Costa Ensnares "Secret Wars" in the Web of "Spider-Verse"

The Marvel Comics Multiverse is vast, home to many incarnations of flagship character Spider-Man, all of whom were seen in action during the recent "Spider-Verse" crossover in which an army of Spider-Men and Women from multiple dimensions banded together to defeat a tyrannical extradimensional dynasty that targeted them for extinction. This disparate group of spider powered characters united because of a trait that seems to be a universal constant for all Spider-Men and Spider-Women: a profound sense of responsibility.

It was that sense of responsibility that led Spider-Girl and the Captain Britain-empowered Spider-Man known as Spider UK to utilize the dimension hopping abilities of a being known as the Master Weaver and appoint themselves protectors of worlds in need of Spider-Men. That sense of duty also means that they can call on other spider powered comrades including Spider-Gwen, the Spectacular Spider-Ham, and Spider-Man India should the need arise.

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This May, the extradimensional Spider Army reassembles to protect Battleworld, the Multiverse's last remaining locale during "Secret Wars" in a new "Spider-Verse" series by writer Mike Costa and artist Andre Araujo. CBR News spoke with Costa about his diverse cast of characters, the series' limitless story potential and what sort of challenges his Spider-Men & Spider-Women will encounter on Battleworld.

CBR News: Much of your Marvel work has focused on Spider powered characters who weren't exactly Peter Parker -- the Superior Spider-Man in "Arms of the Octopus," the clones of "Scarlet Spiders" -- and you're about to take on a whole host of Spider characters with "Spider-Verse." What is it about these diverse Spider heroes that keeps you coming back?

Mike Costa: [Laughs] Well, to be perfectly honest when [editor] Nick Lowe originally asked me to do the story that became "The Arms of the Octopus" I was disappointed that I wasn't going to be writing Peter Parker. But then I thought about it and I realized I was being ridiculous. Peter will always be around in one form or another, and I was getting to write Superior Spidey -- a character that very few writers got to work on. That was a pretty big deal. Also, Superior Spider-Man was really, really fun to write for.

Since then it's really been the luck of the draw, and I consider myself to be incredibly lucky. I'm the first writer in over a decade to do a book about Ben Reilly, and really what a treat that was, to get to sign my name to that strange and still-potent legacy.

And finally with "Spider-verse," I do seem to be achieving a culmination of sorts, now tackling a whole team of non-Peter Parker Spideys. But, much as I love Peter, I really wouldn't have it any other way. There's just so much to be done with these characters -- many of whom haven't appeared in more than a handful of issues. There's so much to discover about them and the way they interact with each other. Writing Peter, I have to stand up against Stan Lee, Gerry Conway, J.M. DeMatteis, Dave Michelinie, Brian Bendis, JMS, Dan Slott, and basically every other great writer who spent years defining and re-defining that character. With the cast of "Spider-verse," I'm only the second or third guy in the driver's seat. That's a very exciting place to be.

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In "Amazing Spider-Man" #15, the epilogue chapter of the "Spider-Verse" event, Dan Slott set up your "Spider-Verse" mini-series by establishing that Spider UK and the Anya Corazon Spider-Girl have a portal that allows them and spider powered heroes from other dimensions to travel to realities that need a Spider-Hero.

It was clear Mayday Parker, Spider-Ham, Spider-Gwen, Spider-Man: Noir and Spider-Man: India would be assisting them in future adventures, but one of the final pages in that same issue hinted Kaine Parker, who was revealed to be alive, may be joining them. You seemed to have a great time writing the character in your "Scarlet Spiders" mini, but will Kaine be joining the fun during "Secret Wars?"

I do love Kaine, and I especially loved putting him together with Ben Reilly. I saw them, respectively, as the dark and light halves of Peter, and that was an interesting dynamic to work with. I was really happy to see he survived the "Spider-Verse" event (that was actually a surprise to me). But sadly for me, he won't be appearing in "Secret Wars: Spider-Verse." He's going to be busy elsewhere.

Spider UK decided to sort of become the Friendly Multiversal Spider-Man after his home reality was destroyed by an Incursion event. With "Secret Wars," you're now dealing with a setting where the Multiverse has been destroyed and its remnants formed into Battleworld. How would you describe the overall mood and dynamic of your cast of characters when your series begins?

