The statement “with great power comes great responsibility” is one of the most resonant concepts in the Marvel Universe, and not just as the guiding tenant of Spider-Man. Rather, it has become the mantra of an entire host of Spider-Men and Spider-Women from across the Marvel Multiverse, and in the recently concluded “Spider-Verse,” which featured “every Spider-Man ever,” they united to form an army to protect themselves and all of creation from a family of dimension-hopping Spider-totem hunters.
In “Amazing Spider-Man” #15, writer and chief “Spider-Verse” architect Dan Slott and artist Giuseppe Camuncoli brought the multiverse-spanning epic to a close with an epilogue that impacted the characters and destinies of a number of these Spider-powered characters, including the original Peter Parker. Now, with the Spider Event now wrapped, Slott joins CBR News for an in-depth discussion about the storyline, exploring it from his original idea for the tale, to the unintentional alchemy that led to the breakout characters like Spider-Gwen. Then, we dig just a little deeper to look at the impact the event will have on the Spider-Men and Spider-Women who survived it.
CBR News: Over the years, you’ve increased the scope of your Spider events exponentially, starting with “Spider-Island,” which covered Manhattan, before heading to the “Ends of the Earth.” And in “Spider-Verse,” you told a story that took place all across the multiverse. Was “Spider-Verse” always intended to be as gigantic in scope as it turned out?
Dan Slott: Yes! But originally it was going to be a “Superior Spider-Man” story. It would’ve ran where the Spidey 2099 and Superior Venom arcs ran — those were stories we came up with to fill the gap because “Spider-Verse” suddenly shifted, right when it was ready to go. If another week or two went by, we probably would have put to bed the issue that had the short that ran as the next year’s Free Comic Book Day issue, where we killed Spider-Man 1602. That would’ve been in the actual “Superior Spider-Man” comics and it would’ve teed up “Spider-Verse”. Where it pretty much was going to be Doc Ock leading an army of Peter Parkers. Otto would’ve been like, “I’m the Peter Parker from the dimension where I killed Morlun, twice. Everybody shut up and take orders from me!” And the readers would be like, “No, you lying scum! That was Peter!”
That was the plan, and we talked about it at a number of retreats. Everyone was cool with it up until we were right about ready to run. [Laughs] So the train was on the tracks, we were going over it one last time, and everyone went, “Wait a minute! This is going to be a Doc Ock story?” And I was like, “Yeah!” [Laughs] Then Axel [Alonso] was like, “No, no, no. This isn’t a Doc Ock story. It’s a story for the real Spider-Man. You only get to do something like this once. Let’s do it right and save it for when Peter comes back.”
â€¨Then it was like, “Okay…” and it became a wildly different story that had to be retooled and have its bolts tightened. That’s why that Spider-Man 2099 arc was in “Superior,” so there was a way to get the Superior Spider-Man back into that story by shoving him forward into the future for an unknown amount of time. Which would be the amount of time he’d be in “Spider-Verse.”
What was it like, getting “every Spider-Man ever” lined up for this event? How involved were you in getting the OKs to used the different incarnations of Spider-Man?
This is something from way back in the Steve Wacker era of Spider-Man. The more we knew it was coming, the more we’d ask ourselves, “Do we have the approval to use this Spider-Man? And that one?” We had a list of like seven or eight guys we couldn’t use, so I’d be like, “I just want to clarify. We can use everyone else?” And the answer was, “Yes!” So that was very exciting.
â€¨Certain ones were really fun, like being able to play around in the 1967 cartoon Spider-Man world. And getting a chance to use the Toei Spider-man from Japan was really exciting for me.
It was kind of a bummer because my plate was full working on “Silver Surfer” and “Amazing Spider-Man” at the same time, I didn’t really able to have the bandwidth to do any of the crossovers and side projects outside of the “Spider-Verse” anthology shorts. It was such a fun playground, I would’ve loved to do more. I was so envious of Christos Gage. I lobbed one of my favorites over the plate for him in “Spider-Verse Team-Up.” Miles Morales and Ultimate cartoon Spider-Man going to the 1967 Spider-Man cartoon world. It was like, “Oh man, I want to write that!” Chris did an amazing job on that one though, so it’s hard to grumble — too much.
