Spider-Man has one of the most interesting and colorful rogues galleries in all of comics, one made up of C- and D-List villains who have almost no chance of getting one over on the Web-Slinger, and fearsome A-List foes who have dealt Peter Parker some of his greatest defeats. This spring, Spidey finds himself once again plagued by the rotten Parker luck as he deals with consecutive attacks from not one, but two of his greatest foes.
In “The Osborn Identity,” “Amazing Spider-Man” writer Dan Slott and artist Stuart Immonen are chronicling Spidey’s globe-trotting battle against the former Green Goblin, Norman Osborn. When “Amazing Spider-Man” #29 arrives, the pair kicks off a “Secret Empire” tie-in arc that pits the Web-Slinger against another one of his greatest foes: Otto Octavius, who recently upgraded his brand of villainy by becoming the Superior Octopus.
CBR spoke with Slott about both arcs, the return of Spidey’s old ally Silver Sable, and Peter Parker’s burgeoning relationship with his S.H.I.E.L.D liaison and adventuring partner, Bobbi Morse, AKA Mockingbird.
CBR: The main story in “Amazing Spider-Man” #25 ended with the revelation that Silver Sable is back. She’s a character who’s not been seen since 2012, when she died in the climax of the “Ends of the Earth” arc of the “Big Time” era. Why bring her back no,w in the aftermath of “The Clone Conspiracy,” and what does it mean for Peter to discover that she’s not dead?
Dan Slott: We actually never saw Silver Sable die. She “died” off panel. We saw the threat that was going to kill her — Rhino holding her underwater. Spidey was going to go back and help her, and she was all, “No! Go one and save the world!” Later, Doctor Octopus’ base blew up, so it was like, “Awww. No more Rhino. No more Silver Sable.”
We knew, though, that we were bringing the Rhino back for “The Clone Conspiracy.” The minute you put Rhino on the table, it makes everyone go, “Hey! Where’s Sable?” So that had to be the next story we immediately told. [Laughs] Everyone was just going to keep asking! In Issue #27, we’ll finally learn how she pulled off her daring escape and cheated death.
Spider-Man isn’t alone on this latest adventure — he’s accompanied by his liaison from S.H.I.E.L.D., Mockingbird. When she fought alongside Peter in the past, she was part of other books, but is Spider-Man the only monthly title where she’s appearing at the moment?
She’s part of a team of heroes in the important “Secret Empire” one-shot “Underground,” but we will see Bobbi regularly in the pages of “Amazing Spider-Man.”
What can you tell us about Peter and Bobbi’s relationship? It obviously feels like it could become a romantic one.
Peter usually relates to the people he deals with in his day-to-day life as Peter Parker, or as Spider-Man — it’s usually one or the other. When he’s with Bobbi, she’s someone who has the same kind of lifestyle and interests, but also someone who can relate to both parts of him in a way that others haven’t.
He’s had a relationship with the Black Cat, who really just wanted to have a relationship with Spider-Man. He’s also had relationships as Peter where he’s revealed that he is Spider-Man over time, so it’s almost like they have to suddenly accept this other secret half of him. With Bobbi, he’s walking into this relationship where, from the moment they start it, she knows both halves, and she’s coming at it from the superhero side.
They know the kind of craziness their lives get into. It’s not something he has to make an excuse for. They’re also people who have fought together side by side. They’ve been teammates and looked out for each other. Their relationship stretches back to the time when they were both on the New Avengers. This is a very different thing than we’ve seen in Spidey’s life before.
Mockingbird can also keep up with Peter’s scientific acumen.
Yes — she is a super scientist, as well. And she, too, has left relationships in her wake moving through the superhero life, just like Pete.
What’s it like writing Bobbi? What do you find most interesting about her?
[Laughs] The way I write Spidey is that he has feet of clay, and he’s going to—like us—find all new ways to screw up. Bobbi has got the secret agent/super hero part together. The way I see Mockingbird and where she is now is, she’s very much about getting that part of the job done, and she does it in a way that Spidey doesn’t. At the same time, there is that trust when an agent has a partner in the field and they’re each watching each others’ backs.
That’s the masked parts of their lives. What it’s going to be like when the masks come off… we’ll have to wait and see.
The target of Spider-Man and Mockingbird’s current adventure is Norman Osborn. What’s it like writing the character without the insanity that came with the Goblin Serum, since that’s no longer in his system?
There are all these years of stories where he’s the guy who had it all and lost it. At one point, he was almost running the world with H.A.M.M.E.R., and as leader of the Dark Avengers and Thunderbolts. He’s had his time in the sun, and something always destroys it. He’s landed the best blows ever on Spider-Man; he’s hurt him in ways that no other Spider-Man enemy has, or ever will. At the end of the day, though, he’s still a loser. At the end of the day, Spider-Man still takes him down, no matter how high he rises up.
So he’s like, “Why does this always happen?” This version of Norman has the Goblin Serum completely cleaned out of him in such a way where it can never come back. He now has one piece that other versions of him never did: He’s not being ruled by the insanity. He can take the cunning mind of Norman Osborn and come after Spider-Man in very deliberate ways. Spider-Man has never fought this version before, and maybe that can finally give Norman the edge he needs.
