Tom DeFalco spider-girl

Tom DeFalco is undoubtedly one of the greatest comic book writers of all time.

He and artist Ron Frenz left an incredible legacy with AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, introducing characters like Puma, Silver Sable, and more! Perhaps, most famously, DeFalco is the co-creator of SPIDER-GIRL, the daughter of an alternate universe Peter Parker and Mary Jane. Additionally, Tom DeFalco was responsible for one of the most iconic AMAZING SPIDER-MAN storylines: “Saga of the Alien Costume.” Of course, DeFalco also wrote multiple other comics, like THOR, FANTASTIC FOUR, and FIRESTAR to name a few. But I personally adore his run on AMAZNG SPIDER-MAN above all else.

ComicsVerse had a chance to talk with Tom about Peter Parker and his supporting cast of characters.

[Editor’s Note: This interview was slightly edited for clarity.]

amazing spider-man #258
Image Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

ComicsVerse (CV): First of all, thank you so much for all of your work in the industry. Specifically, thank you for your run on Spider-Man (as both editor and writer). As far as I’m concerned, you and Frenz rank right up there with Lee and Ditko in terms of writer-artist duos.

TD: Thank you, but I liked Roger Stern and Marc DeMatteis better.

CV: It seems like Marvel Comics 1000 is this big celebration of the Marvel Comics legacy. But which other artists/authors/stories had the most impact on you growing up? I know Stan Lee was heavily influenced by Errol Flynn.

TD: In regards to writers, the five that had the most impact on me are Edgar Rice Burroughs, Walt Kelly, Bob Kanigher, Stan Lee, and Ed McBain. My favorite artists were Jack Kirby, Joe Kubert, Walt Kelly, Bob Powell, and Jack Cole.

CV: Clearly, your experience on ARCHIE was essential to the success of your Spider-Man run. Both heavily rely on soap-opera style ensemble cast interactions. When writing these dramas between friends, families, and lovers, do you often pull from personal experience?

TD: Absolutely! My family was a lot like Archie & the gang — with a tad less slapstick. A lot of Spider-Girl was based on my brother and his relationship with my niece.

CV: Who are your favorite members of Spider-Man’s supporting cast? Which of them are your favorite to write? Which were the most difficult?

TD: That’s like asking who is your favorite child. You love them and treasure the time you get to spend with each one of them. None of them were difficult. They all have such distinctive voices and personalities.

CV: Which Spider-Man story are you most proud of having written?

TD: I really like “Whatever happened to Crusher Hogan?”

Crusher Hogan
Image Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

CV: One thing I love about the SAGA OF THE ALIEN COSTUME is all of the symbolism in the book, with Peter feeling like he’s losing control of his life and constantly feeling fatigued. What can you tell us about the symbolism in the book, in particular, Peter’s depression?

TD: Ron and I are very theme-oriented and we are constantly using symbolism and visuals to push our themes. I’m afraid I haven’t looked at that particular story in 30+ years and no longer remember the specifics of Pete’s depression.

CV: Peter’s mental state in SAGA OF THE ALIEN COSTUME (AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #252-#259) was all over the place, and so were his emotions. Were you alright while you were writing the SAGA OF THE ALIEN COSTUME? Or did any of his emotions rub off on you?

TD: I was fine. I try to work at a fever pitch intensity and translate that to my characters. It’s my job to make those emotions rub off on you.

CV: You once said the scariest part of writing Spider-Man was getting his dialogue right. Was he the most difficult character to write on that series?

TD: Totally. He is much more sarcastic and genuinely funny than I am. I struggled to keep up and really want to be Peter Parker when I grow up.

CV: I have to ask, who wins in a fight between Puma and Kraven the Hunter?

TD: Puma — he has much greater physical strength and enhanced abilities.

Tom Defalco puma
Image Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

CV: Jim Shooter and Mike Zeck might’ve created the alien costume, but you and Ron Frenz really brought it to life. As an expert on superhero fashion, how important do you think the costume is to the overall character?

TD: I think costuming is very important and that’s why I like to work with brilliant artists.

