THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS FOR “AMAZING SPIDER-MAN” #669, IN STORES AND AVAILABLE DIGITALLY NOW
When the citizenry of New York City suddenly found themselves the seemingly random beneficiaries of spider powers, it caught the entire Marvel Universe off guard, though none has been more perplexed than Spider-Man, the original arachnid hero.
While NYC has often been the target of many of the Marvel U’s super villains, the villains behind the current Spider-Man event story line “Spider-Island” have devised their own unique and insidious assault on the city, turning the Big Apple upside-down by infecting most of its populace with a virus that endows them with powers similar to Spider-Man.
“Spider-Island” is currently running rampant through the pages of “Amazing Spider-Man” by writer Dan Slott and artist Humberto Ramos along with several tie-in issues by a host of talented creators. In yesterday’s SPIDER-ISLAND HOPPING, our look at each issue of the main storyline with the creators involved, we spoke with writer Dan Slott about “Amazing” #668, part two of the crossover which resolved the storyline’s first big battle and put Spidey on the trail of his old enemy the Jackal. Today, we return with Slott and assistant editor Ellie Pyle to discuss the events of “Amazing” #669, which revealed how the spider-virus works, Reed Richards novel vaccine against it and the mastermind behind the entire scheme.
CBR News: Dan, you kick things off in #669 with Pete dispatching Chance, White Rabbit and Scorcher in a way that causes Carlie to be even more suspicious about Pete’s identity. Those suspicions don’t seem to have faded when she later meets up with Spider-Man. So what’s going on with Carlie? Shouldn’t she be affected by the spell that Doctor Strange cast to protect Pete’s identity?
Slott: There seems to be something going on there. Even Pete wonders about it. He’s like, “I shouldn’t have to be dealing with this nonsense because of Doctor Strange’s spell. What’s going on?” So that is a very, very very good question. [Laughs]
Judging by your laugh, I can tell it’s a question you can’t answer right now. So let’s move on to another question about Carlie. In the fight at the beginning of the issue Carlie loses her glasses. Afterwords, when Pete asks her about them, she replies, “Forget my glasses. Never needed those things anyway.” Why does she say that?
Slott: That’s a call back to one of my favorite Spider-Man stories of all time, the “Tribute to Teenagers Issue” where Spider-Man fights the Living Brain and has a boxing match with Flash Thompson. That’s the issue where Peter Parker loses his glasses. He’s bespectacled all the way up to that issue. Then I guess Steve Ditko didn’t feel like drawing the glasses anymore. So someone bumps into Peter, his glasses break and he goes, “I never needed them anyway,” in a pouty Peter Parker voice.
It’s really just a fun call back to that issue if you know your Spidey lore.
This issue also had some fun and interesting implications for Pete’s ex-girlfriend, Mary Jane Watson. Early in the issue, we sort of feel sorry for her because she’s one of the few people in New York that’s not infected, though she clearly would love to have spider powers. We later learn all is not what it seems when Reed Richards explains why certain Manhattan residents haven’t been infected by the virus. So what exactly is going on with Mary Jane?
Slott: Reed explains that the virus in “Spider-Island” only affects normal human beings. If you’re genetically altered, like Marvel super heroes who’ve gone through an “origin,” or if you’re a mutant, you’re not effected. It appears that the purpose of the virus is to replace Homo Sapiens with Homo Arachnus. Anything that isn’t strictly Homo Sapien is ignored.
There are lots of heroes in the Marvel Universe who are normal humans, though: Hawkeye, right now Herc is a mere mortal, Shang-Chi — you could even say Steve Rogers is a normal human who was pushed up to the ultimate form of Homo Sapien by science. So there are a lot of people who can get the virus that are still heroes.
That obviously leaves the big question of what’s up with Mary Jane? Is she an altered human? Is she a mutant? Can she somehow be a super hero and just doesn’t know it? What’s going on? Why isn’t Mary Jane affected? Why?
So, this is another mystery that you’re juggling. Is it a mystery we’ll get an answer to before “Spider-Island” is over?
Slott: Totally. It’s a mystery that must be revealed before the end of “Spider-Island.”
Now that we know why certain people aren’t affected by the Spider-Virus, let’s talk about those who are infected like Carlie, the Shocker and J. Jonah Jameson, who is revealed to have a stage two infection in issue #669. How many stages of the virus are there? At the end of the issue, Carlie and the Shocker have begun mutating, so what stage of infection are they in?
