In 2011, Marvel Comics decided to make Spider-Man just a little less special, infecting the populace of Manhattan with a plague that endowed them with similar Spider-powers that eventually transformed them into monstrous Man-Spiders -- and the isle of Manhattan into "Spider-Island." The virus was created by the villainous Jackal as a way to provide his employer, the megalomaniacal Spider-Queen, with an army under her complete control.
In the climax of the original "Spider-Island" event written by Dan Slott, Spidey's humanity allowed him to lead his allies in battle against the Spider-Queen, cure the virus and liberate Manhattan from her grips. But this July, writer Christos Gage and artist Paco Diaz will reimagine the outcome of the "Amazing Spider-Man" event and take readers to a world where no cure was ever found and a valiant resistance army led by Agent Venom battles to eradicate the infestation of Man-Spiders that have overrun Manhattan -- a world that exists as a domain on the patchwork planet Battleworld, site of Marvel's "Secret Wars" event.
CBR News spoke with Gage about Agent Venom's desperate battle against the Spider-Queen and her minions, how it leads to the emergence of other monstrous Marvel characters, and about sharing "Spider-Island" with writer Tom DeFalco and artist Ron Frenz who will provide back-up stories for the series starring the Mayday Parker incarnation of Spider-Girl.
CBR News: With "Spider-Island" you're taking readers to a Battleworld domain where the outcome of the titular even is reimagined so that the Spider Queen triumphed. What inspired you to take the story in that direction?
Christos Gage: As a writer, it's always the most fun to put your character in the worst possible situation, and this seemed to qualify. Also, I was a big fan of the original "What If?" series, as well as classic films like "Escape From New York" and "The Warriors," so I wanted to evoke those.
When you pick up with your story, how much time has passed since the Spider-Queen and her subjects took control of Manhattan? What does the island look like now and what is life like for those who remain?
I don't want to give everything away, but almost all human beings are monstrous human/spider hybrids in thrall to the Queen -- except a small resistance force led by Agent Venom [AKA Flash Thompson], the Vision and Spider-Woman. As for how much time has passed, it's not clear, but probably a few months.
I understand Flash's band aren't just going up against the transformed civilians of Manhattan, they also have to contend with Man-Spider hybrids of some of the heroes that populated the island. Is that correct?
It is. They are up against former allies who are now spider-creatues, but with their old powers! Opposing them are Captain Marvel, Spider-Hulk, the Spider-King (formerly Captain America), and more. Flash's movement is dwindling every day. But he has a plan...
When your story begins Agent Venom is suffering from some guilt and torment over what happened to Spider-Man in his final battle with the Spider-Queen. How does that affect his ability to lead when your story begins?
It just adds to the burden. Flash has lost men in combat before, but failing to save his hero, Spider-Man, gives him a feeling of failure and a need for redemption that really drives him. He'll do anything to save whats left of humanity.
As I understand it Spider-Man is missing and presumed dead, but what about characters like Kaine and Eddie Brock who also played significant roles in the original "Spider-Island?" Do they factor into the story you're telling?
We don't want to be slaves to the original storyline, so people who may not have read it or don't remember it can enjoy this one on its own terms. There is no Eddie Brock, Anti-Venom in this world -- he was the cure in the original story, and there's no cure here! As for Kaine, he's presumably one of the spider monsters. There'll be other differences, too. For example, Carol Danvers is Captain Marvel here, not Ms. Marvel, to avoid confusing readers who think of Kamala Khan as Ms. Marvel.
Earlier you mentioned Flash has a plan and I imagine we'll see him implement it in "Spider-Island." Can you give us any clues as to what he's scheming?
Flash's desperate plan involves adding to the number of allies he has -- and making enemies into allies!
Did I mention Capwolf? And Stegron? No? Well, they're here!
Those creatures and the hordes of Man-Spiders that populate Manhattan suggest you're having some fun with the elements of Marvel monster and horror comics in this story, but given the monstrous nature of the antagonists, how large a role does horror play in your tale?
I don't know if I'd call this an outright horror story, but it definitely has elements of the horror/hero titles Marvel published in the 70s, like "Werewolf By Night." I loved those, and I think the influence probably shows.
Helping you bring those elements to life and set the tone of "Spider-Island" is artist Paco Diaz, who has some experience depicting Spider powered characters and strange other worlds thanks to his recent work on the "Spider-Verse" series "Scarlet Spiders." How much fun did you have designing the world of "Spider-Island" with Paco?
It's been a lot of fun -- and I can't forget Humberto Ramos, who designed many of the hybrid characters. I love the dynamic feel of Paco's art, so I've tried to give him ample room to deliver that!
Finally, let's talk about some of the other creators whose work will be featured in "Spider-Island." Readers of this series won't just be treated to your tale. They'll also get a bonus story featuring the "Secret Wars" adventures of fan-favorite Spider-Girl Mayday Parker by her creators, Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz. How does it feel to be sharing the book with a character who's inspired such a passionate fan base?
I grew up reading those guys' work -- and that of Sal Buscema, who inks, as I understand it -- so it's a huge thrill to share a book with them. And the character they created, too!
"Spider-Verse" #1 debuts in July from Marvel Comics as part of "Secret Wars."