For the past several years, the title character of Marvel Comics’ “Amazing Spider-Man” just hasn’t been able to get ahead. Due to a series of bad decisions and poor judgement, Peter Parker lost his job as a photographer and was blacklisted in the news industry leading to unemployment becoming a major villain in his already expansive rogues gallery. Beyond his fiscal concerns, Spider-Man’s other villains had been causing him major problems as well. The hero had to survive multiple onslaughts by a number of his classic foes, many of whom had reinvigorated motivations and sometimes were even more powerful . On top of that, the complications of both of his personal and costumed lives kept Peter from committing to a romantic relationship with his friend, Carlie Cooper.
Bur even the Ol’ Parker Luck has to change for the better eventually. In “Amazing Spider-Man” #648, the “Big Time” era began as Dan Slott became the book’s sole writer. For the debut issue and subsequent introductory arc of “Big Time,” Slott was joined by artist Humberto Ramos and together they told a story that saw many changes introduced in Peter Parker’s life, from the recurring employment problems being solved when he was offered his dream job as a scientist for a think tank called Horizon Labs and Carlie Cooper officially became his girlfriend. Most recently, Peter successfully faced off against a new Hobgoblin and the villain’s employer, the Kingpin, who had recently reestablished himself as a figure of power in the New York underworld.
With big changes, though, come big dangers and more chances for tremendous heartbreak. Slott demonstrated this when he kicked off his second arc with this week’s issue #652, in stores today. It’s the beginning of a three issue storyline titled “Revenge of the Spider-Slayer” which features art by Stefano Caselli and pits Spidey against Alistair Smythe, the newly powered-up Scorpion and an army of insect themed super villains. CBR News spoke with Slott about both the current developments in “Amazing Spider-Man” and his future plans for the series.
So, Dan, a lot has happened since the last time we talked about “Amazing Spider-Man.” Let’s kick things off by talking about your debut arc. One of the big developments was that the original Hobgoblin, Roderick Kingsley, was murdered and replaced by a new Hobgoblin. What made you decide to go this way with the villain?
Dan Slott: We’ve seen Hobgoblin before and we’ve seen other people take up the mantle of Hobgoblin. In the case of Roderick Kingsley, his story had been told. The most interesting thing about Kingsley was the mystery, “Who is Hobgoblin?” The minute you pull of the mask and it’s that creepy old groundskeeper whose been haunting the fairgrounds, the Scooby-Doo adventure is over. It’s done! [Laughs] So if you’re going to make a new Hobgoblin, you want to look at the pieces that are around and not just give a rerun of history.
So if the most interesting thing about Hobgoblin was the mystery, how do we turn that on it’s head? The answer: keep it a mystery for Spidey, but this time, let the readers in on it from the get go.
And now, we readers know that the new Hobgoblin is Ben Urich’s nephew, Phil, who starred in his own series in the ’90s as a heroic incarnation of the Green Goblin. It seems like you’re sort of setting him up as a dark mirror of Peter Parker.
In the ’90s Phil had always been a sort of Peter Parker for a new generation, but with a twist: he finds the Goblin stuff. He even had his own Uncle Ben and ties to the Daily Bugle. When you think of the Hobgoblin, what you think of is a reflection of the Green Goblin. Let’s twist that! He’s now a reflection of Spider-Man. Suddenly you get this whole new take. It’s someone who, right off the bat, feels like a rival for Peter Parker and a rival for Spider-Man.
How much of Phil’s actions as the new Hobgoblin are his own, and how much is motivated by the Goblin serum he was exposed to years ago?
If you’re a casual reader and you don’t know Phil and you jump into “Big Time” — right now you have pretty much everything you need to know. If you’re a long term Marvel reader, though, you may have read about Phil in both the thirteen issue run of “Green Goblin” and the miniseries ” The Loners.” In those books you saw how Phil had already taken some steps in a descent towards madness. You may have also read Tom DeFalco’s “Spider-Girl” series, and then you’d know that in the future, Phil doesn’t need the Goblin mask or the suit to have his powers.
You look at all that together and you go, “Okay I see how all of this works.” We’ll eventually be hitting some of those beats and clearing things up, but the weird thing is if you’ve only read “Green Goblin,” or only read “The Loners,” or “Spider-Girl,” part of you might go, “That doesn’t feel right,” but when you put it all together it kind of does. I understand that some readers might feel like this doesn’t jibe with what they know about Phil. All good things in time though. We’ll get to some more stuff next time we see Hobgoblin in ASM. In the meantime though, keep an eye out for Phil and the Hobgoblin in other Marvel titles, like “Spider-Girl” and the new “Herc” book!
The other major development of this arc is that you reestablished Kingpin as villain in Spider-Man’s world in a big way. How dangerous is Wilson Fisk now that he’s sort of thrown aside his cloak of respectability and taken control of the Hand ninjas that still dwell in the Shadowland fortress in Hell’s Kitchen?
Kingpin is now a major threat for everyone. He started out as a Spider-Man villain and somehow down the line got co-opted into a Daredevil villain. The truth of the matter, though, is he’s everybody’s villain. He’s a powerful force in the Marvel U’s underworld — and we’ll be seeing that in “Amazing Spider-Man.”