I did get to kill “Golden Spongecake” Spider-Man, though, along with “arcade fighting game” Spider-Man. I also got to spare the newspaper strip universe. It was all fun. Any time I got to jump in and do one of the shorts, I had a blast.
How involved were you in the creation of the new Spider characters that played prominent roles in the story like Spider-Punk and Spider UK?
It’s really weird, because for the most part, the thing that became “Amazing Spider-Man” #9 had a lot of stuff in it that was done and in a drawer for a year — back when it was an issue of “Superior Spider-Man.” I always knew Spider UK was coming. There was always going to be a Gwen Stacy who was bitten by a spider and became the Spider-Woman of her world. There were certain characters that were just always there.
If you grew up outside of New York and were a Spider-Man fan, it doesn’t matter where you’re from. You’d tend to wonder, “Hey, why doesn’t Spider-Man live in my town?” If you’re from St. Louis, you’re like, “Spider-Man should come to St. Louis.” If you’re from Oakland, you’re like, “Spider-Man should come to Oakland!” Every kid is like that when they’re reading Spider-Man, and when I was a kid, I was growing up in England. So part of me always wanted to see a British Spider-Man. A lot of that was wish fulfillment.
â€¨Also, there were all kinds of strange bits of magical alchemy that happened as different people contributed to “Spider-Verse.” Two prime examples of that were Spider-Gwen and Spider-Punk.
In the case of Spider-Gwen, Robbi Rodriguez designed, like, the greatest costume ever. Before her first story ever came out in that amazing tale that Jason Latour wrote for “Edge of Spider-Verse” #2, people were already cosplaying as Spider-Gwen. I was bragging to friends, though, for years, saying that once “Spider-Verse” comes out. I guarantee that there will be two characters that everyone cosplays as — the Gwen Stacy Spider-Woman, and when I go to British conventions, Spider UK. I guarantee it.
I described the Gwen Stacy costume in the old “Superior Spider-Man” plot. The costume was very specific — and it was just good luck that no one sent that to the “Edge of Spider-Verse” team, so they came up with their own thing.
In my head, I lived with this character for a year, and the visual I had for her was pretty much “The Night Gwen Stacy Died” outfit, but all red and blue with web patterns and a half mask. So you look at it and go, “Hey! It’s Gwen as Spider-Girl.” She had the trench coat, but instead of it being lime green, it’d be red with webs.
I so wanted that — and since that was the character that was in my head, and even though these great designs came in, I was like, “That’s not Spider-Gwen!” I was the one guy going, “They have to change it!” Then I got to see what they were doing and I was so glad no one listened to me. [Laughs] Because this character is awesome! It’s so much better. So that was some really great alchemy — and luck.
On the flip side, even though Spider-UK was described very specifically in the plot, Olivier Coipel kind of did his own thing. The pages came in, and with all Olivier Coipel pages you look at ’em and go, “My God, this is gorgeous!” It was stunning, and I was getting e-mails asking me what I thought of the new pages. I said, “They’re great! They’re fantastic! But where’s Spider UK? I don’t see him in any of the shots.”
I didn’t see him, because Olivier came up with the design we now know as Spider-Punk. He said, “That’s Spider UK.” I said, “That’s not Spider UK. He’s supposed to be from the Captain Britain Corps. He should have the Union Jack and the Spider. This guy’s all punk.” He was like, “Yeah! It’s all punk, and very London!”
That was one where I won and Spider-UK was redesigned, and poor Olivier had to draw patches everywhere Spider UK appeared in issue #9 to put him in the new costume. Olivier was bummed, because the Spider-Punk design was brilliant. So I said, “That’s a great design! We will totally use it. We’re creating all these new Spider-Men. So when we get to Doc Ock’s army we’ll put him there. He’ll be one of Doc Ock’s best henchmen and he’ll be there all the time! We’ll show you Spider-Punk non-stop! I promise you!”
