not at all happy about it. Oh, and did I mention that the bank robber is bulletproof? Well, he is--and Spider-Man can't lay a single sticky finger on him. That bugs the heck out of Our Hero.
"Our Villain is a gent called The Blank, who I previously introduced in the original 'West Coast Avengers' limited series. But I had originally come up with the idea for The Blank when I was first writing 'Amazing Spider-Man.' But don't worry, you'll learn all you need to know about him over the course of the story. I think he has the potential to become a classic Spider-Man villain. We'll just have to wait and see."
"Amazing Spider-Man" #580 also features an appearance by veteran Spider-Man supporting cast member Joseph "Robbie" Robertson. "Joe has a small but important cameo in the story. I just had to throw him into the mix," Stern said. "Joe has always been a straight shooter, and is often the most reasonable person in Pete's life. I really think that he's the best character that [Stan] Lee and Romita [John Sr.] introduced into the series."
Stern had a great time working with his artistic collaborator on "Amazing Spider-Man" #580, Lee Weeks. "Lee isn't just a good artist, he's also a great storyteller. And he brings a verisimilitude to the stories; you look at what he's drawn, and you believe that Spider-Man can stick to walls and swing from a web. It's a pleasure combining my words with Lee's art, and great fun."
"Amazing Spider-Man" #580 is Stern and Weeks's first Spider-Man collaboration, and it won't be their last. "I'm currently working with Lee on a longer Spider-Man story arc," Stern revealed. "I would guess that it'll see print sometime next year. Cross your fingers!"
Roger Stern can't yet go into details about his and Week's next Spider-Man story, but he could reveal to us which types of Spidey stories he finds most interesting as a writer. "Super-villains are a plus, but not an absolute necessity," he said. "Hordes of thugs and gunmen will do in a pinch. Mostly, I like to put Spider-Man into the middle of a crazy mixed up mess and watch him work his way out of it."
It's been eight years since Stern's last Spider-Man story, "Revenge of the Green Goblin," which helped usher Norman Osborn back into Spider-Man's life. Part of the appeal to coming back to Peter Parker's world was the character itself, but there was another draw for the writer as well. " I was checking my email one day, and -- lo and behold -- there was a message from [editor] Steve Wacker, asking if I'd like to write a new story for 'Amazing Spider-Man'. I'd worked with Steve about five years earlier on a project which unfortunately never saw print -- through no fault of his or mine -- and I'd enjoyed working with him a great deal. Given an opportunity to work on a character I love with an editor I like and respect--how could I turn down an offer like that?"
"Amazing Spider-Man" #580 is on sale now from Marvel Comics.