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The Spider-Man Crawl Space Interview

Writer Paul Jenkins was nice enough to be interviewed by the Spider-Man Crawl Space. Jenkins is a very busy man in the comic industry. He currently writes Peter Parker: Spider-Man, Incredible Hulk, Witchblade, and Sentry. Sentry is a mini-series with artist  Jae Lee. The duo worked together on the Inhumans maxi-series that earned them an Eisner award. The award

Paul Jenkins

is one of the highest in the comic industry. I'm very happy that he was able to take time out of his busy schedule to chat with the Spider-Man Crawl Space.

Spider-Man Crawl Space: Paul, can you first please give the readers a small bit of background about yourself? Explain briefly how you broke into the comics field and where your from etc? Imagine it's your first day of class and your introducing yourself to the students.

Paul Jenkins: I began working in comics in 1988 as an editor/production manager with Mirage Studios, the people who created and owned the Ninja Turtles.  From there, I moved to Tundra, where I was not only an editor but also in charge of licensing and promotions.  I'd had a pretty wild experience with the success of the Turtles going on around me, so I had a lot of responsibilities at Tundra. Sometime around mid 1994, I grew tired of the editing gig, so I decided to pitch to various companies as a writer, and landed DC/Vertigo's HELLBLAZER. 

Spider-Man Crawl Space: How did you get the job of writing the Peter Parker Spider-Man title?

Paul Jenkins: A few months ago, I was interviewed by Mike Doran at Newsarama about the various titles I've been working on.  He asked me if I'd consider working on any others, and I told him I was really too busy to take on any more work, but that I might consider either Batman or Spidey if it was offered to me. Two days after that, Ralph Macchio called me and asked if I'd be the new writer on PPSM.  Funny how that works.

previews2.jpg (49511 bytes)Spider-Man Crawl Space: Have you been following the Spider-Man titles before your hiring? If so, what's your opinion on them?

Paul Jenkins: Well, when I was brought onboard, I was asked about my opinion by both Ralph and Howard Mackie.  I told them that I thought there were too many unresolved plots, that killing Mary Jane was a bad idea, but that there was  a potential to bring the books around if we could get back to a more simple method of storytelling.  At the time, I think, Howard was becoming very weary with writing two books a month, and since I've come on to PPSM, he really seems to have begun enjoying himself again. 

Spider-Man Crawl Space: What is your opinion about comic related web sites on the Internet? Are they a good thing, and are they helpful as a writer?

Paul Jenkins: I dunno... they're fun sometimes, I suppose.  Some of the resource sites have been helpful.  There's a really good one for both Hulk and Spidey -- the Hulk one has all sorts of villains in it, and I'll probably refer to it when I get to those villains.

Spider-Man Crawl Space:  Are newsgroups and messages boards a daunting place to go as a writer? Ever been insulted with questions like "How in the world did you come up with this crap?"

Paul Jenkins: Aw, they're okay.  Sure, there's the occasional person who wants very much to pick a fight with me, and those people are best ignored because when they get any sort of response they think they've accomplished something.  I rather enjoy the newsgroups, really.  I'm always consPP20.jpg (78047 bytes)cious of creating an inferior environment than existed before -- that is, I don't want my presence on the board to make too much of a difference because the board was fine before I arrived, and should remain that way.  If I get the feeling I've changed the dynamic of any board, I lurk instead.

Spider-Man Crawl Space: How do you deal with criticism, both good and bad, from online sources?

Paul Jenkins: The same way, I hope:  With restraint. And if I see them at conventions, I kick their teeth in.  :o)

Spider-Man Crawl Space: Please tell us some upcoming storylines that we can look forward to in the Peter Parker: Spider-Man title?

Paul Jenkins: Okay... without giving too much away:  In general, PPSM is going to return to a humor comic, which is no mean feat given what's happened over the last few years.  But I really feel there's a potential to tell some very sad or "bittersweet" stories also.  I think Peter's tragedies are so much better
defined when juxtaposed against the humor, and vice versa.  So, you know...
we might do a sad story with a little humor in it, like our first issue.  Or
we might do a very funny issue but point out that even while Peter's cracking
jokes, he's currently trying to deal with MJ's disappearance.
Issue #25 is kind of a big deal -- it's a crossover with Amazing, and I think
it'll be pretty intense. 

Spider-Man Crawl Space: Both Spider-Man and the Incredible Hulk have been under much scrutiny from the fans before you came onboard as the writer. Is there much trepidation coming on to two titles that there's been an outcry of change? If so, what are they?

Paul Jenkins: Well, I think it's fair to say (without any slight aimed at previous creative teams) that both titles were sort of on a downswing.  I'm in a pretty good position, then, if I can come in with some fresh ideas and stir things up a
bit.  No trepidation on my part -- I mean, why be afraid of this job?  It's a

Spider-Man Crawl Space: What's your favorite Spider-Man storyline, writer and artist? Please explain why these rank up there for you?

