My Favorite Issue of Marvel Team-Up


Okay, so maybe it’s not a real comic-book cover—ya got me! But with Spider-Man: Homecoming—the first Spidey film set firmly in the Marvel Cinematic Universe—opening in the U.S. today, and both Spidey and Pan hailing from the New York borough of Queens, it only makes sense that they’d get together, right? Especially since the new movie Spidey lives in Pan’s (and StarWarp Concepts’) neighborhood of Sunnyside!

Spider-Man art by Ross Andru and Dick Giordano, from the back cover of 1976’s Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-Man: The Battle of the Century, one of the greatest team-up stories ever. Pan art by Eliseu Gouveia from The Saga of Pandora Zwieback #0, our free digital comic (download it today!).

And if you like this heroic meeting, then take a look at this post from June 2015, when Pan novel cover painter Bob Larkin teamed Pan up (at my suggestion) with one of the greatest pulp-era heroes of all time: Doc Savage, The Man of Bronze! Pan sure loves her crossovers!

So, When’s the Team-Up?

If, like me, you’re a fan of Marvel’s run of superhero movies—the most recent of which was the blockbuster Doctor Strange, starring Benedict Cumberbatch (a really good film, by the way)—then you’ve probably been waiting to see what was next for their version of the Amazing Spider-Man, who was introduced in Captain America: Civil War and is now played by actor Tom Holland. I certainly have—Spidey’s always been my favorite superhero; in fact, my writing credits include a short story starring him (“The Ballad of Fancy Dan,” cowritten with Ken Grobe for the anthology Untold Tales of Spider-Man) and a young adult novel (Spider-Man Super Thriller: Warrior’s Revenge, ghostwritten for author Neal Barrett Jr.).

Well, not too long ago, the trailer dropped for that next chapter, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and the biggest surprise—for me, at least—was that Spidey and his Aunt May (played this time by Marisa Tomei) have apparently moved from their decades-long comic home of Forest Hills to another Queens, NY neighborhood: Sunnyside—home to none other than a certain monster fighter named Pandora Zwieback!


Yup, that’s Peter Parker in his Spidey costume, hanging out on his fire escape, with Manhattan in the distance, Queens Boulevard below him, and the No. 7 subway train passing by.

So the only question that comes to mind is, of course, when’s the team-up, movie folks? Marvel Presents: Queensborough Team-Up, perhaps? It’s box-office gold, I tells ya!  😀

Talking to Myself (Part 2)

Continuing a previously unprinted interview that I did for another Web site. (Part 1 ran yesterday.)

What was your big break?

As much as I hate this kind of thing, it really was a case of “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

In the late nineties I was an editor for a publisher/book packager named Byron Preiss, who had a license from Marvel Comics to publish original novels based on their characters. Having edited some of the books, and written short stories for a couple of anthologies (Untold Tales of Spider-Man and The Ultimate Hulk), I was offered the chance to take over a YA novel titled Spider-Man Super Thriller: Warrior’s Revenge—Marvel had rejected the manuscript delivered by a mystery and fantasy writer named Neal Barrett Jr. Basically, I was in Byron’s office when news of the rejection came in and he turned to me and said, “So, you want to write it?” Of course I said yes!

The only problem was, the cover for the book had already been printed for advance sales purposes, so I wound up ghostwriting the book for Neal, who was amazingly gracious about the whole thing.

So, if you ever come across a copy of Warrior’s Revenge, just remember: it might have Neal’s name on it, but it’s actually my first novel!

A couple of years later, a similar situation happened: two established writers were supposed to do an original X-Men novel trilogy, except Marvel rejected their proposal. And again Byron asked if I’d be interested in taking it over. Well, who was I to say no?

The result was X-Men: The Chaos Engine Trilogy, in which the X-Men fight their archenemy Magneto, Doctor Doom (from the Fantastic Four), and the Red Skull (from Captain America) for control of the Cosmic Cube, a device that allows them to alter reality. All three books sold really well—helped in no small part by the fact that Book 1, X-Men/Dr. Doom, came out in time for the first X-movie. I think that’s when people really started to recognize my byline.

What authors have influenced you the most?

Well, Stephen King is probably my biggest influence. There’s comics guru Stan Lee (with whom I got to collaborate on a comics project!) and H. P. Lovecraft—an early twentieth century pulp-magazine horror writer who influenced guys like King. And there are some others who’ve influenced me: comic writer Alan Moore, mystery writer Robert B. Parker, Harlan Ellison, and Ray Bradbury. (I’m sure there’s somebody I’ve forgotten.)

