How Dan Slott Saved Spider-Man

I have read a lot of Spider-Man comic books. Pretty much everything. I have definitely read every issue of Amazing Spider-Man and believe me when I say that we are currently seeing another golden age in the pages of ASM. Of course some big shot writers out there might point out that sales of the current series can’t compete with previous runs. This is a simplistic way of looking at things; sales don’t always have a causal relationship to the quality of the work. Spider-Man has seen its share of ups and downs over the years and, like many long-running series, the continuity became complex, incoherent, and borderline unworkable for the creative teams. And Dan Slott fixed that and made Spidey great again.

The JMS (Scottie say: J. Michael Straczynski, because Anthony thinks everyone in the work just knows) run had great sales, a lot of people really enjoyed it, but it actually wasn’t very good. The main crux was the concept that Spider-Man is a spider-totem and got his powers from a magic spider that just happened to die from the radioactivity. I know, seriously, that idea smells like a fart. But it stuck and the new characters of Ezekiel, Morlun, and some Wasp Women populated the series for issue after issue and got critical acclaim. These stories are not bad ideas; they just aren’t good ideas for Spider-Man.

So Spider-Man fights Morlun, finds out that Norman Osborn had kids with Gwen Stacy (more flatulent work), moves into the Avengers building with Mary Jane and Aunt May (who knows Peter is Spider-Man), dies and comes back to life with better spider-powers, gets his identity outed in Civil War, and dons the black costume (to signify his inner-goth-like-turmoil) when Aunt May gets shot. In short Spidey-continuity becomes pretty convoluted. And really, when stories become too convoluted what else can you do but have Peter make a deal with the devil in order to re-write continuity. Then once continuity is re-written you can bring back a major character whose death was a great issue (Harry Osborn), and destroy his marriage. Oh, and you should publish the comic book 3 times a month with a rotating creative team so the quality of the issues is all over the place. Then Marvel finally realizes that it should publish the book less often (now twice per month) and give the writing pen to a single person. Dan Slott.

Yes, Dan Slott was one of the writers on the thrice monthly Brand New Day, and there were a lot of good creators on these stories. The problem was with teams changing so often the series became pretty hit or miss. Now that Dan Slott has been given the reigns the positive aspects of using a singular vision shine through, and Amazing Spider-Man is quite possibly the best it has ever been. And why has Dan Slott succeeded where others have failed? He is a very talented writer, yes, but there are lots of talented writers. He succeeds because he is a very talented writer AND he respects and understands the character.

As I mentioned above the JMS stories were interesting ideas, but not good ideas for Spider-Man. Dan Slott has kept the important aspects of Spider-Man and updated the other aspects of his fifty year history that don’t quite make sense. You know what was a great job when you were 15 and needed extra money? Being a freelance photographer for a newspaper. What doesn’t make as much sense is when a genius-level intellect with membership to several super-hero teams can’t pay the rent and has to live on his aunt’s couch. So Peter’s new job as a scientist and inventor is so perfect a reader can barely imagine he ever had a different job. Dan Slott doesn’t (and would never) discount the work that has gone before him, but certain aspects of fifty years of backstory need to be updated once in a while. How the character got his powers does not.

I also find that with Slott’s writing the fun has come back to the book. The wise-cracks are back, funny and nerdy scientists have been added to the cast, and Spider-Man’s integration into the superhero community at large has been woven into the book in a way that doesn’t seem forced. Any time the Avengers or FF appear the story is important to the progression of the character, and not some tacked on team-up to sell more books. In the middle of Fear Itself and the millions of cross-over books, Slott wrote this great little crossover called Spider-Island. It got less than a tenth of the hype Fear Itself received even though it was the superior story.

A note on the artists. There have been a series of fantastic artists on the book, and all have done great things with Dan’s scripts, but my favourite penciller on the book as of late is Humberto Ramos. Another creator who ‘gets’ the character, Ramos and Slott have created some of my favourite Spidey runs together and I hope that we get to see them work together more and more.

For those of you who already are Spider-Man fans you should definitely be following @DanSlott on twitter. Slott tweets frequently and it is a fascinating look into his creative process, thoughts on the industry, and love of comic books and Doctor Who. For those of you out there who are not Spidey fans or those who once were fans but left for any number of reasons, this is the perfect time to pick up this book again. The things about the book that made you drop it have been fixed, and after reading a few issues you will remember why you loved picking up Spider-Man in the first place.

