The Amazing Spider-Man has had a tumultuous life ever since he learned the lesson of “with great power must come great responsibility” and became one of Marvel Comics’ flagship here. Things have gotten especially hairy for the web-slinger lately, as writer Dan Slott lays out the final set of stories leading up to the big milestone issue #700.
We spoke with Slott about those stories and his future plans for the book. We discussed the recent “No Turning Back” arc; the special 50th Anniversary arc, which began in this week’s #692; the upcoming Hobgoblin arc, “Danger Zone” and November’s “Amazing Spider-Man” #698, which kicks off a three part story that concludes in the landmark issue #700.
CBR News: “No Turning Back” was a transformative arc for the Lizard, and in issue #691, the final chapter of the arc, the Lizard underwent a pretty major change, with his physical form firmly reptilian but his mind apparently fully that of Curt Connors.
Dan Slott: The problem of writing comics with any kind of surprises in them nowadays is that readers see the covers and solicits for everything that’s coming up in the next three months. I’ve taken on the attitude of let’s make it so everything that’s in the solicits is technically accurate, but points you in the wrong direction. [Laughs] So when you read a solicit that says, “Who is the new Lizard? He’s on the loose and only one man can help Spidey stop him: Curt Connors!” it’s full of fun red herrings. Because it was Curt Connors, who helped Spidey in the end, in that his subconscious was messing with the Lizard’s head. That part that helped was the part of Curt Connors deep down inside that still wants to do good.
At the end of #691, Curt Connors is back. Zeb Wells’ “Shed” arc of “Amazing” really made it appear that every ounce of Curt Connors was wiped clean, that all that was left was the Lizard. So the twist of “No Turning Back” was, “Okay, let’s take that Lizard persona and what would it be like if he started feeling, seeing and experiencing the world in a human body? What would happen to him?”
We’ve seen the converse. We’ve seen Curt Connors in the Lizard body from time to time. There would be moments where he got control, but we never saw the flip side. To me, that was the fun of “No Turning Back.” In the middle of this big Spider-Man movie, we had our Curt Connors physically look like himself, but deep inside he was the Lizard.
Spoilers for those of you who haven’t read issue #691, but at the end of “No Turning Back” we’re left with the complete opposite of that, where no one knows that Curt Connors is back, but he’s trapped in this Lizard body. In his mind, that’s his penance for all the terrible things his choices did to those he loved and cared about. He no longer has Martha or Billy. He lost everything he had and overlooked because he was obsessing over this new formula to grow back what he thought was missing. Now he’s got that, but he’s lost everything else — and more. It’s so tragic.
It also leave the character in an interesting place. I definitely want to see where the Lizard goes next.
Yes, and you will see some more of the Lizard before our story in issue #700 plays out.
Nice. “No Turning Back” also dealt with the life of another tragic victim of his own scientific experiments, Morbius the Living Vampire, a character you recently reintroduced into Spider-Man’s world. Issue #691 ends with Morbius locked up after going on a rampage. What can you tell us about Morbius’ immediate future?
You’re going to have to wait and see, but Morbius is definitely back on the map.
Another character that’s back in play as of issue #691 is Roderick Kingsley, the original Hobgoblin. The end of the issue revealed that he’s been operating in the nation of Delvadia under the costumed identity of Devil Spider. How long have you been waiting to reveal the fact that Kingsley was still alive and hadn’t been killed by the new Hobgoblin, Phil Urich, near the top of the current “Big Time” run?”
Oh my God, has this been a long time in the making! You’ll notice when we first introduce Roderick Kingsley in “Big Time,” he was fighting drug kingpins in Delvadia and moving in on their territory. He’s down there with a plan. What we saw at the end of “No Turning Back” is that he’s done this exact same schtick before — trading of the Green Goblin’s legacy to become the Hobgoblin. Now he’s done something similar with the most fearsome and renowned character in Delvadia, the Tarantula. This plays right into his M.O.
When we chopped off the “original” Hobgoblin’s head in “Amazing” #649, the reaction we got from hardcore Hobgoblin fans was crazy. People wanted to boycott the book. They felt we were teasing them by bringing back Roderick Kingsley and then immediately chopping off his head the very next issue. There were YouTube videos, nasty message board comments and mean things said on Twitter. I had supposedly killed their favorite character.
