Living the Teenage Dream: A Birthday Tribute To Gerry Conway
At 19 years old, Gerry Conway --- born this day in 1952 --- took over writing duties on The Amazing Spider-Man. If that wasn't enough pressure for a kid, know that he took over from Stan Lee, who co-created the character and wrote over a hundred issues. Within a year of taking over on the book, Conway wrote the death of Gwen Stacy, one of the major turning points in the history of superhero comics.
If you were looking for the most auspicious start to a writing career, you'd have a hard time finding a bigger and better one than that. What's amazing is that Conway managed to live up to the standard he set for himself, carving out one of the most influential careers in comics history.
Conway had actually been writing comics for a few years before he took over Spider-Man, getting his first professional work at 16 with a story in DC's House of Secrets as one of a wave of young teenagers like Jim Shooter and Cary Bates who were breaking into comics at a very young age. Spider-Man, though, was the turning point, and over the course of his run, Conway would come to be one of the definitive creators to have ever worked on the character, to the point where he was tapped to write the over-sized Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-Man, the first inter-company crossover in superhero comics.
He was so identified with the character, in fact, that he was the writer to launch Spider-Man's second solo title, The Spectacular Spider-Man, adding to an already packed schedule. He was one of the most prolific writers of the Bronze Age, to the point where, according to Wikipedia, January of 1977 marked the release of nine titles he'd written, including Superman, Action Comics, Ms. Marvel and the Avengers.
Conway's career at DC was no less remarkable, including his creation of Firestorm alongside artist Al Milgrom, a character that was seen as something of DC's answer to Spider-Man --- albeit with a hilarious inversion of teenage Peter Parker's school life by having Ronnie Raymond as a jock who got picked on by a nerd. To be fair, though, that nerd would later become a supervillain. It happens.
Conway also had a pretty amazing run on Justice League of America during the "Satellite Years," including one of the best single issues of all time, the oversized 200th issue that saw the JLA and the JSA battling it out with each other all across the world --- including Batman stalking Green Arrow and Black Canary in the swamps of South Carolina, something that stood out to me personally as a South Carolinian.
Outside of comics, Conway was just as prolific as a writer for television, including scripting "Appointment In Crime Alley" for Batman: The Animated Series, several episodes of Law & Order, and, perhaps most importantly, the episode of Baywatch Nights where they fight a mummy. That is not a joke. That is something Gerry Conway did, and it is as magnificent as it sounds.
With all that work under his belt, Conway remains a highly entertaining and fascinating writer in the world of superheroes, whose creations and influence continue to be vital and important today. Here's to a happy birthday, and many more!
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