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Van Lente Talks Spider-Man & Mary Jane

by  in Comic News Comment
Van Lente Talks Spider-Man & Mary Jane
Amazing Spider-Man
“Amazing Spider-Man” #605 on sale now

Fred Van Lente joined the “Webheads” — the writing team of Marvel’s “Amazing Spider-Man” — earlier this year, and in that short time he’s been very prolific indeed. Van Lente has penned the three-issue “Dark Reign: Mister Negative” miniseries, which focused both on the titular villain and Spidey; he’s written four issues of “Amazing,” with his fifth hitting stores this week; and starting in November, Van Lente begins a multi-part run on the brand new “Web of Spider-Man” ongoing series.

CBR News spoke with Van Lente about his various Spider-Man projects, including the recently wrapped “Red-Headed Stranger” arc, this week’s “Amazing” #605, and his upcoming run on “Web.”

“Red Headed Stranger” came to a conclusion in last week’s “Amazing Spider-Man” #604, where Spider-Man foiled a plot by The Chameleon to blow up the counter-terrorism nerve center of the New York Police Department. Chameleon was paid to carry out the assignment, but terrorism-for-hire is really just a means to an end for the villainous master of disguise. What really drives him is the chance to abduct and impersonate people, which he did several times in “Red-Headed Stranger.”

“The Chameleon sees terrorism-for-hire as his day job. The actual espionage that he’s involved in is the work he does he does to pay the rent on his various subterranean lairs,” Van Lente told CBR News. “The initial high concept I had for the revamp of the Chameleon was that he’s basically Doctor Phil as a serial killer. He’s not just going to impersonate you; he’s going to be a better you than you are! Of course he’s a sociopath, and as people saw in issue #603, his idea of what the best you is sometimes involves pistol whipping people and insulting paraplegics. Then there’s the acid baths! He destroys you so there is no other evidence of you then his version. That’s part of his whole sickness.”

One of the Chameleon’s abductees was Peter Parker himself, and our hero found himself picking up the pieces of that disaster. The Chameleon manipulated Peter’s roommate, Michelle Gonzales, into thinking they were in a romantic relationship, something that’s made things extremely awkward for Spider-Man. “Peter’s lack of interest in her is straightforward and uncomplicated,” Van Lente said. “He found himself stuck in a bad situation, which we’ll be doing considerable follow up on in issue #605. One of the themes in ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ for the remainder of 2009 is the complete mess that is Peter Parker’s love life.”

Surprisingly, while impersonating Peter Parker, the Chameleon actually did some good. After breaking away from his father Norman, Harry Osborn was left homeless and started abusing drugs again. In his guise as Peter, the Chameleon offered Harry his old room at Aunt May’s house. “What’s that old saying? You never stop being an addict or an alcoholic, you’re always in recovery. I would say that definitely describes Harry. He’s just got to take each day as it comes and struggle with that demon,” Van Lente said. “We never know, and perhaps he doesn’t, when that will rise up and take over his life again, but at the moment it looks like the Chameleon-as-Peter pulled Harry back from the brink.”

Nevertheless, the Chameleon is now a bigger threat to Spidey than ever before. The villain’s new client is the wife of the Spider-Man’s deceased foe Kraven the Hunter, and she’s tasked Chameleon with finally killing the Webslinger. “The follow up to that moment is a story that will probably be tackled by Mr. Joe Kelly,” Van Lente revealed. “I’m not exactly sure how soon readers will see that story but it’s definitely in the works.”

Pages from “Amazing Spider-Man” #605

Also appearing in “Red-Headed Stranger” is of course Mary Jane Watson, who somehow knows her ex-boyfriend, Peter Parker, is the superhero Spider-Man. “There is a complete explanation of that. It’s something that I, my fellow Webheads and our editors know, but it’s a story that will be told some time in the not so near future,” Van Lente teased. “The ball is already rolling on that.”

This week’s “Amazing Spider-Man” #605 features three stories, two of them by Van Lente. In the first, readers will find out more about what Mary Jane Watson knows and what she was doing for a year on the West Coast. “It’s an all-Mary Jane story. Spider-Man/Peter Parker appears but only in flashbacks,” Van Lente confirmed. “Basically it’s about Mary Jane’s reasons for returning to New York and her feelings about her relationship with Peter and why it ended, though not necessarily how it ended. It’s also a follow up to the ‘Paper Doll’ story that Dan Slott and Marcos Martin did in that Mary Jane is still dating Bobby Carr, the movie star, in this story.