Finally, I would encourage everyone to go search out a copy of Ren & Stimpy #6. You’ll see why once you read it. A masterpiece.

Anthony Falcone
Anthony Falcone

Anthony Falcone is a freelance writer living in Toronto and he is the Ayatollah of Rocknrolla. You should definitely follow him on Twitter.

Articles: 216


  1. Couldn’t agree more. The initial storyline of JMS was fun, but after that it just became offensive. I stopped buying ASM at #150, checking in once a decade or so just to confirm the correctness of my decision. Now that Slott’s on the book I haven’t missed an issue. Pretty remarkable job, considering I’ve been holding out since 1975! All good things come to those willing to wait, and Slott’s Spidey has been worth the wait!

  2. Agreed!! Dan Slott’s Spider-man why I can over-look the brand new day crazy Fiasco… He is a very talented writer and brought the fun back to the Spider-man Universe

  3. I got a real rush with this week’s issue. the first Spidey I bought for myself was #102 featuring Spidey, the Lizard and Morbius. Well, guess who’s back together and I for one could not be happier.

  4. No way, octospider is just bad!
    Slott may be a big fan but he does not treat respect the character.

  5. So Spider-Totem was insulting, but Octo-Spider’s okay? I smell hypocrisy.

    That being said, I could understand why people would have problems with JMS’ writing. I didn’t love his stories and agree that the whole Spider-Totem thing was kinda stupid in hindsight, despite having the potential as a non-Spidey story. But the thing is, his writing was at least tolerable. When Slott came along with his BND run, it was pretty awful. It literally drove me away from the comics and made me stop reading.

    Keeping Spidey true to his origins is one thing, but instead of evolving and maturing Peter’s character, we’re going to take the cheap move and revert him to the teenage life again? What a cash-grab. What about the readers who’ve grown older now since they first picked up Spidey in the ’80s or ’90s? I totally couldn’t relate to this new take on Spidey at all. It stinks of the new direction Marvel is taking with many of their franchises, from the movies to the video games – they are very non-serious and ‘jokey’.

    What was great about comic books for me was that they discussed serious topics in a childish medium. Graphic novels are considered an art-form by many people today, and the most obvious forms of this is Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics, and even Spidey wasn’t far behind in dealing with serious issues. Remember JMD? Not JMS, JMD. Yes, the guy who wrote Kraven’s Last Hunt. Let’s not forget Peter David’s The Death of Jean DeWolff. Those were my top favorite stories of Spidey of all time, and I’m not just talking about gritty and dark, because another of my favorite Spider-tale is “The Boy Who Collects Spider-Man”, an emotional and heartbreaking short story that also deals with mature topics in a light-hearted, human manner. I just didn’t really feel that in Slott’s run around the BND arc, because it felt like rehash and recycle. The Superior Spider-Man arc that came later sure didn’t convince me any.

    I heard lots of praises about Slott’s run, so I might try and force myself to pick it up again in the distance future, because I love the character a lot. I kinda wish we get someone of better storytelling skills though, someone like Steve Ditko (responsible for half of Stan Lee’s stories back in the day). I mean, if you’re a true-blood Spider-fan, you’d know how great Ditko’s stories about the mafia were back then. They were full of drama and suspense, full of twists and turns that didn’t feel shoe-horned in (mostly because Spidey’s street-level character fits so well fighting street-level gangsters). I wish we could get that feel again in the comics.

  6. Actually, if anyone still cares, what i found offensive about JMS was the Norman Osborne/Gwen Stacy one night stand. As for Octo-spider, my hatred of that concept is well documented as Steve Wacker can attest to (as well as my printed letter in SSM#3). I admit to liking the final Green Goblin storyline only because of Otto’s downfall. As for Slott’s continuing on ASM post superior, it’s been terrible. The Spider-verse story was unendurablely bad. Parker’s character is entirely unlikable, and turning him into Tony Stark Jr just pushes the character in an uninteresting direction for me. As of this writing I’m not reading much of anything anymore from Marvel. It’s all corporate-directed and movie-tied in. Good luck with that. As for hypocrisy, you made two completely erroneous assumptions based on no supporting information. I smell ignorance. Good luck with that too.

