In 2008, Marvel Comics’ “Amazing Spider-Man” kicked off a “Brand New Day.” It was a new status quo for Spidey which saw his world revitalized with new supporting characters, new situations, and new super villains. Now it’s 2009 and a new day has dawned; a day which will bring Spider-Man new challenges and dangers because his classic villains are back in full force and with a vengeance! CBR News spoke with Editor Stephen Wacker, writers Joe Kelly and Mark Waid, and artist Phil Jimenez about their plans for Spider-Man in 2009.
Currently, Spider-Man is embroiled in the four-part “Character Assassination” arc by writer Marc Guggenheim and artist John Romita Jr., which promises to finally get to the bottom of the mysteries surrounding two of his newest adversaries: Menace, a Green Goblin style villain with penchant for politics; and The Spider-Tracer Killer, a serial killer who’s framed Spider-Man for multiple murders by leaving the web-slinger’s signature tracking devices at the scenes of his or her crimes. The arc comes to a conclusion on March 18th with the release of “Amazing Spider-Man” #588.
“Amazing Spider-Man” #589 hits stores on March 25th and finds the Web-Slinger going toe-to-toe with a familiar foe. “Right after ‘Character Assassination’ we have a one issue story that’s sort of a catch up on…I’d hesitate to say classic villain, but he’s the kind of Spidey villain that nobody ever forgets, and that’s the Spot,” Steve Wacker told CBR News. “Fred Van Lente is writing it. He’s a guy that all of us here have seen rise over at Marvel over the last couple of years. He’s doing really inventive work on stuff like ‘Incredible Hercules,’ and not surprisingly he’s got a pretty good voice for Spider-Man, which fits right into what we’re doing on the book.
“And Paulo Siqueira is drawing the issue,” Wacker continued. “He did ‘Amazing’ #564, our writers ‘jam’ issue. He’s also done some work on ‘Ms. Marvel’ and he’s got another big Spidey thing coming up later in the year.
“Amazing Spider-Man” #590, in stores April 1st , kicks off a two part arc by writer Dan Slott and artist Barry Kitson which sends Spidey off on an adventure with the Fantastic Four. The story promises to not only affect the relationship between Spider-Man and his former friend the Human Torch it will also have significant impact on several other Marvel titles. Wacker hinted, “It’s a pretty major status quo change that all of the books out of New York are going to reflect.”
After Spidey’s adventure with the FF, writer Mark Waid and artist Mike McKone return to “Amazing Spider-Man” with “24/7,” an arc that’s designed to show just how dangerous Spider-Man’s world has become now that Norman Osborn has achieved his Dark Reign and is one of the most powerful figures in the U.S. Government. “The first page of ’24/7′ was originally supposed to be in Mark Waid’s first Spider-Man story, because once he heard Norman Osborn was taking over, he knew exactly what page one should be,” Wacker remarked. “So I’m excited for that to finally come out.”
In “24/7” Peter Parker’s actions will be driven by an emotion he’s all too familiar with: guilt. “It’s Peter’s PRIMARY motivator, even though it’s not always deserved,” Mark Waid said. “Peter is just predisposed to feeling responsible for everything and everyone, even if he really needn’t, or if a reasonable person wouldn’t. That’s just who he is.”
The guilt Peter Parker feels in “24/7” causes him to make a big decision about his alter ego. “It is a story about Peter opting to be Spider-Man 24/7 for a while — for logical-in-Peter’s-mind reasons that will become apparent,” Waid explained. “Those are the basics. Peter’s donned the costume, doesn’t want to take it off, and is determined to take NYC by storm and show the town just what it’s like to have a Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man in action around the clock in the city that never sleeps.”
Spider-Man’s full time working status in “24/7” will bring him face-to-face with a new incarnation of his old fearsome, feathered, foe, The Vulture. “We don’t want to give away too much,” Waid stated. “The idea came up during the last Spider-summit, and I honestly don’t think the nugget of ‘Let’s rework the Vulture’ came from me, but when I threw out the idea of the new Vulture being a boogeyman to the underworld–a malevolent creature who preys on the dying and wounded–it seemed to stick.”
