In February, Marvel Comics reunites writer Joshua Hale Fialkov with artist Nuno Plati for “Alpha,” a 5-issue miniseries that explores Spider-Man’s recently-introduced sidekick in the aftermath of “Amazing Spider-Man” #700 for Marvel NOW! Fialkov’s miniseries follows Andy Maguire after his depowering in “Amazing Spider-Man” #694 as he moves to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with his parents recently divorced and directly follows the mysterious game-changing events of Dan Slott’s “Amazing Spider-Man” #700.
Fialkov spoke with CBR News about the miniseries, Andy’s current status as of “Alpha” #1, how the miniseries further explores the character and whether Peter Parker will show up in the book, along with updates on the second year of “I, Vampire,”, new Dynamite series “The Devilers” and plans for his creator-owned “The Last of the Greats.”
CBR News: Josh, you’re coming into the Spider-Man universe big time with “Alpha,” starring a character who didn’t really seem to get the whole “Great Power/Great Responsibility” thing. What can you tell us about the focus of the book when we come in to Issue #1?
Joshua Hale Fialkov: I think what Dan [Slott, writer of “Amazing Spider-Man”] did with the character was really smart. The character was set up to be the anti-Peter Parker. He was given the power, but doesn’t understand the responsibility. He’s the rabbit hole that Peter started to go through before Uncle Ben was killed. The tragedy of Alpha’s life is that he was a big celebrity superhero and now he’s just some schmuck. That’s his death of Uncle Ben — which is really different! [Laughs] It is! It’s humbling rather than life-altering, if that makes sense. The focus me for me is the idea that this guy was a celebrity for fifteen minutes. He was literally the biggest thing in the world for ten minutes and now he has to live with the consequences of everything that he did. He has to live with the fact that he acted like an ass to every person that ever cared about him. He has to rebuild his life. You add to that his folks have split up because of him — he actually caused the divorce! They always say, “It’s nobody’s fault,” but it’s actually his fault. He’s systematically destroyed everything in his life and now he’s stuck sitting at the bottom of it. The idea for me is he started out — before all this happened — he was just a punk kid. He was sort of a dick, but he was in the background, nobody cared about him. Now, that same unremarkable kid gets shifted to the foreground and he goes crazy with ego. Now he has to live it down.
Let’s go back to the Peter/Alpha comparison. Readers always understood that Peter wasn’t a bad guy, he was just a character who had never gotten his moment to shine. When Uncle Ben died as a result, it completely changed his attitude. Will we see the same shift with Alpha?
I don’t think [Alpha] was a bad guy. I think that’s what Dan was trying to say in the book — that’s how we act now. Look at what happens to every single person when they get onto a reality show. No matter who they are, they become a monster. I think it’s actually a really smart commentary on the difference in our culture between the origin of Spider-Man and the origin of Alpha. The thing about Alpha is you’re not supposed to like him. He acts like a terrible person. That moment in “Amazing Spider-Man” is more about Peter learning responsibility again, about Peter making monsters, about Peter being the designer of everything bad that happens to him. For me, I think the second you go from looking at his actions to being inside his actions, being in the moment, being inside the character — I think that immediately humanizes him in a way that can’t be in a book that’s called “Amazing Spider-Man.” Again, for me, one of the things I feel like I specialize in is making unlikable characters at least relatable. [Laughs] In the past year, I’ve done a lot of it between “I, Vampire” focusing on the villain — making the villain so likable she becomes the hero of the book, which I’m so proud of. I want to run around pumping my fist in the air. Even writing the Skeletor one-shot. The idea is that every person you can’t stand, every bad guy at his heart thinks he’s the good guy, thinks he’s doing the right thing. It’s about finding a way to express that in a way that’s universal that people understand. I think we’ve figured that out pretty well with Alpha.
Nuno’s art is so expressive and so vibrant, I think they feel like real teenagers. I was a dick when I was a teenager. I will go out on a limb and say that you were probably a dick, too. I would go even further and say that 99% of people in the world were dicks when they were teenagers. That’s what being a teenager is like. That’s just what it is. You’re selfish and you’re greedy. You do what matters to you and forget everyone else. I think there’s something incredibly human about the character and I think what people react to, the reaction people have to the character, is actually more about — when we read comics, we want to see our fantasies fulfilled. We want to see how we hope we would behave, when the fact of the matter is this is how we actually behave.
Let’s talk about continuity for a moment — “Alpha” premieres in February, two months after “Amazing Spider-Man” #700 drops. Is it fair to say your run on this miniseries will spin out of that issue and the events of Dan Slott’s “Superior Spider-Man” #1?
Yeah. It’s a one-word answer. That’s all I got.
Fair enough, but it seems like this is a series that will be heavily invested in what happens in “Amazing” #700.
Yeah. The stuff that happens in #700 is what allows our story to exist. Knowing what all is going to happen, it is amazing. It’s really cool and really smart and no one’s going to see it coming despite the fact that it has been set up just brilliantly.
I’m asking this next question in a very specific manner: Will we see Peter Parker in any sort of fashion in the “Alpha” miniseries?
[Laughs] That’s a great question. Absolutely.
One of the other cool things about this series is that Alpha is moving to Pittsburgh, PA. Venom’s also in Pennsylvania — in Philadelphia. Considering both characters’ connection to Spider-Man, can readers expect a little interaction there?
