Fantastic Five: Parker talks "Spider-Man/Fantastic Four"

The Marvel Universe was born when four friends and one lone teenager decided to use their newfound special abilities to make the world a better place. This April, when an intergalactic menace threatens Earth, those original five heroes, Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four, must join forces to save the world. This is the premise of "Spider-Man/Fantastic Four" a four issue mini-series by writer Jeff Parker and artist Mike Wieringo. CBR News spoke with Parker about the project.

Marvel Comics is located in New York, but "Spider-Man/Fantastic Four" sprang from developments in a city on the opposite coast, Hollywood. "Followers of comics-based movies may have noticed that there are two big movies featuring Marvel heroes coming out this year," Parker told CBR News. "Odds are good that some lapsed comics readers are going to get excited and return to the comics shop to see their old favorites. And then they might have big question marks floating over their collective heads when they see that storylines have changed the status quo somewhat. So an elegant Brevoortian solution was developed to create a stand-alone story bringing the FF and Spider-Man together. Right at the time when I've been badgering everyone in earshot to let me work with Mike Wieringo."

As Parker mentioned, "Spider-Man/Fantastic Four" doesn't involve all the recent complications in the character's lives like Spider-Man's unmasking and Reed and Sue Richard's marital problems. "This is the recent past, probably just before 'Civil War,'" Parker explained. "The Richards' have their two children, and Peter Parker still has Mary Jane and Aunt May. And still will anyway, as far as I know!"

"Spider-Man/Fantastic Four" is set in the recent past and will whisk readers to a variety of weird and wondrous locales. "It definitely starts in New York, with Spider-Man out doing his job at night. But it's a big story, so it soon starts taking things out of the States. Along the way we'll be stopping by Wundagore and Latveria."

As readers might have guessed by the pre-"Civil War" setting and the globe-hopping story, "Spider-Man/Fantastic Four" is an old-school "In the Mighty Marvel Manner" style tale. "We're really embracing the sci-fi aspects of it all, and the 'big ideas' approach that made the '60s Marvel books so exciting," Parker stated. "The overall title is 'Heroes of the Silver Age,' which doesn't refer to what you might think. But it is a throwback to the very early Silver Age stories, where the FF would have to deal something like planetary invasion. Looking at that with a modern eye and following how something like that might play out.

"There's always lots of talk of conquering the world, but what's really the point of doing so and how can you actually pull that off? Along comes a species that has a reason to do it and a very good track record with making it happen," Parker continued. "They don't really see themselves as invaders or conquerors, they think they're doing us a huge favor.

They aren't villains in the old sense, so the dynamic isn't heroes vs. bad guys. At the same time, they can't be reasoned with."

Foiling Alien invasions is part of the Fantastic Four's job description, but Spider-Man feels more than a little out of his element. "He doesn't think of himself as a worldwide hero," Parker explained. "He sees his role as what he's doing when the story begins, stopping some small time crime. But as probably the most resourceful of the Marvel heroes, he rises to the occasion."

It won't just be everybody's favorite Web-Head and Marvel's First Family in action in "Spider-Man/Fantastic Four." A number of familiar faces, both friends and foes, play roles. "As you might have guessed from the Latveria reference, Victor Von Doom will be appearing. Similarly, Mary Jane and Aunt May," Parker said. "And Ben Grimm's former girlfriend Alicia Masters. You'll also get some glimpses of other classic Marvel heroes and what' s happening with them as this all goes down."

Both Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four have close-knit ties to the other heroes of the Marvel U, but the way Parker sees it, the Web-Slinger and the FF have a particularly unique bond. "Spidey and the FF don't actually interact a lot, but they share a connection from being the first of their kind," he explained. "There's lots of heroes in the Marvel Universe now, and even more powerful people running around, but these five were here first and they'll probably be the last too. With that has to come a sort of bond, an understanding."

Bringing to life Parker's tale of the MU's original heroes is Mike Wieringo, an artist whose received much acclaim for both his depictions of the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man. Parker has been amazed by the work of his artistic collaborator. "Mike's been good enough to send jpegs as he finishes each page, and there's nothing more inspiring than seeing that," Parker stated.

Parker hopes fans enjoy "Spider-Man/Fantastic Four" as much he did working on it because he'd love to tell more team up adventures featuring the Wallcrawler and the FF. "I've got one I'd like to write ready to go!" he said. "It was a previous story idea dealing with a mythical pantheon that Steve Wacker wisely made me shelve for the moment because it was a little too different in scope- for a book designed to bridge the general public and current readership. But hopefully they'll think it fits better after this story. And hopefully Mike will want to draw it."

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