I’m so glad Olivier was cool with that. And when he made his big splash in “ASM” #10, I made sure he got one of the best lines: “SPIDER-UP OR DIE!” Olivier put so much love into that, and it shows! I mean, now there are people cosplaying as Spider-Punk, and he’s now a playable video game character in “Spider-Man Unlimited.” People love that look. He kicks ass!
â€¨There’s all this stuff that never would have happened if we hadn’t delayed for a year. We wouldn’t have had that great Gerard Way character SP//dr. There’s so many different things that wouldn’t have happened. They were these little bits of magic and alchemy that only happen once you start rolling up your sleeves and getting into the project. It was all very crazy — and I’m never doing one of these again. [Laughs]
Were there any characters that you especially enjoyed writing or returning to?
Yeah! How can you not have fun writing Spider-Ham? He was a blast to write! I miss him already. [Laughs]
The original plan, back when “Spider-Verse” was a “Superior Spider-Man” story, was that when everything went back to normal, Spider-Ham would end up being stuck in our world. We would do some Spider-Ham one-shots, and it would be very much a Howard the Duck-like take on Spider-Ham. He would be “trapped in a world he never made.” By the time we started wrapping up “Spider-Verse,” though, there was going to be a Howard the Duck book. So that would’ve seemed superfluous.
Also, it was so clear there were certain characters that were becoming everybody’s favorites. The whole “Spider-Gwen” book happened because — dear God — fans made it happen! “Edge of Spider-Verse” #2 was on its second printing and we had the New York Comic Con coming up. It was like, “That’s it! We’re selling Spider-Gwen shirts now.” The Marvel booth quickly put together Spider-Gwen shirts because, oh, boy, did people want them! You also had the band Married With Sea Monsters convert the song that Jason wrote in “Edge of Spider-Verse” #2 into an actual song. It’s fantastic, and the book has a virtual band that now that exists in the real world.
Man, did Jason and Robbi kill on that issue! With that, it was like, “A Spider-Ham book? Get real! We’re doing a Spider-Gwen book.”
It’s really neat to see all the pieces come together. The character of Silk was created for the “Original Sin” elements of the Spider-Man books. Originally, she wouldn’t have been in “Spider-Verse.” That’s another addition. It’s weird the way everything changed and morphed and moved as different things took off and different storylines popped up. It was crazy — and let me repeat — I’m never doing one of these again — ever! [Laughter]
I had fun. It was great, but every time you do one of these, it takes a lot of focus and you have to keep your eye on so many moving parts. You can never miss shipping. People work around the clock because this book can’t come out until that one is released. Or that thing spoils this thing. It can be brutal to work on. Man, does it age you. I could see, day-by-day, the white growing in my beard.
â€¨Stuff like “Original Sin” is a core publishing event, and this is clearly a Spider-Event. So this is like a baby event, and working on something like this makes me go, “I am never working on a main event! Seriously. If I raise my hand for one those, shoot me. Shoot me right in the head.”
Now that “Spider-Verse” is over, I’m turning my back on giant Spider-Armies and having a blast co-writing the next three issues of “Amazing Spider-Man” with Chris Gage. They’re great issues, and big things happen in them. They’re very much a return to form, because we’ve spent about 6-7 issues away in various realities across the Multiverse. It’s really important that we get back and see Peter’s supporting cast and something more street level. Let’s also check in on Parker Industries. And, uh-oh! Big changes! Because that’s always part of Spidey’s life — the soap opera!
In addition to the legion of Spider-Men and Women, “Spider-Verse” featured Morlun and his family of inter-dimensional Spider Totem hunters, the Inheritors. What made you want to tap Morlun as the villain of “Spider-Verse?” And what inspired the creation of the Inheritors?
The way this came about was, I wanted a character that had a very simple dynamic. You saw it, and you got it. I did not want a super-complicated villain with way too many moving parts, because we were going to have dozens and dozens of Spider-Men running around. They were going to be the complicated thing.
If we had a super villain with a labyrinthine plot, everyone would be scratching their heads going, “What? Spider-Man India did that? And which one is this one? And all their masks look the same! I’m confused.” The Spider-Men, Women, Pigs, Cars and Cowboys were going to be the thing that was a jumble, so when it came down to a villain, you wanted someone as easy to understand as, say, the Terminator. All the Terminator wants to do is kill Sarah Connor.