Not right now. Hopefully if we get to come back for a second series, I would absolutely love to [explore it]. Cullen [Bunn] and I are buddies and that guy is amazingly talented. I’d love to do something about the two of them together.
You also mentioned how excited you are to come back to work with Nuno Plati, who you did a backup with in “Amazing Spider-Man” #692. Have you found the experience working with him previously allowed you to write to his strengths in “Alpha?”
Oh yeah. We also did an “X-Men: First Class” Marvel Girl one-shot. I love his work. When I was first talking to Stephen [Wacker] and Tom [Brevoort] in the Spidey office about the book and we were talking about artists, I said, “If you want somebody who’s going to imbue this guy with humanity and make him relatable, Nuno’s the guy.” His characters, despite the fact that they’re really stylized, they feel human and so alive. His acting is so good. His characters are just so expressive and in his art, you’re going to get a really good sense of who this guy is and why he is the way he is. It’s really important because there are expectations for the book that you’re working against.
A big theme of Spider-Man books is responsibility. How do you see that theme playing a role in what Alpha goes through in the miniseries?
The cliffhanger at the end of the first issue is the most concrete example I could think of to show cause and effect. The idea that you have this thing about you that makes you incredibly dangerous and you need to be aware of it every minute of your life. I really want from his point of view, I want him to focus on why — the responsibility of being a better person is really what it is. He’s got this burden on him of these powers that are wonderful and great and he can do amazing things, but all of that takes away something else from his life. That’s the part he didn’t understand. The first time he had his powers, he lost his humanity. He became a monster, essentially. Now this time, he wants to do it right. He wants to do it in a way where he has these powers and he doesn’t have to worry about accidentally causing airplanes to drop out of the sky. [Laughs]
Beyond “Alpha,” you’ve got a few other major projects going on — “I, Vampire” is heading into its second year and led off with a zombified arc. What’s in store for that book in the coming year?
It’s much more of a team book now than when it started. I was doing a count of my entire cast last night and I think I’ve got nine characters at any given time. It’s about this family that Andrew has built around himself as a hero and then secondly as a villain. Mary is now the main character and Andrew is now the villain. Here’s the beef that I have with all vampire stories. Essentially, when you look at all the vampires behind the main vampire, they’re all just schlubs. “Buffy” kind of deals with it a little bit where it’s like, “Oh really? You’re a schlub I went to high school with. Weird.” But the idea is that everyone builds vampire armies out of regular people. Well, you need generals. You need the best of the best. Andrew could just build an army, but when he was a good guy, he could beat an army. John Constantine beats armies. Justice League Dark beats armies. Stormwatch beats armies. Clearly, armies are not the solution here, folks. Instead what Andrew does is he builds a strike team. He finds the people he needs to execute his master plan. It’s much subtler, it’s much smaller, it’s about — “I’m going to do something that is so crippling and so destructive, there is no coming back to it.” We’re building up to a climax where everything you’ve seen in the book thus far will come back around. It feels really good. There are places in the story where things that I set up eight issues ago that I almost forgot about can get paid off. I’m finally at that point where I can stretch my wings a little bit and actually pay off some of the longterm story stuff that I haven’t gotten to do thus far.
You had a one-shot for “Masters of the Universe” hit recently — any more work in that realm of comics?
Yeah, I’m also doing the origin of He-Man, which is coming up with [artist] Ben Oliver. That’s really fun because it’s like a soft part two to “Skeletor.” I think I actually changed He-Man’s origin more than I changed Skeletor’s. I wanted to really tie the two of them together so you can understand specifically why Skeletor hates He-Man so much. It always felt sort of arbitrary to me that he just hates this kid. “I hate you! I hate you, kid!” I took it and I followed up on a lot of themes of destiny and predetermination that are in the Skeletor one-shot. I’m incredibly excited — Ben Oliver is such a badass. This past year, I’ve gotten to work with just the most amazing artists I’ve worked with ever in my career. It’s really exciting.
Dynamite also recently announced you’re writing “The Devilers.” What can fans of your work expect from this book?
That book is going to be different for me. It’s much more in the vein of “Last of the Greats” for me. It’s going to be a big, action-adventure set piece. At its core it’s “The Magnificent Seven,” except the seven are all exorcists and the bad guy is the devil. So seven of the world’s best exorcists team up and try to exorcize the devil himself from this world. It’s big, it’s bombastic, its going to be a ton of fun. I’m really, really excited for people to see it.
Speaking of “The Last of the Greats,” are there any plans to move forward with the next chapter?
Keep hope alive! The trade didn’t sell great and we’re waiting to see how it does over time. Brent [Peeples] and I talk about it regularly. He’s really excited and people come up to us all the time asking about it, and I just say, “Why didn’t you pick up more copies?”
Scripts are written. It’s ready to go, but we have to find a way to do it where we can actually afford to do it. When you’re doing independent comics, it takes forever to do them and you either make money or you don’t. Unfortunately, we didn’t make money on the first one. Brent and I both have families, so instead I will be making sure my daughter has food. That’s actually what I’m doing instead of “Return of the Greats” right now. [Laughs] Brent’s got some really cool stuff coming up this year. I think once he gets through that stuff and he has a little bit of a nest egg, hopefully he and I can go back to work and try to get it out.
“Alpha” #1 by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Nuno Plati goes on sale in February.