Writer. Creator. Large mammal.

How to Do Continued Stories and Next or Future Issue Teases – Part 3

The Great Cover After the Best Cliffhanger Ever

At the request of Lincoln G, here’s the cover of the Amazing Spider-Man #33. Not surprisingly, the best cliffhanger also made for a terrific cliffhanger cover.

Long Term Teases, or This Better Be Good….

The best long term tease, the best tease of any kind is consistently great entertainment. Publishing compelling issue after compelling issue is the best way to keep people interested in what comes next. Build up enough momentum, enough reputation and even if the stories are not as good as usual for a multi-issue stretch, the audience will stick with a series for a while. It’s like a ride in a hot air balloon. You stay aloft for a while even after the burner is turned off.

I know you can think of lots of examples of the above.

So, besides being brilliant issue after issue, what can you do on a long term basis to entice people to stick around for future developments? Here are some techniques:

Slow Builds and Subplots

The slow build is cousin to the dramatized next issue blurb discussed last post. It’s a series of scenes unrelated to the story in the issues in which they appear that build anticipation of a story or Big Event to come some issues down the road. It usually goes something like this:

In an issue of the Fantastic Four (for instance) in which they’re dealing with the Super-Skrull, we cut to Doctor Doom’s laboratory in Latveria as he’s making an ominous scientific breakthrough. In the process, in very few words, we get across the essential info about Doom, that he’s smart and not nice. Uh-oh.

In a subsequent issue, in which the FF are battling the Frightful Four, we cut to Latveria again. Again, succinctly and elegantly we get across the essentials about Doom, plus the fact that he has discovered some frightening power. We look on with terror as he builds his Cosmic Pinwheel! That’s gonna be trouble…!

Once we’ve built the anticipation to epic intensity, we pay it off with the Doctor Doom Cosmic Pinwheel Saga.

Those of you who have more comics easily at hand than I do can probably find many examples. One slow build I can think of, off the top of my head, that led to a Big Event rather than a story, was the slow build toward revealing Mary Jane Watson’s face in Spider-Man. I believe the first partial look at Mary Jane came in Spider-Man #25. After several slow build scenes along the way, we finally see what she looks like in #42: “Face it, Tiger…you just hit the jackpot!”

The above is different than a subplot. A subplot is related to the main plot of the story and is resolved at the same climax as the main plot.

An example of a subplot: In the movie Rocky, the main plot is the story of the fight. The principal subplot involves Rocky’s inner conflict over his self-worth. People think he’s nothing but an aging pug.  Even he wonders if that’s all he is. When the bell rings at the end of the fifteenth round the main plot is resolved—Rocky loses on points—and in that same moment, the ding of a bell, the subplot is resolved—he is still on his feet, something no one else has ever accomplished in a fight against the champ, and therefore he has proven himself worthy. He calls his girlfriend’s name, all other threads are tied up.  The end.

P.S. the champ says “no rematch,” and Rocky says “I don’t want one.” Which, of course, doesn’t prevent a slew of sequels.  : )

An example of a subplot that serves as a long term tease that comes easily to mind because I was involved was in the Avengers, in the Korvac Saga. In issue #175, Moondragon becomes actively involved in the search for the Enemy. Immediately, and in high-handed fashion, she pontificates to the Avengers about things. In particular, she lectures Quicksilver, who had a prejudice against “artificial” beings (established by others and related to the fact that he was upset about his sister, the Scarlet Witch, marrying an  android, the Vision). “…eternity is vast—and its definitions of life are many.” Cosmic wisdom has she.

In the subsequent issue she disdains “…the self-righteous judgments with which you mortals soil your souls.” Then, using her mental powers, she simply erases Quicksilver’s prejudice!

Hawkeye’s reacts: “…where do you get off, baldy? Treatin’ someone’s mind like a…bathtub with a ring!” She’s high-handed, indeed, and oh, so smugly superior. She treats the other Avengers as subordinates, even leader Iron Man.

(All dialogue quoted above written by David Michelinie.)

We also get a hint that she gains some flicker of awareness of the well-hidden Enemy.

At Moondragon’s imperious insistence, the Avengers, who have been trying to detect the whereabouts of the Enemy using their powers, assemble and compare notes. A pattern emerges, as she knew it would. The Avengers find the Enemy hiding out in a modest home in Forest Hills.