â€¨You also wanted something that related to all these Spiders coming together. And here’s Morlun, someone who’s given Spider-Man a fight on the level of “Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut.” He’s beaten him to a pulp and wants nothing more then to eat animal totems, especially Spider ones. So, boom! That’s perfect, but it’s going to be a crossover with lots and lots of guys, so it couldn’t just be about Morlun going into every single book. That would be silly [Laughs]
So I thought, “He’s got a family!” There’s fat Morlun, and short Morlun, and tall Morlun. So here’s Morlun and all the Morlun-ites. You couldn’t just call them Morluns, though! Because that’s silly. By linking it all to the Web of Life and Destiny, the “Green”/”Speed Force”/”Anti-Life Equation” of the Spider-Man universe, suddenly it was like, “Wait a minute! Something’s clicking! This is kind of cool.” And with everyone talking about all these different dimensions and numbered Earths like 616, I was like, “Has anyone ever laid claim to Earth 001?” Marvel said, “No.” So I was like, “Mine!” [Laughs]
â€¨So here’s The Web of Destiny and Fate at the center of all reality, and here are these power hungry beings who control it and have used it so that they can be… dum-dum-dum… THE INHERITORS OF THE UNIVERSE! And I’m like, “That’s good.” [Laughs] So I ask, “Has anyone used the Inheritors yet?” And they’re like, “No.” So I was like, “Done!”
Just by saying the word “Inheritors,” it gives Morlun’s family a feeling of destiny and dynasty. That was exactly what we were going for.
Then we had more fun coming up with names that sounded like Morlun. When you think about it, Morlun means nothing. It’s not like Kraven or Carnage! It’s not one of those magical names like Darkseid. Morlun sounds evil, though. It was fun coming up with more names that sounded evil and, when you heard the name, gave you a picture of that character; names that sounded almost sort of satanic or demonic. Morlun gave birth to Solus and Daemos! And it was like, “Okay. This will work.”
Bringing Morlun and the Inheritors into “Spider-Verse” infused it with a lot of quasi-mystical elements, and while you haven’t shied away from that in other stories, those elements can be controversial with Spider-Man fans. What’s your sense on Spider-Man’s relationship to mysticism and the supernatural and tying those things to his origin?
My take on it is, I grew up on classic “Marvel Team-Up.” That was a book that suddenly had Spider-Man fighting on the moon, or teaming up with Doctor Strange and going to the Dark Dimension to battle the Mindless Ones, or going underwater for an adventure with Namor.
â€¨There was something about “Marvel Team-Up” that led to the craziest set-ups where it’s suddenly like, [Slott adopts gruff voice] “A dinosaur?! In New York?! Parker! I want you to write an article on the Savage Land! Here’s a plane ticket.” [Laughs] It was the craziest stuff. You could have Spider-Man teaming up with Killraven and going into the future to battle Martians and Tripods.
â€¨So that has always been part of Spider-Man’s character, too, that he can do this crazy stuff. And if you have a book that’s 750 issues long, it’s okay to every once in a while have Spider-Man go to the Savage Land, or the Dark Dimension, as long as when you come back, you have a story where he’s fighting the Kingpin again.
Earth story! Grounded! City. Okay. Phew! But for six issues, you can bend and stretch. As you can see from the very ending of “Amazing Spider-Man” #15, and — don’t read this if you haven’t read the ending yet — at the end of the epilogue of “Spider-Verse,” Peter stops a purse snatcher. He’s back home. It’s like, “Awwwwww!” And we will never do it again!
[Laughs] You’ve already touched on working artist Olivier Coipel on “Spider-Verse.” Your long time collaborator, artist Giuseppe Camuncoli also contributed some issues. How did it feel to work with him on such a big story?
Giuseppe Camuncoli, more than myself, more than the super heroes of the Editorial Office, Nick Lowe and Devin Lewis, more than any human being in the universe, Giuseppe Camuncoli is the hero of “Spider-Verse.”