Peter Parker will spend most of his time web-swinging in “24/7,” but his out of costume supporting cast still have significant parts to play in the story. “I can tell you that JJJ Sr. makes an important appearance,” Waid revealed. “And when Jonah learns that JJJ Sr. and Spidey are pals, it’s gonna get ugly.”
Waid is delighted to have artist Mike McKone as his collaborator for “24/7.” “He’s a consummate storyteller who does a great Spidey and is terrific at humor,” the writer said. “I’ve had the privilege of working with him several times before, uptown at the Distinguished Competition, and it’s always a joy.”
“24/7” will be Waid’s second Spider-Man story of 2009 and the writer hopes to contribute several more before the year is out. “However much time I can carve out is all Peter Parker’s, as far as I’m concerned. Writing Spidey is as much fun as anything I’ve ever done, and it’s crazy not to want to play in that world as much as possible,” Waid remarked. “Plus, Editor Steve Wacker knows to put me to work or else I’m blogposting the complete list of hair band songs he keeps on his iPod.”
Once “24/7” wraps, writer Joe Kelly and artist Phil Jimenez kick of the next big multi-part “Amazing Spider-Man” story, an epic entitled “American Son.” Readers will get an early hint of what Kelly has planned for the story in “Amazing Spider-Man: Extra” #3, in stores March 11th, which features a prelude to “American Son.” “The prelude gives us a little glimpse into Harry and Norman Osborn’s relationship back in the day before there was a Green Goblin or any kind of Goblin serum,” Joe Kelly explained. “We thought it was important to lay a foundation. We do know a lot about them, they’re like the Shakespearean family of the Marvel Universe [laughs], but we thought it would be cool to see them out of the context of super powers. There was a time when Norman was just — Norman, and here we see how Harry was in relationship to that.”
Harry Osborn doesn’t just play a role in the prelude to “American Son.” He’s an integral part of the arc and Kelly is grateful for the chance to explore such a compelling character. “Harry’s a great character, because he’s constantly battling himself. He’s a character who’s struggling on so many levels to move on from his past, to do the right thing, and battle his inner demons; some of which were put there by his father and some of which were natural with that addict/alcoholic mentality. These are the things that I definitely glommed on to when writing him,” Kelly said. “Also, he’s supposedly Peter Parker’s best friend, so there’s something about him that has to leap off the page; that makes you believe Spidey, who is the guy I want as my best friend, would actually like this guy. So it’s a cool challenge on both levels.”
Kelly couldn’t reveal who or why, but much of the action in “American Son” revolves around Spider-Man targeting a specific individual. “Spider-Man normally doesn’t get focused on vendettas or anger. He’s usually very reactionary and this is a pretty proactive plan that he’s taking,” Kelly explained. “There are incidents that kick it off. He’s reacting to certain things that push him over the edge, but he’s really focused, and I think in a lot of ways he’s his own worst enemy. Because Peter, without realizing he’s doing it, is willing to make certain compromises in the name of personal justice that he doesn’t realize maybe he shouldn’t be taking.
“So he’s certainly very dangerous,” Kelly continued. “He’s super smart and he’s obviously quite powerful in a superhero way, but he can get this sort of myopic drive where he only sees his goal. And I guess I never really thought of him that way, but seeing some of the work that’s been done over the last couple of years and messing around with him on the page. you see that when Spidey is fighting with his heart he doesn’t always use his head. So it’s kind of interesting to see where that’s going to go.”
Indeed, Spider-Man isn’t known for losing his cool, but over the years, he’s been taken over by his temper on several occasions and the results usually aren’t pretty. “When you see him in something like ‘Civil War’ where he’s in a philosophical debate and trying to do what’s right, that’s one side of Peter Parker and it’s totally valid,” Kelly remarked. “Then there’s the other side. That, ‘You killed my uncle!’ side, that depending on how you look at his origin story, and it’s been redone many times, shows he’s willing to push it. He’s so emotional and wears his heart on his sleeve. So he doesn’t flip out much, but when he does it’s not a good thing.”
