Fridays on CBR mean Axel’s In Charge.
Welcome to MARVEL A-I-C: AXEL-IN-CHARGE, CBR’s regular interview feature with Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso!
An editor with years of experience who’s brought out comics to both critical acclaim and best-selling status, Alonso stepped into the chair at the top of Marvel’s Editorial department earlier this year and since then has been working to bring his signature stylings to the entire Marvel U. Anchored by regular question and answer rounds with the denizens of the CBR Message Boards, each week Alonso will shake things up with special guest stars, exclusive art reveals and more!
This week, we have a special guest as Axel welcomes “Amazing Spider-Man” writer Dan Slott! Having steered the Spidey-ship through the waters of 2011 and remaining at the helm in 212, Slott is here to talk all things radioactive spider-related, from revealing the first Spidey comic he remembers buying to the origins of “Big Time” and the pressures and rewards of this year being Spidey’s 50th anniversary. Slott dives into details on Peter Parker’s upcoming trip to the “Ends of the Earth” and how it relates to this week’s revelation of a new set of duds for the wall-crawler. Plus, Slott takes the time to answer loads of fan questions! And hey — what is the deal with that mysterious teaser Image Marvel released the other day…?
Kiel Phegley: Welcome by A-i-C, Dan! Gentlemen, since we’re talking Spider-Man’s 50th Anniversary today, I thought I’d start with your own personal connection to the character: what was the first issue of Spider-Man you remember buying or the one that really made you a lifer with the hero?
Axel Alonso: “Amazing Spider-Man” #131. On the cover, Spider-Man is swinging down to stop Doc Ock and Aunt May from exchanging marriage vows. He webs the bible in the priest’s hands before he can say, “With this ring, I thee…”
Dan Slott: “With this ring, I thee…web.” [Laughter]
Alonso: That’s it! I bought that issue off the rack at a five and dime. The story didn’t disappoint: A gang war between this huge-headed gangster named Hammerhead and this geek with tentacles called Doc Ock who’s about to marry this little old lady who Spider-Man pretty much considers his mother? I was hooked.
Slott: And it’s all because she’s secretly inherited a nuclear power plant.
Alonso: That’s it! Dang, you have a great memory. You and [Tom] Brevoort. Once it gets in there, it doesn’t get out! [Laughter]
Slott: Because lord knows, if you’re a supervillain marrying a woman in Queens, that’s the only reason it can happen. It can’t be love!
My story is long and convoluted — I already loved Spider-Man from the [Ralph] Bakshi cartoons. One day I was biking home from grade school, and they had a sign up at my 7-Eleven that Spider-Man was coming there to sign comic books. And I was at just the right age to totally believe it. I freaked out and ran inside and was like, “Where do I get the comics for Spider-Man to sign?”
The only comics I’d ever read were my cousin’s, which were all Jack Kirby “Fantastic Four” issues and “Howling Commandos” that he kept in his basement. I just thought all comics came from my cousins basement. I never thought you could buy them. So, the 7-Eleven guys pointed me towards the spinner rack, and I thought, “Oh my God!” but I had no money. So I waited for my dad to get home and kept pestering him to give me an allowance because I needed to buy Spider-Man comics. And he was so nice that not only did he give me an allowance, he gave me a week’s advance so I could have two comics for Spider-Man to sign.
The thing that hooked me for life was that I biked there early to camp out because I wanted to see Spider-Man swing in. I was looking in the sky, and I got really worried because there were no tall buildings to swing in on. And these guys came off the turnpike in a red pickup. And standing arms akimbo, in the bed of the pickup, was Spider-Man. And I bought it! That’s how Spider-Man would come to 7-Eleven.
The truck pulled up, I was the only one there waiting, and the guy jumped out and landed in a crouch like Spider-Man. Then he jumped and walked on in. It was over for me. I had met Spider-Man, and he signed my comics. [Laughter] They were “Marvel Tales” #63 and “Marvel Team-Up” #38 where he teamed up with the Beast to fight the Griffin.
