At one of the final panels of 2013’s Fan Expo, Marvel treated fans to a Superior Spider-Man-themed Q&A session with writer Dan Slott — joined by editor Ellie Pyle and artists Ryan Stegman and Mark Brooks — about the direction he’s taken everyone’s favorite web-slinger in. And though he arrived at the panel, bags packed and ready to head home, Slott expressed no desire to leave as he answered fan questions over the course of the hour, and even signed a few items. His fans were attentive, one brought Slott a bag of grilled cheese flavored chips, something unavailable in the States.
Pyle moderated the panel, an informal discussion featuring neither a slideshow or announcements. “We are going to do just do this like a casual Q&A,” Pyle said. “Next to me we have Dan Slott, and next to him we have Ryan Stegman. What more does a Spider-Man panel need, I ask you?”
“Peter Parker,” Slott said solemnly, an opening met with laughs and groans throughout the audience as fans recalled that Slott killed Parker in “Amazing Spider-Man 700.”
“I’m sure we will get to that,” Pyle said, laughing.
“No.” Slott replied, deadpan.
With the introductions out of the way, the panel got down to business with the first question asking if Doctor Octopus is going to be in Spider-Man’s body for so long future generations won’t even remember Parker.. Laughing, Slott deflected with a simple “Next question?”
Asked if Octavious will ever come clean and admit he’s taken Spider-Man’s body, Slott replied, “People are getting closer to solving the secret. I think it’s only a matter of time before someone figures it out.”
“You certainly have been playing with the idea of through his ego, all of his accomplishments being known as Peter Parker’s,” Pyle added. “The fact is, Otto Octavious isn’t getting credit for anything.”
“That really burns him,” Slott agreed, putting on an angry face and mimicking Doc Ock. “Oh, look at that genius thing Peter Parker did.”
One audience member meekly asked Slott, why did he kill Peter Parker in the first place, and will he come back — please?
“I did it because I’m a horrible person and have no soul,” Slott replied, the audience laughing. “And no, Peter Parker is dead.” The audience now loudly booed.
“To elaborate on that, I will not refute Dan being a horrible human being with no soul, but he is also one of the best storytellers I know,” Pyle added. “Sometimes, in order to tell an interesting story, you have to do terrible, horrible things to your characters. I think that’s something that Dan is really good at. He’s good at not making his characters lives easy.”
“How many people want to see Spider-Man come back?” Slott asked the audience. After the cheers died down, he continued, “How many people want to see Charlie Brown kick the football? How many people want to see Wile E. Coyote catch the Road Runner? How many people want Romeo and Juliet to live at the end? Because I think we should just do those.”
“The question is, what’s the story that happens after that?” Pyle said. “The tricky thing about comics, and I think this is something Dan does very well, is that these are stories that have too keep going.”
“Stan has said many times, if he knew how long Spider-Man was going to run [as long as it has], he would have never graduated Peter from high school,” Slott said. “The Marvel Universe is weird in the way the timeline works, and we really want to read the Avengers with a 50-year-old Reed Richards,” Slott added, sarcastically.
A fan boldly asked, now that Slott’s killed Parker, are there any other characters he wanted to axe?
“The question really is, since we’ve gotten rid of Peter Parker, who’s next on Dan Slott’s hit list,” Pyle rephrased as Slott broke out in a most evil laugh beside her.
“You know, the Spider-Man 2099 story is only three years from this,” Slott replied.
“He’s trying to start a riot,” artist, Ryan Stegman chimed in.
“Just to keep this in mind, you guys know that there’s a wonderful series, [which has run] longer than any ‘Venom’ series ever, [written] by Rick Remender and Cullen Bunn, coming to a close,” Slott said, the audience booing the cancellation news. “I know. But after it comes to a close, you’re getting ‘Darkest Hours’ and there’s going to be the big Spider-Man/Venom throw down — and there’s no ongoing Venom book after that,” Slott continued, trailing off as if he’d given something away. “So, all bets are off.”
Asked how he came to the conclusion that Doctor Octopus was the villain who should take over Peter Parker’s body and life, Slott pointed to an earlier storyline he’d written where he inadvertently laid the seeds for the current status quo. “When I was writing issue #600, that was the story were Doc Ock used the technology to use his brain to talk to machines like ours, and takes over all of the machines in New York. Since Doc’s a crazy nut ,all the machines went crazy and they tried to kill Spider-Man. So, all of New York was trying to kill Spider-Man, and to save the day Spider-Man took Doc Ock’s brain helmet thingy and he put it on his head and downloaded his brain wave patterns to take over all the machines and shut them down.
“When I came back to this the second time, when I came back to it to script it, I looked at with fresh eyes and went, ‘That is the stupidest thing you’ve done, Spider-Man. You know Doc Ock is dying and you just put all your brain wave wattage into Doc Ock’s device! He’s got brains!’ That’s how that happened. It never started as a brain swap idea. It started as a Doc Ock idea. It was always going to be Doc Ock.”
“Usually he breaks it down panel by panel,” Stegman said in response to a question about how he and Slott work together. “But there’s been times where I enjoy dictating the number of panels, so he’s let me do that sometimes. But there are other times were you need to get the beats just right.
