Fan Expo: Guggenheim Hits The "Jackpot"

In 2007, fans of Marvel Comics' "Amazing Spider-Man" were introduced to Jackpot - a new and mysterious heroine who became a supporting player during the "Brand New Day" era. In 2008, writer Marc Guggenheim cleared up some of the mystery surrounding Jackpot in "Amazing Spider-Man Annual" #35

Guggenheim's story revealed that the Jackpot readers had come to know was actually the second person to assume the identity. The first was a super-powered woman named Sara Ehret, who, after receiving superhero training from the U.S. Government's Initiative program, decided that the life of a costumed heroine wasn't for her. She arranged for a woman named Alana Jobson to take over the Jackpot identity for her, but Alana was ill-prepared and had no real super powers, instead relying on the Marvel Universe's powers-granting narcotic, MGH. As a result, she perished at the end of the Annual, the final scene of which finds Spider-Man lecturing the guilt-ridden Ehret on not living up to the responsibilities of her super powers.

Since the Annual, readers haven't seen much of Sara Ehret or the Jackpot identity. That changes this coming January with the release of "Amazing Spider-Man Presents: Jackpot," a three issue mini-series by Marc Guggenheim and artist Adriana Melo. CBR News spoke with Guggenheim about the series, which was announced today at the Mondo Marvel panel at Fan Expo Canada in Toronto.

CBR: You've written more Jackpot stories than any other Spider-Man creator, and you wrote the Annual, which was one of the most important chapters in the character's history. Now you're back to expand on her story even more. What is it about Jackpot that makes her such a compelling character for you?

Marc Guggenheim: I actually didn't intend to become the character's sponsor or "scribe." Jackpot was created by Dan Slott and Phil Jimenez for their 2007 Free Comic Book Day story, 'Swing Shift,' and then it fell upon me to introduce her in the pages of "Amazing Spider-Man." After that, we started casting about for who was going to write the Annual where we dealt with the mystery of Jackpot's identity.

That was actually a story that was developed by what was, at that time, the "Amazing Spider-Man" brain trust: me, Dan Slott, Zeb Wells, and Bob Gale. I happened to be the one with the hole in his schedule, which allowed me to write the Annual. But it seemed that once I wrote the Annual, I kind of became tied to the character. So when the topic of a Jackpot mini-series came up, it seemed to me like I was the logical choice to write it. So this sort of happened by default, not by design.

In the Annual, the revelation about Jackpot and Alana Jobson's death were met by vocal reactions from some fans that disliked the outcome of the story. What were your feelings on people's reactions to the Annual?

I think some stories don't work because they're the result of bad writing and some appear not to work because they're the result of the wrong expectations. I think there were expectations for "Amazing Spider-Man Annual" #35 that we never really intended to pay off. Rather, we did what we intended: Meet Jackpot and then surprise you by suddenly killing her off, leaving the "original" to pick up the reigns. That was always our plan. In fact, it came out of our very first Spider-Man Summit. It was something that the entire brain trust came up with collectively. I thought it made for a great Spidey story because it spoke directly to the themes of power and responsibility that are at the core of the character. And not to crash your message board, but I think if you go back and re-read the Annual, leaving your expectations as to what you thought it would be about at the door, you'll see it's actually a rather out-of-the-box, original story with an unconventional twist. Unfortunately you can't always -- or ever, really -- control readers' expectations and my hope is that readers will come to this new series and enjoy it on its own terms.

Annual #35 ended with Sarah Ehret guilt-ridden over the death of Alana Jobson. When you pick up her story in "Amazing Spider-Man Presents: Jackpot" #1 how is she dealing with that guilt?

We pick up directly after that last scene in the Annual. We "reenact" that final scene, and as Spider-Man swings off, we stay with Sara and follow in her P.O.V. for the remainder of the series. So how she deals with that guilt is a big part of what this series is all about.

She's not dealing with it by moping about. She's being very active and, in the Spider-Man tradition, atoning by accepting her responsibilities.

That sounds like a good description of what the series is about thematically. Can you reveal anything about the plot?

Basically, she uncovers a criminal conspiracy involving the black market organ sales of a supervillain. A supervillain is behind the sales, and the actual organs belong to another supervillain. The story germinated from trying to come up with an interesting McGuffin. From there I thought, 'What if somebody is selling off the body parts of a supervillain?'

I understand that Jackpot's investigation into the sale of those body parts brings her face to face with two classic Spider-Man villains: Boomerang and the Rose?

Yes. The story required a Bullseye-type character and my editor, Steve Wacker, suggested Boomerang. He felt that he was due for a type of supervillain makeover. It's still the same Boomerang, Fred Meyers. He's just gotten a new lease on life, as it were.

And I've been a fan of the Rose ever since his introduction in the '80s. I've been trying to bring the character back since I came on board the Spider-Man series, and this struck me as the right opportunity.

Richard Fisk, son of Wilson Fisk the Kingpin of Crime, was the original Rose. He was killed though several years ago in an issue of "Daredevil." So, is it safe to assume that this is someone new behind the Rose's mask?

Richard Fisk is indeed dead. So the person behind the mask couldn't be him, but I certainly want readers to be wondering who it may be.

You've got the Rose and Boomerang playing the roles of antagonists in this story, but what about the rest of the supporting players in "Amazing Spider-Man Presents: Jackpot?" Is there anything you can tell me about them?

I don't want to spoil who Sara's supporting characters are, but this being a series that spun off from Spider-Man, I've made sure to involve him throughout. He's not a major supporting character, but he makes several appearances throughout the series.

When Spidey runs afoul of superpowered street crime the tone of the stories can vary from humorous to very dark. What type of tone do you strike in the series?

I'm trying to go dark. When I first pitched this story to Steve, the idea was that I'd go for a Marvel Knights style take on the character of Jackpot. It's street level crime, and I think the events of the second issue are particularly dark. The fallout created by those events in issue #3 is also very dark.

One of the advantages of writing a new character like Jackpot is that there isn't a status quo to maintain. So all bets are off. You can craft a story where anything is possible. She could end up a paraplegic at the end of the series, for all you know. So I'm having a lot of fun pushing the boundaries of the tone.

Adriana Melo is assisting you in bringing to life Jackpot's adventures. What does she bring to the book as an artist?

She's amazing. First of all, she draws women phenomenally well. She also draws action in a really compelling way. Her work features a clean line, kinetic action scenes, and really compelling storytelling. She's a real find.

You mentioned earlier that Jackpot's adventures in this series could take her almost anywhere. If people respond to "Amazing Spider-Man Presents: Jackpot" would you like to revisit the character in another series, or again in the pages of "Amazing Spider-Man?"

I would certainly love for the character to continue to have life. If this series had a tag line it would be, "See Jackpot again for the first time!" Even though the character of Jackpot has been around for a few years, this will be the first time readers see Sara Ehret in the costume. So in many ways, this is a new introduction to the character.

The person behind the mask is always more important than the mask itself. So we'll have to see how successful this first mini is. I, of course hope it is, and there are more Jackpot adventures to come.

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