David Morrell Interview- writer for Amazing Spider-Man 700.1 and 700.2
“There are layers and layers of fantasy and exaggeration that have been placed upon these characters, but at bottom, who are these people, and what is the cost of being the superhero that they are?” -David Morrell
Nearly one year after the death of Peter Parker in Amazing Spider-Man 700, “Dying Wish”, fans will get to see Peter in action once again. This Wednesday, December 4th, Amazing Spider-Man 700.1 hits the shelves of comic book stores everywhere. However, this isn’t a “back from the grave” story, so what exactly is it? I had the pleasure of speaking with acclaimed novelist David Morrell, author of “First Blood” (Rambo), who wrote the story “Spider-Man: Frost” for Amazing Spider-Man 700.1 and 700.2.
What follows is just an excerpt of the conversation I had with David. There was too much great material to fit into one this article, but the actual audio of the entire interview can be heard on the YouTube link below. I highly encourage giving it a listen.
Jeremy James: Hello David, thank you for joining us today.
David Morrell: Hi, I’m glad to be here.
JJ: You’re a New York Times best selling author who is known for your novel “First Blood”, which spawned a series of popular action movies “Rambo” starring Sylvester Stallone. How did you originally become involved with Marvel Comics?
DM: In 2007 an editor from Marvel called me and asked if I would be interested in doing a Captain America 6-part series. I’m not sure why they chose 6 parts, but the whole idea behind it was that the creator of Rambo would be sympatico with another military icon, Captain America. So, I worked on that and I was very happy with how it turned out. Mitch Brietweiser was the illustrator on that and Brian Reber was the colorist. So, subsequent to that Marvel asked if I would do a 2-part Spider-Man. There were no suggestions, it was just if I would like to go ahead and do it.
JJ: What is your personal history with comic books and superheroes?
DM: Well, I had not written for comic books before, I am a fan, particularly had been a fan when I was very very young. I’m old enough to have been around when EC Comics was the powerhouse that people remember it to be before the government got involved and kind of sanitized comic books. And in my youth there was a comic book store in my neighborhood that actually, you could not only buy them but they took them back, you could bring them back, and if you brought back three, they might give you one to take home again. There was some kind of complicated swap system. I remember going into the store, I used to go down on a Thursday and they would have stacks and stacks along the counter and it was just amazing all the things you could find. I kept up with it, not as much as I would like. Partly because I remember when comic books got de-neutered, then of course the spirit of comics came back. In my mind I associate it with The Dark Knight Returns.
But when Marvel asked me if I would write for Captain America and then for Spider-Man, I told them that my only background for writing visually was for movies. I’ve been a member of the Hollywood Writer’s Guild for many many years, so what I said was let’s find out if I can do it. So, I read a lot about writing comic books and worked out some of my own theories which is that each page would be the equivalent of a paragraph or a chapter, if I were writing a novel or a short story. In that, the space between images would be as important as the images themselves. The latter theory comes out of a Will Eisner theory in some of the books that he had written about writing for comic books. …and I worked out some others but what it came down to was I wrote the first issue thinking of it as a storyboard for a movie of Captain America, on spec. I told them look, we don’t know if I can do it so why don’t I just try an issue and we’ll see how it works out. So eventually Marvel was convinced that I knew what to do, then we did the 6 part Captain America :The Chosen. By then I felt I had my legs so I wasn’t all that concerned about Spider-Man.
My initial take on Spider-Man was that I wanted to do a retro Spider-Man that would actually be like a 1950’s horror movie, and I was very happy with it, but finally Marvel came back and said why don’t you do something a little purer, and that’s when I decided that I would do something that came out of the origins story of Spider-Man. And it would be basically a four character; Spider-Man, Peter Parker ,I think of them as different, and Aunt May and Uncle Ben.
JJ: In an essay you wrote called “Five Rules For Writing Thrillers”, you shared how novels and stories helped you escape the pain of a troubled youth. For some readers, comic books have been known to do the same. What is it like being on the other side as a writer of these stories?
DM: Well it’s always different. Writing novels, writing movies, writing comic books, innocence is lost so that it’s difficult for me to read any of these forms because I am aware of the way the stories are put together. Part of me is always reading in terms of how well did the writer accomplish what the writer appears to have wanted to set out to do. So, I can’t say that I approached this with wonder, it was more about being honest to the characters.
The ultimate goal here was to present Peter Parker as an actual human being, and Spider-Man as an extension of him, and the relationship he had with what amount to his parents; Aunt May and Uncle Ben. The image that I’ve been using to suggest the degree of realism that I wanted to bring to the piece, there’s a scene in issue #1 where Spider-Man has returned after a night of being Spider-Man and we learn that each night he ‘s become more exhausted. And he’s in the shower, hugging himself he’s so cold he cannot get warm, he just keeps saying I’m sh-sh-shivering, stuttering it out. Then there’s a close-up of the Spider-Man costume on the floor of the shower stall as water runs over it. To me, that was the whole key here.
Within the realm of a super hero’s story, was there a way to do this so that we understood the pressures, the demands and the doubts that Peter Parker has in his goal of being Spider-Man. Indeed there’s this scene in the story where the editor of the Daily Bugle says “I’ve consulted psychologists, and they say that anybody that wears a mask is trying to hide a part of his personality”. It was that sort of thing that I wanted to get into, and I only had two issues to do it in, but my goal was I hope that by the final pages that people would feel as if they might weep.
-Listen to the entire interview below, and hear more of what David has to say about Spider-Man: Frost, comic book history, and the complexity of the Marvel Universe.
Amazing Spider-Man 700.1 comes out December 4th, featuring art by Klaus Jansen and written by David Morrell. Pick it up at your local comic shop.
Find out more about best selling author David Morrell at http://davidmorrell.net/
Also you can like him on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/DavidMorrellAuthor and follow him on twitter: https://twitter.com/_DavidMorrell
-David was kind enough to speak with me at length for the interview. What’s greater still, is that after we finished recording he took a personal copy of ASM: Frost, and began describing the scenes, the artwork and frames, detailing the atmosphere and mood of the story as he read a part of it to me over the phone. I will say there is something very surreal about having an Amazing Spider-Man story read to you by the very author of that story. That experience almost made me feel like a kid again, and it is something I won’t forget.