The enduring popularity of Spider-Man is due in large part to the character’s everyman qualities. Readers root for Spidey because he doesn’t just struggle to save the world; he struggles to make ends meet. Costumed heroes aren’t the only ones with real world problems, though, especially in the Marvel Universe. When they’re not trying to rob banks or eluding the law, some of Spidey’s foes wrestle with the same problems he does.
Writer Nick Spencer and artist Steve Lieber illustrate that point this July when they kick off “Superior Foes of Spider-Man.” We spoke with Spencer about the ongoing title which follows the exploits of the quintet of professional criminals that make up the newly formed Sinister Six: Boomerang, Shocker, Overdrive, Speed Demon, and the new Beetle
CBR News: You first ventured into the gritty, street-level world of Spider-Man with the “Spider-Island: Cloak & Dagger” miniseries, and now you’re back to look at that world from a different angle with “Superior Foes of Spider-Man.” What is it about this corner of the Marvel Universe that captures your imagination?
Nick Spencer: Those two books, “Cloak & Dagger” and this, were kind of my dream projects. When Marvel asked me what I wanted to do, those were the two books. I never really imagined that we would get this book off the ground and it would actually happen. This is really exciting for me!
How far into development was this series when the new Sinister Six made their debut in “Superior Spider-Man” #1? Were you already working on the book, or did the offer for the book come after that issue?
We had already started to talk about the book before that issue, and it just worked out perfectly because the characters that [“Superior Spider-Man” writer] Dan [Slott] selected for this new Sinister Six were amazing. I loved those characters from the Sinister Syndicate era. Those were kind of my guys. To have guys like Boomerang, Speed Demon and Shocker is exactly what I could hope for.
Dan is such a Spider-Man historian and such a great keeper of the faith, I knew he was going to give these characters some focus. It just worked out really nicely for me to have this all happen at the same time.
One of the first things I noticed when I saw Boomerang, Speed Demon and Shocker together in this new Sinister Six was that they all had been part of various incarnations of the Thunderbolts. Has that experience impacted the characters at all?
I do, and we’ll certainly see some of the impact of that in our stories. The thing about when these guys try to go straight is that when it doesn’t work out, they never talk about the fact that they tried to go straight. I don’t think they’re bragging very much about their time on the other side of the law.
â€¨There is one particular story component here, though, that’s very Thunderbolts related, and it’s going to be a lot of fun. You’ll definitely be reminded that the team was a big part of their past.
While we’re on the topic of these guys’ time on the side of angels, let’s talk about their moral compasses. Are they simply thieves? Are they killers? Are there things they won’t do because they find them too repugnant?
I think the way I would put it is they’re more thieves than they are killers. These are working class guys. They’re not looking to go on mass murder sprees. They’re looking to get in and out of places as quickly and cleanly as possible, and they’re looking to get paid.
That’s not to say that there are no bodies pinned to their names, because there certainly are. But they would consider those the cost of doing business rather than a means and end to itself.
Based on what your saying, and because it’s one of my favorite movies, it sounds like they’re sort of similar to Robert De Niro’s crew in the movie “Heat.”
[Laughs] Well, I think you can probably afford to take these guys slightly less seriously. They’re definitely bouncing around the shades of gray though.
They want to think of themselves as professionals. They’ll try to do a job without killing, but they’re not afraid to drop bodies if they have to.
Perhaps the most mysterious member of this new Sinister Six is the new Beetle. Can you tell us anything more about her?
I’m really excited about her. She’s the character in the group that’s the least defined, so I got to invent a little more with her.
Plus, the Beetle is actually my favorite Spider-Man villain, which is something people always kind of laugh at. I couldn’t really explain it to you, either. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve just been a sucker for the Beetle. To help create a new version of the character is really fun
Will this team still be called the Sinister Six even though they lost their sixth member, the robotic Living Brain, to Horizon Labs?
Yes, they will! [Laughs] That name has a lot of clout, and they’re not going to let it go to waste just because there’s only five of them.
So, might we see a recruitment drive early on?
I think they would certainly like for people to stop pointing out the fact that there are only five of them. [Laughs] So they better get to work.
There are pluses and minuses, though, to bringing in a sixth member. For instance, there’s nothing better than being the Sinister Six, but only having to split the money five ways.
How would you describe the group’s dynamic going into “Superior Foes of Spider-Man” #1? How did the recent beating they took at the hands of Spidey affect them?
That’s old hat for them at this point. One of the fun aspects of this book is we have three guys who have been around a long time, so this is not their first dance. Being taken down by Spider-Man, even if it’s this creepy, mean-spirited, new Spider-Man, is all a part of a day’s work for them.
Then you have characters like the Beetle and Overdrive who are still new to the costumed criminal game and maybe have different opinions about these things. We’ve seen in the past that Overdrive has a very different attitude towards Spider-Man. So there’s a bit of clash between the “way we’ve always done things” and these fresh faces.
We’ve talked about your cast’s professional lives, but I understand their personal lives will be a big part of “Superior Foes of Spider-Man” as well.
Oh, yeah. This book really is about getting to know these characters and spending some time in their lives. It’s very much a behind the scenes look, too. It’s not a massively plot driven book; these are unpredictable character stories.
One of the fun things about this book is that now, for a lot of readers, “Thunderbolts” was an introduction to these characters. It’s where they know them from. It’s going to be really fun to show readers what these characters are like when they’re not trying to get out of jail — when they’re at their worst.
Let’s move on to the look of “Superior Foes of Spider-Man,” which is being provided by the great Steve Lieber. What does a seasoned pro like Steve bring to this book as an artist?
Steve was my first choice for the book. He’s always been one of my favorite artists and someone that I hoped to work with someday. He recently did a story in an issue of “Hawkeye” with Matt Fraction, and I immediately e-mailed my Editor Steve Wacker and asked him if we could get Steve for this. Thankfully, he was interested and up for it.
He’s been amazing, too! Working with Steve is a blast. He’s turning in beautiful pages, and the story just sings. He really adds so much to it. I’m writing a less comprehensive, looser style of script than I ever have before, just letting him shape the page and do it how he wants to with as little interference from me as possible. I’m giving him the dialogue, some very sparse action beats and a few specific ideas that I have.
â€¨He’s really taking that and running with it. He’s putting so much detail, attention and love into the story that it’s going to be really special. You can always feel it when you’re on a project like that, when you can just tell early on that it’s shaping up to be something really good. We’re still early into our work on this, but we can already feel it. This is a dream come true. It’s a big passion project I can cross of my list.
When it comes to your cast of characters, it seems like Overdrive is someone an artist can have a lot of fun with, thanks to his powers.
â€¨Definitely. All of them have their things. They’ve all got fully-formed identities, both in costume and out, and Overdrive’s power set is really cool and clever. Obviously we’re going to have a good time with that, but also his role within the team is going to lead to some good stories.
Finally, what can you tell us about your initial “Superior Foes of Spider-Man” storyline. Will it involve one heist in particular? Or several?
There will be several different heists. Everybody is angling in different directions and have different things going on. As we’ve seen in past series like “The Deadly Foes of Spider-Man,” the characters are constantly getting in each others’ way and tripping over one another. There are a whole lot of agendas at play and a lot of jobs on the table, so we’re going to see things get complicated pretty quickly for all involved.
In our first issue, our primary focus is on Boomerang, AKA Fred Myers. This is his crew, now. After years of being a bit player and a second fiddle, this is his moment in the sun — and he’s got a lot riding on it.