Long before the Brad Meltzer mini series that set the tone for supervillain anal-rape and murder at DC, there was another event entitled IDENTITY CRISIS. Back when I was drawing SENSATIONAL SPIDER-MAN in the mid-to-late 90’s, crossovers and SPIDER-MAN line-wide events were the norm… and they still are, so I suppose that for the major flagship characters at the Big Two things never really change. Events and crossovers sell, no matter how much uproar that might be heard from a vocal minority. I was a bit frustrated at that time with all the events being foisted on us that kept us from getting any personal creative momentum on SENSATIONAL…. but there was one thing– or PERSON, I should say– that made it tolerable and even fun: Todd Dezago. Todd and I had become fast friends working on the book together… and we had gotten to the point where we were talking on the phone just about every day about SENSATIONAL and comics in general. Todd was very generous with allowing me to have as much input as I wanted on the book… and so even though the event stuff was a bit of a pain, we always talked it out and found a way to make it fun for ourselves. That’s a situation that I’ve rarely– if ever– found myself in on any of the other major icon crossover events I’ve been involved in…. and that’s the biggest roadblock to having any enjoyment for me with those events. Having a rapport with the writer and being able to have a modicum of input makes all the difference.

I don’t recall all the specific details as to why– but SPIDER-MAN had to dump his red-and-blues for a new super-identity.. and he chose to take on four different guises (one for each monthly being published at the time…. natch). Todd and I got THE HORNET. That was it… no other specific parameters, just the name. So we started working out the details of the character and his costume. I had always been a big fan of YELLOWJACKET…. so I used that as a springboard/inspiration for the HORNET design. Since SPIDER-MAN can’t fly, we had to come up with a winged jet pack for him, some stinger gauntlets for a weapons system and a helmet that would allow for concealing his identity but allow for maximum visibility in all directions since he would be flying around at high speeds. In the end, I was kind of happy with the design I came up with. He ended up being half spandex, half mech. I don’t know what color scheme I had in mind for him at the time (if I even thought about it), but when I saw the purple-ish hue they gave him… at first I hated it. It grew on me quickly, though. In the end, the story was a fun one, and there were so many great scenes that Todd came up with for THE HORNET (as well as the wonderful characters stuff and sub plots we had going at the time) that I ended up enjoying the event quite a bit. Still– I was happy when Peter dropped the HORNET persona and went back to wearing his SPIDER-MAN costume.

It never gets any better than that classic red and blue outfit.

This is Entry 386.



  1. Royce Says:

    I was “out” of comics during this time period, but will look for the Hornet issue at HeroesCon next weekend. Thanks for the heads-up Mike. I like the design here. I can definitely see traces of Yellowjacket here, but this design is definitely all “Ringo.

    Great creative/performing partnerships are a thing of beauty. Laurel and Hardy, Burns and Allen, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Smothers and Smothers, Dezago and Wieringo. Yeah…

  2. Leaf Says:

    Really enjoying these Spider-Man pieces with the big Spidey looming over your central drawing. And I thought it was Yellowjacket since I, too, was out of comics at that time. Figured it was a Marvel Team-Up piece. Excellent work, Mike.

  3. josh-man Says:

    i actually liked this character from that story line, i always thought it was kind of funny that it came from you. you know you living in charolette, and the hornet, it was like a big pun, loved it!
    i also liked JRJR’s character “dusk”, nice design.
    but what was awful was the spin off title “slingers”, just the thought of it makes me vomit a little in my mouth. i remember being all excited about it because i loved spidey books at that time (still do now) and was happy to see these characters interact… at least in theory. i know you did the cover for the first issue, not sure about the rest, but that is why i picked it up…my bad. the only thing good about that was the cover.

    oh well, you win some you lose some.

    fantastic sketch, always a nice inspiration in the morning.


  4. Zack Turner Says:

    Mike the funny thing is, That issue was the first time I ever saw your art. At that point only picked up comics one in a while when my dad took me for comics. So, good stuff huh?

  5. Neil Hill Says:

    Any costume designs you create are usually winners, Mike, and the Yellow Jacket design is no exception. Also, congrats on the new look for your site! Very, very nice looking setup.

  6. danielog Says:

    cool stuff here!
    very professional

  7. yo go re Says:

    Hey, I totally loved the Hornet design – even the colors. I agree that the crossover wasn’t the best (like you, I can’t remember what the impetus was, beyond “let’s sell variant covers”), but most of the new designs were pretty cool. In fact, I even read Slingers just because of the suits – the Hornet was easily my favorite…

    followed by Riccochet

  8. Matthew Craig Says:

    …nobody tell Mike what happened to The Hornet in ENEMY OF THE STATE.

    I liked Slingers, though. The opening gimmick killed a lot of potential love for the book, but it was a neat series with a sweet indy flavour. A precursor, if you will, to many of the best and most innovative (or at least quirky) Marvel Comics of the last ten years.