Alonso: Back in the day, me and my friends were starved for Spider-Man. Apart from the super-cool Spider-Man cartoon — you know, the Ralph Bakshi one — there wasn’t much out there. I mean, I hated “The Electric Company,” but I’d grit my teeth through lame skit after lame skit on the outside chance that Spider-Man would show up for that little segment they sometimes did. When he did, I was happy as a pig in poop; when it didn’t, I was inconsolable. And it was corny! Just a dude in tights creeping around like a bug. I found out later that Morgan Freeman was the narrator!
Slott: And Spidey wouldn’t speak! Thought balloons just showed up over his head with a “Boop boop boop!”
Alonso: That’s right.
Slott: We were so starved back then that when Atari put out the game where Spider-Man was just eight red dots, you totally believed it was him, and you played it over and over.
Since that time, you guys each have worked on Spider-Man for a healthy stretch. Just around the time Axel came in as E-i-C, Dan was just getting rolling with the new phase of “Amazing Spider-Man” called “Big Time.” It feels to me that there’s been a clear change in how the book has run and how fans have reacted to it. I can’t remember the last time I saw a fan approach the comic first through the lens of how they felt about “One More Day.” In terms of tone, “Big Time” seemed to set aside some of the operating rules of the “Brand New Day” era. How did the twice-monthly shift the book into the state it is in now that’s different from when you worked on it previously?
Slott: Okay! [Laughs] To me, it had nothing to do with any of that so much as it was that when we were working on “Brand New Day” it was like a relay. We were all working as a team to write the stories, and we were trying to support each other as a team. If anyone threw anything into the pot, it was fair game and you incorporated it. We all had a great time, and we all liked working together. The change was the difference between playing on a sports team and playing golf. When Steve [Wacker] came to me and said “I want you to be the guy to do it two times a month” I said, “Where do I want to go with ‘Amazing Spider-Man?'” That was the only real big difference. It wasn’t a matter of “Mwa ha ha! I will throw everything aside!” It was just a matter of finding my own mojo.
Axel, in the past you told me about how when you got to the end of your run as “Amazing Spider-Man” editor, you were bit burnt out on working with Spider-Man. Have you come back around as Editor-in-Chief to wanting to pitch the occasional idea into Spider-Man’s world, or do you try to stay hands off and let Dan and Steve do what they do?
Alonso: The latter. At some point in the future, I might be interested in editing a Spider-Man story, but right now, I’m not ready. Don’t get me wrong: Spider-Man occupies a special place in my heart — he was the first super hero character I had to wrap my mind around as an editor — but I really feel I left it all on the floor during my tenure as Spider-Man editor. Getting him back on the map and then teeing him up for “Brand New Day” was some heavy lifting.
Slott: What I really liked most about the Axel era, on top of JMS and Paul Jenkins going in and telling great runs, was “Tangled Web.” Stories like “Flowers For The Rhino” or that great Kaare Andrews story with the kids watching TV were just wonderful gems.
Alonso: Thanks. That series was a lot of fun to edit.
So for each of you, what’s your favorite Spidey story that you worked on?
Slott: “Amazing Spider-Man” #655. It’s one of my favorite things ever, and Marcos Martin killed on it. Every page was gorgeous.
Alonso: Without a doubt, “Amazing Spider-Man” #36, the 9/11 tribute issue with the all-black cover. I watched the towers go down from Broadway. It seemed preposterous to me that Peter Parker — a New York native if there ever were one — would just go about his regularly scheduled programming when something that big happened in his city. So I called up JMS and said as much, and he agreed. The next day, there was a script in my inbox. I closed my door, propped my feet on the windowsill to read it and was blown away. It was a knockout punch — a love song to the city that’s probably the single most satisfying comic issue I’ve ever worked on.
Slott: And that’s got some of the most beautiful John Romita, Jr. art I’ve ever seen.
Alonso: Without a doubt. Johnny — another New York native — brought his best stuff to that. It was an amazing comic book.
So we’ve hit Spidey’s 50th Anniversary. In the past, we’ve seen Marvel do some big publishing celebrations for Marvel characters, whether it be all the stuff that hit for the company’s 70th or the FF’s 50th last year. With Spider-Man, what have you discussed about doing overall to make a splash, and how do those plans impact “Amazing” on a monthly basis?