Giuseppe Camuncoli produced the most amazing art for this under the most pressing of deadlines. There are days where the book has to leave because all these other crossovers are depending on it so you can get your books in a timely fashion. So this man killed himself for all of you, to produce the highest quality art work — while adhering to strict and grueling deadlines. His hand is probably still in a bucket of ice right now.
He really came through! You’ll read reviews where people thought it was still Olivier for an issue. Because — dear God — Camo is fantastic! I look at “Spider-Verse” and [“Amazing Spider-Man”] issue #9, the first one done by Olivier and I can say without any reservation that it is absolutely one of the most beautiful comics I’ve ever had the privilege to work on. It’s gorgeous, but at the same time I can look at the epilogue, “Amazing Spider-Man” #15 where Giuseppe Camuncoli didn’t just run the marathon. He ran it at a sprint. And he never compromised his style and craft! It’s beautiful! It’s stunning!
â€¨Chain me to this guy! I want to work with him on projects for the rest of my life! I love Giuseppe Camuncoli!
“Spider-Verse” is over, but there’s still the inevitable fallout to deal with. The end of “Amazing Spider-Man” #15 suggests that you’re sending Peter and several other characters on their way to new destinies, including the Scarlet Spider, who appears to not be dead.
Oh my God! There have been so many arguments about Kaine! People think I’m so bloodthirsty. They think I live to kill characters. I was the guy though who was going, “We’ve got to have him break out of that spider! We have to do that and we have to show it!” Nick was like, “No, no. Let’s leave him dead for a while.” He was very much on the side of, “We’ll show him bursting out of the spider later — in flashback. Let’s take him off the canvas for a while.”
I was like, “We have to show it now! Or people will come to my door with pitchforks and torches!” [Laughs] I’m not going to be the guy who killed Kaine after the stunning work that Chris Yost did on the “Scarlet Spider” book. I’m not going to be that guy. Then, when “Scarlet Spider” was over, Chris lovingly life-rafted him over to “New Warriors.” After all of that love, I wasn’t going to be the guy who killed Kaine!
I want to be able to sit down to a meal with Chris Yost and not have him glare at me. [Laughs] I also didn’t want to do that to all the Kaine fans; the people who read all the issues of “Scarlet Spider” and followed him onto “New Warriors.” This is a character who’s gone through so much growth.
So that was a fight that we had. And Nick was really nice to let me win that one.
In addition to Kaine’s fate, Issue #15 also set up Mike Costa’s “Spider-Verse” series for “Secret Wars,” and you tied things into the incursion phenomenon that leads to “Secret Wars” as well.
Yes, you see Spider UK’s destiny. He decided to go and help the Spiders when all of the Captain Britain Corps were going to go off and deal with Jonathan Hickman’s incursions. Spider UK was the one guy going, “I think we should help the Spiders.” There was always going to be a price to pay for that, and as we saw in “ASM” #15, the price was that his home dimension got destroyed by an incursion.
He’s now a Spider without a world. So what is a Spider without a world going to do? Well, there’s a lot of worlds without Spiders, so he now has a new lease on life. This is what he’s doing, and of course there are worlds without Spider-Women as well. And since every time we turn around there seems to be a new Spider-Woman, Anya Corazon joined up with him. She has a history with these totems, so it was a really nice fit, and it was something that she can now do that’s unique to her.
â€¨So now we have Spider UK and Spider-Girl and, of course, since they have access to The Web of Life and Destiny, they can pluck different Spider-Men and Spider-Woman from across the Multiverse to help them. That’s a book! You look at that and you go, “That’s awesome! I want to read that! I want to see Spider UK, Spider-Girl, Spider-Ham and Spider-Man India. I want to see them running around with Spider-Man Noir and going across the universe and dealing with stuff.
There have been certain Spiders that have been really popular that we never saw coming, like Lady Spider, and now suddenly there’s a place for these great new characters where they can show up and flex some Spider muscle.
What I got out of the fallout from “Spider-Verse” for Peter was that he now has a newfound confidence in his abilities as a leader.
