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The Spider's Web Exclusive:
Interview with Roger Stern

If you were to ask people who the top Spider-Man writers of all time were, a couple of names would instantly come to mind. Stan Lee, for one. Perhaps Gerry Conway, for another. But definitely Roger Stern, whose runs on Amazing Spider-Man and Spectacular Spider-Man defined Spidey for the 80's, would be there. Mr. Stern produced some of the greatest Spider-Man stories of all time, such as the "Boy who collected Spider-Man", and the fast and furious battles with the Juggernaut and Mr. Hyde, as well as introduced one of Spidey's greatest enemies, the Hobgoblin, who's effects on the books have such that he one of the rumored villains to appear in a Spider-Man movie sequel.

Mr. Stern took some time to talk with the Spider's Web about his work on Spidey, and share his thoughts on the movie, the current books, and more importantly the lingering question of whether or not he'll be writing Spider-Man any time soon. Thanks again Mr. Stern, and enjoy.

The Spider's Web: First off I'll ask how you got started writing in the comic book industry.
Roger Stern:
Well, I'd been writing long before I landed a job in comics. I mainly wrote commercial copy for a radio station, although I also produced a few record and film reviews and a couple of comedy sketches on the side. The commercial work was the only real source of income, though. In my spare time, I wrote some features for Bob Layton's CPL fanzine and for Marvel's FOOM. That's what led to the comics gig. Enough people in New York were aware of me that I was offered a job as a lowly assistant editor. (It's not who you know so much as who knows you.) Once I was working on staff at Marvel, I became a warm body that they turned to when deadlines were in danger. I got a chance to work with more experienced writers, and learned enough of the craft that I was offered regular work.

The Spider's Web: Did you read comics as a boy?
Roger Stern:
Comics have been part of my life as long as I can remember. In fact, my parents and grandparents read the newspaper comics to me before I could read ... everything from Blondie and Dennis the Menace to Steve Canyon and Li'l Abner.

The Spider's Web: Who was your favorite character? Have you ever had a chance to work on him/her?
Roger Stern:
I don't remember the first comic cook I read on my own it was probably an issue of Uncle Scrooge or Walt Disney's Comics & Stories. From there, I graduated to Superman, Batman, and all the rest. I loved them all, and eventually got to write stories for most of them.

The Spider's Web: Your first issue of Amazing Spider-Man was issue 206, if I recall correctly, but you didn't take over the helm full time until about a year and a half later. How did both gigs come about?
Roger Stern:
I was writing -- or about to write -- Spectacular Spider-Man, when we discovered that no one was working on ASM #206. Denny O'Neil's first issue was #207, and #205 was being completed, but no one has written #206; it had sort of fallen through the cracks during an editorial switch. And Denny's first issue couldn't just be renumbered - there were a couple of major dangling plot threads left over from the previous storyline. So, I sat down with Denny (as my editor), and we thrashed out the plot for #206 in a couple of hours.

The Spider's Web: When you wrote #206 it wrapped up a long-running arc focusing on J. Jonah Jameson and his potential mental instability, but a lot of people felt that having it be the fault of Jonas Harrow was a cop-out. Was it editorial pressure to finish up that arc that had it end so abruptly, or something else?
Roger Stern:
No, that was my idea. Jonah was always irascible, but depicting him as truly unstable would have been 'way out of character. And, don't forget, Jonas Harrow had shown up in issue #204, personally taking Jonah under his control. Making it seem as though Jonah was losing his mind was just the kind of Byzantine scheme that Harrow was already famous for. That's why I did it. The alternative was writing Jonah out of the series, and nobody wanted that. Anyway, the reaction I got at the time was overwhelmingly favorable.