Slott: For me, the biggest motivation of the 50th was that I could see it coming. With the twice monthly book, you end up working on three or four arcs at once because everyone has to keep working. It can be a grind. Knowing the 50th was coming was the carrot. It was my reward. I kept myself going through a couple of all-nighters by saying, “You can do this, you can do this. The 50th is coming!” It’s an honor, and it’s something I take very seriously. We’ve got a lot of great plans, and we’re building to a lot of things because these moments should be special. It’s 50 years of Spider-Man! But I can’t spoil too much.
Alonso: What Dan said. I can’t say too much without spoiling it, but we have lots of surprises ahead.
The one thing we do know is coming up is “Ends of the Earth” — Doc Ock’s big return with the Sinister Six that we’ve been waiting for for quite a while now. Dan, why was now the time for those chickens to come home to roost in the wake of “Spider-Island”?
Slott: You’re always building to something bigger and bigger, and when you look at the journey Spider-Man has taken, especially in our opening arcs, you see how all the pieces of our status quo have fallen into pace. The Sinister Six have been out there planning something. Spider-Man has this job at Horizon, and on top of that he also has this new mission. He’s given himself this almost untenable goal, like the War on Drugs or the War on Terror. He had decided that whenever he’s around, on his watch, no one dies. And that’s because of the death of Marla Jameson. Everything grows out of those big moments and beats and will keep building. You’re going to see a major shift during “Ends of the Earth” as a lot of those elements come to a head, all in a big, globe-trotting, world-spanning adventure!
One of the guys on the boards, SpiderPrime, asked a question that I think fit well in with a lot of what Axel and I have discussed lately with the status of Norman Osborn. He asked, “With the elevation of Norman Osborn to an Avengers-level threat, and with soon-to-be Secret Avenger Venom off having his own adventures, Spidey hasn’t gotten to play much individually with his two most popular ‘big-bads’ of the last 30 years in some time. I’ve loved how you’ve reestablished both Doc Ock and the Hobgoblin to fill that big-bad void. What do you think goes in to making a real, credible and lasting arch-enemy for Spider-Man? Why have the Green Goblin, Doc Ock, Venom and the Hobgoblin lasted so long as fan-favorite Spidey-villains?”
Alonso: The great Spider-Man villains usually share some deep personal connection to Peter Parker’s civilian life that gives their relationship a whole other dimension. Doc Ock and the Green Goblin are the prime examples of that. But also, let’s face it, the best ones endure the test of time because they have a certain swagger — a mojo — that works in any era.
Slott: I think Axel’s right. We’ve spent so much time with these guys, but if you could just mindwipe everybody and introduce these villains as fresh and new and said, “Here’s a guy named Otto Octavious who’s called Doctor Octopus who has these metal limbs” people might laugh you out of town. But the thing is that Stan and Steve created this character, and they gave him heart. And John Romita, Sr. drew him as being responsible for the death of Captain Stacy, and that gave him so much weight. All these giants of the industry have poured their artistry and love into these characters over the years and made them so cool, made them into the icons that we have today.
Obviously, with “Spider-Island” we had a core story in “Amazing” that was supported by a number of minis and one-shots. With “Ends of the Earth,” we know there are six issues of main story, but will there be any support books with the rest of the Spider-Man cast?
Slott: We’re going to do a one-shot special. This story has ramifications for all of planet earth, and in the one-shot, you’ll see superheroes from across the planet dealing with this problem. There are characters here that might not have been highlighted for a while from different countries and fan favorites it’ll be fun to touch base with. And in “Ends of the Earth,” you’ll see a lot of fun stuff with the supporting characters, particularly the Horizon cast, during the course of the six issues of “Amazing.” But for the most part, this is like a movie. “Ends of the Earth” is a Spider-Man blockbuster focused on action between Spider-Man, the members of the Sinister Six and Doc Ock. They’re your stars.
For a while now we’ve seen Spider-Man really be contained by one comic, whether “Amazing” has been twice monthly or thrice monthly. It’s still been that one core Spider-Man narrative. Does that make stories like this easier to tell compared to some of the huge events we identify with comics these days?
