Tom DeFalco talks about SPIDER-GIRL

tom-defalcoTom DeFalco has spent the last 8 years with Spider-Man’s daughter, Mayday Parker. Tom took some time out to chat with First Comics News about what is going on with Spider-Girl and how this title has been able to defy the odds and find a loyal audience.

First Comics New: What if? was always a fun oddball title, how did you convince Marvel to take a What If? concept and make it an ongoing series, or was it already on its way when you came along?

Tom DeFalco: I didn’t convince them. What If? #105—the first appearance of Spider-Girl sold so well and got such a great fan reaction—that Bob Harras, Marvel’s then Editor-in-Chief, called me and asked me if I’d like to do a regular Spider-Girl book. Bob had a plan to do a line of comics that was aimed at younger readers and civilians that he could sell in mass market outlets like Wal-Marts.

1st: You had been the Editor-in-Chief prior to the launch of MC2, what was it like going from the one receiving the pitches to the one making them?

Tom: Well, receiving pitches is a lot more fun than making them—that’s for sure!

1st: What do you think it is about Mayday that strikes a cord with readers that the rest of the MC2 was missing?

Tom: I don’t think the rest of the MC2, which stands for Marvel Comics 2, was missing anything…and neither did the readers. Bob Harras’ plan called for three titles, each having twelve issues. We started with Spider-Girl, A-Next and J2. In our second year, we planned to come out with three new titles—Fantastic Five, Wild Thing and the Buzz. At the last minute, Bob suggested we continue one of the original three titles. Spider-Girl and A-Next were selling about the same. I only decided to keep Spider-Girl because Ron Frenz was supposed to draw the Buzz. Even J2was selling well enough to continue publication. As for Fantastic Five and Wild Thing, they were both selling in the top 50, but were cancelled when Marvel couldn’t get a distribution deal with the mass market outlets. Spider-Girl was also supposed to be cancelled with issue #17…but the fans complained too loudly.

1st: The series has been going for about eight years now, since you are working in a future version of the Marvel Universe, do you have to make changes to deal with changes that happen in the current Marvel Universes?

Tom: Sometimes—like with the upcoming Spider-Man Family Special which includes Araña, but I make the changes only a case by case basis.

1st: In that regard, House of M is supposed to have lasting effects in the Marvel Universe, changing the relationship between human and mutant, how will this affect the future that Mayday lives in?

Tom: I doubt it will…since we’ve already established how mutants are treated in MC2.

1st: When Bill Jemas was in charge at Marvel, he had a vision for the Marvel Universe that saw the cancellation of successful titles because they didn’t fit, like X-Men: The Hidden Years, how did Spider-Girl survive?

Tom: Joe Quesada came to our rescue. He has always been one of Spider-Girl’s big supporters.

1st: You have extremely loyal fans that have save the comic more then once, what make Spider-Girl fans so vocal?

Tom: They have a title they love and they like to express that love.

1st: Are you surprised Marvel has listened to them?

Tom: Yes and no. A publisher needs to listen to its readers if it wants to stay in business, but that doesn’t mean it always works that way.

1st: Do you think that the fact that Spider-Girl is one of the longest running female super heroes at Marvel help its status with the company?

Tom: Not really. Spider-Girl is a small title that appeals to certain readers and we’ll never be as big as the X-Men or New Avengers.

1st: For a few years, Spider-Girl had little in the way of advertising support from Marvel. Has the recent Last Hero Standing mini-series caused more interest in the series?

Tom: I really hope so. A lot of new readers were pleasantly surprised to find themselves enjoying Last Hero Standing and I hope they realize that they can have that experience every month in Spider-Girl.

1st: Spider-Girl has also been one of the comics added to Marvel’s digests program. Has it helped sales on the regular monthly title?

Tom: The Digest haven’t helped as much as they could…mainly because direct market stores aren’t taken advantage of them. The Digests sell in phenomenal numbers to grade school readers. Stores near grade schools need to advertise Spider-Girl in their windows to draw these customers into their stores. There’s also another problem. Spider-Girlroutinely sells out in most stores within a few days of being released, but few retailers ever bother to increase their numbers. If you’re ordering five copies that sell out within a day, maybe you should think about ordering six copies next month.

1st: The digest is aimed at a different market then the comic. What type of reaction have you received in the mass market?

Tom: A fabulous reaction—and that’s why I think direct market stores are really hurting themselves by not trying to reach those young readers!

1st: One of the things I like is that you have been able to work in elements like the Scarlet Spider, and the Black costume into Mayday’s series?

Tom: The trick is introducing those elements into the series so that it works for readers who know the continuity…and also for people who have never read a comic book before. A lot of hardcover fans think that you have to like the Clone Saga to enjoy Spider-Girl, but most of my readers have never even heard of the Clone Saga.

1st: When creating future version of the Marvel Universe, what do you try to accomplish?

Tom: I try to create a future that makes sense, treats all the characters with respect and honors the Marvel Universe I fell in love with.

1st: Which character are you told not to use?

Tom: I was never told that I couldn’t use any character…but there are some characters that I have chosen not to use for various reasons. Some, I just haven’t gotten around to using. I’ve others because I don’t have anything new to say about them.

1st: What other limitations are placed on you, when creating future versions of existing heroes?

Tom: Marvel has never placed any limitations on me. The only limitations I have are my imagination and skill.

1st: Spider-Girl has had the advantage of a stable creative team, you have been with the book from the beginning, Ron Frenz and Pat Ollifee have handled the art since the beginning. What makes it interesting for you to stick with the comic for eight years?

Tom: I realllllllllly like the cast of characters.

1st: Artists usually change comics every six months. A year is now considered a long run. How have you been able to keep Ron Frenz and Pat Ollifee associated with the title over the long haul?

Tom: I have embarrassing pictures of them.

1st: Spider-Girl reaches number 100 next July, what can we expect to see between here and there?

Tom: A lot of action and angst in the merry Marvel manner!

1st: Has Marvel given you a commitment beyond issue 100?

Tom: Not yet, but I’m feel hopeful.

1st: What can you tell readers that have not been reading Spider-Girl, that might get them to give it a try?

Tom: We produce a lot of single issue stories and give you all the info you need to follow each issue. Unlike most comics today, you only need to read one issue of Spider-Girl to see if you like it, as opposed to six issues of most other titles. If you grew up loving Marvel Comics, you really should treat yourself to an issue of Spider-Girl…if you can find one

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