It's a good time to be a fan of Marvel Comics' flagship character, the Amazing Spider-Man. In "Amazing Spider-Man" #583, in stores this week, the Web-Slinger meets the new leader of the United States, President-Elect Barack Obama. Additionally, the previous issue saw the conclusion of the two-part "Mind on Fire" arc, in which readers learned the reasons behind the mysterious reappearance of Spidey's old friend, Harry Osborn.
Fans should prepare themselves for more excitement, shocking revelations and incredible action because the Spider-Man creative teams are out to make 2009 a banner year for the classic superhero. CBR News spoke with writer Dan Slott about the "Mind on Fire" arc as well as his upcoming Spider-Man projects which include an Anti-Venom story in "Amazing Spider-Man: Extra" #2, an upcoming two-part tale in "Amazing" guest starring the Fantastic Four, and the big milestone issue "Amazing Spider-Man" #600.
When it comes to comic book death scenes, things aren't always what they seem. Peter Parker was reminded of this in part one of "Mind on Fire," when his friend Harry Osborn revealed to him that he only **appeared** to die after battling Spider-Man in his final outing as the second Green Goblin several years ago. "Harry 'died' from ingesting Goblin Formula in 'Spectacular Spider-Man' #200. It was written as a version of the formula Harry tinkered with but it's still Goblin Formula and we know Norman came back because of Goblin Formula," Slott told CBR News. "The Goblin Formula has some form of healing factor to it. Your body probably has to go into a coma-like state though for it to go into effect. So part of the process is the temporary appearance of death as your body fixes itself."
Harry's return to Spider-Man's world is something that Slott and many of his fellow "Amazing" creators felt would have happened regardless of the status quo shake up in the wake of "One More Day." The healing factor in the Goblin Formula allowed them to affect Osborn's return because he never really died, but there were two other stumbling blocks in the way of bringing Harry back. "One was the 'Spider-Man: Legacy of Evil' one-shot by Kurt Busiek and Mark Texeira, where Liz [ Harry's former wife] and her brother Mark Raxton a.k.a. the Molten Man exhumed Harry's body, so it's like, 'He's really dead.' But I just thought bring it on! What else you got?" Slott laughed. "The other thing was 'The Osborn Journal,' a one-shot, written completely from the P.O.V. Of Norman Osborn in which he goes over everything in detail. So that was like, 'Harry is dead, dead dead! See it's here in my journal!'"
Slott wrestled for a way around these two obstacles, but once he hit upon it, the solution was rather obvious. "I have this Mysterio story that I want to tell," the writer revealed. "When we pick up with him later in the year, he doesn't have a new status quo, but he's got a new hook. He's still everything you love about Mysterio but what he's doing with his abilities is kind of cool. So I suddenly went, 'Wait a minute? What if we seeded that here? That could solve everything. So Mysterio does a number of things and tells Norman that he has to pretend to go along with it. I knew there was a scene where Norman visited Harry's grave side, but that instance didn't bug me because I knew if Norman was in on faking Harry's death, he would have to put on a performance to fool anyone that might be following or keeping tabs on him. Even if it looked he might be alone, he had to keep up the pretense.
"And my take on 'The Osborn Journal' was that Norman lied or was purposefully leaving a journal with false clues around in case anyone found out. Sort of like what Dr. Doom did in that 'Fantastic Four vs. X-Men' min-series by Chris Claremont and Jon Bogdanove from 1987.
"It's direct, simple and non-magical so it's really hard to argue with," the writer said. "You're never going to make continuity problems bullet proof though. A lot of it lies on suspension of disbelief. If people aren't willing to make that jump and they want to look for holes there's nothing you can do. You either bought the ticket for the ride or you haven't.
"On a fun aside, last week I got a call from Glenn Greenberg, the writer of 'The Osborn Journal.' And he said, 'I wanted to let you know, you did it. That was the best possible way to bring Harry Back.' When I pointed out to him that my solution made his issue crazy 'lies' that Norman was telling himself, Glenn said he totally bought that and, 'If anyone gives you grief for it tell 'em Glenn Greenberg, the writer of 'The Osborn Journal', says it works!'"