Ellie Pyle: There are three stage stages to the infection. All of that will become perfectly clear in “Amazing Spider-Man” #670.
Slott: Stage one is you’re a carrier. You have the bug, but you’re not showing anything. Stage two is spider powers. Stage three? Duh-Duh-Dum! Spider-mutations!
So, Shocker and Carlie are now in the third stage of the virus.
Slott: They’re definitely in stage three. The big spider-mutations of stage three can manifest in a lot of different ways.
Yikes. Despite that, it seems all hope isn’t lost, though, as we see two men working to curb the spread of the virus in two different ways. Reed Richards has developed a way to inoculate those who are at risk for the spider virus and haven’t contracted it yet, while Anti-Venom continues to be a one man virus cure.
Slott: Yep. As we discussed last time, Eddie Brock has the ability to cure one person at a time, and I like that Reed’s inoculation isn’t a cure for “Spider-Island” or even a small dose to let yourself get over the “Spider-Island” virus. What he’s doing is changing humans into super humans.
Since it doesn’t affect people with super powers, he’s not even giving them a grade-D level power. He’s giving them a grade-Z level power. He’s giving people the most useless super power in the world. Now, everyone Reed inoculates has a built in compass. They have a slight magnetic power. They can’t really do any kind of Magneto tricks, but they can kind of sense where true north is. [Laughs]
Everyone has commented on it. They’re like, “That’s the stupidest power ever.” That’s why, though. Reed’s not suddenly going to create an island of super powered people — and not everybody in New York is receiving the inoculation. It’s just everybody who showed up at Horizon. It’s the amount of uninfected people they could fit into that building. So when we’re done with this, there will be a small population of New Yorkers, especially those who work at Horizon, that will be “The Northers.” They can just tell where North is. Unless Reed creates a cure for that, too. [Laughs]
I figure it’s about a few hundred New Yorkers, but here, all the streets are numbered. So if you can’t tell North in New York, at least by the time it’s taken you to walk a block, you’re an idiot. [Laughs]
Does Eddie Brock’s cure-rampage in Herald Square lead into the upcoming Venom versus Anti-Venom confrontation in “Venom” #7?
Pyle: Yes, those wondering about the confrontation Madame Web foresaw between Venom and Anti-Venom will definitely want to check out “Venom” #7 by writer Rick Remender and artist Tom Fowler, on sale September 28.
Slott: You’ll also see that confrontation in “Amazing Spider-Man,” but if you really want to get the full story behind it, you need to check out “Venom.” It’s a great story by Rick, and a really big brouhaha! So if you want to see all the mayhem, you really need to check out “Venom.”
Ellie, you mentioned Madame Web, so let’s talk a little bit about her role, both in “Spider-Island” and Spider-Man comics in general. “Spider-Island” has primarily dealt with a genetic plague created by the Jackal, but there have been hints that this is a story with supernatural and metaphysical implications as well. In #669, those hints became even stronger when Madame Web experienced what appeared to be a crippling psychic attack because of everyone suddenly having spider powers. Without spoiling anything, can you reveal if there are supernatural elements at work in “Spider-Island?” And what is your feeling on the presence of the supernatural in Spider-Man stories? Does a possible supernatural connection and origin work with Spider-Man? Or does that take away from the character’s everyman quality?
Pyle: I think you’ll find that science and the supernatural blend pretty well throughout “Spider-Island.” Spider-Man has frequently encountered characters with supernatural origins and abilities (he shared his second Annual with Doctor Strange), but he maintains an everyman sort of response to the fact that this kind of stuff is pretty weird and kind of out of his league, though he’ll roll with it. When Madame Web gives Spidey a hint about what’s coming in ASM #666, he quips that he can’t tell the Avengers, “A freaky lady in a red trench coat tricked me into learning kung fu because ‘bad stuff’ is coming,” because Hawkeye might save it on the answering machine. There’s something very relatable about responding to the supernatural with a mixture of annoyance and humor. But don’t count the science-y stuff out yet, the Web of Life could be out of control for multiple reasons.
Madame Web’s vision of the out of control Web of Life comes right before the issue’s final scenes where Spider-Man and Carlie confront a mutated six armed Shocker. Those scenes had a genuine pathos that suggests Dan has a real affinity for the character. Dan, is Shocker a villain that you enjoy writing?