A battle ensues. While the Enemy, who calls himself Michael, is distracted by the fight, Moondragon gets a glimpse into his mind…and is deeply moved by what she sees!

She does not join the fight!

At the climax, at the moment of victory, she reveals that what the Enemy/Michael had in mind for the universe was a sort of a benign dictatorship…not to “…interfere with our madness!” but “…only to free us from the capricious whims of eternity,” i.e., bad stuff.

She judges Michael the good guy and the Avengers, unwittingly the bad guys who “…slew the dream…then the hope!”

But she would think that, wouldn’t she…? Moondragon, who thought it was just fine to “fix” Quicksilver’s mind. Her take on what happened is colored by her belief that it is okay for “superior” beings like herself to make things better for us lowlifes.

She wipes the Avengers’ minds so all they will remember is a great victory. But she will remember what she thinks of as the tragedy they caused “forever….”

So, the subplot leads to a resolution for Moondragon at the same point that the main plot resolves, specifically that she has been changed by the experience. And might be up to something.

If I had continued on the series, I would have soon thereafter brought that bird to roost. As it happened, it was some time before I got around to it, in issues #219 and #220, in which Moondragon, emulating Michael, simply takes over a war-torn planet, forcibly bringing about peace.

(ASIDE: In reprintings of the Korvac Saga, long after I was gone, editor Ralph Macchio had an idiotic “Epilogue” tacked on that destroyed the ending, which he obviously didn’t grok. The Epilogue retroactively eviscerated the payoff of the Moondragon long term tease in issues #219-220, “…By Divine Right,” and “War Against the Gods.”)


A subplot can set up and tease a future issue.

Of course, you can do a combination of subplot teases and slow build teases. Anticipation for the revelation of the true identity of the Green Goblin involved both slow build scenes and subplots played out over many issues of Spider-Man leading up to the ending of #39.

Another long term tease technique is the “Easter Egg.” Drop a small hint, show a potentially interesting item, or plant a clue, but keep it incidental and, at first, seemingly unimportant.

For instance, in an early issue of Spider-Man, Aunt May needed a blood transfusion. Her nephew Peter, who had the right blood type, volunteered. At the time, he briefly wondered whether or not the radioactivity in his blood would affect her. And as a reader, I thought, oh, my God…! Aunt May gets spider powers?

It seemed to be nothing…until the Master Planner Sequence, in which the radiation that affected Peter positively turned out to be harmful to Aunt May, slowly killing her, in fact.

When the Master Planner Sequence came along, I remembered the transfusion bit long before. And I loved the fact that I did.

Easter Eggs are the most subtle of long term teases. I hadn’t been eagerly anticipating consequences of the transfusion, but when there were some, it helped to hook me even more on the series. It made it seem that everything mattered.

That’s how Easter Eggs work. You start looking for them, start wondering about possible consequences and speculating.

Gerry Conway used to plant Easter Eggs all over the place, usually having no idea (he said) what he was eventually going to do with them. Someone leaves a valise at the train station. Wonder what could be in it? A scientist detects something unusual. A strange gem is among those heisted in a robbery…. Whatever. Somewhere down the road, the secret plans for the Cosmic Pinwheel would turn out to be in that valise. Etc.

Writers often merely find some item or event that was a natural part of a story some issues back and find a way to retroactively turn it into an Easter Egg. The pen with which Doctor Strange signed the UPS guy’s receipt, an utterly incidental prop in a story about packages being switched turns out to now be charged by Strange’s touch with the Insidious Ink of Ichabodius. Or something.

Lots of ways to create and sustain long term interest.

The important thing is this: If you’re going to build up anticipation, suspense and high expectations, keep in mind that when the reader gets to the payoff, somewhere in the back of his or her mind, the reader is thinking, “This better be good!”

