A freak encounter with a radioactive spider transformed Peter Parker from awkward teenager into Marvel Comics’ flagship hero, the Amazing Spider-Man. Peter’s spider powers have made his life complicated, dangerous and exciting. Every day he must balance his responsibilities as Peter Parker and Spider-Man, which often makes for a chaotic life.
Imagine what would happen if thousands of New Yorkers suddenly developed powers similar to Spider-Man… and what if a good number of them didn’t follow Peter Parker’s personal code of, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” It would turn the city and Spider-Man’s life upside down, and that’s exactly what happens this summer when writer Dan Slott and artist Humberto Ramos kick off “Spider-Island,” a six-part Spidey arc that begins following a prelude in July’s “Amazing Spider-Man” #666. CBR News spoke with Slott about the storyline and some of the recent and current developments in “Amazing Spider-Man” that set the stage for it.
CBR News: Dan, let’s kick things off by talking about some of the developments in your most recent issue, #656. Two issues before that, Peter lost his spider-sense while trying to stop Alistair Smythe from killing J. Jonah Jameson’s family, and in #656 you really showed how important that power was to Pete’s activities as Spider-Man. Now that he doesn’t have his spider-sense anymore, is it fair to say Spidey can’t be as reckless?
Dan Slott: Yes, you’re going to see the world’s a more dangerous place for Spider-Man. He’s had that extra sense for over a decade of his life. In the past he’s lost it for short periods, like when the Goblins thrown a pumpkin bomb at him with special chemicals to knock it out. We’ve seen him work without it for brief blips of time, but now it’s gone. It would be as if you or I went deaf or were suddenly blinded. He’s lost a sense. It affects him on levels that we didn’t even think before, because he just so instinctively used it in certain ways.
Why did you want to take away Pete’s spider-sense?
Part of the fun of Spider-Man is the struggle. He’s the guy-you-know who’s a super hero. He’s got problems most other heroes don’t have. And in terms of karma, things have been on an upswing recently for Peter Parker. He’s got the job of his dreams. He’s being respected by the super hero community. He’s got a steady gal. A really nice apartment where it’s just his name on the lease. Even Aunt May’s proud of him! So it can’t all be roses. He’s Spider-Man — the other shoe has to drop. Now it’s like, Oh no! He doesn’t have spider sense anymore!
On top of that, because of his failure as Spider-Man (in issue #654 he didn’t save Marla Jameson, Jonah’s wife), this really is the straw that broke the camel’s back. That’s why we had issue #655, where Pete was confronted in his subconscious by every person who’s passed away in his life. So many of those situations happened because he wasn’t the best Spider-Man he could be. He has all these abilities and he wasn’t able to save people like Gwen and Captain Stacy. Characters like Jean DeWolfe and Foswell are shot and killed; sometimes in front of him. So many different Spider characters have perished over the years, and we’ve seen those scenes of Peter grieving and going “woe is me” over their deaths.
What we have now, with Marla, is that it’s finally just one too many. Too many people have fallen on his watch. He’s saying, “No more! This stops here! I’m going to do whatever it takes! And unlike the Peter Parker of the past, I’ve got my act together. I’ve got all these great resources at Horizon Labs. I can build all these amazing new things. I have this job that is completely flexible. I can be Spider-Man whenever I need to.”
In ye olden days, he would be Spider-Man if he came across something on a Daily Bugle assignment, or if elements of his private life lead him to stumble onto something. So when you look at it, there really aren’t that many times as a status quo where Spider-Man actively patrolled the city on a regular basis. He gets some of that when he appears in other books, like “Marvel Team-Up,” but when you look at “Amazing Spider-Man” or some of the previous Spidey titles, it’s been his life is going along and then something happens.
Now it’s, “No! I’ve got the time. I’ve made this vow. I’m really going to focus on being Spider-Man. You want me on this team? I’ll do it. You want me on that team, over there? I’m on that team too! I’m going to be the best super hero that I can be. I’m really going to live up to the responsibility of all of this power.”