Slott: Yeah. Poor Herman! Don’t you feel bad for him? And this isn’t the first time in “Amazing Spider-Man” that someone has turned into a giant spider. That happened to the first Tarantula and there was this horrible feeling of, “Oh you poor bastard. You’re turning into this hideous freak.” It kind of goes back to movies like “The Fly,” the original one, where the guy ended up with a giant fly head on his neck. There’s something messed up about that.
A human with a giant fly for a head is a pretty striking visual, as is a six-armed Shocker. Where did the idea for the Shocker’s transformation come from?
Slott: When I was spitballing “Spider-Island” with a friend, I was throwing out all these ideas for different spider-powered characters. At one point I just went,”Six-armed Shocker!” [Laughs] My friend on the other line went, “Ohh! Now I want the HeroClix of that”! So when we were coming up with the covers — and we do that way ahead of time — I was like, “We’ve got to have six-armed Shocker on a cover!”
That’s another tricky thing, because everyone gets to see the covers three months in advance thanks to the magic of “Previews.” [Grits teeth] I can’t stand that. The example I always give is, imagine if you put out the preview of the “Death of Gwen Stacy” three months early, with Spidey holding her on top of the bridge.
One of the things we purposefully left out of all the “Spider-Island” covers is, you don’t see The Queen. I didn’t want to give that revelation up. Even though the character is very obscure and very weird, I wanted to have something as a surprise. The only reason we had the Jackal on the covers was because by that point, I had already written “The Infested” stories and I knew that we gave the Jackal up in those. It was like, “We might as well.” It was fun, too, because it gave people the false impression that the Jackal was running everything. I thought, “Okay. That’s good. Let’s do that.”
You mentioned The Queen, so let’s talk about her. On the final page of “Amazing Spider-Man” #669, she’s revealed as the mastermind behind all of the machinations in “Spider-Island.” The Queen is a character Paul Jenkins created during his run on “Spectacular Spider-Man,” correct?
Slott: Yes, she’s a Paul Jenkins creation and Humberto has drawn her before. He was like, “We’re bringing back the Queen?” I said, “Yes! No one will see that coming.” I like how a lot of people were wondering if she was a new character. I don’t even think Paul Jenkins knew she was coming back.
Spider-Man went through some major mutations around the time of “Avengers Disassembled,” where he got the organic webbing, and another time during “The Other,” where he got some new powers as well. We’ve got a story with all these major mutations happening and it’s like, “How’s that happening? What’s the reason for that?” Because when you think about things, the Jackal is really all about cloning. So how is he doing all of this? Who is he in league with? If you read the “Deadly Foes” one-shot, you know that the Queen, who was the mysterious woman in the shadows, gave him a sample of — something. [Whistles ominously]
Pyle: The Queen’s motives and origin will all be made clear in “Amazing” #670. Dan does a really great job of summing up all the back story you will need to know.
Slott: If you want to read up on her, all her adventures are available online at Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited, the “Spider-Man: Disassembled” trade and in “The Spectacular Spider-Man” Volume 2 #15-20.
So, the upcoming “Amazing Spider-Man” #670 is primarily about the Queen’s role and and agenda in “Spider-Island?”
Slott: We knew the minute we revealed her in #669 that we couldn’t foreshadow it. If we dropped any hints about Spidey’s old adventure with The Queen, it would be like a flashing neon sign. We always knew we were going to end the issue with the reveal of her and perhaps leave some readers wondering, “Who? What?”
If you’re one of the readers who’s not familiar with the Queen, you’ll get a quick refresher course next issue in who the Queen is, why she is who she is and what she is. Plus, readers familiar with The Queen’s first adventure know that one of her past lovers is Steve Rogers. Hmm — I wonder what that could mean?
#670 will also include a call back and tie-in to Fred Van Lente’s “Spider-Island: Spider-Woman” one-shot, plus, a very important Spider-villain from the past few years will appear.
Pyle: Also in #670, the spectacular Spider-Mayor seeks help from the last person you’d expect! And fans of a certain red head will get the moment they’ve all be waiting for.
Slott: I wish we could have done a one-shot with Jonah! “Spider-Island: The Unfriendly Neighborhood Spider-Mayor!”