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Bazell writes...

Glad this site is back up and running. I hope you got everything done that you needed during the hiatus.
Spectacular Spider-Man has been, well, freakin' spactacular. As a life long Spider-Man fan and current comic book reader, it is with an air of nerdy sophistication that I lend my compliments to all involved in the process.
Now that my nose is sufficiently brown:

I know that translations from one established medium to another require changes and adaptation, not only in terms of style but content as well. I don't pretend to know much about the official process of adapting a story into a new format, but watching many of these television shows and movies that are based on comic book (or novel) storylines that I am intimatly framiliar with often can leave me... wanting. Even in this current show, clearly many alterations of the original storyline have been made. Certainly some of the changes are for the purposes of pacing, keeping episode count down, updating things for modern audiences, etc. But other changes seem unneceassary in terms of such thing to the casual, yet involved, viewer like me. Now understand, I am in no way asking you to justify changes that have been made to a story I already know. If it was the EXACT same story, then I would know what's going to happen at all times. I am confident that changes you and your team have made have been for the purposes of telling the best Spider-Man story you could, so my question is this: what can dictate the changes you make? Also, I assume you must seek some sort of approval from Marvel or Lee/Ditko or someone... is that oversight strict, or are you given certain measures of freedom? Are there any changes you made that you regret? What aspects of the Spider-Man mythos did you consider sacrosanct beyond the obvious necessities about his origin story?

Thank you, as always, for the time you give us fans.

Greg responds...


Marvel approves everything. But I have to say, they've been great partners -- which of course to me means they seem to love what we're doing! ;)

Changes are dictated by all the things you mentioned above, but in adapting the property, we tried to follow what we came to call "The Five Cs": Make it Contemporary, Cohesive, Coherent, Classic and iConic.

When you lay eyes on any character for the first time, especially the villains, you want the viewer to say, "Wow, yes! That IS Doctor Octopus [or whomever]!" He has to be that iconic, that classic. But at the same time we want to make his look contemporary.

The same notion applies to storytelling. Over forty plus years of continuity (with ideas coming from Lee/Ditko, Lee/Romita and everyone since including Bendis' Ultimate Spider-Man and the Raimi movies, etc.), there's going to be a ton of interesting characters and story ideas, but there's also going to be considerable duplication, a false start here and there, conflicting interpretations, etc. Having the advantage of hindsight when looking at this wealth of material, we strived to make the show more coherent and cohesive than the original.

This in turn helps it feel more contemporary. Storytelling has changed over the last set of decades, and a modern audience is more sophisticated with more stringent expectations. For example, just having every villain (and your hero) created from random exposures to radiation is a bit tough to swallow... on many levels. So -- as arrogant as I know it sounds -- we try to improve on the origins, by weaving characters and plotlines together, by limiting the sources of where someone can get super-powers, etc. Likewise, we may combine two characters that overlap so much that they fulfill the same function. For example, Bennett Brant + Mark Raxton/Molten Man = Mark Allan/Molten Man, or it did for us, anyway. Doing this made things more coherent and more personal to Spider-Man/Peter.

Having said all that, it was EXTREMELY important to us that the characters remained Classic and Iconic in the writing as well as the visuals. I STUDIED these characters and all the source material intensely. I tried to get down to the core essence of each character, i.e. what made him or her who he or she was to the reader. Flash is a bully, who deep down is actually an honorable guy. He's a guy who starts out as Pete's nemesis (and ironically Spidey's biggest fan) and eventually becomes both a decorated war veteran and one of the few people that Pete can count on. We knew we were starting with High School Flash, but we wanted to plant seeds of the guy we knew he'd become.

On the other hand, I studied Shocker. Great powers. Fun battles. Iconic costume. Secret i.d. = a cypher. Yes, we know his name, but there's nothing about Herman that makes him special. So in an attempt to make our universe more cohesive and coherent, I combined Montana with Shocker. I don't make that decision likely, and I do get that this bothers some folks, but it really felt like it worked in the context of our series, and Marvel agreed.

Another example: The Green Goblin was introduced as a mystery. Stan and Steve kept us guessing as to who was the man behind the mask for years. That mystery seemed FUNDAMENTAL to the character. And yet we knew that the audience knew that Norman Osborn was the Goblin. So how do you create a fundamentally necessary mystery when the audience already knows the answer? The solution was misdirection. Many people still guessed or assumed that Norman was the Goblin, but some people were fooled (at least briefly) and because I was NOT above making Montana into Shocker, seeds of doubt were planted. There's been (thankfully) a lot of positive feedback on our second season finale. And many people said something along the lines of, "Even though I knew it was Norman Osborn, you still kept me guessing." That's exactly what we hoped would happen.

This, of course, is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many other examples. But it should give you something of a window into our very exacting process.

Response recorded on May 14, 2009