  7. Whoa ho, look at the hostile badass here. Cool your jets, mate. The opening line was a sarcastic joke. Honestly, can’t do that on the Internet without starting some kind of flame war, yeesh.

    Anyway, I agreed with your statement until the rather tasteless closing remark. As far as the movie tie-ins are concerned, it seems likely that Marvel will also replace Captain America’s role with Tony Stark by not only having him as the main star/leader of the Avengers, but probably also replace him as the idol Peter looks up to, especially after reading about your “Stark Jr.” remark. At this point, I highly doubt the Captain-admiration would be included in the movie universe, if the comic book counterparts are going in such a similar direction.

    And yes, I’m assuming. I’m trying to have a discussion by voicing out my assumptive thoughts, whether you like it or not. 🙂

    But I do hope that I am wrong, and that Marvel won’t disregard Cap and make him a lesser character in the MCU because of RDJ’s profitability. Hopefully, there are still a few creative souls left in the Marvel movie studios that care more than just making a cash-in.

  8. Also, speaking of assumptions, looks like you assumed that Dan would make a good writer too, hence your defense of him supposedly saving Spider-Man and whatnot. That’s yet another strike for hypocrisy! lol

    J/k. Don’t get your knickers in a twist.

  9. Ominousflare, when you read Slott’s Twitter feed at that time, he was making a case that Peter Parker could be played by an actor of any race. Most people who reported on it showed a more balanced selection of tweets. Ernst is a conservative, right wing blogger. The way he cherry picked which of Slott’s tweets to use says more about Ernst’s personal leanings than anything it says about Slott. Ernst has also made following Slott around the internet one of his pet causes.

    Here are some more rounded and more responsible ways other sites reported that exact same story (free of Ernst’s spin and whatever personal problems he has with Slott):

  10. Nice try, Tyler. Dan was the one following me around the internet. I also like the way you went all red herring. (You pass Slottian Debate Tactics 101). I see you didn’t note my last three ASM reviews. I guess my “right-wing” views aren’t an issue when I give Dan Slott a positive review. Weird.

  11. The scary thing about Ernst is he might actually believes the brand of BS he slings.
    “…my last three ASM reviews…” “…when I give Dan Slott a positive review.”

    Look at the titles of his last reviews: “Dan Slott’s Renew Your Vows souffle falls flat”

    And “Dan Slott’s tale of darker Spider-Man hamstrung by lame villain Regent”

    Weird indeed.

  12. I don’t know about you, Tyler, but Ernst’s review of RYV has been mostly positive. “Disappointing” is so often regarded as “terrible” on the Internet for some reason. Weird indeed.

    But anyway, I’ve read RYV recently, and I do agree that it’s disappointing, albeit more tasteful than Slott’s earlier romps. It’s been kinda fun seeing the old familiar Peter that we know, and before some fanboy comes and accuses me of being attached to the familiar, my gripe isn’t really that Slott is bringing new content to Spidey’s world, it’s that his content is almost as cringe-worthy as the second Clone Saga. I know it’s not a strong adjective to properly describe my exact feelings (a vulnerability Internet browsers are sure to exploit), but the best I could explain is that, I just don’t really feel Peter’s sense of mature responsibility before “Renew Your Vows” came along and depicted exactly what ‘felt right’ and ‘should have been’ all along. I hope that gets the message through without offending anyone.

  13. Thanks for linking to the blog, Tyler. I appreciate it. You seemingly think people are so dumb, however, that they can’t understand nuance. I called the last issue of RYV a “tasty cake” (Do you like tasty cakes? I do.) I also said the last RYVs was the best work Dan has written in awhile, and worth buying for anyone who loves Spider-Man. But I guess that’s not good enough for you because I didn’t say it was “Crazytown banana pants awesome!” in the headline.

    I see you didn’t link to my other review: “Renew Your Vows #2: Dan Slott hits a rare home run, proves Tom Brevoort’s ‘medicine’ was poison”. Interesting decision coming from the guy accusing me of “cherry picking”…

    Finally, to the author of this piece, I say “Good job!” It looks like you do some seriously quality work around here, even if I don’t agree with all of your analysis. I’ll definitely be coming back for more. Kudos.

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