In #656 it seemed like what happened to Marla also had a profound effect on Mayor J. Jonah Jameson’s attitude about death and killing. How would you describe Jonah’s new stance on murder in New York City?
Jonah has always been a powerful figure. He used to wield the power of the fourth estate. Over the years he was kind of mellowed and played as a serious journalist. But if you look at him though in the issues that really establish and define his character the most, he was abusing his power like crazy. “The Daily Bugle” became his personal cudgel to smack around anything he didn’t like. The man was a horrible egoist too. He was always propping up his own achievements or his son’s achievements. So this was a guy who totally abused his power when it came to the press. Guys like Robbie Robertson and Ben Urich like him because, with the exception of Spider-Man, he’s usually on the right side. He’s usually using his power for good.
Now he’s mayor. We’ve put him in a different spot where he has a different kind of power. He can now really affect the people of New York in a way that’s much greater than just swaying their opinion. Yes, he’s a good person and — just like Spider-Man — he doesn’t want to see people die. He doesn’t want them to experience the kind of loss he’s feeling now. But unlike Spider-Man, he’s going to use that power in, possibly, an irresponsible way. Hopefully that’s what’s interesting about their relationship in #656. They’re both coming from the same place. It’s just filtered through their own personal lens. It really is like they’re fun house reflections of each other.
In “Amazing Spider-Man” #657, in stores now, you have Peter deal with the death of another person he was close to, Johnny Storm. What can you tell us about this issue?
Issue #657 is another one of my faves. If you liked the “Spider-Man/Human Torch” mini I wrote a while back, this is pretty much going to pluck the same emotional strings. It’s about how when you see the memorial issue for Johnny in the “FF,” there’s that wonderful Jon Hickman back-up with Spidey and Franklin, but when you actually look at the service in the main story, Spider-Man’s not there. Just as Franklin has a hard time dealing with it, Spider-Man does too. Because more than any other hero in the superhero community, the Human Torch was like his brother. #657 is about Spidey finally going to see the other three members of the FF. It’s like when one of your loved ones dies and you hang out with your family. Once the service is over and you’re all sitting around in the kitchen, inevitably you start telling stories and remembering the good times. Sometimes, there’s even some laughs, because you do remember in a bittersweet way all the ways that person touched your life. That’s #657.
Things have been pretty down in Amazing Spider-Man and its been pretty down in the “FF” too. “Amazing” #657 is a moment of lightness. It’s a moment of, “Okay. Let’s look at this. Let’s remember him.” I’m not going to say it’s wont get schmaltzy, because it’s me [Laughs]. Consider this your schmaltz warning.
In “FF” #1, we saw that Johnny left behind a recording to be played in the event of his death, and in that recording Johnny asks that his spot on the team be filled by Spider-Man. Does “Amazing” #657 serve as sort of a companion piece to that issue?
“Spidey” #657 takes place, chronologically, before “FF”#1. Will you see Johnny’s holographic message in #657? I’m not saying. You’ll have to read the book.
It seems like Spider-Man joining the FF has opened up some fun collaborative opportunities with “FF” writer Jonathan Hickman. Are there plans in store for this?
We’d already been talking about doing a story with Spidey and the FF, and when he let me in on his plans for Johnny I was the one who said,”Hey, you want Spider-Man to join the FF and take Johnny’s spot? That would be kinda cool.” Jonathan immediately went, “Yeah, that would be good.” I love everything Jonathan’s been doing with the FF. You don’t have to read that much of my stuff to know that I’m a huge FF fan. Whether it’s my run on The Thing or all the cameos they’ve made in stuff I’ve written. I love writing the FF and Jonathan feels the same way about Spidey, so it’s a real best-of-both-worlds scenario where we each get to play in the others’ sandbox.