The trick, though, is finding a way to blend all those influences into something that eventually becomes your own, unique writing style.

What are some of your hobbies?

I used to be a major comic book fan, but over the years I got tired with all the superhero stuff—which is kinda funny, considering my professional writing career started with me writing short stories and novels about Spider-Man, the X-Men, and the Incredible Hulk. Now I just spend all my money on Doctor Who merchandise! I’ve been a Who fan—Whovian?—since high school. I even got to write a story for an official Doctor Who anthology!

What’s your favorite movie?

When I was a teen it was the original, un-messed-with Star Wars. (The one where Han shot first.) Somewhere along the way it became The Blues Brothers. Must’ve been all that great blues music—well, that and the insane car stunts…

If your book, Blood Feud: The Saga of Pandora Zwieback, Book 1, was turned into a movie, who would you like to play the main characters?

At conventions I often describe the Pandora Zwieback series to folks as “Ellen Page and Salma Hayek in a Hellboy movie.” They’re a little too old at this point to play Pan and Annie, but when I was trying to land the series with a publisher back in 2005/6, I thought they’d be perfect.

For me, Salma Hayek had been Sebastienne Mazarin since 1995, when her big-screen debut in Desperado coincided with Annie starring in the Heartstopper comic series I was writing. And when Ellen Page was running around in X-Men: The Last Stand, dressed in leather and calling Vinnie Jones’s Juggernaut character a dickhead, I thought, That’s Pan!

Oh, and Bruce Campbell for Pan’s dad!

Tomorrow: Advice for writers, and suggested reading. Be here for the thrilling conclusion!  😉

You’re Supposed to Encourage Them, Y’know…

Ever since I got involved in book publishing, I’ve subscribed to the Publishers Weekly newsletter. (PW is a magazine that’s the bible for the industry—sort of a combination New York Times Book Review and literary Entertainment Weekly.) In one of the recent newsletters, there was a link to an article by bookstore owner Josie Leavitt, titled She’s Not a Strong Reader

“…after two failed attempts to get the book [the teenage girl] wanted, she finally let me help her. I got her a wonderful stack of Libba Bray and Sarah Dessen and left her alone, only to have her mother announce to me, ‘She’s not a strong reader.’ As if that explained why her daughter was taking her time to choose the right book.”

And that reminded me of a similar encounter I had at the 2005 San Diego Comic Con, only in this case it involved a young boy (maybe 10 years old) and a copy of a Young Adult novel that I was selling at my booth: Spider-Man Super-Thriller: Warrior’s Revenge.

Now why, you ask, would I be selling copies of a book written by Neal Barrett Jr.? Simple—because Neal didn’t write it, I did. In fact, it was my first novel! (Long story short, Neal’s manuscript had been rejected by Marvel Comics’ licensing division, and I was brought in to write an entirely new manuscript. Problem was, the covers had already been printed, so no author credit for me.)

Anyway, the boy’s eyes made a slow pass across the table and then locked on the Spidey cover. (It is pretty eye-catching, thanks to the great work of artists Mike Zeck and Phil Zimelman.) He picked up the book.

“It’s a novel,” I told him. “Spider-Man and the Hulk fight the Super-Skrull.”

His eyes got real big. He thumbed through it, liked what he saw, and told his father he wanted it.

And Dad balked.

“I don’t know…” He thumbed through it, too. “It’s not a comic book. Are you sure you’re gonna read it?”

“Yes!” the kid said. “I really want it!”

Dad frowned. “I don’t know…”

I was a little surprised by his reaction. I mean, after a dozen or so years of exhibiting at comic cons I’d gotten used to teens and adults grimacing when they realized that things like my other Marvel project X-Men: The Chaos Engine Trilogy and this Spidey adventure were actual books, with lots of words on the pages. Gah! How horrible that I actually expected them to read something without pictures! (Not that there weren’t some pictures—for Warrior’s Revenge, artist James Fry had provided ten fantastic illustrations.)

But here was a boy who saw all the words on the pages and still wanted to read it—and Dad was trying to discourage him? WTH, Dad?

“Y’know,” I said to the dad, “if he likes to read, that’s really not a bad thing.” The unspoken nudge being it would be a good thing to buy it for his son. (Besides, I was charging only three dollars—what a bargain! I mean, I recently saw a copy of it for sale at for $121.00!)

Dad sighed. “I guess…” He shrugged. “All right.”

He paid for the novel, I autographed it, and off the kid went, happily clutching his new book. And I stood at my booth and shook my head, wondering why any parent would want to discourage their child from reading.