  9. todd Says:

    just hung up the phone with you and got a chance to read this…thanks for the kind words, brother–you know i feel it too!
    as for the hornet and the whole identity crisis thing, the catalyst for that storyline was that norman osborn had discovered that spidey and peter were one and the same and had become determined to harrass peter when he was spidey at all times–to discredit and ultimately destroy spider-man. sick of being dogged like that, peter was “driven” to come up with a new identity. but he was the star of four different titles–so why not four seperate new aliases?! (that never made sense to me either…)
    (but it sure was fun!)
    anyway, howard, marc, tom , and i were asked what our new characters name would be and i just thought that ‘the hornet’ would be a cool name. i also knew that whatever i said, that YOU would make it look cool!
    i’ve said before how much i loved working on sensational with you, but these two are a couple of my absolute favorites because we got to use the vulture, the prowler (well, hobie in his civilian guise…) and we got to re-visit our boy, the looter! loot, loot, loot!

  10. Kin Wong Says:

    I was just thinking about your Hornet character design today, then popped over to your blog to find that it was the sketch of the day. Crazy coincidence aside, I think that was the first comic I ever purchased that had your artwork inside, and I loved every minute of it!

  11. James Priest Says:

    Hey Mike and Todd,

    I think if I recall, the BIG reason for Spidey getting the different identities was that Spidey was framed for murder… Paste Pot Pete had stuffed his glue in the mouth of someone and they died, and everyone pointed the finger at Spidey. To throw them off, he took on the identities of Prodigy, Ricochet, Hornet and Dusk…

    Was that it or am I totally off the mark? I didn’t refer to my old issues so I might be wrong…

  12. Matthew Craig Says:

    Oh, I can’t believe I can remember all this…

    Yes. Spider-Man was framed for the murder of local snitch – or “snout,” for those of us from the UK – JOEY Z.

    A bounty was placed upon that webbéd head that made it impossible for Our Hero to operate under his traditional nom de guerre. Necessity being the mother of invention and all, Peter and Mary Jane put their scientific, sartorial and theatrical skills to work and created two new pseuper identities for…no really workable reason.

    Things were complicated even further when Spider-Man was loaned the Hornet’s jetpack by former window cleaner and Spider-impersonator Hobie “The Prowler” Brown – god, remember when he had his own comic?! – because it was too heavy for anyone other than a superhumanly strong person to wear.

    The fourth and final costume – that of “Dusk” – was discovered on a trip to the Negative Zone. Because, as Spider-Man fans – and the character in particular – will be aware, nothing says “utterly safe; no unforseen negative consequences from THIS acquisition” like bringing back a new costume, complete with its own powers, from an extraterrestrial excursion.

    Clearly, Spider-Man was wearing his mask a little tight in those days…

    I got to see Mark Buckingham’s designs for Ricochet at the UKCAC in 1998 – later reproduced in Titan Books’ excellent Artists on Comics Art. And very nice they were too.

    And Dusk turned out to be a real dude! Who woulda thunk it? That gem brought the Spider-Man Unlimited costume into the pages of the comic – because nothing says “Spider-Man” like “crappy and lined with sophisticated technology that’s pretty much extraneous to requirements.”



  13. franser Says:

    Mike, i remember well that period. It was when i began collecting Spiderman (in Italy alla his series are pubblished in one book), but it was also an important moment for Spidey, because he had to regain a lot of readers that left during the Clone Saga.

    In my opinion, you, Todd, Howard Mackie, Romita Jr., Tom De Falco and Joe Bennett succeeded in producing fun in spidey stories after years of trash. Perhaps there were less readers, but i really loved those stories. I was just angry when you were late, Mike! 🙂

    Again, thanks for all, Mike! Hope to see you soon on a Spidey book

  14. Frogoat Says:

    Oh, I love the Hornet design! It’s a personal favorite, I remember digging it so much, and come to think of it, it might be because as you say, it was a mix of tech and spandex. It’s too bad what became of the character in the costume when last seen…

  15. Médard Says:

    I liked that specific period of the Spidey books, and this crossover and the later ‘Slingers’ spin-off, and still do.
    It was alot of fun and it was the first time I came across your art and found it a really well fit for Spider-Man.

  16. Josh Says:

    I haven’t been following DC That well lately, since like I’ve said before it’s hard for me to buy comics because there’s not comicbook place that’s very close by. But I have a feeling I wouldn’t care for a dark Mary Marvel. I think maybe that works sometimes but for her, she should stick to her old self. I read on Newsarama that Black Adams transformation word is “sorry”. It seems like he’d have something more fierce like “war” or “fury” or something that would sound like a evil battlecry.

  17. Jason Says:


    Fantastic work. I have a question, what happens to all these sketches you post on your blog? Do you auction them off? Can they be purchased somewhere?