OVER THE WEEKEND: Thanksgiving in Newark



Mark Twain’s Rules of Literary Art


A Question About Writing for Television and Movies


  1. Anonymous

    I figured out where that gif originally came from. Credit where it's due, plus there are more gifs …


  2. Anonymous

    Kgaard: That is SO cool! Thanks for sharing! 🙂


  3. Someone made a gif out of this cover and it's kind of awesome.

  4. Ditko had already done a Spider-Man story (ASM #27) where the mysterious Crime-Master had been unmasked and he was an unknown instead of Foswell, which Spider-Man suspected (he muses:It's kinda funny…In real life, when a villain is unmasked, he isn't always the butler, or the one you suspected! Sometimes he's a man you didn't even know). I doubt he would have used the exact same trick twice.

    "it appears that some just assumed that it must have been that-because the second Ditko leaves, the identity is revealed"
    Personally, and that's complete speculation, I always felt that Stan, smart businessman that he was, realised that a lot of fans would be unhappy with Ditko's departure and decided he needed a powerful hook to bring them in for Romita's first issue. Therefore he provided them with the answer to the biggest Spider-Man mystery of the time.

  5. Irredeemable by Mark Waid (Boom studios) is a great comic. One with a cliffhanger at the end of every issue. Very well written….

  6. Anonymous


    It's a myth, but a fun myth. Print the legend and all that.

    I've always wondered if they argued about plot points through Sol Brodsky at all since they were not speaking directly.

    I've heard through Blake Bell and others Stan was pissed about some things Ditko did in the stories, and Ditko was pissed at Stan for changing the intent with dialogue (as he often did to kirby too).

    The Green Goblin thing is a myth. But it's fun. It should have happeend that way lol

    Since I've never seen a source, it appears that some just assumed that it must have been that-because the second Ditko leaves, the identity is revealed. and Stan always said he didn't know why Ditko left. and for 30 yrs Ditko didnt speak on it at all, and then when he did, it was in an obscure source, The Comics, that most people had no access to. that assumption was then just repeated.


  7. GePop wrote:I know that he wanted the Green Goblin to be a "nobody", and was absolutely opposed to Stan's decision to make him Osborn. ******************
    I believe that story is a myth. My understanding is that Ditko has hinted in his writings that he intended for Osborn to be the Green Goblin. He certainly has never said he wanted someone else to be revealed as the Goblin. And I don't think Stan has ever claimed that he and Ditko disagreed about this point. The "Stan and Steve disagreed about the Goblin's identity" story is oft-repeated but never sourced.

    At any rate, it would have been pretty much impossible for them to actually argue about this or any other plot point, since they literally were not speaking during Ditko's final year on the book. And Ditko was doing the plotting of Spider-Man entirely by himself, making it very difficult for Stan to overrule any decision Ditko made about the Goblin's identity. Ditko would plot and draw the stories, and then bring them in for Stan to dialogue; Stan would have no idea what was going into the issue until he received Ditko's pencils. They did not discuss storylines beforehand.

  8. re: "Mister.44 is correct. "

    Quick – someone forward this to my wife!

  9. ja

    Mister.44 is correct.

    It's a matter of distinction. Many people don't care to acknowledge (nor do they even have the ability to be aware of) these distinctions.

    I think Jim went over the line a bit here and there, and I said so, fearing how things will be a continuing of the same backlash he's experienced. Everything's political, and on the off-chance that anyone would consider Shooter for a writing gig again, it helps not to have that extra political crap to deal with.

    However, as 'over the line' actions go, Jim is tame by comparison to many others in this industry.

    It's all subjective.

  10. I'd just like to chime in that I don't find Mr. Shooter harsh or abrasive. He's a big boy with many years under his belt. He's earned the right to be blunt now and then.

    Quite the contrary, for people he truly feels has talent and respects he goes out of his way to fawn over them before criticizing something they did. If only my parents were so polite.

    I think there is a difference between calling something idiotic and saying why you find it that way, and just saying something such as "it fucking sucks, and you're a fucking idiot" with nothing to back up that opinion. One is blunt or curt, but honest assessment, and the other one is truly insulting – made to demean and hurt on a personal level.

    If you're such a precious snowflake that someone saying something you did was idiotic, by all means, get out of the creative business, and stay the hell off the interwebs.

  11. neil anderson

    Jim–in regard to your intemperate language, I've read a lot of interviews with comic book professionals, and you strike me as by far one of the most polite. And this blog is an eye-opener for a lot of readers like me, because you're one of the most talked about figures in comics who, until recently, hadn't spoke up for himself much. So as far as I'm concerned, no apology necessary. By the way, I'm a huge Ditko fan, I can't wait for Monday's blog. Thank you!