It seems like you marked this new phase in Kingpin’s life by tearing down a monument to his old one. At the end of this first arc, you completely destroyed the Fisk building.
That thing’s been up forever! How many times have Daredevil or Spider-Man broken in there? And how many times has the Punisher attacked the place? That thing’s been part of the Marvel firmament for ages. And we just blew it up! Roderick Kingsley: Decapitated! Fisk Building: Down! Montana: Falls to his deeeath! What are we going to do next? I must be stopped before I kill again! Seriously, read “Amazing Spider-Man,” it’s one non-stop wave of destruction! [Laughs]
The Kingpin and the Hand we’re big parts of Marvel’s recent “Shadowland” event. Do your immediate plans address any of the aftermath of “Shadowland?”
One of the things that I hope people have seen since the start of “Big Time” was that we are firmly in the Marvel Universe. We touched on “Shadowland,” Spidey’s recent adventures in “The Avengers,” the “Doom War” with Black Panther and lots more. All of Marvel continuity is there as our bedrock and we can touch on anything because Spider-Man is the center of the Marvel Universe. When you think of Marvel comics, you think of Spider-Man. No other single character more embodies what Marvel’s all about.
You ended the first arc and kicked off this new one by giving Peter Parker the chance to enjoy some aspects of his new life with his friends and family. In the most recent issue, however, it seemed like you dropped some hints that there may be some tension and turmoil on the horizon, because Peter and Mary Jane Watson don’t agree on whether or not Pete should reveal his Spider-Man identity to Carlie.
MJ is an important part of Peter Parker’s life. She’s been there almost since the beginning. She’s lived with Peter Parker, been his girlfriend, been his friend, been a girlfriend to his friends. She’s an integral part of his life and she’s the only person in his personal life who knows his secret. Because of that, she is a confidant that Peter can have in a way that he can’t with any of his other friends. That’s on so many levels; if something goes bad for him as Spider-Man, if something goes bad for him in his normal life and if something goes bad for him in his romantic life. She is someone who can be there to console him and help him. And also to be a bit of a conscience. She’s the one who knows that on some level his secret is also a lie that he tells everyone. So Mary Jane doesn’t just know his secret. She knows the truth of him, and that’s going to be something interesting to watch.
The main villain of this arc is Alistair Smythe, a psychotic genius who’s used science to turn himself into the cybernetic villain known as the Spider-Slayer. It seems as though, given Smythe’s history, the theme of this new arc is all about family. He blames J. Jonah Jameson for the loss of his father and now wants to show New York’s mayor what that feels like by killing his family.
When you look at Smythe, as a character, so many stories have been about Smythe wanting revenge on Jameson and his motivation has always either been, “You took my father away from me. I’m going to hurt you,” or, “I had a rivalry with my father. He couldn’t kill you. So I’m going to prove I’ve surpassed him.” For all of that motivation we never actually saw any scenes of Smythe with his father. We were always told, after the fact, how important his father was to him. So I was very glad that we did a short story in #650 that finally showed you flashbacks to Smythe and his dad. Somehow, we mixed that all in with a prison break story, and all in eight pages. It was neat to finally put some heart to that. That story is available on Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited for those who may have missed it. Both of the first “Big Time” back ups are available now. Which is kinda cool! Thanks, Marvel Digital!
In those shorts, we see that Smythe broke Mac Gargan out of jail and outfitted him in an updated version of his classic Scorpion battle suit. Now, this new Scorpion is part of Smythe’s insect army. What made you want to return Gargan to his original villainous identity?
That’s how I like him. Every time Mac’s appeared in a comic I’ve written, I’ve worked really hard to get him back in that Scorpion suit. In “New Ways to Die,” when the symbiote was injured, Norman built Mac a Scorpion suit. In “Mighty” Avengers, the Absorbing Man used the reality bending power of a Cosmic Cube to get him into one. Now? It’s Smythe’s turn. And something tells me this time it’s gonna stick.
Scorpion is just one part of Smythe’s army of bug themed villains. It looks like the rest of the ranks are composed of drone style soldiers and five unique insect themed enforcers. What can you tell us about these five characters?
Every single one of them has a reason for hating J. Jonah Jameson! You don’t get to be someone as irascible as J. Jonah Jameson, someone as powerful as J. Jonah Jameson, someone who used to be a publisher of a major metropolitan newspaper and someone who is now mayor of the city without making a few enemies. When Jonah does things, it drastically affects people’s lives. And now some of them are, well, walking, cyborg bug men. That makes sense, right? It’s like what my college professor always said: “Write what you know.” [Laughs]
Smythe and his army launched their opening assault on the Jamesons midway through issue #652 with an attempt to kill Jonah’s son, Colonel John Jameson, at the launch of an experimental space shuttle. At that point, the pace of the issue took off, and since the cliffhanger of #653 involved Spider-Man facing off with Scorpion on the side of an in-flight rocket, I’m guessing things aren’t going to slow down for the rest of the arc.