Slott: Well, I don’t think it is the only one. If you love Spider-Man, there’s great work coming out from Zeb Wells on “Avenging Spider-Man,” and Rick Remender has stuff from the Spider-Man world driving “Venom,” who’s also going to Rick’s be “Secret Avengers.” Of course, Brian Michael Bendis tells stories with him in “New Avengers” and Jonathan Hickman does in “Fantastic Four.” So there’s a lot of Spider-Man, and we still coordinate to make sure it works all together. It’s just that you can find whatever particular flavor of Spider-Man you’re into.
Many people on the boards were playing detective about “Ends of the Earth,” with NickFury90 pointing out that we’re looking at a new costume coming up in issue #683. What lies ahead on that front?
Slott: New toys!
Alonso: New toys! [Laughs]
Slott: Stefano Caselli designed a great suit, and you’re going to see why Spidey needs it in “Ends of the Earth” and what it can do. It is something we’ve been building to, and you’ll see Humberto Ramos do his take on it too. It’s great, but we’re not sharing it yet. We’re hiding it!
On the front of crossover with other characters and new costumes, the aptly named Peteben82 asked, “Will we see some brotherly interaction between Pete and Kaine now that he is cured of his degeneration? And will Ben Reilly be a catalyst for that relationship?” I’d add to that how much you feel there should be crossover with “Amazing” and books like “Scarlet Spider” and “Venom”?
Alonso: We’re thrilled with the success of spinoff titles like “Venom.” [Editor] Steve [Wacker] has managed to tap a nostalgic vein that’s appealing to new fans. It’s not farfetched that you’ll see the paths of these characters cross in the future.
Slott: That said, everyone should check out “Scarlet Spider,” because Yost and Stegman are knocking every issue of that book out of the park.
As a follow up, what’s up with this “Spider-Men” image you guys released this week?
Alonso: Kinda cool, huh? Can’t say anything.
One last piece of news to look into involves the kids comics. Axel and I talked about this a bit last week, but Dan, when I saw you’d be contributing a story to “Ultimate Spider-Man” with Ty Templeton, who you worked with on “Batman Adventures” to great acclaim, I was surprised and excited. What can you say about the challenge of coming on to a newly built Spidey world and making work for longtime fans and kids?
Slott: We love this stuff. Ty and I are the best of friends, and if you look at “Spider-Man/Human Torch” you can see how much we love working together. That was an all-ages book to me. I think if you sit down and look at some of the biggest movies of all time, you’ll see that they’re “G-Rated” movies that everyone could sit down and watch. Adults can watch them and go, “Wow, that’s a great story.” That’s our goal, here. We don’t want this to be a young readers book. We want it to be an all-ages book — an everyone book. This is a book you can give to anyone, and they’ll go, “That was a really great ride.” That’s how Ty is wired too.
One of the fun things about working on this is that Paul Dini, Brian Michael Bendis and Joe Kelly and the rest of the Man of Action crew have designed this awesome new continuity for Spider-Man. One of the joys for me is working in that specific world with that Peter Parker and the setup they’ve given him. When you read the story I’ve written for issue #1, you’ll realize that this isn’t a story I could have told in “Amazing Spider-Man” or with the 616 Spider-Man. This is the Ultimate Spider-Man, and his world is a cool thing to play with. It’s the only time I’ve really gotten to write a teenage Peter Parker except for some flashbacks in “Spider-Man/Human Torch.” Sure, I get to write a Peter Parker that acts like a teenager sometimes because he’s a goofball. [Laughs] But he has a job and puts on a lab coat. Ultimate Spider-Man is a guy who’s still at Midtown High. It’s a kick.
All right – let’s wrap this call with some fan questions for Dan! Cosmo Rocks asked, “With the recent appearance of Cardiac in ‘Fear Itself: The Home Front,’ are there any plans to bring him back into Spidey’s world? I would imagine you could work wonders with him! “
Slott: No plans presently, but I love Cardiac. He’s got a great visual and a great hook — especially when people play him right. In his own mind, he’s a hero, and he’s got a great agenda.
Mr. NickerNacker asked, “I’m a huge Spidey fan and the Lizard is my favorite villain in all of comics, so naturally I have some questions about his upcoming arc in ASM. First, who will be the artist(s) drawing the story, how long is the story, and what issue will it begin in?”