But c’mon! I chopped off the head of a guy wearing a mask. Not only that, but a guy who had a machine called the Winkler Device that was specifically built to hypnotize people into thinking that they were the Hobgoblin. And on top of that, he’s a guy with an identical twin brother who he’d often send in his place to pretend to be the Hobgoblin! C’mon! [Laughs]
There was a point where so much of this fan-anger was coming out on the web that I almost just lost it online and revealed everything. On April 27, 2011 I tweeted, “There are days where I’m convinced that some of you have never read a comic.”
I had a moment of weakness where I saw people were talking with Hobgoblin creator Roger Stern on message boards. They were like, “Uncle Rog! Look what Dan Slott did to the Hobgoblin!” Stern was being very easy going about it, telling them that in comics, things like this happen all the time. I so wanted to send him send a private message and go, “It’s not really Roderick Kingsley, honest!”
I decided to play it cool though, lay low and figure that people would eventually see what was what — and now it’s great. People are happy. Everyone came out of the woodwork to go, “Yay!” And my thought was, “Yep, now buy the ‘Spider-Man Big Time Ultimate Collection’ trade and get caught up on everything you missed.” [Laughs]
I saw one person online who was horribly offended that we killed Daniel Kingsley. They thought the character had so much potential. Please. His potential and purpose was specifically to be a dupe and a red herring. Plus, Roderick never really cared about his brother. Daniel was someone he constantly pushed around and bullied and occasionally stuck in a costume. So guess what? He did it one more time.
The thing that made everyone think it couldn’t be Daniel Kingsley is that he ripped off a door with super strength. Roderick Kingsley has access to all this technology. So he could have easily given his brother something like part of the Goblin Serum, Mutant Growth Hormone, or a costume with an exoskeleton. It doesn’t take any great leap to get to “ripped off a door” in the Marvel Universe.
We’ll talk more about Roderick in a few minutes when we get to the upcoming “Danger Zone.” Before that arc, though, you have the three-part 50th Anniversary story that begins with this week’s “Amazing” #692, introducing a new teen hero named Alpha. We know that Alpha is going to be sort of a sidekick to Spidey, which is interesting since when Spidey was created, he bucked tradition by being a solo teen hero instead of a sidekick or part of a larger team. What made you want to add a teen sidekick to the Spider-Man mythos?
There have been odd times where there have been characters who wanted to be his sidekick. There’s always been a twist, though. There was Bluebird from Kurt Busiek’s “Untold Tales of Spider-Man,” who Spidey quickly shut down. There was a a Superman-like character when Reggie Hudlin was doing some Spider-Man stories, but the twist was that character was really a Skrull. There was also a character who was really Moon Knight’s sidekick, but who was cheating to suddenly make it feel like he was Spidey’s sidekick.
This is straight down the middle — and on some levels that’s never been done before in 50 years of Spider-Man continuity. It’s kind of funny, because if you just keep doing things that are familiar and play the same notes, but in different variations, fans ask, “Why aren’t you doing anything new?” Yet if you do something that hasn’t been done before, they go, “You’re getting it all wrong!” There’s this bizarre situation where you can’t win for trying. [Laughs] My favorite online comment about the situation with Alpha was, “I’m not sure about this, but I’ll trust you.” That’s the best I can ask for. So thank you for that.
This story stems out of the fact that Peter Parker really is responsible for giving this kid powers. It puts a new twist on things. It’s his power, but it’s Peter’s responsibility.
So this will give you the chance to compare and contrast Peter’s origin with the origin of a modern day teen hero?
That’s the reason it’s in the 50th Anniversary issue. I’ve wanted to do this story ever since we made Peter a full-time scientist. There’s a nice resonance to it, which is, when “Amazing Fantasy” #15 hit, Peter Parker went to a science experiment, got bitten and gained super powers. Now, it’s Pete who’s hosting the science exhibit for a class at Midtown High, and a new kid who gets zapped by Peter’s experiment. It’s full circle.
Andrew is a different character than Peter Parker. He’s not Peter’s Mini-Me, and they have different powers as well.
And their circumstances will be different in that Andrew’s Alpha identity will be a public one.
That’s correct. Peter was bitten by the radioactive spider in the shadows, and no one noticed. Everyone will notice when this kid gets zapped. He’s the kid who gets to go to school and everyone knows he has super powers.
I imagine that will have an impact on Peter and Andrew’s relationship. Another thing that will inform it is Peter’s last several adventures, during which he’s saved people, but they’ve all ended in a way that included some emotional sting that made reflecting on them hurt. That being the case, what’s Pete’s mindset going into the Alpha arc?