Yes. You see Peter Parker at the top of #652 having a nice moment with friends and family. Once he puts on that costume, you’re pretty much in for a thrill ride. There will be very little Peter Parker in the next few issues. It’s all Bug men are attacking the city! What are w going to do now?
In issue #653, one of the things Peter does is call in his teammates on the “New Avengers” for help. In your first “Big Time” issue, we saw Peter working side by side with his allies on the other “Avengers” team. So what’s it like writing Spidey with the “New Avengers?” What’s your sense of his relationship with both teams?
One team is the Yankees and the other team is the Mets. [Laughs] That’s the difference between “Avengers” and “New Avengers.” So giant Octo-Bots are attacking the city? Call in a God of Thunder and a living legend of World War II. When it gets personal and super villains are targeting your loved ones and family? You make it personal too — and you bring in Luke Cage’s team! Damn straight!
Thanks to the marriage of Peter’s Aunt May to JJJ’s father, the Parker family is now tightly connected with the Jameson clan, so by the time this arc comes to an end in “Amazing Spider-Man” #654, I assume it’s possible that tragedy may have struck Peter or his family.
There are a lot of targets on Smythe’s list. And yes, the Parkers and the Jamesons are now linked as a dynasty that Alistair Smythe despises with a fiery burning passion!
“Revenge of the Spider-Slayer” is your first arc with your old “Avengers: The Initiative” collaborator, Stefano Caselli. What’s it like working with him on “Amazing Spider-Man?”
It’s great to be teamed up with my pal Stefano again. I swear, pound for pound we have the best art team in comics. You get this manic energy from Humberto Ramos. You get stylized, high-intensity action sequences from Stefano. After Stefano you’ll see these gorgeous page designs from Marcos Martin. We’ve got a murderer’s row of artists. They’re the best guys in the industry and Stefano is just stunning on this three parter.
Immediately after “Revenge of the Spider-Slayer,” you reunite with artist Humberto Ramos for a special point one issue, “Amazing Spider-Man” #654.1. It looks like this issue will address some of the fallout from the previous arc and lay the ground work for Rick Remender and Tony Moore’s upcoming “Venom” series. Is that correct?
By the end of the “Revenge of the Spider-Slayers” arc, you’ll see a major turning point for the Amazing Spider-Man. You’ll see Spider-Man have a change to his roster of spider-powers and you’ll see a new host for the Venom symbiote. Then with #654.1, we will see that new host for the Venom symbiote in their first full-length adventure. You’ll learn who’s in the suit by the end of this current arc. With #654.1, you’ll see them launched into their first all new adventure and we’ll lay the groundwork for Rick and Tony’s awesome new book.
Traditionally, one of the most enjoyable aspects of Venom is his interactions with Spider-Man. Can you tell us anything about the dynamic between Spidey and the new Venom?
We will have to see that over time. I’ve talked with Rick about it and we’ve had many a gab session. We know when and how these characters are going to meet. Where you go from there, and the “why” and the “how,” is going to be another story.
With issue #655, you kick off a new two issue arc featuring art by Marcos Martin. What can you tell us about this storyline?
If you look at the cover to #655, you know that big things will have happened and #655 really deals with where you go from here. It’s a two issue arc, but each issue really can stand on its own. And each one goes the full 30 pages! So you’re getting 60 pages of Marcos Martin — all of which, I think should come with the subheading: “Marcos Martin: for your Eisner consideration!” The art is pretty darn stunning. And, in the story, you’ll meet an all-new Spidey-villain called Massacre.
What can you tell us about this new character?
He is not nice. And he does earn his name.
So, I’m guessing Massacre is the reason why Peter designs a new version of the Spider-Armor.
Yes, there is a new Spider-suit — let’s call it a battle suit. If you’re going up against Massacre, you’ll probably need this. A lot.
In issue #657, you have a special issue that ties into the current “Fantastic Four” storyline, “Three.” Since we know “Three” ended with the death of one of the FF, and given that Spidey is extremely close with the FF, I assume there are a lot of emotional scenes in his future.
You can tell that some big changes are coming. I think one of the reasons we’ve called this new take “Big Time” is if you look at what’s happened in just five issues — it’s crazy how much change has happened. New characters! Old characters! New beginnings! Life! Death! Destruction! Romance! Guest stars! So much goes on in every issue of “Amazing” you can’t afford to miss one, because you never know where we’re going next as things keep building and changing.
How far ahead do you have things planned out on “Amazing Spider-Man?”
One of the things that’s coming together right now is the Free Comic Book Day issue, which will be out in May. That issue points you towards some new things that are coming up on the horizon. The team’s already started building and planning for the summer and beyond. I’m working with my artists on multiple stories that are placed at different parts of the year. So my mind is all across the calendar. Time is no longer linear for me. [Laughs]
You don’t know what’s coming next. Big things are happening — and even bigger things are on the way! It’s gonna be a helluva ride!
Also, I want to thank everybody for all the support they’ve shown “Big Time” — and for helping us sell out our first five issues in a row! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! If you’re someone looking to jump in, I think we do a good job of bringing readers up to speed as we go — even in the middle of arcs. But if you want to start at the beginning with ASM #648, second printings of our first 3 issues came out last week, and second printings of the next two are on the way!