Slott: The Lizard story, which is called “No Turning Back” will be drawn by one of our most amazing Spider-Man artists, Giuseppe Camoncoli, and it will also feature Morbius the Living Vampire. So people should check out the upcoming Point-One issue of “Amazing Spider-Man” to see that get set up. The whole story will run four issues and come out around the time of the “Amazing Spider-Man” movie, which shockingly also features the Lizard. It’s almost like we planned it that way! [Laughter] That was the real fun there. With the movie coming, I asked myself “What’s the coolest Lizard story I can tell?” and it’s great to give yourself a challenge to live up to. If I only had one Lizard story in me, my Lizard movie, what would it be? And it would be “No Turning Back!”
As I’m sure you’re aware, there are a ton of Squirrel Girl fans on the boards, including StuBarnes who asked, “How do you feel about all the fantastic exposure that Squirrel Girl is getting lately? And will Doreen Green ever get her own miniseries???”
Slott: Yes! I think she should. I think she should be the focal hub of Marvel’s next event. That would be awesome! It would be A and X Vs. S.G. That’s how many people you’d need to take out Squirrel Girl! [Laughter] The Phoenix Force images of her in the column here have been just lovely, and I love how she got her own video game and how Brian is giving her the full Bendis treatment in “Avengers” by fleshing her out and giving her that crackling dialogue and a great spotlight in Marvel’s biggest book.
Frequent questioner Hypestyle wondered, “What are the chances that Prowler or Rocket Racer will have a guest appearance in a Spidey book this year?”
Slott: Hmm…Prowler or Rocket Racer. You know, from the very first day of the first Spidey Brand New Day summit, people had to smack me to stop me from saying “Hobie Brown.” Every other word out of my mouth was “And then Hobie Brown could…” and they had to yell, “Enough with the Hobie Brown, Dan!” So it’s strange that I haven’t gotten to a Prowler story yet. It’s probably a good bet that he’ll show up, but in the meantime, there’s some great Prowler stuff in the Ultimate Universe book that Brian’s got coming up.
We can finish with a few from Spidey616 who wanted to know “Like a lot of readers I’ve been hoping for Paper Doll to reappear soon, so think we’ll be seeing her again in 2012?”
Slott: I would love to. She was supposed to be in the two-part space story coming up this month, but there just wasn’t enough room for her…which is odd because she’s two-dimensional and very thin. But I’d love to get back to Piper Dali, the mysterious Paper Doll, and tell her origin and show why there’s so much more to her than a simple fan obsession with one movie star. But we’ll get to her. And Screwball too! I love Screwball.
He followed up with “With the upcoming Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon incorporating things from the mainstream and Ultimate Marvel universes as well as other places, is there anything specific you hope/would want to see from your Spidey run animated?”
Slott: It would be fun to see an animated “Spider-Island” or the equivalent of that in the “Ultimate Spider-Man” cartoon. That’d be a hoot. It’s hard for me to answer that question because I’m under lock and key about the new Spider-Man toon, but I’ve seen the first two episodes, and they are a blast! They’ve gone all out to put a really boisterous, big and brash Spider-Man cartoon together. I love the vibe they’ve got on that one.
Finally, Spidey616 asks, “It might be too early to talk about your 2013 ASM plans but knowing how far ahead you plan your stories and with the New York City November 2013 Mayoral elections coming up, any plans for a new candidate to challenge Jameson for the position?”
Slott: That’s going to be really tough after J. Jonah dies…Oh my God! What have I said?!?!? [Laughter] No, one of the fun things about Marvel time is that it can bend and stretch. When you think about people who have held office in the Marvel Universe, it’s crazy. Like Blake Tower! He was the D.A. in the Marvel Universe’s New York for over a decade. It’s fun to have Jonah in this place right now. Who knows how long Jonah will be in office? It’s taken Franklin Richards how long to have a birthday? And Doc Ock has had a year to live since issue #600! [Laughter] It’s in “Marvel time” so I don’t feel tied down to things like the next mayoral election title.
Have some questions for Marvel’s AXEL-IN-CHARGE? Please visit the CUP O’ Q&A thread in CBR’s Marvel Universe forum. It’s now the dedicated thread for all connections between Board Members and the Marvel Executive staff that CBR will pull questions for next week’s installment of our weekly fan-generated question-and-answer column! Do it to it!