Peter does not want a sidekick. He’s worked with the Avengers and the Fantastic Four, but since “Ends of the Earth,” he really just wants to be responsible for himself. There’s a moment in “No Turning Back” where Uatu Jackson — who has built all this vampire hunting equipment and he really wants to go with Spidey and help him track down Morbius — Spider-Man tells him, “No. I work alone!” That’s directly tied towards his feelings of guilt and, “Oh my God, I went on all these missions with Black Widow and Silver Sable and Sable is gone.” Even though Madame Web has told him that she’s still alive, Spidey thinks she might be lying.
We know Alpha’s origin will be part of this story and that thematically it’s about power and responsibility, but it’s a three-part story. What else can you tell us about the arc?
You’re going to see the return of a major Spider-Man villain that fans have been asking for. You’re also going to see a major threats from another corner of the Marvel Universe.
What’s fun in the 50th Anniversary issue is that there are thematic or overt nods to other long-standing Marvel characters that have been around for 50 years. You’ll see a tip of the hat to “Fantastic Four” #1 and a nod and wink to “Hulk” #1, as well.
What about supporting players? Will we meet some new characters that are part of Andrew’s life?
You’ll meet Andrew’s family, the kids he knows at school and several other characters. He does have his own world and his own cast.
After you plunge Spidey into Alpha’s world, you’ll drop him into the world of dueling super villains in the “Danger Zone” arc featuring the original and current Hobgoblins, Phil Urich and Roderick Kingsley. In terms of malevolence and maliciousness, how do these characters compare?
They’re very different on some levels. Phil is very much a lucky amateur and Roderick Kingsley is the old, seasoned pro. Phil does things on whims and Roderick plans things out meticulously. One thing they very much have in common is raw ambition.
What about in terms of mental stability? Is one Hobgoblin more unstable than the other?
Something snapped in Phil during “The Loners” miniseries, while Roderick Kingsley has very much been playing a long game. I don’t think you can do that if you’re loopy.
We know the conflict between Kingsley and Urich will be at the heart of “Danger Zone,” but what else can you tell us about the story?
I don’t want to give too much away, but you are going to see a war of the Goblins. There are some other gobliny elements that will pop up. [Laughs]
Plus, there are some things that we’ve been seeding ever since the end of “Spider-Island.” Like Tiberius Stone, an unscrupulous member of Horizon Labs who will be seeing more of later, has stolen the plans for the Spider Jammers. The Jammers are the devices Horizon eventually used to spark Spider-Man’s spider-sense back after he lost it. These things were used like a giant, electric dog collar to keep all the people with spider powers in Manhattan during “Spider-Island.” So now you have all this tech in the hands of Phil’s employer, the Kingpin, and that’s going to be very important.
How large a role will the Kingpin play in this story?
There is something that Kingpin wants, and he does not want Spider-Man to interfere with that. This is the perfect “bug be gone” defense system to keep Spider-Man out of your way.
“Danger Zone” is the final arc before “Amazing Spider-Man” #700 —
Yes! and Spidey #700 just might be the last story in the entire “Big Time” run!
One of the elements connecting “Danger Zone” and these last few arcs before “Amazing” #700 is Madame Web’s cryptic prophecy of impending doom. Will the implications, scope and scale of this prophecy be clear by the time November’s “Amazing” #698 kicks off the arc?
Yesssssss — maybe.
When we began this interview, you mentioned you like to have a little fun with solicits, and the solicits for #698 mention Doctor Octopus — how prominent a role will Doc Ock play in the story?
A heck of a big one. In “Amazing Spider-Man” #600, we established that Doc Ock had months to live. Thanks to the compression of “Marvel Time,” it’s down to weeks in “Ends of the Earth.” Then, in issue #700, he’s down to hours.
This is it. This is the end game. “Ends of the Earth” was his one last big master plan. In issue #700, he’s got nothing left to lose. And big SPOILERS if you have not read the solicits for #698, Doc Ock with nothing left to lose and hours left to live knows Peter Parker’s secret.
Hence the title of the story, “Dying Wish.”
Yes, what will he do with that “Dying Wish?” [Laughs] Everything he’s ever tried to accomplish in his life has ended in misery and failure and it’s all been because of one man. Now, he’s got hours left to live and he knows exactly the name to put with that face.
Have you started writing issue #700 yet? And having written “Amazing Spider-Man” #600 as well, how does it feel to pen consecutive Spidey centennial issues?
I have started writing issue #700, and there are days when I try not to think about your second question. [Laughs] It’s a little too big to think about. I’ll think about it when I’m out the other side, because the last thing I want to do on this is freeze up.