    Neil Anderson

  12. DAK – I hope he told you how much he laughed at that ending. He was very active in a couple internet forums, and said he never would have thought of that ending, and it made him laugh every time someone brought it up.

  13. Thanks to Tom B for jumping in and posting that. It's good to hear.

    DAK – your run on Defenders remains one of my favorites.

  14. Just a few observations on comments above regarding net etiquette. I agree that it is important to be able to say what one wishes to say, and, in Mr. Shooter's case, given a lot of what has been said and written about him over the years, having the means to be able to give his side of the story, and the time to do so, as he says, is very welcome. However, as has also been pointed out earlier, the written word seems to be subject to unintentional misreading: in life, a comment can be made with a wink, or tongue in cheek, but the same comment in black and white can seem like a personal attack on someone or their professionalism.
    I'm not involved in the comics industry, but I know all too well from being heavily involved in a small community through my main pastime how easily feuds, misunderstandings, cliques etc can arise: indeed, while I feel I am a generally easy-going character, I have been involved in some heavy disputes myself over the years. Accordingly, the tales I read on here and elsewhere about those involved in comics make perfect sense to me.
    So, ideally, we would all be able to express ourselves frankly yet in such a way as to avoid misunderstanding, and any criticism of another's work would not be taken as a personal slight, but we all know life doesn't work that way sometimes…

  15. M.

    That "next writer," I'm pleased to say, was me and Roger Slifer working together. –DAK

  16. Steve Gerber talked often about how he would put things into stories so that he could figure them out later, and loved that comics were the only medium he could do that. He very famously said that he had no idea where he was going with his "Elf with a gun" subplot and LOVED the ending it was given by the next writer.

    Howard the Duck was just written into a Man-Thing story as a throwaway gag, and became a HUGE character due to fan response.

    The one time he said he did have a large overall plan was for Omega the Unknown, and he did not reveal the secret of that series, saying he needed permission from his co-writer to do so. And now we'll never know.

  17. I understand that writers retcon stories all the time but I've never seen it tacked onto a tpb of the original. Man, just bad form.

  18. I never read the "new" ending of the Korvac saga. I have the originals and can't see why someone wouldn't be angry that a story that they wrote would be altered after the fact. There have been a lot of famous stories written that weren't "improved" in TPB's. I always read that Gruenwald was a great guy. Maybe it was not done maliciously but it was a bad idea. I hope nobody "improves" the Kree/Skrull war or the Warlock/Magus story in future TPB's.

  19. I agree with Dan – If Jim can't blow off some steam in his own Blog where the hell can he do it!
    All I'd caution is the written word reads much harsher than the verbal.

  20. Dan

    Mr. Shooter, do not hold back.

    Say what you want to say and let the crybabies cry.

    You don't do the world a favor by being anything less than candid.

    Live up to your name. You're a shooter, not a coddler.

  21. Kid

    I offer this for what it's worth – if anything.

    As J. M. Keynes said: "Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assaults of thought on the unthinking."

    (Some sources say 'thoughts'.)

  22. Anonymous

    Dear Jim,

    I hope this isn't a silly question, but what differences do you see between comics writing and writing for TV or movies? Would you say that comic book story structure is less rigid and formulaic?

    Pete Marco

  23. Dear Anonymous,




    What I meant to say was, I respect your sensibilities, and, in the future, I will certainly endeavor to restrain any immoderate impulses that may arise. And, all kidding aside, I mean that sincerely. Really. It's just that after decades of anyone and everyone taking free shots, now that I have a forum where I can express my point of view and the time to do so, where I can address the lies and mischaracterizations of myself and my efforts, the most egregious of attacks against me tend to inspire a spirited response — but I will try to control myself. Thank you.

  24. Tom Brevoort

    You rang?

    Bingbong is correct, that epilogue was conceived and written by Mark Gruenwald, and my memory of it was that Mark was the one who conceived of it, that he disagreed with how the Korvac Saga as written lined up with other aspects of how the hierarchy of cosmic/metaphysical beings at Marvel worked (whether existing at the time the story was written, or as had been worked out thereafter.) So he took it upon himself to correct the mistake.