“[‘Amazing’ #605] also involves the White Rabbit for no other reason than I like the White Rabbit. I’m trying to bolster my reputation as a villain makeover artist and I’m giving the White Rabbit the same treatment I gave the Spot and the Chameleon. She’s still pretty ridiculous, but I’m definitely trying to change her modus operandi. My high concept is Grace Slick as a super villain. I don’t try to relate all super villains to celebrities, but it does make things easier.

“Also I couldn’t let a discussion of this story slip without praising to the heaven’s Javier Pulido, who drew it, laid it out and inked it. He did such an absolutely brilliant job.”

Van Lente’s second story in “Amazing Spider-Man” #605 is a shorter tale that serves to connect recent events in with upcoming ones. “It links things like the recent ‘Amazing Spider-Man Annual’ by Marc Guggenheim, the Chameleon story, and the Mary Jane situation to stuff that everybody knows is coming, like the return of the Black Cat by Joe Kelly,” Van Lente explained. “And it continues the relationship between Harry Osborn and the Reilly cousins. It’s a whole mess of stuff and Luke Ross drew it so it looks pretty.”

After “Amazing Spider-Man” #605, Van Lente’s next Spidey work appears in November’s “Web of Spider-Man” #2. “Web” is an anthology-style series for which Van Lente will be writing the lead story for the next several months. November also marks the beginning of “The Gauntlet,” a series of interconnected story arcs that pit Spider-Man against updated and revamped versions of his classic foes. “All the classic villains that are coming back in ‘The Gauntlet’ will have their origins and motivations examined in ‘Web of Spider-Man,'” Van Lente said. “I’ll be writing those stories and the art will be by the able Mr. Barry Kitson, who drew most of the ‘Red-Headed Stranger’ arc.”

Pages from “Amazing Spider-Man” #605

Van Lente is very excited to have the chance to revisit the early days Spidey’s classic rogues. “I’ve reread those Steve Ditko Spider-Man stories so often that I’ve got them largely committed to memory but it is always fun to go back and discover new things about these characters. The stories I’m telling in ‘Web of Spider-Man’ will be ‘Untold Tales’ style stories that enrich the original back story. So these are basically crime/noir stories about Spider-Man’s classic villains. I got my start in superhero comics with a series called ‘The Silencers,’ which was about superpowered mob enforcers. So this is very much, near and dear to my heart.”

Spider-Man’s rogues’ gallery is a large and varied one. Some of the characters Van Lente will examine in “Web of Spider-Man,” like the Lizard, are tragic and sympathetic. Others are not. Electro, who Van Lente spotlights in “Web of Spider-Man” #2, falls into the latter category. “Electro is just kind of a douchebag. He’s this conniving jerk who had to be paid a bonus to go up and save one of his fellow linemen, who was trapped on a high wire pole. That was how he got zapped by lightning and became a human battery,” Van Lente explained. “After that he kept stealing all these electrical components to charge himself up until he became powerful enough to be Electro. This was all detailed in the first Electro story by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. What’s cool about Electro, though, is that he’s such a conniving bastard and will go to great lengths in order to get paid. And my story takes place when he’s still just Max Dillon. We’re going to see him as part of this criminal gang that steals all these electrical components from a pretty well known industrialist in the Marvel Universe.”

“The Gauntlet” and Van Lente’s look at Spidey’s rogues comes to an end in 2010, but the writer hopes to keep contributing to “Web of Spider-Man” after that. “I see this title as an heir not to the original ‘Web of Spider-Man’ series but a much later book called ‘Spider-Man’s Tangled Web,'” Van Lente said. “That book had these great stories like Garth Ennis’s ‘The Thousand’ and Peter Milligan’s ‘Flowers for Rhino,’ which I feel was the best Rhino story ever. It had all these great stories about characters who were tied to Spider-Man, but what is different about this incarnation of ‘Web of Spider-Man’ is that all the main stories in the book will relate to stuff going on in ‘Amazing Spider-Man.'”

“Web of Spider-Man” won’t be the only Spidey book keeping Van Lente busy over the next several months. The writer also has an “Amazing Spider-Man” story in the works that is tentatively scheduled for December. “Javier Pulido, who did such a brilliant job on ‘Amazing’ #605, is drawing it right now! It’s our contribution to ‘The Gauntlet,'” the writer revealed. “It’s a two-parter featuring the return of Sandman.”

“Amazing Spider-Man” #605 is on sale now from Marvel Comics.

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