I’m really happy with our 1-2-3 punch of #698, #699 and #700. I think people are not going to forget this one. This story will raise some really strong emotions in Spider-Man fans. It will probably be one of the biggest things I ever do to a Marvel Comics character in my career.
I don’t know if people will start making little dart boards of me or not for this one. I’ve said it before, but I’m going into hiding after issue #700 comes out. I’m not looking at message boards. I’m not poking my head up out of that hole, because what happens in issue #700 is big!
Issue #600 was big in terms of page count. Will the lead story in issue #700 be oversized as well?
The lead story will be 50 pages, then there will be extra material by guest stars.
We’ve talked extensively about story, so let’s start to wrap things up by talking about your collaborators on these next few months worth of stories. Who are some of the people that will bring your stories to life?
The Alpha arc is drawn by Humberto Ramos. Humberto brings an unlimited amount of passion and energy to the stories he works on. These pages pop. There’s some crazy stuff that goes on in them, and he attacks every page with gusto.
My “Avengers: The Initiative” buddy Christos Gage is scripting the Hobgoblin arc and I’m plotting it. It’s so much fun to work with him. The last time we worked together on Spidey, he helped out with the return of Anti-Venom arc and the Hobgoblin “Spider-Island” one-shot. We love working together. There’s give and take. I’ll be writing the plot and he’ll ask, “What if we did this beat here? Or that beat there? Or expanded on this?” I’ll then say, “Yeah that’s cool. Let’s do that.” Then he’ll turn in a script and I’ll ask if I could juggle lines here or add a twist there. There’s give and take on both sides. It’s a fun process.
That arc’s being drawn by Giuseppe Camuncoli, and there are some big things a’ coming in that story. There’s something that wasn’t in one of the solicits and I wish it was. The second issue of “Danger Zone” will give you an advance sneak peek of multiple titles in the Marvel NOW! line. So if you want to see those teases first, you should check out “Danger Zone!”
Why is Christos assisting you with the “Danger Zone” arc?
I needed the extra room and space to get a run up on issues #698-700. When we were in the middle of “Spider-Island,” I’d never done anything that ambitious. It was the first time I took the big chair in an event. There’s a lot of responsibilities in that beyond just working the issues you’re writing. You’re reading everyone else’s scripts and giving notes to the office and pointing out where things might be veering off course somewhere else. The editor is doing all the massive coordination, but you’re constantly there as a resource to help them catch things that might fall through the cracks. It’s really a big thing.
“Spider-Island” was a mini-event compared to things like “Secret Invasion” or “Fear Itself.” I have nothing but respect for the Brian Bendises, Matt Fractions, Mark Millars and Greg Paks of the world who shoulder the big events. In the middle of doing that, I was getting so burnt out that they scheduled a week’s vacation for me and I was very grateful. Then, once that was over, I was right back into the thick of it.
The second we were done with “Spider-Island,” we jumped right into “Ends of the Earth.” There really hasn’t been a break. I look at what happens in issue #700, and everything leading up to it really is like, “All right. Let’s do this!” You really are coming to the final stretch and this is all about nailing that ending. I can’t think of anything that’s been as important as this with my time on “Amazing Spider-Man.”
It’s time to pay back everyone who has been following “Big Time” and jumped on board and been supportive of it. We’re going to end this strong. We’re going to leave you in a place where you’ll be going, “WHAT?” Then it’s time to welcome in the next phase. I sure hope the next guy writing Spider-Man appreciates that — especially if that next guy is me. [Laughs]
Nice. I see what you did there. [Laughs] What else can you tell about the story that spans issues #698-700? Who’s drawing it?
I can mention that Rich Elson, the artist of “Journey Into Mystery,” is the penciler for #698, and all the pages in it are gorgeous. His storytelling is so good!
This is the last big storyline of the entire “Big Time” run. We are taking no prisoners. It starts with issue #698. You’ve seen hints, glimmers and set-up and all kinds of clues leading up to it since the end of “Ends of the Earth” — no, wait, “Spider-Island” — no, wait, “Amazing Spider-Man” #600, and when we get to #698, everything is going to explode.
Issue #700 is the issue where I have to go into hiding. I won’t say issue #698 breaks the internet in half, but it is an issue that’s going to reach out and punch you in the face. You’ll read it and be like, “What the wha–?” You’ll be left with a million questions. Then #699 is going to come along and answer ’em. It will tee up that ball for issue #700. When you see what’s coming in issue #698 and then see what happens in issue #699, you’ll be like, “Where is issue #700! I must read #700!” Then #700 will [Slott does his best Ivan Drago from “Rocky IV” impression] break you.