Yes! Because Spidey has always been the loner or the follower, and when he came back, he discovered that Doc Ock had left him with his own company. And he’s been doing a pretty crappy job of running it. He’s been running off to be Spider-Man, and even when he’s around his employees, he’s very mercurial. He’s almost bipolar. Peter wants everyone to like him. So he’s, “Hey! I’ll be the fun boss!” [Laughs]
This is the first time someone has said to him, “Run your own company,” and Peter is not Doc Ock. Doc Ock would have no problem running around Parker Industries, yelling at everybody, and getting them to do exactly what he wants. That’s not Peter’s speed, but now he’s had this giant quest. He’s had all this responsibility shouldered on to him of, “Lead us.” He’s now just led this whole army and is like, “If I can lead a giant army of Spider-Men against these unkillable hordes of vampires, I can probably run my own company. Let’s try this!” So we’ll see where that goes.
It looks like Peter’s first real test to his leadership of Parker Industries kicks off in “ASM” #16,.
Oh, man! It sucks because here’s Peter Parker and he didn’t have his eye on the ball. So there’s all these secrets and things bubbling up in his own company. That can’t be good. It almost seems like more fodder for stories. [Laughs]
While you’re doing that, legendary Spider-Man scribe Gerry Conway will be telling a tale of a gang war in, “Spiral,” a five-part story arc that runs through “Amazing Spider-Man” #16.1-20.1. What’s that been like, seeing what he’s been doing?
It’s awesome! One of the coolest things about writing Spider-Man is, you kind of join a fraternity. You become part of this legacy of guys. You’re part of the-great-big-everybody who’s followed Stan Lee. Stan, Steve Ditko and John Romita Sr. created this mythos. Then, everyone afterwards gets to be the torchbearers. There’s a kind of camaraderie in that. It’s nice. It’s been fun at shows to hang out with Len Wein and Marv Wolfman. I correspond every now and then with J.M. DeMatteis. When I was in Indianapolis for a signing, I got to hang out with Roger Stern.
One of the people who’s really been the nicest to me has been Gerry Conway. When all of the craziness was happening around “Amazing Spider-Man” #700, Gerry was the guy who reached out to me and said, “You’re the Spider-Man writer during the age of social media. I don’t even want to think what would happen if social media existed when I killed Gwen Stacy.”
â€¨We both got invited to the “Amazing Spider-Man 2” premiere party because I was the current guy, and since most of that movie used all of Gerry Conway’s stuff, they rightfully invited him. What was real fun was the next morning, when we met up and traded notes. We sat down to big stacks of pancakes and had a lovely breakfast where we got to shoot the bull about Spider-Man. That’s one of the nicest memories I’ll ever have during my tenure as a Spider-Man writer.
We correspond every now and then, too. So when they said, “Gerry is coming on and he’d like to do a gang war story. He wants to use characters like the Wraith, and Mister Negative and Tombstone.” I was like, “That sounds great! I totally want to read that.”
â€¨That’s also part of the fun. I get to sit back and read an arc of Spider-Man. And not just any arc of Spider-Man! I get to read an arc of Spider-Man written by Gerry Conway! That’s awesome!
Then, of course, a little bit further down the line is “Secret Wars.”
Here’s the thing about “Secret Wars,” sir. It’s not called “Transparent Wars.” It’s called “Secret Wars.” [Laughs] So we can not talk about “Secret Wars.” Once we can talk about “Secret Wars” we’ll talk about “Secret Wars.” Just not right now, or they’ll kill me.
It’s Jonathan Hickman’s baby. I can ruin my own stuff, but I’m not going to ruin his. Plus, he’s been working on this for so long, we’re keeping this pretty close to the vest. Who would have thought that Brian Michael Bendis would be writing a new “Old Man Logan?” Or that Sam Humphries would write “Planet Hulk” with a dinosaur-riding Captain America? You don’t know what we’ve got coming next. Mwha-ha-ha-ha-ha!
Stay tuned to CBR News for more on the future of the Amazing Spider-Man, Spider-Gwen, Spider-Ham and the rest of the extended Spider-family.