CS Exclusive: Matt Singer discusses Marvel’s Spider-Man: From Amazing to Spectacular
Coming Soon recently got the opportunity to chat with ScreenCrush editor-in-chief and Webby Award-winning writer and critic Matt Singer to discuss his first nonfiction novel Marvel’s Spider-Man: From Amazing to Spectacular: The Definitive Art Collection, as well as the above exclusive spread from the book, which is currently available for purchase on Amazon!
Since he first appeared in the pages of Amazing Fantasy #15 in 1962, Marvel’s number one web-slinger has been swinging into the hearts of super hero fans everywhere. Originally portrayed as the chronic underdog, Spider-Man has grown from amazing to spectacular to ultimate and beyond, dominating the comics sphere and consistently ranking among the most popular super heroes of all time. With the proportionate strength of a spider, a genius mind, and a fully loaded arsenal of quips, it’s no wonder why Spider-Man is the best arachnid around.
Marvel’s Spider-Man: From Amazing to Spectacular celebrates the incredibly rich and expansive history of this iconic character in a brand new and unparalleled way—showcasing the jaw-dropping art of the Spider-Man comics and diving deep into the remarkable stories that have shaped Spider-Man into the super hero he is today. Featuring the best of Spider-Man comic art and exclusive interviews from leading Spider-Man creators like Brian Michael Bendis, Gerry Conway, Tom DeFalco, J.M. Dematteis, David Michelinie, Mark Millar, Alex Ross, Dan Slott, J. Michael Straczynski, Roger Stern, and many more, this spectacular compendium truly captures the great power and great responsibility of developing one of the most monumental heroes in comics history.
Singer, who previously had his work published in James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction, in which he explored the history of the genre alongside other experts in the field, was never sure if writing nonfiction was always of interest to him, but his love for writing has always given him passion for a bigger project.
“I’ve definitely been wanting to write a book for a long time, so I was really excited that the first one that I got to do was about Spider-Man, which is a subject that’s very near and dear to my heart,” Singer said. “I had done that James Cameron book, a couple of essays on that. I think that book is awesome.”
While he explored the realm of the various artists that have inked the titular webslinger over the years, Singer found himself also examining who he truly thought was the definitive artist, and much like the people he interviewed, he found there was no one correct answer, but instead could be two in the forms of Steve Ditko and John Romita Sr.
“I did kind of start to see even more than I had before, just how important Steve Ditko really was to the character in terms of not just Spider-Man, not just the amazing costume, which in and of itself would be hugely kind of definitive, but everything from those quirky hands and the web-shooting pose, which now you ask anyone to make a web-shooting pose, and every human being on the planet almost knows how to do that,” Singer said. “I absolutely love John Romita Sr.’s art. I think some of his comics might be more beautiful, more aesthetically pleasing to look at. But when you look at like, the sheer number of characters and concepts that Ditko kind of designed, patched up, and then how many things are still around today. I feel like he’s my answer, although certainly you can pick other people.”
Though the answer definitely seesaws between the two, Singer learned in his research that there was often a pattern of artists adapting the breakage of Marvel house style from their predecessor before eventually finding their own way to bring the hero to life.
“You do read a lot of those books in that [’90s] period, and a lot of the Spider-Man artists who kind of came immediately after Romita, they kind of adapted the Romita style a little bit,” Singer said. “But on the other hand, the other interesting thing is you look at the early Romitas and they look a little more like Ditko looks like when he first started drawing the character. Then over time, he got more comfortable, he kind of found his own take on it. After him, a lot of people mimicked his style until some of them found their own sort of unique style on the character. And what’s fun is with a book like mine, you get to kind of see the evolution of that in one book. You can kind of just look through it and just watch the art kind of grow and change over time, which is really cool.”
One of Singer’s more unfortunate parts of writing the novel came from missing the opportunity to discuss the character’s storied history with the creator himself Stan Lee, who passed away before he could start writing. However, in talking with those who worked with Lee over the years, he was able to get an idea of how close he was the evolution of his character over the years, namely his personality and physical appearance.
“One of them was this idea of a hero who isn’t perfect, that is a bit of a dork, that fails sometimes,” Singer said. “You know, one of the things that was sort of eye-opening to me doing the book was when I talked to Gerry Conaway about the death of Gwen Stacy’s storyline, which of course is such a famous storyline. And I’ve read it several times and knew about it for decades and decades. But talking to him about it, and I’m not entirely sure he put it exactly this way when I spoke to him, but it really kind of dawned on me during our conversation. And writing that chapter in the book was like the reason that that story resonates specifically with Spider-Man is that he’s the rare hero origin involves failure. He failed to save Uncle Ben, right? I guess you could say, well, Batman’s parents were killed. But it’s not like Batman was always strong. He was a little kid. He wasn’t going to save his parents.”
As with many Marvel characters, Spider-Man has seen the big-screen treatment many times and though most have received acclaim from critics and audiences alike, Singer does feel one thing the movies are lacking is the true evolution of the character as he ages and goes through his many personal highs and lows, and that now that the dust has settled on the Marvel and Sony disagreements, he would love to see Tom Holland continue playing the character.
“I felt like the movies that he’s done so far, even though they made such a big deal about them not being an origin story, that’s kind of something I wrote actually I think in an article on “ScreenCrush” is they’re sort of sneaky origin stories,” Singer said. “Like we’re watching him become Spider-Man just in a slightly less classical way. He hasn’t quite always learned the whole with great power comes great responsibility thing, which he never says in those movies. I feel like they’re working up towards that happening in one of these movies, the same way they took 11 years to say ‘Avengers, assemble.’ It would be cool to let that kind of play out over the long, long haul and show him kind of becoming more of an adult Spider-Man. I would be very, very happy to see that happen.”
Marvel’s Spider-Man: From Amazing to Spectacular: The Definitive Art Collection is currently available on Amazon!