The Hobgoblin The Spider's Web: One of your many standout contributions to the Spider-mythos was the introduction of the Hobgoblin, so how did you feel when the arc continued and was "finished" out of your hands? Why not just reveal the Hobgoblin's ID in your last regular issue of ASM (#251)?
Roger Stern:
I'd already plotted ASM #251 and #252 when I decided to leave the book. Shoehorning in a revelation about the Hobgoblin's identity wouldn't have worked. Besides, I wanted Hobgoblin to be a continuing, viable adversary for Spider-Man. That's why J.R. and I created him in the first place. And Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz did a great job with him.

The Spider's Web: What was it like seeing the Hobgoblin's arc adapted on the mid-1990's animated Spider-Man series?
Roger Stern:
I think this is the first I've heard about it. I know that I've never seen it. Did they at least do a decent job?

The Spider's Web: What do you think about rumors that Harry Osborn will become the Hobgoblin in a Spider-Man movie sequel? Speaking of which, have you had a chance to see the film? What did you think?
Roger Stern:
Aw, you can't go by rumors.
I thought that the Spider-movie was pretty good, considering that it took elements published about 15 years apart and compacted them into one picture. After all, you could produce a decent film just based on Stan and Steve's first story. But Hollywood is more interested in producing super-hero blockbusters than super-hero films ... not that I blame them too much. If they expect me to pay eight bucks for a couple hours of entertainment, it had better be incredible. I'd say that Spider-Man was worth seeing on a big screen.

The Spider's Web: One last Hobgoblin question (because I think he's a great villain): When Ned Leeds was unmasked in Amazing Spider-Man #289 and Roderick Kingsley was "killed" in an issue of Web of Spider-Man, did you ever have doubts that "your" version of the Hobgoblin's story would be told?
Roger Stern:
Well, in the first place, Kingsley was simply shown being shot in that story. It never said that he was killed. And the way in which Ned was "unmasked" provided the way for me to tell the story as I'd intended it. The moment I read ASM #289, I knew that I could do it. All I needed was an editor who would let me.

The Spider's Web: How does it feel to have fans still referring to your work on Amazing Spider-Man as some of the best Spider-Man stories ever told? (Specifically the two-parter with the Juggernaut, and "The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man.")
Roger Stern:
Well, I'm very flattered.
Actually, I'm always surprised when I hear readers referring back to those stories. After all, they were written two decades ago! Even though some were collected and reprinted, Marvel has allowed most of those collections to go out of print. I guess there's still an active trade in the back issues.
Whatever the case, it's very nice to be remembered. I loved writing those stories, and the fact that people still enjoy them twenty years later, makes it all the sweeter.

Pumpkin Bomb The Spider's Web: I like the character of Donald Menken, but does it ever bother you that he doesn't really show up outside of Stern-penned books?
Roger Stern:
It surprises me, more than anything. I'd originally intended to have Norman Osborn kill Menken at the end of the Revenge of the Green Goblin miniseries. Ralph Macchio, who was the editor, asked me to keep him alive so they could use him in the stories that followed. But as far as I know, nobody ever did. Of course, Ralph is no longer editing the Spider-Man books.

The Spider's Web: Do you still read the Spider-books today?
Roger Stern:
No, I'm afraid that I haven't seen one in over a year.

The Spider's Web: Finally, if you can say, what lies ahead for Roger Stern? More Spider-Man, perhaps?
Roger Stern:
One never knows. Before the movie came out, Marvel seemed really eager for me to write some more Spider-Man material -- they kept promising to get back to me -- but nothing ever came of it.
I would love to write comics again on a regular basis, but neither Marvel nor DC has had any assignments for me lately.
Thanks to Steve Korte at DC, I did land the job to write the first in a series of novels based on the Smallville television series. Smallville: Strange Visitors should be on sale at your friendly neighborhood bookstore this month. And I recently acted as Consulting Editor on a book entitled The Science of Superman ... I believe that's supposed to come out by the end of the year.
That's all been great fun. So, if I can't write comics for a living, maybe I'll try writing more novels.

The Spider's Web: Thanks very much for doing this interview. It's been a real honor.
Roger Stern:
Thanks for asking. It's been fun.



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