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AN INTERVIEW WITH RALPH MACCHIO

ORIGINALLY FEATURED IN 1997- by Andrew Goletz

After months of Gray Haven bashing the current state of the Spider-Man books and the back peddling by Marvel on the highly original, risk taking move of introducing the Spider-Clone, Ben Reilly as the one, true Spider-Man, Spider-Man group editor Ralph Macchio graciously skipped lunch and took time out to answer questions about everything from the clone to the future of the books.

AG: Did you request to be brought on board as editor or were you asked to?
RM: After everything that happened in recent months, Bob Harris reassigned a lot of the positions and I was given the job to edit the four core books. I think I got extremely lucky, and Iím excited to be on them, but no, I didnít ask for it.

AG: What was the rational behind reintroducing the Spider-Clone (Ben Reilly) and making him the real Peter Parker?

RM: I wasnít around for the whole thing, so some of the information is second hand. People felt that the character of Peter Parker was becoming bland. They wanted to get back to his carefree days where he was without commitment and short of killing Mary Jane, which we didnít want to do, bringing Ben into the book seemed to be the most logical way to go.

AG: When was the decision made to revert and put Peter back into the suit?
RM: Originally, we were going to do a story where Ben and Peter concoct a story where the assume each otherís identity. Pete and MJ would move away and raise a family and Ben would adopt Peter Parker's identity and fake a divorce. There was reader backlash and something had to be done. Pete and MJ were already gone from the books and I was brought in to look at the whole picture and try and make it work.

AG: How is something like this decided?

RM: We got together and we each came up with ideas; everyone has a say.

AG: Is the decision that was made, to kill Ben and prove the results of him being the real Peter to be false, the only way you think it could have ended?

RM: Yes. It was the only way to resolve the story properly.

AG: The resurrection of Norman Osborn. What prompted this decision?
RM: We needed a satisfying resolution to the story and bringing Norman back was the answer.

AG: How does that work? This character is believed dead for 20 years (our time). Did you need special permission to undo that?

RM: There were no mandates to not bring Norman back, but his death was so meaningful, there never seemed to be a story worthy of bringing him back, until this.

AG: Was it always intended for the mastermind behind all of these events to be Norman?

RM: I donít believe so.

AG: Unlike when Batman and Superman were replaced with newer versions, Ben Reilly wasnít made out to be a jerk. He was a good character and in a lot of way, superior to the way Peter Parker was being written. Was this the intent?

RM: Of course. We wanted the readers to accept Ben Reilly. He was Peter Parker and there was the added benefit that he didnít have to go through all the trauma that Peter went through. He was more of a free spirit.

AG: Even when you knew his final fate?
RM: Once it was decided that Ben was in the suit, for however long it was, he was going to be likable. We didnít want the readers to hate Spider-Man, even if it wasnít the Peter. If the character was a jerk, who would care about what happened to him. We wanted Ben to be likable. We wanted his death to have meaning.

AG: Was this the only way to go? Was anything else considered?

RM: There were other ideas presented, but for everyoneís piece of mindÖ.

AG: Was it hard writing a character when you knew he was going to die?

RM: Very hard. We all felt guilty writing the scenes, especially with Ben and Peter discussing their futures and how Ben will be the godfather. It was heartbreaking. You get to regard these characters almost like real people and we begin to care. We knew Ben would never be the uncle to Peter and MJís baby. It wasnít going to happen, and we hope that itís a moving experience for the readers.

AG: Why should people read Spider-Man now? After all thatís happened, what would motivate someone to continue to or just now go out and pick up the books.

RM: Well, all of these loose ends have been tied up, and Spider-Man is back on track as he should be. When heís done right and stays true to character, I think heís the best character out there. Readers can identify with Peter Parker and with Spider-Man as they can with no other character from Marvel or anywhere else. There are many interesting facets to the character and we will be dealing with them all in the books. Each book will have its own separate identity, so thereís something for everyone. Spider-Man is back where he should be, and I think that old and new readers alike are going to enjoy the stories we present in the future.

Copyright©2000 Andrew Goletz