I'd say "confused but determined." These poor guys (and ladies) they've just gone through one huge, dimension-smashing adventure, and here they are smack-dab in the middle of another. Their efforts to understand what exactly is going on -- and how they fit in to all the madness -- is a major part of the story.

One of the things that struck me about "Spider-Verse" is its potential. You've got a cast of characters that are pretty diverse and can handle almost any kind of story heading to the "Secret Wars" Battleworld, a place where almost any kind of story can happen. So what was it like coming up with an actual tale for your cast to get involved in? How difficult and how fun was it deciding on the details and things like genres?

I'm friendly with ["Secret Wars" writer] Jonathan Hickman, so early on when I was offered this book I contacted him and asked if he had any particular expectations for what these "Secret Wars" spinoff books should do. His response was "Just that the creative teams go crazy and do whatever they want" which, I think, is probably the best possible answer.

That said, we wanted to be really careful about the story potentially getting overcomplicated and spinning out of control. When you have a bunch of characters from alternate universes who are thrown together in an alternate universe made up of alternate universes -- well, that's a lot of moving parts, and the wheels can come off the cart really quickly if you're not careful.

To keep everything as focused as possible we decided to zero in on our characters and focus on who they were, what they wanted, what's stopping them from getting it, and how they're overcoming it. If we can keep character as the number one focus of the story, it quickly becomes clear what kind of details can fill in the margins, and we can keep everything streamlined and resist crossover comics' natural urge to become byzantine and confusing.

You're working with artist Andre Araujo on this. Considering his work on books like "Avengers A.I." and "Inhuman," he seems like a perfect fit for both the book's diverse cast and the crazy, sci-fi, super heroics this title seems designed for.

Working with Andre is really thrilling. He's got a slight European feel to his art, with his delicate, unfussy line work and his bold compositions. He's one of those special comic book artists who sees the entire page holistically. He composes for the page, not just the panels.

He also knows how to hang characters in space like very few other guys working in American comics, which is a crucial thing when you're dealing with a book as cluttered with characters as ours. I really think Andre is less than a year from being A-list. The great curse of my career is working with artists who, right after working with me, go off to have their genius recognized by the rest of the world -- Fiona Staples, Ramon Perez and Ryan Browne just to name a few. I fully expect Andre to immediately join the list of artists too big to work with me again.

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Let's talk a little more about the plot and characters Andre is drawing in "Spider-Verse." What can you tell us about the cast's larger mission, where they might visit, and which foes will oppose them?

I don't want to give too much away about the plot -- it unfolds as something of a mystery -- but I can say that most of the action happens within New York. That's always been Spider-Man's city, and it felt like the right place for a story so rooted in Spider-Man's mythos. I say "most" because we do take one fun, unexpected detour toward the end of the series, but I don't want to spoil the specifics of that.

Speaking of giving things away, I don't think it spoils much to reveal that Norman Osborn plays a major role in the story. But whether he's friend or foe is left up in the air at first. As for other villains -- we've got a whole team of heroes, so it only made sense that we need a lot of different bad guys to oppose them. I've had a lot of fun plucking a bunch of classic Spider-Man villains from out of his history, including a lot of faces we haven't seen in a while. In just the first issue, we've got the Jackal, plus the Enforcers. After that we'll be seeing a lot more high-profile villains as well.

Finally, we still don't know what the Marvel Universe will look like post-"Secret Wars" but, as we discussed, "Spider-Verse" is a series that seems to offer a wealth of storytelling potential. If the series continues after "Secret Wars," would you like to stick around to write it?

From your lips to God's (meaning my editor Nick Lowe's) ears. I don't know much about what happens to the Marvel Universe after "Secret Wars" myself, but I would absolutely love to continue writing these characters if they are still around.

"Secret Wars: Spider-Verse" is probably the richest story I've ever done for Marvel. Nick and I spent a long time teasing out what the essence of the "Spider-Verse" event was, beyond just the plot mechanics. And then we really worked hard to distill it down to something that could be infused in a story that represented all the crazy possibilities of "Secret Wars." If you're a Spider-Man fan, this book is going to be tough to beat.

(Mostly because we've got Spider-Gwen. She's pretty awesome.)

"Spider-Verse" #1 debuts this May as part of Marvel's "Secret Wars" event.

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