Harry revealed the truth behind his "death" as he and Peter Parker drove out to New Jersey to visit his ex-wife Liz and his son Normie. Harry and Peter's arrival lead to a confrontation with an ailing Molten Man, who Liz had been caring for. Midway through the fight, Peter escaped to change into Spider-Man and when Spidey arrived, instead of drawing the obvious conclusion that Peter Parker and Spider-Man were one and the same, Harry jumped to the much more complex assumption that Peter had called Spider-Man earlier.
Harry isn't the first one to make such jumps in logic. Both his father and Ana Kravinoff have made such assumptions when confronted by evidence that Peter Parker was Spider-Man. "Why do people keep doing that?" Slott remarked. "Spider-Man was in New Jersey and Harry decided that the person Pete called earlier on his cell phone was Spider-Man? Ssssure . . ."
The other big revelation in "Mind of Fire" concerned Promethan X-90, something Harry was shown to be trying out on human test subjects in the recent "New Ways to Die" arc. At the end of "Mind on Fire," Harry revealed that X-90 was actually a serum he was working on to cure Mark Raxton of his deteriorating condition. He also told Peter the only human test subject was Charlie Wiederman, the second Molten Man, who volunteered. However, the flood of Chinese illegal immigrants that escaped Harry's labs in "New Ways to Die" seemed to suggest that Harry was being less than truthful about his test subjects.
"Harry only tested it on Charlie Wiederman, but you did see all those test subjects in 'New Ways to Die?' And they're all going to show up for the Anti-Venom story in 'Amazing Spider-Man: Extra' #2," Slott teased.
In other Spider-Man news, the previously mentioned "Amazing Spider-Man" #583 is garnering major media attention because of Spidey's team-up with Barack Obama. The story is but a short back-up feature, but Dan Slott feels that readers buying the issue solely for Spider-Man's presidential adventure will still get their money's worth -- especially new readers. "I think the Obama issue is going to be huge. I don't think anyone expected to get the level of response that we're getting. It's been crazy, but crazy good," the writer stated. "So I'm glad people are going to get a chance to try out the book." Elsewhere in the issue, "there's a really good done-in-one story by Mark Waid and Barry Kitson that's about why Peter Parker is considered such a good friend by many people and it's also a good Betty Brant issue too. So it's a perfect try out book for people who want to jump in and see what we're doing in 'Amazing Spider-Man.'"
Readers who jump on-board with the Obama issue will be just in time for the book's next major multi-part arc, "Character Assassination" which kicks off January 21 in "Amazing Spider-Man" #584. "'Character Assassination' is going to be **huge**. Slott remarked. "And it's beautiful. It's Marc Guggenheim and John Romita, Jr. It's going to shock you with all its revelations as a lot of our biggest story lines come to a head."
Hitting stores January 28 is Dan Slott's next contribution to the Spider-Man mythos, the previously mentioned "Amazing Spider-Man: Extra" #2. "It picks up Anti-Venom emotionally, spiritually, and physically where we left him in 'New Ways to Die,'" the writer said. "We get to see him in his new status quo and the first big bad he runs into is Mr. Negative who, little does he know, is the guy who made him. That's going to be a big thing for him. Will he find out that Mr. Negative is the cause of his transformation into Anti-Venom? You'll have to read it. One thing I am going to say though is that there's a status quo change that happens in this book and it's an important element in the world of Spider-Man."
Slott's Anti-Venom story is a 22-page full length tale. "If Anti-Venom had his own comic, this would be a good first issue," he said. "It sets things up for his future appearances. You get to see developments with Martin Li, Mr. Negative, Aunt May, and Anti-Venom. So it's all good."
"It's all good" is also what Slott thinks when he looks at the artwork of his collaborator on the Anti-Venom story, Chris Bachalo. "The amazing thing about working with Chris Bachalo is that the work starts out gorgeous and every step of the way it's like 'Oh my god! That looks even better now that it's in ink! And now look at the color!' Because there's all this stuff he does in layers. So you see it and you're happy and then you go from happy to ecstatic and then from ecstatic to drooling. So it's amazing working with Chris and seeing the whole thing come together."
Slott and Bachalo's Anti-Venom story isn't the only full-length tale in "Extra" #2. The double-sized book also features a 22-page story by writer Zeb Wells and artist Paolo River, starring Spider-Man and his New Avengers teammate Wolverine.
