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SYFY WIRE Original Video

Behind the Panel: How Amazing Spider-Man #36 dealt with the tragedy of 9/11

By Mike Avila

Nearly two decades ago, the 9/11 terrorist attacks left the nation reeling. New York City was particularly hard hit, with the deaths of almost 3,000 innocent civilians and senseless destruction. Because Marvel Comics and its heroes had become synonymous with New York, the publisher felt it had to respond to the tragedy. And it had to be Spider-Man who addressed it.

The result was Amazing Spider-Man #36, aka The Black Issue. J. Michael Straczynski was tasked with writing the story, and he initially balked at the idea. But Straczynski’s story soon came to him, and he, artist John Romita Jr., inker Scott Hanna, and the rest of the creative team finished the issue in under a month.

SYFY WIRE’s Behind the Panel recently caught up with Romita and Hanna as they shared their memories about Amazing Spider-Man #36. Romita’s father, John Romita Sr., was one of the seminal Spider-Man artists. However, the elder Romita was initially against the idea as well. It wasn’t until Romita Jr. showed his father the finished project that he became proud of his son’s accomplishment with the issue.

Romita Jr. also admitted that the famous panel of Doctor Doom with tears in his eyes was his touch of artistic license. While that panel has been the topic of debate since it came out, the artist still believes it was the right choice. It set a line between comic book villainy and the real evil that struck New York at its heart.

Both Romita and Hanna pored over the details to accurately capture the mood of the city and its people. Straczynski’s story was so moving that Hanna found another way for the comic to spread its message of strength and unity; for more details, check out the full video. Then share your memories of this issue in the comment section below.