If The Daily Bugle ran a story about the new book Spider-Man by Roger Stern Omnibus, the fictional newspaper would surely crown it with a screaming headline: “Omnibursting! IU Alum’s Collection a Whopping 1,296 Pages!” At $125, it’s not your typical comic book. But then, Roger Stern is not your typical comic-book writer. He invented such iconic characters as the second Captain Marvel and the villain Hobgoblin. Comic Book Resources, an industry blog, recently ranked him third behind Spider-Man’s creators Stan Lee and Steve Ditko on a list of the series’s 50 greatest writers and illustrators. (Yes, there were a lot of them.)
Stern professed to be a diehard comic fan long before he arrived at Indiana University in the early ’70s, but it was there that he would eventually teach a class called “The Comic Book in Society.” Marvel Comics, the publisher of Stern’s Omnibus, discovered him and brought him on staff in 1975. During the early ’80s, he wrote the stories for which he is best known, especially those pitting Spidey against the cold, calculating Hobgoblin, a departure from the clinically crazy villains whom Peter Parker usually fought. But when asked about his favorites, the author points to more-tender stories such as “The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man,” an 11-page narrative about a young boy dying of leukemia who gets to meet his hero.
Stern says he never expected to see a collection this size devoted to his work, an honor usually reserved for the original creators of Marvel Comics. But Spidey fans credit the writer with reinvigorating the franchise after it had gone downhill. “I was just trying to produce stories that would keep the readers coming back every month,” he says. “Our sales kept going up, so by that measure, at least, I succeeded.”
While Stern no longer writes Spider-Man full time, he still contributes a story occasionally, most recently in 2012. “It seems that about once a decade, Marvel asks me to write a few, so there might be more in my future,” he says. “But in the meantime, the Omnibus should keep people busy.”
This article appeared in the March 2014 issue.