The first "Extra" was published in July 2007, but the title now appears to have become bi-monthly. Slott's happy because it's a book that gives the "Amazing Spider-Man" creative teams a chance to respond to certain things like fan reaction. "If you're working on one of those puny, weakling once-a-month books and you gauge audience reaction to find out what people are getting excited about, it's easy to change your plans and give people more of what they're responding to. That's because your plans are probably only slated in stone for maybe two or three months," Slott explained. "With us, though, because of our thrice-monthly shipping schedule, we can't suddenly grab the whole thing off the rails and go in a different direction on a whim. Out of necessity we have to have stuff worked out very far in advance.
"What's nice about 'Extra,' though, is that's now the book where we can do stuff like that. If people want to know more about this one story element, or if a certain character is gaining traction we can do stories featuring them in 'Extra.'"
After Guggenheim and Romita's "Character Assassination" wraps, Dan Slott returns to "Amazing Spider-Man" for a two-part story guest starring the Fantastic Four, which features art by Barry Kitson. "Any time I get my hands on the FF I have a blast," Slott said. "You'll get to see me having fun with Ben Grimm again and a lot of Spidey-Torch interaction, which picks up on a lot of fun stuff I got to do back in the 'Spider-Man/Human Torch' miniseries."
The dynamic between Spider-Man and the FF in Slott's two-part tale won't be as free and easy as it was in their past team-ups. Complicating things is the fact that when the **Brand New Day** status quo began last year, the world seemed to have forgotten that Peter Parker is Spider-Man. "At the end of the 'Spider-Man/Human Torch' mini, Pete revealed his identity to Johnny and the rest of the FF and was taken in as part of their extended family. And one of the sad things that happened in the continuity shake-up is that's all gone away," Slott confirmed. "So with that missing piece, the dynamic has changed. The story is a big, romping adventure, but there's an elephant in the room and that's it. Part of the fun will be dealing with that."
In dealing with the identity issues in the Spider-Man and Fantastic Four team-up, Slott will also address some of the larger questions that have arisen now that Spider-Man's identity is a secret including whether people remember that they once knew who Spider-Man was. "This is the first time since the start of **Brand New Day** where Spidey and the Torch are going to interact," Slott said. "That will be addressed and you'll see how that works."
Slott further described the story as a big cosmic adventure where the two people most likely to come to blows are Spider-Man and the Human Torch, and said the end would be of interest not just to Spider-fans, but to Marvel Comics readers in general. "You always hear this in every interview or read it in every solicit, but oh my god is this a big game changing story!" the writer promised. "By the end of this two-parter, something has happened, and it's so big that it will be reflected in almost every Marvel book down the line! And it all happens in this story!"
The two-part Spidey/Fantastic Four team-up also has some ties to Marvel's ongoing **Dark Reign** saga, which will become a big part of "Amazing Spider-Man" in the months ahead. Upcoming "Amazing Spider-Man" stories will show that the Marvel Universe is an infinitely more dangerous place for Spidey now that his arch-foe Norman Osborn has achieved ultimate power. "'Character Assassination' is really going to show you that! So don't miss a single issue!" Slott said. "And, dear god, Joe Kelly's next arc will really freak you out too! In the **Dark Reign,** man is it a dangerous time to be Spider-Man!"
After the Spidey-FF two-parter, Slott continues to make a huge impact on Peter Parker's life with the upcoming milestone issue, "Amazing Spider-Man" #600. "I can't really tell you what it's about, but no matter what you've heard, things change. You guys have no idea what it's about and it's going to be awesome," the writer remarked. "I love centennial issues and you want them to be huge. At the end of Spidey #100 he grew six arms. In Spidey #200 he confronted the burglar that shot Uncle Ben. In #300 we met Venom. In #400 Aunt May died? What? And in Spidey #500 you have that beautiful J. Michael Straczynskiand John Romita, Jr. story.
"So you know when you're stepping up to the plate you better bring your A-game and you better do something **big*. I'm not going to say what it is because we have got a lot of cool stuff coming up. We've got the Obama issue, 'Character Assassination' with John and Marc, and the FF team-up. We've got a lot of cool stuff with Mark, Joe, and classic villains, and edge-of-your-seat plots, so right now it's best to think of Spidey #600 a far off star twinkling in the distance."
"Amazing Spider-Man" #583 is on sale this week from Marvel Comics.