“Amazing” #657 sets up your next story arc, which is an adventure starring Spidey and his new teammates on the FF. What can you tell us about it?
Yeah, you get three issues coming up of Spidey and the FF right after the memorial issue in #657. So in #658 you get something that’s pretty close to a done-in-one by me and Javier Pulido, which has some of the funnest, funkiest, and freakiest things you will ever see in a Spider-Man comic [Laughs]. The visuals are so big and so beautiful. Javier did an amazing job.
Every writer thinks, “Man if I ever got a chance to write (fill in the blank with your favorite character)…” For me it’s the FF. I would say there are six or eight bits of business I’ve always wanted to do with the FF. I did a couple in my “Spider-Man and the Human Torch” mini because I was afraid I’d never get to write the FF or Spidey again [Laughs]. Like the bit where Johnny is strapped to a chair and the bad guys are about to whack him, and one of them asks him if he as any last words. He says, “Yeah. Quick! Sue, go tell the others!” Which causes the bad guys to go, “WHAT?” even though she’s not in the room.
There’s another bit I really wanted to do, but Jonathan is SO wonderful on “FF,” he plans everything out so meticulously and so far into the future, that there’s not a doubt in my mind hes got a master plan all the way to “FF” #700. [Laughs]. He’s on that book for the long haul. So part of me goes, “Ah, man. I’m never getting my hands on the FF!” But it’s okay because Hickman’s FF is brilliant. There’s a bit in #658 that I’ve had in my pocket for a long time. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. So I can promise you there’s a really nice gem in #658; a moment that’s been in my pocket for YEARS.
Then the next two issues are a rip-roaring Spidey adventure that comes on the heels of “Spidey” #658. That story is co-written by me and Fred Van Lente and we get Stefano Caselli back for art, so the art on that will be gorgeous.
Pete is now a member of the FF and two Avengers teams. On top of that he has a career as a solo hero, his job at Horizon Labs, a girlfriend in Carlie Cooper and a number of friends and family members. With all of that it seems like his time will be stretched pretty thin. Will we start to see that in future issues of “Amazing?”
Yes, you’ll start to see the fraying threads of that appear in the “Wraith” arc of “Amazing Spider-Man” by me and Giuseppe Camuncoli, which just showed up in the solicits.
You’re kicking off “Infested” right around the time Spidey joins the FF. The teaser for this story line shows a number of people with spider powers wreaking havoc in New York. Is “Infested” a story arc of back up tales? Or does it unfold as part of the main arc in issues #659-665?
Starting right before Christos Gage’s arc, which runs through #661-662, you’ll see mini-sodes; brief shorts that take you on the path to “Spider-Island.”
That begins in July with “Amazing Spider-Man #666,” correct?
Big things are happening in that issue that set the stage. #666 is the lead-in to “Spider-Island.” All the threads come together. Then #667 is chapter one.
When “Spider-Island” begins, the number of people manifesting spider powers in New York has reached epidemic proportions, correct? And the titular island in question is Manhattan?
Yes, and for all of one day, I seriously debated calling it “Spider-Manhattan.” That would have been a little too silly, though. So New York has an epidemic of spider-powered-people. You’ll see glimpses of this in the Free Comic Book Day issue, which hits in two months, by Humberto Ramos and me. There’ll be ties to “Spider-Island” in that done-in-one adventure.
“Spider-Island” is big. It’s a six-part story in “Amazing Spider-Man,” starting in August, with the prelude in July. Everything that happens in “Spider-Island” is so big that it takes one issue to deal with the fallout from it — and what’s going to happen to Peter Parker and his life now? This will be the longest, most epic story arc I’ve done in my 20-year career.
In terms of scope, is “Spider-Island” a big, summer blockbuster style story?
Fans are always asking, “When are you going to do a big Spider-Centric story in the Marvel U?” And the answer is: Here! Right here!