Another element setting Spider-Man on edge in “American Son” is the Dark Reign of Norman Osborn, which will be a significant factor in the story. Kelly is finding the chance to pen a Spider-Man story set in a world where the Wallcrawler’s arch-enemy has obtained absolute power to be very interesting. “It’s a world where no matter what they do; heroes just can’t seem to win. It’s like the world is conspiring against them on almost every level. So it’s kind of cool to work in that context. It almost puts a noir type of feel on the stories,” Kelly said. “But also a lot of that is like Spidey’s karma in general. If there’s anybody equipped to live in that kind of world, it’s Spider-Man.”
Norman Osborn won’t be the only adversary complicating Spider-Man’s life in “American Son.” “You can’t have Norman these days without his team of Avengers,” Kelly remarked. “There’s a scene involving a necessary infiltration into Avengers Tower.”
Like any good Spider-Man story, much of the drama and tension in “American Son” comes not from superhero elements but soap opera ones. “There’s a definite love interest in ‘American Son,’ and I think all the stuff between Peter, Harry and Norman is really intense. I love writing those scenes because they’re so charged. Those guys all care about each other in weird ways and are in such conflict about who knows what’s right for Harry. So there’s a lot of soap opera stuff there,” Kelly stated. “Also a lot of stuff plays out with the supporting cast like Aunt May. So it’s got it all.
“When I first started breaking down this story it was really a superhero heavy plot type of story, a sort of mega-epic,” Kelly continued. “And when I handed it into to Steve and Tom Brevoort they were like, ‘There’s a lot of fun stuff here but you’ve got to get the soap opera stuff. That’s where the money is for Spider-Man.’ It was so good to hear that, in a lot of ways. I felt under pressure, like it was a five issue arc so it had to be super-mega. And in this, super-mega comes from the personal stuff. So I stripped away a ton of stuff and what we ended up with I think is a hell of a lot stronger.”
A number of supporting characters play roles in “American Son,” including one Kelly created: “Front Line” reporter Norah Winters. “Norah is definitely part of the story, and I think she’s going to start showing up in some of the other guys’ stories too,” Kelly revealed. “Everybody seems to like her, which is fun for me. So she’ll definitely be popping up again.”
After “American Son” wraps, readers can expect more “Amazing Spider-Man” work from Joe Kelly in 2009. “We’re going to have another summit coming up soon, and I’m going to be involved in that. I hope to be involved with a lot of stuff that was generated before me. And I think I’m hopping on some of the stuff that Phil Jimenez was involved with,” Kelly said. “Things are just a little nutty at the moment in terms of some other works and projects that have popped up outside of comics, which is all really exciting. So I’m trying to make sure I navigate them responsibly, because I say this with no exaggeration, I really love Spider-Man and I really want to do a good job. So I’m trying to make sure I can accomplish that.”
“And I’m pumped for this year,” Kelly continued. “It’s going to be a great roller coaster ride. There are so many wild and unexpected bits coming up, along with a couple of things people have been waiting for. So it’s going to be a fun year.”
Phil Jimenez is finding the experience of bringing Kelly’s “American Son” scripts to life both daunting and enjoyable. “It’s the next big Spidey epic, which is why I’m sort of terrified of the pressure. In all seriousness, this is the most pressure filled job I’ve ever had. Partly because I take it really seriously. I feel Spider-Man and his world deserve an enormous amount of respect, and I’m constantly trying to give it that. And the almost weekly aspect of the title is crazy for an old dog like me,” Jimenez said. “I can honestly say though that for me, these are the best Spider-Man scripts I’ve worked on so far. The first issue alone blew my mind.”
