A post from my Marvel blog of long ago, the first in a sequence talking about good comic books that I edited.
Okay, one brief comment before I get into the series for the week, another set of Good Comics I Had A Hand In. I understand that this is comics, and that therefore everything must be oh-so-serious, but anybody who can’t seem to react and respond to Joe’s silly-stupid rap song and the additional lyrics I posted the other day needs to grow a bit more of a sense of humor, and take these things a bit more in the spirit in which they’re offered–or at least the spirit of the holidays, two weeks late or not.
Okay, end of stupid rant. On with stupid commentary.
Today’s Good Comic I Had A Hand In is the #-1 issue of UNTOLD TALES OF SPIDER-MAN, part of Marvel’s ill-advised “Flashback” month. Why ill-advised? Because, as it turns out, many readers don’t really want an entire month of comics in which their favorite characters have no costumes or powers, and the #-1 numbering allowed many of them to simply skip over this month’s issue without leaving a gap in their collections. Nevertheless, the kernel of an idea behind “Flashback”–telling tales of our heroes from before they donned their costumes, had something of interest to it.
In the case of UNTOLD TALES OF SPIDER-MAN, we had an additional problem, which is that there were something like four other Spidey titles participating in this event. So the question became, how to make this book stand out from the pack? My answer was twofold. First off, I convinced John Romita Sr. to do the artwork on the book, one of the few stories he produced since he retired as Marvel’s art director. Secondly, Roger Stern (whom I tapped to sub for regular writer Kurt Busiek who was jammed up with deadlines at the moment–much to Kurt’s consternation when he learned that John Sr. would be drawing the story) hit upon the notion of featuring not a young Peter Parker, but his secret agent parents, and included a sequence in which they learn that Mary is pregnant–making this the earliest Untold Tale about Spider-Man that you could tell.
On top of that (and mainly because I could only prevail upon John to pencil in the neighborhood of 17 pages) I was able to tap Fred Hembeck to do an all-new installment of the Petey series he’d started sporadically for editor Jim Salicrup years before, featuring a very young Peter Parker well before he gained his powers, in the spirit of such strips as Dennis the Menace and Little Lulu. In fact, when the decision was made to produce variant covers for some of the “Flashback” books for a certain retail chain, rather than go the obvious route, I had Fred do the cover-one of the few he produced for Marvel.
And yes, that cover copy proclaiming Richard and Mary Parker Agents of SHIELD was a mistake, and it was entirely made by me. I remembered that they had been secret agents, and I somehow misrecalled Stan saying that they had been working for SHIELD, even though he didn’t. I really should have checked that.