It sounds like this is a story that makes the most of Spider-Man’s connection to New York City’s super hero community and features numerous guest stars.
It’s a very good thing for Spidey that he’s now linked to the Avengers and the Future Foundation. When suddenly Manhattan is overrun by spider-powered people, it’s pretty handy to be part of the two biggest and most powerful super hero teams on the planet.
Will other solo New York-based heroes be part of “Spider-Island?” You mentioned Shang-Chi, who was part of the teaser that ran in “Amazing” #654.1.
Yep. Shang-Chi will be one of several characters showing up. He and Spidey had an adventure together back during the “Shadowland” saga and you will see Shang again in the Free Comic Book Day issue.
What can you tell us about the antagonists of “Spider-Island”? From the images that have been released it looks like the Jackal plays a role in this story.
The image is out there now, so why not say it? The Jackal is back! There will be other antagonists too, but there’s no denying that Miles Warren, the Jackal is back! This is the first really big Jackal adventure since the ye olden days of “The Clone Saga.”
What about the non-costumed elements of Peter’s life, like his friends, family and co-workers at Horizon Labs? Will they play a role in “Spider-Island?”
I don’t want to tip my hand, but there will be some important developments in both of Peter Benjamin Parker’s lives. We’ll have one really big one right off the top in the first issue of “Spider-Island.” By the time we get there, people will know it’s coming. It won’t be one of the surprises of “Spider-Island,” but it is something that’s building and the hammer comes down in the first issue. I look at it and I go, “That’s a very important moment and milestone in Peter Parker’s life.”
In terms of said milestone, will Humberto Ramos be handling the art for it?
Humberto Ramos is taking the reins for the six issues [of “Spider-Island.”] I look at this story and go, “Wow! This is awesome work by Humberto. This is his time to shine.” I think he knocked our first big arc out of the park. The Venom issue he drew for Spidey Point One looked awesome, and I’m SO happy with the Free Comic Book Day issue we’re doing. The capitalist in me is angry we’re giving it away for free [Laughs], but the philanthropist in me is like, “Look at this wonderful gift. We’re sharing all this great Humberto Ramos art for free.” Every page that comes in for “Spider-Island” makes you feel like he’s really swinging for the fences.
It sounds like you’ve got some huge plans for this series. How far ahead do you have things mapped out?
There are schemes within schemes and plans within plans. At the same time, though, I want to stay flexible and go with the flow. It’s like you have a talk with Jonathan Hickman and you go, “Hey how would you like Spidey to be in the FF?” and he goes, “Yeah sure that would be awesome.” And now you’re doing it. When I mapped out everything I wanted to do with Spidey that beat wasn’t in there, but it was in there by the time we did the “Big Time” San Diego announcement. So you have your plans, but you want to be able to change things up if you have to.
Speaking of future plans, it was recently announced that Mark Waid will take over “Daredevil” and Greg Rucka will write a new “Punisher” series. Both of these books will be edited by your “ASM” editor, Steve Wacker. It seems that a street-level corner of the Marvel Universe is developing. Would you be interested in having “Amazing Spider-Man” interact with either of these books?
I was talking with Mark Waid recently and we were shooting the breeze. He was filling me in on “Daredevil” stuff and I thought, “Hey! That’s going to be an amazing book!” When another creator’s work gets excited like that you want to play with their toys in your title too. I am so psyched for where Mark wants to take the series and what he has planned for it. I’d love to have some interaction between the two books.
Any final thoughts you would like to share about “Amazing Spider-Man” or “Spider-Island?”
“Spider-Island” is going to be a hell of a ride, an amazing showcase for Humberto Ramos’ art, and it will feature some big developments in the life of Spider-Man. I think the one thing people have been realizing as we move forward is that THINGS HAPPEN in this book, and with it coming out twice a month, they happen at a FURIOUS PACE. So sit down and hold on! This ride’s moving full speed ahead and we’re not letting up!