In Marvel Comics’ classic “Amazing Fantasy” #15, the legendary creative team of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko transformed teenage Peter Parker into Marvel’s flagship hero, the Amazing Spider-Man. Early on in the issue, Peter receives his super powers and creates the identity of Spider-Man, but that’s not what transforms him into a hero. Spider-Man’s true career begins after the burglar he let escape murders his beloved Uncle Ben, teaching Peter the harsh lesson of, “With great power, comes great responsibility.”
Since that fateful day, Peter has lived by that mantra. It’s forced him to make difficult and dangerous choices. It also forces him to confront and overcome his fears on a regular basis. This Spring, Spidey will have to contend with not just his fears, but the fears of the entire city of New York. This is the premise behind writer Christ Yost and artist Mike McKone’s event tie-in miniseries “Fear Itself: Spider-Man.” We spoke with Yost about the project, which begins in May.
Marvel fans know Yost primarily from his work on X-books like “X-Force” which he co-wrote with Craig Kyle and the recent “Psylocke” miniseries, but the writer has penned two Spider-Man short stories. One appeared in 2005’s”Spider-Man Unlimited” #9 and the other originally appearing online before being released in print in the one-shot anthology, “The Many Loves of the Amazing Spider-Man.” “This is my first full on Spider-Man mini. The eight and 11 page stories I did before were a blast and Spider-Man is hands down my favorite character. I’d write one page stories about him if they asked me. If they had a one panel format, I’d be there,” Yost told CBR News. “I’ve been able to tell some fun stories and I’ve been very happy about that, but Steve Wacker came to me with this and I dove right in.
“It’s always fun to have Spider-Man in the big events, because he generally is the view point of the every man,” Yost continued, explaining the mini’s role in support of the larger “Fear Itself” storyline. “Peter Parker is one of us. He’s got the same worries, concerns and fears that we do and he’s coming face to face with all of these universe changing things. This event is especially great because Spider-Man is a very fear-based character. For all that great responsibility, the consequences of failing are so large in his mind. It’s been interesting to tackle a Spidey fear story for those reasons. He’s got a lot of fears.”
Some of which are brand new ones associated with losing the things he recently acquired at the start of the “Big Time” era of “Amazing Spider-Man,” which began last fall when Dan Slott became the sole writer of the series. Those things include his dream job at the scientific think tank Horizon Labs and his new girlfriend Carlie Cooper. “‘Big Time’ has been amazing. I’ve talked to Dan Slott a number of times and I’ve been reading the book and getting advanced copies, which is the best thing in the world. Seeing a change in Peter’s life is a fantastic thing. He’s got a new job, a different girlfriend, new costumes, new devices and new weapons. Plus, we’re seeing him use his science skills,” Yost said. “You get all of that wrapped in his new life as an Avenger. So it’s been amazing, and we touch on a little bit of everything in my ‘Fear Itself’ tie-in. I got to play in Dan’s playground for a little bit, and it was great.”
The most recent “Amazing Spider-Man” arc, “Revenge of the Spider-Slayer,” ended with the tragic death of J Jonah Jameson’s wife Marla. Her death will haunt Peter Parker for the next several months, and when “Fear Itself: Spider-Man” begins Peter is still punishing himself for failing to save her.
“Death is looming large in Peter’s mind as we enter this storyline. Pretty much every story I’ve ever loved ends up saying, ‘Then everything got worse.’ So this story is about Spider-Man trying to hold New York City together as ‘Fear Itself’ spreads across the Marvel Universe. This is a foe that you can’t necessarily fight with fists. This is something that’s affecting regular people even more so than super heroes,” the writer told CBR. “This is Spider-Man, in the span of 72 hours, trying to hold it all together. He’s in costume in every panel and every second, but his Peter Parker problems are at the forefront of every panel in this book.
As the title “Fear Itself: Spider-Man” suggests, out of control terror is the main antagonist in Yost’s miniseries, but that doesn’t mean the Web-Slinger will be lacking in villains to face off against as well. “Within the larger ‘Fear’ story, we’ve found plenty of opportunities for some fighting. You’re going to see an old Spider-Man villain that is pertinent to the ‘Fear’ story. Plus, you’re going to see some elements from the main ‘Fear Itself’ series come crashing down on Spider-Man’s head,” Yost stated. “I think, really, the focus is Spider-Man dealing with the city. There are four or five specific stories of normal people that we’re telling over the course of the 72 hours. How do the fears of regular people end up impacting Spider-Man as he tries to survive this and tries to keep the city alive?”
That question is a big part of Yost’s series, because as Yost stated,” “Fear Itself: Spider-Man” will present the viewpoints of New Yorkers caught in the chaos of the latest Marvel event. “Apart from telling a great Spider-Man story, that was the most important thing for me; because Peter is the Marvel Universe’s everyman and because ‘Fear Itself’ really plays up the present day zeitgeist,” Yost said. “This is what the world is like right now. There are problems and people are scared. Things like the economy, terrorism and violence are real fears that are out there, and everything has been made worse by the events of ‘Fear Itself.’ So you’re going to see how the people of the Marvel Universe are coping with that.”
Rounding out the supporting cast of “Fear Itself: Spider-Man” are several members of Spidey’s regular supporting cast. “Jonah has a pretty big role in it and the Daily Bugle staff is involved for sure,” Yost told CBR. “Spider-Man’s girlfriend, Carlie, is an important aspect. And of course Aunt May figures huge into this as well.”
The tone of “Fear Itself: Spider-Man” is a carefully crafted mesh of genres with the most prevalent one being horror. “There are definitely some big horror elements in it. One of the major thoughts in the book is probably the most horrific thing I’ve ever written. You’ll know when you see it,” Yost stated. “In everything I do, there’s always a little humor, too. The previous short stories I’ve done with Spider-Man were full-on comedies. This is a much more serious affair, but it’s got everything: action, drama and a few laughs.”
Bringing to life such a varied story is no easy feat, which is why Yost was happy to collaborate with artist Mike McKone, a veteran of the previous “Brand New Day” era of “Amazing Spider-Man.” “I’ve seen the pencils and the inks for the full first issue and they’re amazing,” Yost said. “To me, Mike McKone is one of the great Spider-Man artists. He’s really taken my script to the next level. Everything from layouts to the angles he chose just blew me away. I owe him beers.”
“Fear Itself: Spider-Man” is Yost’s first major foray into the street level corner of the Marvel Universe and the writer is having such a good time with the project that he’d love to revisit the area for future projects. “It’s funny, because I generally don’t think street level, but I have a great love for Spider-Man. This has been a very different story for me to tell. Usually I start with the premise of, ‘Who does he fight?’ Then I work backwards, but this one was kind of a different framework,” Yost said. “This is more of a little personal drama. I approached it like it was an episode of ’24.’ You’ve got all these different stories going on and they kind of come crashing together with Spider-Man running around like Jack Bauer in the middle of everything — but with less torture.”
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