    It was one of the very rare times that I ever saw Mark do something for somewhat petty or meanspirited reasons (or so it seemed.) While I wouldn't be at all surprised if Ralph helped egg Mark on in doing this new coda, so far as I know, he didn't have anything to do with it directly.

    I cut it from the publication the last time the story was reprinted in softcover around a decade ago, in that I thought it was bad form for a later creative team to tack on an ending that materially overwrote the story that came immediately before. I did relent and allow the epilogue to be included in teh more recent hardcover collection, but only as an extra, and more for historical purposes–because people made the case that it had been done, and should be included in a more definitive edition of the story. I was fine with this so long as it was separated from teh story itself, and that there was an indication given that it was done later, and by other hands.

    Tom B

  25. Thanks, Jim. I think that's sound advice about planning the story out in advance. I can think of one example from movies where they regretted not doing that. When Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale did the "cliffhanger" ending of Back to the Future, they meant it as more of a gag and never planned to do a sequel. When they ended up doing the sequel, they regretted putting Marty's girlfriend in the time machine and sending her into the future with the others. The story they came up with for part 2 just didn't have much use for her. They ended up making her mostly unconscious for the first act and then writing her out in the second act (in a somewhat logically questionable way).

    It's also nice to know where you're headed so you can drop those hints and "easter eggs" that provide some foreshadowing. Some of them can only be appreciated on a second reading or viewing, like the Stay Puft Marshmallows billboard advertisement seen early on in Ghostbusters.

    I found one of the interviews with Larry Hama where he talks about this topic. Here is his quote.

    I never knew how any issue was going to end when I started writing it. I figured that if I could surprise myself, I could surely surprise the reader. There is a great danger in planning too far in advance in any kind of soap opera continuity, in that there is a natural tendency to write TOWARDS an end. This always seems to telegraph the denoument. I didn’t know about Zartan’s complicity in the Hard Master’s death until way after the fact. It just seemed to fit in nicely during the Candy episodes. I fought tooth and nail to keep Cobra Commander from dying in the first place, but it was a losing battle. I had it the back of my mind to bring him back as soon as possible.

    I don't think I would feel comfortable winging it to the degree he describes here. Although at the end there he does suggest that sometimes he has certain goals in "the back of his mind."

    Interestingly, in this interview, Larry claims that he "was also the LAST choice for writing Joe." I'm pretty sure he's mentioned that in other interviews too. It seems odd that he thinks that since, if I recall, you described on here that he was actually your first choice. It's hard to believe he wouldn't have been at least near the top of the list of candidates given his military background.

    Anonymous, haven't you ever read a story, seen a TV show or watched a movie that you thought was stupid? Why wouldn't you tell anyone who asked your honest opinion, that you thought the movie was stupid? Jim was calling the story idiotic, which is a big difference from calling a person idiotic. Everybody does stupid things at some point in their life. Any writer of a story would, I think, be interested to hear the honest reaction of anyone who read it, whether they thought it was stupid or thought it was brilliant. Self-censoring is not the way to go here.

  26. Anonymous

    Dear Mr. Shooter.

    I understand your pique at Macchio.

    However this isn't the first time I've seen you call things idiotic and at least one or two of them didn't involve personal attacks like Macchio's, but artistic choices you simply didn't like in stories you had nothing to do with.

    Again, I think you're possibly the best editor the business has ever seen. You're definitely the best editor Marvel ever had with the possible exception of Stan himself.

    When you more or less politely explain why things don't work in detail on this site it's wonderfully instructive. It's just lately I've notices a little more vinegar in with the honey and I'm disappointed because I am such a fan.

  27. Bingbong mingmong

    I just read the Korvac epilog – it was written by Mark G and edited by Howard Mackie so where does the karate kid come in?

    Also, although it negated Moondragon's wiping of memory, though I suppose she could have done it later, I don't see where it was mean spirited or insulting.

  28. Anonymous

    If Jim wants to call something idiotic on his blog, I'm inclined to just go with it.


  29. I think both intelligent people and idiots NEED TO KNOW when they are making idiotic decisions. How can you solve a problem if you don't identify it first? Usually, if someone calls me an idiot I go along with it and they learn differently in a humbling way down the road. If they do make me aware of something idiotic I've done… all the better. I have a starting point to adress the issue.