“What I like about ‘American Son’ is that there’s this enormous sense of scale to it. It feels really important,” Jimenez continued. “One of the things I’ve discovered over the years reading Spider-Man is that there were certain stories and villains where I felt like, ‘Well if he doesn’t take care of it the Fantastic Four will,’ which always sort of lessened the impact for me. In this story though, there are all these emotional layers. He’s invested. If Spider-man fails, really bad things happen. I just love that kind of storytelling.”
“American Son” also offers Jimenez a host of intriguing people and places to depict. “I get to draw characters like Norman and Harry Osborn, and I get to draw the cast as I know it, as well as a lot of New York City locations,” Jimenez stated. “And of course the Dark Avengers find their way into the book. It’s just been an incredibly fun story to work on.”
“American Son” is actually Jimenez’s second Spider-Man project of 2009. His first story appears in “Amazing Spider-Man: Extra.” #3. It’s an eight page story which he both wrote and drew. “It involves the new Kraven, we call her Little Kraven, and it’s basically the day after the story where Marc Guggenheim and I introduced the character. Little Kraven captured who she thought was Spider-Man, but it turned out that he wasn’t and then she fought somebody she thought was Daredevil, but we know was really Spider-Man. So the idea is that she’s starting to realize something is wrong. Spider-Man wasn’t who she thought he was and now she’s trying to figure out who he could be,” Jimenez explained. “At the same time, Spider-Man just fought this crazy girl in the sewers and he’s wondering who she is. His roommate is saying she’s nuts and that she called herself Kraven. So Spidey realizes this and goes to hunt for her. They basically start to figure out more about each other.”
Jimenez has drawn Spider-Man on several occasions, but the “Extra” story marks the first time he’s written the character, and it’s something he’s taking very seriously. “I’ve been talking to people a lot about who Peter Parker is and how he behaves. I’m very worried about getting his voice right. The nice thing is that I’ve been told by my boss that I’m just like Peter Parker in certain ways,” Jimenez said. “And I seem to have stumbled upon certain parts of his personality that are inherent, but have not been explored lately. I feel like that’s something I can give Peter that nobody else does. And the other thing is that if I expect people to pay for this I want them to have some new insight into the character or to be able to say, ‘Hey, I haven’t seen that aspect of him for awhile. That’s really cool.’
“In this story, there’s a little bit of sleuthing going on. Not that Spider-Man doesn’t do that regularly, but I like the idea that’s he’s gathering information and hunting for clues,” Jimenez continued. “The thing that excites me about Peter Parker is just how smart he is. It’s a quality I admire. So I wanted to play that up a little bit and get him using his brain to figure out who this mysterious girl was, why Vermin was there and all sorts of other things. I just hope that readers like it and I get the voice right for Spider-Man. That’s more important to me than anything.”
Jimenez’s Kraven story in “Extra” #3 came about because the artist created Anna Kravinoff, AKA Little Kraven, as well as her mother, who first appeared at the end of the story which introduced her daughter. “I didn’t write her in that first arc, but in doing all this research on villains and ways to contribute to the Spider-Man universe, I came to discover that Kraven has all these children, but I don’t think we’ve seen any of their mothers. So I was interested in extending and fleshing out the Kraven legacy a bit more and creating a mother figure, a sort of lioness if you will,” Jimenez remarked. “I was also interested in adding some female flair to Spider-Man’s world. The thing I noticed going through it, was that it was a very boy world. It was all men. So I wanted to create a female villain or two and have them be women who were not in love with him. They’re just evil criminals. It was a way to reinvent a villain using a familiar character, and an actual familial tie to that preexisting character. Then we could reinvent that character as female.”
