EDITOR’S NOTE: All this week, with the opening of “Amazing Spider-Man 2” charging toward us like a Rhino, Comic Riffs contributor David Betancourt will focus on facets of Spidey’s world. Today, we talk with writer Nick Spencer about his inspired “Superior Foes of Spider-Man’ comics.
YOU COULDN’T fault a writer for walking into a Marvel editor’s office and pitching an idea for a comic book that features Spider-Man’s villains. Spider-Man is one of the relatively few superheroes who has enemies just as popular as he is:
The Green Goblin is up there on a list of all-time comics bad guys.
Electro is being played by an Academy Award winner (Jamie Foxx) in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.”
Venom has had multiple comics.
Doctor Octopus had taken over the mind and body of Peter Parker for more than 30 issues, trying to prove he was a “Superior Spider-Man” just recently.
Even the suits at Sony/Columbia are talking about making a movie featuring Spidey’s legendary rogues’ gallery (because universe building is all the rage, thanks to Marvel Studios).
So it’s understandable to want to write a book filled with Spider-Man villains. Unless, of course, you wanted the comic book to feature not Spidey’s legendary rogues’ gallery, but rather a team full of his B-list villains, with Boomerang leading the way, and — oh yeah — it’s going to be a comedy.
Somehow, writer Nick Spencer walked out of a meeting getting the green light for a comic book featuring this far-from-all-star team of criminals, giving us “The Superior Foes of Spider-Man,” and giving Marvel a surprise comedy hit.
“This has been one of the most fun assignments of my career,” Spencer told The Post’s Comic Riffs regarding Superior Foes. “We are indeed having a blast.”
The Superior Foes team consists of Boomerang — who posses a superhuman ability to lie to everyone in his life; Overdrive, the getaway guy; Shocker — he can shock-blast you while wearing a costume that everyone makes fun of; the Beetle — daughter of a mobster and a lawyer on the side; and Speed Demon — never met a tough situation he couldn’t run from faster than a speeding coward ).
Spencer says the team was an idea he had been holding on to for a long time. After a meeting last year with artist Steve Lieber to discuss future collaborations, he says he sneaked in the idea for Superior Foes, and Lieber surprisingly went along with it.
Spencer writes Superior Foes’s funniest moments — ranging from mobster Tombstone telling his daughter (Janice Lincoln/Beetle) that the reason he was in jail so much was to enjoy the peace and quiet of being away from her Dominican mother, to members of the gang complaining about “Mad Men” spoilers, as well as a heist to steal the world’s only painting of Doctor Doom with his mask off. The writer notes that Leiber’s artwork is a major factor in the book’s comedic tone.
“Working with [Steve] is a huge honor,” Spencer said. “I’ve been a fan of his for a very long time. It’s always really nice when you admire someone’s work, and you get to work with them and you find out that they are indeed a quality person as well. He’s just been so enthusiastic about the story that we’re telling here, and adding his force to things and really making the book just that much better.
“When you’re in that kind of collaboration, it really makes everything a lot more fun.”
Timing played a factor in the success of Superior Foes. Spencer says this type of comic book more than likely wouldn’t have been made in the not-so-distant past. But given the success of such Marvel titles as Hawkeye and Daredevil — comic books that have been a little less super and a lot more hero, with a much more grounded approach — this is a fertile time for off-the wall ideas.
“This is the fantastic thing about Marvel right now,” Spencer said. “There’s really never been a better time to come in and pitch something a little more off-center. I don’t know that this book could have happened a few years ago.”
Superior Foes is good for at least one good LOL per issue — writing that suggests Spencer is a natural at comedy. He says that’s far from the case.
“I really do [enjoy writing for laughs],” Spencer said. “The opportunity to write comedy doesn’t come along all that often. It’s harder. Anyone who says otherwise is lying. [Superior Foes of Spider-Man] takes me longer to write than any other title.
“Comedy in comics is a tricky thing to pull off.”