With his acclaimed late 1990s run on Marvel Comics' "Deadpool," writer Joe Kelly demonstrated his talent for telling tales about costumed smart alecs. Kelly's fans are in luck, for the writer will soon take a crack at the Marvel U's #1 wisecracker in "The Amazing Spider-Man." CBR News spoke with Kelly about both his thoughts on the wall-crawler and his story in the July one-shot, "Amazing Spider-Man: Brand New Day Extra!!" illustrated by fan-favorite Chris Bachalo, with whom the writer worked previously on their creator-owned project "Steampunk."
Spider-Man is Kelly's favorite comic book character, so when editor Stephen Wacker offered him the chance to work on "Amazing Spider-Man" there was no way Kelly was going to turn him down. Joining the writing team of "Amazing Spider-Man" meant a return to working with Marvel, something Kelly hasn't done for quite some time. "It's been about nine years, so it's a little bit surreal," Kelly told CBR News. "It's a very different place certainly from when I was last there. It's a whole new world and everybody has been great. They're doing lots of exciting stuff and the Spidey guys are doing great work. So I'm really excited to be playing in that pool."
Spider-Man's status quo changed significantly since Kelly's first stint at Marvel, and the writer is very excited to be playing with all the new dynamics in the Webslinger's world. "It's really nice to have all the gloves off for any kind of romance gags you want to play," he said. "I love Peter Parker as a character and I love Spider-Man. So to have him restored to that real sad sack status and the personal life problems that come with being single and free wheeling are definitely appealing to me. I like Mary Jane but I'm really happy to move forward."
Kelly says Spider-Man is a character that lends himself to any type of story; action, crime, or supernatural, but the Spidey stories Kelly likes best as both as a reader and a writer are the ones that show-off the character's underdog status. "In a Superman story, you want to see his human side inform how he deals with a problem, but you know he's going to deal with the problem successfully. It's just a given," Kelly stated. "I never feel that way with Spider-Man; so the nastier and darker the threat the more I enjoy it because I like seeing Spider-Man rise to the challenge, because I don't think it's a given that he's going to win all of the time.
"And I love all the soap opera stuff," Kelly added. "I like seeing him have to jump through hoops to try to have a personal life in with all the superhero stuff."
Kelly is still getting acquainted with all the new supporting cat that joined Spider-Man's world with the Brand New Day initiative, but finds characters like Lilly Hollister and the villainous Mr. Negative especially intriguing. The writer is also pleased with the new status of many of the classic Spider-Man supporting characters. "I like the new take on Aunt May. I like that she's a lot more of an 'up and at em' kind of lady. It's a lot more interesting than having her infirm all the time," Kelly explained. "I like having Peter hang out with Ben Urich. Ben's a positive figure and it's nice to give him positive father type figures as opposed to always getting kick around by Jonah Jameson. And I always liked Flash Thompson and Harry Osborn. I just like the cast in general right now."
When it comes to Spider-Man's extensive rogue's gallery, Kelly has many favorites. "I was such a Spidey fan as a kid. I had the same 25 comics that I probably read a hundred times, so those classic characters all stuck with me. Some of them are a little shallower than others like, The Rhino. But I really enjoy those characters too; I love how meat-fisted they are. It's like they embody what they are," Kelly laughed. "The creepier dudes like Mysterio are really high up there for me. Chameleon is great and I always liked the Tarantula even though he was a little odd."
For his initial foray into Spider-Man's brand new world in "Spider-Man: Brand New Day-Extra!," Kelly chose to focus on the villain Hammherhead. "When I come into a project I like to dodge all the established villains for a long time but I couldn't really pull that off this time out because they already had a lot of new villains that they were creating," Kelly explained. "So it just made sense to look at some of the classics and my default was to go to some of the second and third tier guys who kind of scared or intrigued me as a kid, and Hammerhead is one of those guys. He's sort of goofy with the Capone stuff and calling everybody rat but there was just something about him that I found really disturbing. So that's why I picked him as the focus."
Readers of the "Civil War: War Crimes" one-shot, which ended with Hammerhead being shot in the head with an adamantium bullet, will be especially interested in Kelly's story. "We literally pick up from that instant in 'Brand New Day-Extra,'" Kelly confirmed. "We're going to try and update Hammerhead a little in terms of how gangs are formed in real life and, I wouldn't call it 'Modern Gang Warfare,' but what's happening even out here in places like Long Island. We'll look at how gangs go about growing their numbers and things like that and seeing what happens when we put that in a superhero context."
In Kelly's follow-up Spider-Man story, which is a two part-tale tentatively scheduled for November, the writer keeps the spotlight on organized crime. "The reason we did the 'Brand New Day Day-Extra' story was to reintroduce Hammerhead, so he's certainly part of the story," Kelly said. "Really for me the story will be sort of like stretching before taking off on a sprint. I'm getting my feet wet and messing around with these characters."
Artist Chris Bachalo is illustrating both Kelly's story in "Spider-Man: Brand New Day-Extra!" and his later two part follow up in "Amazing Spider-Man. " His art looks unbelievable," Kelly remarked. "It's so much fun to be working with Chris again and his work of course has just improved."
Kelly is enjoying his slow immersion process into Spider-Man's world and is eagerly anticipating becoming a regular contributor to "Amazing Spider-Man." "I just can't express how excited I am," he said. "I've really been focused a lot on animation, other media, and non-mainstream projects. The books that we have coming out from Man of Action [the studio Kelly is part of along with Joe Casey, Duncan Rouleau, and Steven T. Seagle] through Image Comics are really sort of diverse and kind of out of the pale, but if I'm going to do a mainstream superhero book, this is the one I want to do. I couldn't be happier."
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