Norman is currently using a number of surgically-altered faces to hide his true identity. I have to wonder, does Norman miss his true face? Is vanity one of his character traits?
Yes! Some of the stuff I just scripted in #27 dealt very much with that.
What else can you tell us about “The Osborn Identity” arc? It feels like the action is about to get very personal, and very big.
This story arc is my first time working with artist Stuart Immonen. The talents that he brings are awe inspiring. He can do it all. He can do small, personal moments that are just flawless, and he can do big, action set pieces right out of the movies. with that enormous canvas, part of me is just like, “Okay, let’s bring it all!”
There’s a point where you’re working with someone whose skill sets are off the chart where you realize, “Wow! I can open up anything and this guy can just knock it out of the park!” The pages that are coming in are amazing!
I think you’re going to see, especially in this first arc, me just having way too much fun with that. “Okay, here’s the giant, epic battle! Here’s the mano-a-mano battle. Here’s some quiet moments! Here’s the big moments! Here’s everything!”
Right, and the cover to Issue #28 of Peter and Osborn facing off suggests this story is headed towards an epic showdown between the two.
Yes! That Alex Ross cover of them all GRRR-like in the snow is beautiful. You’ll see that in the book. [Laughs] When you see that down and dirty fight in pages penciled by Stuart and inked by Wade [von Grawbadger] and colored by Marte [Gracia], you’re going to freak out!
In one of the back up stories in Issue #25, you teased the arc that will follow Spider-Man and Norman’s big showdown — a “Secret Empire” tie-in that pits Spidey against Otto Octavius, AKA the Superior Octopus. What can you tell us about the inspiration for this story and character?
We were always coming here! [Laughs] To do “Superior Spider-Man” and then do “Spider-Verse” after it, we knew we had to cobble a way to give Doc Ock a window to come back. There had to be some time-travel shenanigans so he could be there for “Spider-Verse.” Once you’re playing with that, it’s like, “Now there’s a crack in the door! He can change his future. We could totally bring Doc back post-‘Superior Spider-Man.’”
So much of what we’ve done has been this long term plan, and it’s kind of fun. It meant I got to write all these different versions of Otto Octavius. My first ever Doc Ock story had him as this John Romita Jr.-drawn mummified guy with eight arms whose body is a husk. That turned into Stefano Caselli’s Doc from “Ends of the Earth,” who was completely wasted away in an iron lung with the giant arms. With Humberto Ramos, Doc was in Peter Parker’s body in the classic red and blues. Then with Ryan Stegman, we had him as one version of the Superior Spider-Man. Then Humberto got to redesign him as a volume two version of Superior Spider-Man. [Laughs] Then Giuseppe Camuncoli had Doc’s mind in the Living Brain. Then I got to do classic Doc Ock with Jim Cheung. That was a joy! And now, he’s The Superior Octopus!
You can almost envision that as the series of drawings showing man learning how to walk erect. [Laughs] I’ve done all these different stages of Otto Octavius, and so much of what we wanted to get to is the Superior Octopus. This is just the best.
There was a lot of different input going into the character. One problem we always seemed to have with the suit was everyone kept saying the Octopus insignia looked too much like Hydra’s symbol. Then “Secret Empire” happened, and it was like, “Great!” [Laughs] It was fantastic. We couldn’t have planned that better.
What can you tell us about the dynamic between the Superior Octopus and his Hydra allies?
In “Amazing Spider-Man” #25, we showed that Otto has something he’d like done. Hydra also wants that done, so this is very much a marriage of convenience. They both want the same ends, so Otto is going to use their means for as long as it suits him.
As the Superior Octopus, Otto’s mind is in a cloned body. What kind of powers and physical traits does this body possess?
He’s got a body that’s a hybrid of a Spider-Clone and Otto Octavius. That means he has all of the Spider related powers along with Octavius’ genius. It also means he does not look like Peter Parker under the mask.
This is a body that allows him to do everything he could in “Superior Spider-Man.” His ego now, though, is rebranding everything with Octopus, “My Octopus sense is tingling!” [Laughs] Which is the kind of craziness you can only do in a comic. God, I love comic books.
Pitting Spider-Man against two of his greatest foes, one right after the other, is bound to have some long term effects on our hero. Can you tease how shaken up the status quo of “Amazing Spider-Man” will be by the end of Spidey’s battles with Norman and Otto?
It will be drastically shaken up.
The start of my run was “Big Time,” where Peter gets to work for Horizon. That gets shaken up when you get the move over to “Superior.” Then that gets shaken up when you get thrown into this whole “Spider-Verse” era with all the different Spiders. Then that kind of gets shaken up by Parker Industries. Then, in the aftermath of the “Secret Empire” story with Otto, we’ll get a shake up on a similar scale.
So essentially it will be the end of one era and the beginning of another?
Going through the crucible of these battles—and where Peter Parker’s life is going to be coming out the other side—has always been part of the master plan! MWA-HA-HA!