Paul Jenkins: I think the death of Gwen was such a pivotal moment in comics.  It was the first time that I noticed someone REALLY close to a major character had been killed in such a fashion, a very great tragedy to him.  Other than that story, I liked Kraven's Last Hunt a lot.
To me, Stan Lee has always been the greatest Spidey writer -- I used to live
the bloody comic when I was a kid.  I remember Doctor Octopus and Spidey
having a fight above Times Square, and just being blown away by the action. 
Funny thing... I'm not really that much on action myself.  Not fisticuffs, at

Spider-Man Crawl Space: What is the most appealing thing about Spider-Man for you?

Paul Jenkins: He's just like me and you and people we know.  That's the way he should be written, I think.

Spider-Man Crawl Space: As a writer, what is the hardest thing to write in a comic book?

Paul Jenkins: Well, I have no trouble with dialogue.  I think maybe it's coming up with fresh ideas, interesting twists, even if they seem obvious.  For instance,
when I wrote Hellblazer, I began to see this very weird trend in comics:
every time a Catholic priest appeared in a Vertigo comic, he was portrayed as
a child molester or something worse, and I thought, "Hang on... we're losing
our perspective here. Surely most men of the cloth are pretty gentle people,
very ordinary, really.  What are we trying to prove?"  I wrote John meeting
Jesus in a forest (HB #97) and Jesus was a pretty nice guy -- not because I
have any religion at all, but because it makes sense.  After that, I really
sort of went against the grain of most Vertigo writers because I was
interested in exploring how Constantine might mellow with age, or at least
begin to see things differently as he headed towards fifty.  It happens, you

Spider-Man Crawl Space: What's the most difficult character to write in the Spider-Man title and why?

Paul Jenkins: Aunt May.  She's been a one trick pony for so long... time to make her more realistic, I think.

Spider-Man Crawl Space: Do you have a large back issue collection of comics? If so,what's your pride and joy of the collection?

Paul Jenkins: Hmm... not a huge amount of comics.  Mostly trade paperbacks.  My favorites among them are Cages by Dave McKean (which I edited), Maus, Gregory, and the Bojeffries Saga which is hilarious.

Spider-Man Crawl Space: What's the weirdest comic collectible you own and why?

Paul Jenkins: A Spidey toothbrush holder, which I have been making into a Spidey crucifixion scene.

Spider-Man Crawl Space: What's the strangest or funny comic book convention experience you've ever had and why?

Paul Jenkins: He has his arms out wide, you see... I've been making him a
little crown of thorns.  See?  Told you I was going to hell...

Spider-Man Crawl Space: A few of my regulars on the Spider-Man Crawl Space message board wanted me to ask you a few questions and here they are. BBF2 asks, "Will you be creating new villains/characters for the Spider-Man title? If so, can you give a bit of a sneak peak about them?"

Paul Jenkins: Well, sure... we'll be using Typeface in issues #23 and #24.  He's an old war vet who lost his mind years ago and is now on a crusade to avenge something, but he's not too clear what it is.  Avenging is fun, though, and it keeps him off the streets.  Other than that, I really want to concentrate on
characterizing Spidey for a while...

Spider-Man Crawl Space: MikeP asks the next four questions, "Do you find continuity to be limiting with a character like Spider-Man who's been around for 35 + years?"

Paul Jenkins: Not if you ignore it.  :o)  Actually, if you write stories that don't have to deal with it, they'll be better stories.  Continuity is a minefield of little
pieces of shit, and I like to avoid it at all costs.

Spider-Man Crawl Space: "Also, how often do you(or will) discuss plots with Howard Mackie, what's that process like?"

Paul Jenkins: About once a month.  For the crossover, mostly, which is #25.  We have conversations that last quite a while after which both of us have added two or three new ideas to the ones we already had.  I like that.

Spider-Man Crawl Space: Can you give us a quick update/synopsis on "Sentry"?

Paul Jenkins: You can read it this week. :o)

"We never saw a body, did we?" Paul Jenkins

Spider-Man Crawl Space: "And finally, IMO the "death" of MJ cheapens and takes away from the death of Uncle Ben and Gwen, without stepping on any toes, your thoughts? "

Paul Jenkins: I agree.  I've been saying to people at conventions that I feel Peter is defined by the death of Uncle Ben, and his tragedy is clarified by Gwen's death. Any more deaths is overkill.  But, you know... we never saw a body, did we?  Hehh...

Spider-Man Crawl Space: HB56 asks, "Are you going to use Peter's scientific knowledge in the series?"

Paul Jenkins: Yeah, I hope so. Not sure how, but I've always thought it was integral to using his character properly

Spider-Man Crawl Space: Finally, if you could tell the readers what you hope to accomplish with the Spider-Man character?

Paul Jenkins: I hope it sells well, and that people can see it as a title to pick up every month and be entertained by.  Plus, I hope it wins me the respect of rich,
beautiful women with large chests.