When Diamond Select Toys and Art Asylum were looking for an epic Spider-Man storyline to base their next wave of Marvel Minimates on, one story stood out — a story that showcases the darker side of Spidey, and one that, until now, has not been immortalized in toy form. That story is “The Death of Jean DeWolff.” Originally appearing in Spectacular Spider-Man #107-110, it was first published in late 1985, a time when comic books were exploring the gritty side of superheroes. It begins with the discovery of the body of NYPD detective Jean DeWolff, a crime that sends Spider-Man (and guest star Daredevil) down a dark road to catch the killer. The story was among the first published comics work of a Marvel sales department employee named Peter David, who would go on to legendary runs with a number of Marvel characters, including Hulk, She-Hulk and Captain Marvel, and who also co-created Spider-Man 2099. DST sat down with Mr. David to talk about the story’s origins, the fan reaction, and the imminent existence of a tiny, 2-inch Sin-Eater Minimate.
DST: What first sparked the idea for the storyline?
David: Actually, it was editor Jim Owsley. He wanted to do something to shake things up, and for whatever reason, he targeted Jean DeWolff to get knocked off. So he came to me and said, “Want to write a story in which we kill off Jean DeWolff?” And I said, “Okay.” He then left it to me to come up with the means by which she was knocked off. He wanted it to be something very much street-level, though; not some high-flown superhero story where she gets reduced to free-floating atoms or something like that. So I came up with the concept of the Sin-Eater, who was blowing people away with a shotgun. You really don’t get much more street than that.
Jean DeWolff hadn’t been used in a while leading up to this story, but she still had her fans. What were your feelings about her going into it?
David: We actually hadn’t seen Jean for a year. An entire year. Out of curiosity, I went through the letters we got during that time and not a single fan had written in asking where she was. If Mary Jane disappeared for two months, fans demanded to see her. Jean vanishes for a year and zip. Yet the moment we killed her, we were deluged with letters from fans saying, “She was my favorite character!” Personally, I thought she was a perfectly okay character, but Jim wanted her dead, and I was the hired gun, so to speak.
The brutality of the crime coupled with the street-level investigation of it gives the story the feel of a Dirty Harry movie, or a Death Wish. Were those types of films an influence at all?
David: Not really, since I hadn’t seen either one. The bigger influence was Hill Street Blues. That was what we were consciously trying to emulate, right down to the credits appearing, not at the beginning, but as white print against a black background at the very end.
Did you ever think a company would make toys of such a violent storyline?
David: It literally never even occurred to me.
Do you usually/ever collect toys related to your work?
David: Always. In fact, people are well-advised to make toys of my work, because they’re guaranteed at least one sale.
Had you seen Minimates before this? Figures from your X-Factor team are a frequent request from Minimates fans.
David: Yes, I’ve seen the Minimates before. I even have some of them. I think they’re great, and I’d love to see a line of X-Factor figures. I’m kind of biased.
What story of your own would you most like to see Minimates of?
David: That’s easy. Fallen Angel, which is published by IDW. There’s a ton of fun characters in there, not to mention Sachs and Violens, who are now part of the Fallen Angel universe. Admit it: you can’t go wrong with a Minimate that comes with its own whip.
Check out a full gallery of control art, as well as the finished Minimates, by clicking the headline of the story.