Spider-Man: For Better or For Worse? This Week's Reading List: None Okey-dokey, here we go. This week we have a special treat for the blog: A question-and-answer session with the writer of Untold Tales of Spider-Man, Mister Kurt Busiek! Mr. Busiek, as some of you know, is a reader of this very blog, and he has been kind enough to answer some questions for me to mark the end of our time with UTSM. ET: It's clear from your attention to detail in UTSM and other works that you, like many comics fans, are interested in continuity. You go out of your way sometimes to explain obscure bits of continuity (like Flash Thompson seeing Doctor Strange's astral form in ASM Annual #1). When is continuity too restrictive? What do you see as possible solutions to the "baggage" that accumulates from years and years of seemingly contradictory continuity? (Retcons, Crises, Skrulls? Ignoring the problems?) KB: I think that continuity is the frosting -- the stories are the cake. So continuity's fun, and we certainly had a lot of fun with it in UNTOLD TALES, but that doesn't mean I think all books should be done that way. There are times you just have to look the other way -- like if Batman's in trouble with some heinous villain in his own book, he doesn't call in the JLA because...well, because it's his own book, and people bought it for a Batman adventure. They don't want to see the Flash and Green Lantern show up and save his caped butt every time he runs into something dangerous. I think some continuity glitches are worth explaining and some are worth ignoring. It's all just a case-by-case thing, and there shouldn't be too many rules about it. The first law of comics storytelling should be, Tell Good Stories. If you can do that, then whether you're continuity-rich, continuity-light or even continuity-poor, people will still enjoy the result. So while I have fun with this stuff, I don't begrudge others from wanting to stay away from it. Variety's nice, after all.
ET: Was there anything you really wanted to do in UTSM that you couldn't get to or weren't allowed to do? Any chance we'll ever see it? KB: I had a bunch of stories planned, from Peter doing a brief internship with Hank Pym to what I wanted to do for UNTOLD TALES #50, which would have shown us what Spider-Man and his supporting cast's lives were like on the day Galactus came to Earth. I wouldn't mind doing that someday, but I don't know if it'll ever happen.
ET: Did the wrap-up to the Batwing storyline end as you originally meant it to end, or did you have to rush at that point? The sudden appearance of Batwing's mother and his ability to "hold the cure in abeyance" seemed a little... odd, to me. KB: I don't remember the details, but that may have just been that we were telling single-issue stories in 20 pages, so occasionally we had to compress things. Also, DC had complained about Batwing for trademark reasons -- it's the name of a Batman plane or something -- so we wanted to give him an ending rather than just leave him out there, unable to be used again.
ET: Is there any other Spider-Man era (or even another character, any company) that you think strongly deserves an Untold Tales book? Which one and why? KB: I did want to do an X-Men series set between #66 and Giant-Size X-Men #1, but John Byrne beat me to it. And I think there are books like FANTASTIC FOUR, where they're unknown in #1 and famous in #2, that have room for the stuff in-between to be explored -- and I think Joe Casey did a project like that. But I don't think any book, even Spider-Man, "deserves" an Untold Tales series. It's purely a matter of whether it'd be interesting or not. I mean, I'd have a blast telling stories that take place in between Green Lantern's Silver Age adventures, but I can't say that it's a series crying out to happen. Just that I'd enjoy it.
ET: With UTSM 25 showing the Goblin's "revealed secret identity" to be Jameson, why does the Goblin worry that "If [the Goblin] should accidentally kill [the Crime-Master], [the Goblin's] secret will be made public!" (ASM #26, page 17, panel 6)? Bonus continuity question: Why doesn't the Jameson ID get exposed after the CM's death in ASM 27, despite the Goblin's worries? KB: Answer the first: We covered that on the last page of #25 -- the Goblin figures that if the authorities do investigate Jameson, they'll look closely at his friends, including Norman Osborn. And Osborn's secrets won't stand up to official scrutiny. Answer the second: Not really my problem, since if that's a glitch, it's Stan's glitch -- the way he wrote it, the Crime-Master knew the Goblin was Osborn, and that didn't get exposed either. So in the absence of other information, "Lucky" Lewis apparently was bluffing, and didn't have an "in the event of my death" failsafe. Though it could have made for an interesting UNTOLD TALES issue, as after Lewis's death, the Goblin has to steal back the information before the cops get it, or Jonah gets accused and Spidey winds up clearing him in a way that keeps Osborn from being investigated...
ET: The last couple are either nit-picky or fanboyish on my part, but I can't resist throwing these at you: KB: Oh, what, like the last two weren't?
ET: Shouldn't Hawkeye remember meeting Spider-Man when discussing Spidey's possible membership in ASM Annual 3? KB: He never says he doesn't remember him. He says he digs his style, which suggests that he knows something about him, and he suggests calling in Daredevil, because DD's met Spidey a "few" times, which can be taken to mean Hawkeye's simply not so familiar with him that he's got all the dope on him. Daredevil's met him a few times, Hawkeye's only met him once or twice, and doesn't know much more than that he likes Spidey's style. The two times they meet in UNTOLD TALES #17, they're fighting the whole time, so it's not as if Hawkeye would claim to know him well. The one thing Hawkeye says in that annual that's the trickiest is that he introduces himself to Spidey as if they've never met. But he still doesn't say they've ever met, and they never did shake hands before or anything, so maybe he's just being formal about their first non-violent, kinda-social meeting.
ET: Who is your favorite girlfriend for Peter/Spidey and why? KB: I liked Betty, because that romance felt very tentative and nervous, a perfect "first love." And I liked Gwen before she became so perfect and bland, and MJ before her dizzy-hipster act got turned into a "laughing on the outside, crying on the inside" thing, making her secretly morose -- if people wanted Peter hanging out with MJ, it's because they liked her as an upbeat party gal, not as a glum, weepy, angst-ridden ball of nerves.
ET: Any chance of ever seeing an Untold Tales of Astro City, or possibly an Astro City Tales series of series a la Grendel Tales? I know that some of the characters are somewhat analogues of established characters (the Furst Family comes to mind), but many of them are different enough that I know I would personally like to see more of them. Some of your mystical characters from Dark Age captured my interest in an out-of-the-ordinary sort of way. (I guess asking for more Confessor stories is pretty cliche at this point, huh?) KB: I can't see why I'd need an UNTOLD TALES for Astro City. Any time I want to tell a story set in the past, I can go ahead and do it -- like we're doing with the Dark Age right now. And if what you mean is a companion series to get more stories out faster, well, we can't get the one book out on time, so adding another probably wouldn't help...
ET: I was actually suggesting was an anthology format written by others. Matt Wagner sort of opened up his Grendelverse to other writers to flesh it out, and I wondered if you'd ever considered doing the same in order to show some "off the main path" adventures of some of the AC characters. KB: Nope. Astro City's my book, and I'm no more interested in sharing it with other writers than, say, Lawrence Block is interested in having other authors write Matt Scudder novels. Plus, anyone good enough to do the job doesn't need Astro City anyway; they can make up their own characters.
All right, that's it for this week. Many, many thanks again to Kurt Busiek for taking time out of his busy Superman and Astro City schedule to answer some questions for the blog. Up next week will be Amazing Spider-Man 25-29 and Amazing Spider-Man Annual 2. Until they retcon all of Untold Tales of Spider-Man right out of existence, Make Mine Marvel! Eric