  30. Dear Anonymous,

    I'm trying to figure out how I would come up with a "nicer" characterization of a mean-spirited, pointedly insulting coda added on to my story. While I was still at Marvel, Macchio snickeringly mocked the story to his cronies loudly enough for me to hear. In the reprint, in classic Eddie Haskell-to-Mrs. Cleaver fashion, which fools most people, he hid his viciousness behind the feigned politeness of the intro. "Idiotic" works for me. What do you think Alan Moore would say if some DC editor added a "correction coda" to reprints of Watchmen?

  31. Jim,

    I agree entirely with the elements you outline above. The slow build allows you to define the parameters of how the characters interact. The Easter eggs reward the observant reader. These are all reason why I don't like story arcs or self contained stories as DC used to publish in the 60's & early 70's.

    Unfortunately, too many modern comic readers don't get it. They want the shallow instant payoff.

    When I converse with someone about your work on messageboards, I always tell them you write epics. Picking up a single comic may not be mind expanding entertainment, but the bigger picture will be. VALIANT was the only company after Marvel where you worked long enough to really unfold the larger more intricate connections. DEFIANT was only about half way there. Broadway in my opinion was poised to be better than Valiant. I believe Starseed would've been my favorite comic title ever. As it stands, Solar #1-10 is the reason I'm still talking about comic books in 2011. I haven't read it in 10 years, but it still makes me want more comics written and drawn to that level of intricacy and proficiency.

    At DEFIANT, you plotted Dogs of War for Art Holcomb to write. It was my favorite series despite the fact Georges Jeanty was still green as an artist. Years after DEFIANT shut down, I met Georges and he was excited that someone remembered his early work. He was also excited to tell me what you had plotted for the 8 issues that were planned. He has a terrible memory about events back then, but he remembered the outcome of your plot. When he told me what was to happen, I simply thought "Wow". If the full story had been told, I know there would have been word-of-mouth buzz about it.

    The reason your name is not on top like it was at Valiant is because no one is willing to let you tell the bigger story. Modern collectors aren't patient enough or observant enough to see the building plot elements. They want the impact of Solar #1-#10 compressed into one 32 page comic and it doesn't register in their mind that they like each installment so much because it created something bigger and more intricate.

    I think your critics just see the jigsaw pieces that make your story and miss the fun it is piecing it all together for the final overall image.

  32. M.

    COMPLETE CI, volume 2? It's in the works from the fine folks at CO2 comics, Anon.

  33. Anonymous

    The greatest Larry Hama "Easter Egg" of all time (IMHO) was an homage to Jim Shooter in G.I. Joe #1. One of the panels featured all of the G.I. Joe members (Hawk, Snake Eyes, etc.) on television monitors. The last monitor featured a Joe named "Shooter." The character was never seen or heard of again… until 24 years later! The mystery of the character was revealed in Larry Hama's "G.I. Joe Declassified" in 2006. A twenty-four year old "easter egg" – loved it.

    – The Beyonder

  34. Anonymous

    David, are you still planning a second volume of the Comics Interview Complete Collection?

  35. M.

    Btw, the "I" above is me — David Anthony Kraft. See my moniker isn't on my Google blog ID.

  36. M.

    I have done it different ways at different times, depending. Sometimes, making it up as I went along, other times with an end in sight. But 'tis true, never be a slave to your initial thoughts — something better may come. The final, double-length issue #4 of Yi Soon Shin: Warrior and Defender, that I edit and co-write with Onrie Kompan, is a perfect case in point. Not only does it pay off big time, but it will surprise (and perhaps outrage) readers because it sure surprised US. If we didn't see something big — something perfect for the story long term — coming, I am sure none of the readers will! (Yi Soon Shin can be ordered through Amazon.)

  37. Anonymous

    re: the idiotic conversation

    I prefer my language not to be softened. See George Carlin's thoughts on softening of the language and how it serves to obscure meaning

  38. Where is Concern Troll TOm BRevoort when you need him?

  39. "Anon", do you ever refer to idiotic things as idiotic? We all do, and I appreciate Jim doing so publicly, especially to describe things in stories that fit the word perfectly. There are "kinder, gentler" terms, but they don't get the point across as well, and this is about communication, not politically correct hand-holding. In other words, I don't mind it at all, and I like it, especially when I agree with the estimation.