CV: Another female character with a great costume is Firestar. My boss is obsessed with your FIRESTAR limited series.

TD: As well he should be!

CV: Where does FIRESTAR rank among your favorite female characters in the Marvel Universe?

TD: She is a favorite, but I don’t rank characters.

CV: What do you think makes a good female character? (You should know after writing awesome characters like Dazzler, Silver Sable, Firestar, and Spider-Girl.)

TD: You want a strong and distinctive personality, a unique set of powers, techniques or weaponry and an interesting backstory—and that applies to all characters!

CV: Also, what is it with Marvel and redheads?

TD: I find redheads, blondes, and brunettes equally appealing.

CV: Have you heard about SONY’s plans to make a Silver Sable movie? What do you think makes her a compelling big-screen protagonist?

TD: I have. I think her backstory could lead to some very interesting adventures and certainly has in the comics.

CV: If Spider-Girl ever makes it to the big screen, what aspects of her character and story are most essential to portray cinematically?

TD: Her positive, never-give-up attitude and her relationship with her family and friends.

Tom DeFalco Firestar
Image Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

CV: Which Marvel character do you relate to the most?

TD: Peter Parker. I’m always second-guessing myself and my work.

CV: With so much Spider-Man mania going around, they keep adapting him and re-interpreting him in different ways. I worry that the essence of Peter Parker will eventually be lost as people stray further and further away from the source material. How would you describe Peter Parker?

TD: An average guy who is always wishing he could do better.

CV: When you think of Peter Parker, what do you think of as his essential characteristics?

TD: His humility and sense of responsibility.

CV: In general, how do you believe superhero characters should develop over time? Should they remain static for new readers?

TD: I think the essence of a character or a comic book series should always be consistent. (Spider-Man is a series that is all about responsibility.) I think the flash details of the series can constantly evolve. (Where he works, goes to school or dates.)

CV: What did you learn writing Spider-Man? And don’t say with great power comes great responsibility.

TD: I learned that working with Ron Frenz was a real pleasure and creatively fulfilling — so I kept on doing that.

CV: Also, you never got the chance to interview Straczynski on Comic Creators on Spider-man. Are you a fan of his run on the character?

TD: I am a fan of his writing, but I never read his run on Spider-Man.

CV: In AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #258 Peter dreams about a giant version of Spider-Man battling a giant version of the symbiote. He then says, “I gotta get away from these monsters before they kill me?” Do you think Peter’s destined to die in battle?

TD: God, I hope not, but I do believe he will be severely injured along the way.

Tom DeFalco Spider-Man
In SPIDER-GIRL #17, Peter Parker must use an artificial leg in order to be Spider-Man after a severe injury he suffered in the past. Image Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

CV: Can anybody really be Spider-Man?

TD: Think of the wear and tear a football experiences and multiply that be a thousand — I don’t think the human body was ever designed for such punishment.

CV: You and Frenz are teaming up for another Spider-Man story this year, right? What can you tell us about SENSATIONAL SPIDER-MAN: SELF-IMPROVEMENT?

TD: Correct. Our 10 pages has a simple idea.  Spider-Man learned that with great power there should also come great responsibility. What if you — like the majority of people — have no power, does that free you of responsibility?

Spider-Man: Self-Improvement
Image Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

CV: When people look back at the breadth and scope of all this incredible writing you’ve done, how would you like them to think of your work?

TD: I hope they found it entertaining.

CV: Are they any lessons you’ve hoped particularly impacted your readers?

TD: You can only lose if you give up.

CV: Lastly, what advice do you have for young, upcoming writers?

TD: I have always believed that there was only one secret to writing — you have to care and care passionately about what you’re writing. This principle applies to single page gags and 500+ page novels and anything in between. If you don’t care about your material, neither will your readers.

Thank you, Tom DeFalco, for answering my many questions regarding your work. It had a major influence on my life and my career. Hopefully, this interview helps inform other readers about his legacy.

SENSATIONAL SPIDER-MAN: SELF IMPROVEMENT #1, which features a story by Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz, hits comic book stores on August 7, 2019. 

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