“In issue #3 there’s the scene with Vulture and Spider-Man flying over New York and LA and he just said in the script, ‘We need to get from here to here, this and this need to happen, have fun,'” Stegman continued. “It was three pages, and I got to dictate all of it.”
“And they turned out great,” Slott added.
About 15 minutes into the panel, artist Mark Books arrived, introduced by Pyle as the man responsible for the amazing covers on “Fearless Defenders” as well as various other projects.
“And going out drinking with me,” Stegman chimed in.
“At — 2:30 PM? All right.” Pyle quipped.
Asked about his plans to account for Spider-Man’s famous sense of humor no longer being a factor in the series, Slott responded, “[Doc Ock doesn’t really have] a good sense of humor. He really thinks they are funny but they’re not. You saw that when he cracked a joke in front of cops and the cops were like, ‘Is he trying to be funny?’ I don’t want the humor to go away from Spider-Man, but the humor comes from different things, not from Spider-Man’s quips.”
Slott noted that “Superior Spider-Man” is a fresh, new book, young in age and he looks forward to it taking root with its audience. “One of the things with ‘Superior Spider-Man’ is, you walk in with a gimmick. It’s Doc Ock in Peter Parker’s body. So, it’s almost like you want the villains to be very easy to get,” Slott said. “Doc Ock is the complicated thing.
“Once everyone really accepts Doc Ock and you don’t have to think of the premise any more, then it will be easier to have more complicated villains,” Slott continued. “One of the things that we do that I’m really proud of is, we make every issue new reader-friendly, even though it’s something that’s very complicated. You can join in, jump in the middle of a story arc and there are re-cap pages and editorial notes in the artwork to make sure you really know what’s doing on.”
Adding up the “Spider-Man 2099” arc with the Venom story and the recent “Scarlet Spider” crossover, a fan openly wondered if Marvel might toy wiuth the idea of teaming all four men in a new book titled “Spider-Squad?” Dan was silent for a moment before shaking his head, then nodding his head, then moving his head around in circles. “Hmmm, no,” he told the audience, while nodding his head yes.
Asked for his inspiration when drawing this Spider-Man, Stegman answered, “Just before I came here, I got to meet Todd McFarlane and he is my ultimate inspiration for how I portray Spider-Man When Todd did the adjective-less ‘Spider-Man,’ it was a little darker, and I think that works well with the ‘Superior’ stuff that we’ve been doing. That’s kind of my touchstone, because I was so into him when I was a kid. There’s no way I could ever get it out of my head. I have been going back and looking at other artists and what they did with it and pulling the best and I’m taking it and trying to add my own element.”
“Stegmanize it!” a fan shouted from the crowd.
“Yeah, Stegmanize it.,” Stegman agreed, a wide smile spreading across his face. “Stegmanize everything.”
“Trademark that.” Slott chimed in.
At this point, Pyle pulled Brooks into the discussion, asking him who draws his favorite version of Spider-Man.
“Ryan Stegman,” Stegman interjected.
“Ryan Stegman.” Marks concurred, looking over at his drinking buddy. “Probably McFarlane. But I never really liked Spider-Man. I though he was kind of like for kids up until McFarlane took it over and revolutionized it.”
Moving along to another audience question, a fan asked if we are going to see the reveal of Goblin King’s identity soon. “Maybe,” Slott answered sheepishly into the microphone. “But expect to see an Osborne you haven’t seen in a while. There will be a lot of Goblin stuff coming up, obviously.”
“Some of which I’ve drawn.” Stegman added.
“Yes there will be some — unmasking,” Slott dramatically revealed.
“And then a new Goblin, right?” Pyle asked, causing Slott to gasp.
“Yes,” he whispered. “One you haven’t seen yet. It’s really awesome.”
“Big things are happening,” Slott teased. “I think one of the things you’re going to see when you’re reading ‘Superior’ is, you can’t go through an arc or a story without some major new change happening. Whether it’s how the mayor feels about Spider-Man, or what happens with Spider-Man’s friends or his relationship with his character or giant robots and henchmen. You can’t go without the story progressing and everything ratcheting up and turning around. So expect some stuff to happen to the Horizon people soon.”
Stegman was asked if he was disappointed to find out when he was brought on to draw the legendary superhero that he was not, in fact, working with Peter Parker. “Dan told me the whole story a year before,” Stegman replied. “I was thrilled. Spider-Man is at least fifty percent — and I think it’s probably more — his supporting cast. They’re all there, I’m still drawing the webs. I’m still drawing him swinging around and being awesome.
“The new design wasn’t so different,” Stegman continued, explaining that it was just a slight tweak on the original costume design. If that wasn’t the case however, he said it would have been a bit of a let down.
To close the panel, Slott dove into a discussion of the differences between Doctor Octopus and Peter Parker. “Doc is someone who grew up as we see in his past with a very smothering mother and a very abusive father. He’s never had what Peter had when growing up,” Slott said.
“This is like Doc Ock’s second life. This is his second chance. This is a man who was going to die, and this was his Hail Mary pass,” Slott said. “This was not some great master plan; this was the back-up plan. This was, ‘Oh, my God — it worked!’ And for him to have this second family it’s something he really appreciates.
“We’ve seen Doc Ock make sacrifices with his time that Peter hasn’t done in a long time,” Slott continued. “Doc very much believes in great power, great responsibility, but he believes in it in different ways than Peter ever did.”