Reinventing and just generally tweaking Spider-Man villains is one of Jimenez’s biggest contributions to the character in 2009. “I was very lucky in that I got to redesign three villains, and we’re going for a fourth. And my goal with any of these characters and books is to remember what came before and not be disrespectful to those creators. That’s a huge deal to me. So what I like to do is think about these characters both in terms of their continuities and the intentions of the creators who transformed them. I keep the character in mind and always try to draw costume out of character,” Jimenez explained. “I’ve been trying to figure out a lot about who these characters were and who they are, and the thing that we’ve discovered with these characters as it leads to the development of their looks, is that most Spider-Man villains are either super geniuses or really stupid. They’re either high-end, super rich people or working class Joes that have stumbled onto their super powers. So a lot of who these characters are as people influences the way I design their costumes.”
The other factor that Jimenez examines when designing costumes is a character’s super ability. “I ask what is their power? How can their costume or look be a physical manifestation of their power? And how can it define them?” the artist asked. “One of the Spider-Man villains I redesigned does become a living manifestation of their power. The root of that reimagining was actually in a story somebody was telling me, and I was so influenced by that, I told Joe Quesada and the crew,” Jimenez explained. “They really loved it and started spitballing about it. Suddenly this new version of the character was born and it was all rooted in his power.”
Readers shouldn’t expect anything radical from the other villain redesigns that Jimenez has done. “I’m not too keen on a radical departure for a classic character. I’m never sure that’s necessary,” Jimenez stated. “I certainly don’t believe that I’m the guy to fix things. It would never occur to me that a classic character like say Doctor Octopus needed fixing. There are certainly tweaks that can be done though. In redesigning these villains the hope is that they’ll be reinvigorated for 2009-2010. That people would find them cool. It’s not about transforming them because I thought they need fixing. I just want them to be as cool and solid as I can possibly make them.”
Jimenez considers himself extremely fortunate to be working on Spider-Man and already has his next post- “American Son” Spidey project lined up. It might be a while before readers see it though. “I’ve been working on a large poster, that I had to set aside for a bit while I finish ‘American Son,’ and everything I’m scheduled to do after that arc is actually for 2010,” Jimenez said. “It’s actually the thing I was hired to do a year ago. It’s a storyline that, the more we massaged it, the bigger and bigger it got. It ultimately had to be pushed back as other villains were invented or reinvigorated, because it depended on certain characters being in a certain place.”
Steve Wacker also plans on keeping newly exclusive Marvel artist, Marcos Martin, busy with both Spider-Man and other projects. “First off, he’s doing a Captain America one-shot for me with James Robinson, set in the dawn of WWII with a young Steve Rogers. It has some of the most beautiful shots of New York City that you’ve ever seen in a comic book,” Wacker remarked. “Then he’ll be headlining a story that brings back one of our big villains.”
As readers may have guessed, 2009 is the year of the villain in “Amazing Spider-Man.” “Later in the year, we start our next overarching subplot in the same way that the plots about the election and the Spider-Tracer Killer were running in the background of our first year,” Wacker explained. “Our second year is about what’s going on underneath the return of these villains. Kraven has a lot to do with it, and we’ve got a top secret six issue mini-series coming out later in the year that will also seed some elements. ‘American Son’ ties into that plot as well.”
Readers hungry for even more Spider-Man related action in 2009 can pick up “Spider-Man Family.” In the months ahead, the series will feature stories starring familiar and re-imagined fan favorite Spidey characters. “With issue #15 Spider-Girl moves over there,” Wacker said. “She’ll be headlining the book along with some looks all around the Spider-Man universe, including ‘Peter Porker’ and, if I have my way, ‘Spider-Man 20,999.'”
2009 is set to be a huge year for “Amazing Spider-Man” from start to finish. In fact, Wacker and crew are saving one of the biggest events for the end of the year. Spider-fans know all about the Sinister Six, a team of Spidey villains, but as 2009 comes to a close, readers should prepare themselves for…THE SINISTER 666! “I’d prefer to let the name speak for itself, but an aspect of this is what I’ve been excited to do on this book since day one,” Wacker explained. “I’m treating the Sinister 666 as if I’m going to be fired from the book right after. So I’m going out in a blaze of glory [Laughs].”