  40. Anonymous

    Dear Mr. Shooter:

    You are one of my comic book heroes. I love your writing and your stewardship of Marvel was the company's clear high point.

    I also met you once or twice at conventions and found you to be incredibly gracious to the fans, even ones who were annoying.

    That being said, it really bothers me when you start throwing around terms like "idiotic" to describe others' work (even if the work is substandard).

    First off, it isn't constructive criticism. It's just criticism.

    Second, I think it's beneath you and, to be candid, it makes me wonder if a bit of your "bad guy" rep isn't tied to that sort of language when you were EIC.

    In fact, ironically enough, it makes me think of how Weisinger treated you.

    Again, I think your editorial judgement is second to none and your writing skills among the best in the industry. And I agree with 99% of what you say. I just wish you could try saying it nicer sometimes.

  41. Dear JediJones,

    I, personally, find it best to have a plan for the whole story arc before I set out to script the first issue. My overview for the sequel to the Korvac Saga, "Ill-Begotten," posted here is a good example. However, as I go along, ideas occur to me. The story develops somewhat. And I have frequently looked back upon things I put into the story with no further intentions, and turned them into Easter Eggs.

    Maybe some guys can just wing it. I don't think I could.

    Maybe Larry Hama can. However, I know Larry, and whether or not he had a solid plan, I assure you, he had a pretty good idea of where he was going. He didn't do things by accident, for sure.

    Stan was doing so much writing every month that it isn't surprising that he had to wing it and count on artists for help with plots.

    I advise writers to think things through, at least. Plan it out, but do not be a slave to your initial thoughts.

  42. That color on the cover of The Amazing Spider-Man #33 is really something else for that time.

  43. Can't wait to read about "Ditko at VALIANT and DEFIANT"

  44. Simonson's Thor with the Surtur subplot comes right to mind as a good example as well.

  45. Anonymous

    I've often heard Larry Hama say that, too, JediJones. Even so, elements that occurred in issue #2 still affected events in the 100's.

    I just re-read the last year of stories in the IDW-published, Hama-written continuation of the Marvel G.I.Joe stories, and stuff from #2 is *still* affecting storylines!


  46. GePop

    All this reminiscing about that classic Spider-Man three parter (which I first read as MARVEL TALES reprints in the early 80s, I believe), plus the bits with the Mary Jane and Norman Osborn reveals, got me thinking about the final straws that broke Ditko's back and led him to leave Marvel. I know that he wanted the Green Goblin to be a "nobody", and was absolutely opposed to Stan's decision to make him Osborn. But didn't I read somewhere that Ditko also wanted Mary Jane to prove to be a real 'Lena Hyena' type, while Stan insisted she had to be an absolute bombshell?

    If Steve had gotten his way, I guess her timeless catchphrase would have proven to be, "Face it tiger…you just hit the pothole!" 😛

  47. Anonymous

    Arthur Conan Doyle, one of the best at writing endings, said he would always start with the ending and write the story around that

  48. Anonymous

    The edition of the Korvac Saga that I have (I think the most recent) has the epilogue in the extras section at the back of the book…

  49. To branch off from the notion of Conway planting an easter egg that he'd have no idea what to do with later, do you have any opinion, Jim, on whether a writer, especially in serial storytelling, should plan out all the key developments and the conclusion of a plot in advance of releasing the first part of the story?

    I seem to see different responses from writers all the time on the topic. Some say they "wing it" and start releasing issues without having any idea where the story is going to go. Others will comment on planning out complete stories in advance that sometimes never got published because they ended up leaving the series.

    Roger Stern, for example, knew who he wanted the Hobgoblin to be but left Amazing Spider-Man before he got to reveal it. John Byrne said he had years worth of stories in mind for X-Men: The Hidden Years before Marvel cancelled the series.

    On the other side of the coin, I believe Larry Hama has said that on G.I. Joe he basically made it up as he went along (don't quote me on that though). And from the comments on this series of articles, it sounds like Stan was writing scripts without knowing the plot of the next issue.

    What approach do you prefer to use in your own writing? Would you steer other writers in one direction or another or consider it a purely individual choice?

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