When the villainous Doctor Octopus transferred his consciousness into Spider-Man’s body, a new, some would say superior, era began for the web-slinger. Characterized by Otto Octavius transforming Spidey’s brand of heroics into a violent and vainglorious style of heroism, the last year also saw the emergence of a new band of working class super criminals that debuted in the pages of “Superior Spider-Man” before earning their own series, “The Superior Foes of Spider-Man” by writer Nick Spencer and artist Steve Lieber.
The “Superior” era of Spider-Man comes to an end this April with the return of Peter Parker and the launch of an all-new “Amazing Spider-Man” series, which raises the question: How will that impact the quintet of villains starring in “The Superior Foes of Spider-Man,” and what’s next for Boomerang’s misleadingly named Sinister Six? For the answers to those questions and more, CBR News spoke with Spencer.
CBR News: “The Superior Foes of Spider-Man” was born out of the “Superior Spider-Man” series. When it was announced that that title will soon be coming to an end, some people were worried Peter Parker’s return might mean the end of this book. But the April solicits came out, and that doesn’t appear to be the case.
Nick Spencer: Yes, it was really nice because we ran the solicits for issue #12, which the entire Internet told me would never, ever happen! [Laughs] It was a bit of a milestone for us, and I can go ahead and reveal that when the book started, we were told that we had 12 issues. To get to go beyond that is a huge victory for the book, and a testament to the fan response, the very kind reviews, and all the great year-end lists that managed to mention us.
â€¨So we’re not done yet! We’re still around, and the bottom line is, we definitely have the time needed to tell the story that we set out to tell. In fact, we got to build it out a bit more. That’s the good news.
Obviously, a book called “The Superior Foes of Spider-Man” starring Boomerang was never destined to be a blockbuster seller, but the very devoted following we’ve attracted has managed to keep us alive thus far. So a big thank you to everyone who keep passionately talking up the book — and issue #12 is not our last issue! [Laughs]
Let’s rewind to “The Superior Foes of Spider-Man,” #7, which explored the origin of the new Beetle, Janice Lincoln. Refresh my memory — the new Beetle appeared in Ed Brubaker’s “Captain America” run, but was any connection to her father, Lonnie Lincoln (AKA Tombstone) mentioned in that story?
No. When we were first setting up the book, we talked about how all these villains are at least somewhat known quantities except for the Beetle, who was a little bit more of a blank slate. Like you said, she first appeared over in Ed’s “Captain America,” and she made a brief appearance at the beginning of “Superior Spider-Man,” but her back story really hadn’t been determined by anyone. It was great for me to have a member of the cast where I could invent that stuff. I was certainly keen to do a bad guy origin issue.
What made you want to link Beetle to Tombstone? How big a role will her father play in this series moving forward?
He’ll definitely play a pretty big role, especially down the road. For now, though, I love the mobster’s daughter archetype. I like the idea of gangster royalty, and I’ve always been a Tombstone fan. He’s one of my favorite Spidey villains, and this was an opportunity to bring him into the story in a pretty organic way.
Beyond that, I like the generational difference. I like that Tombstone is an old school bruiser guy and that Janice responds to that by being an organizational mastermind and is very business minded. It was a fun contrast to play with and felt very real to me.
Speaking of contrasts, we know how horrible and ruthless Tombstone can be from his past appearances, but you show that he actually is a pretty decent father in his own sort of way.
That speaks to how a lot of people are in real life. Sometimes, the most horrible people are the most devoted parents. It’s not always easy to draw that line. I thought there was a certain degree of authenticity to Tombstone being a very doting, if somewhat patronizing father.
It was fun to show a character like that in a softer light. I think showing that side of him is great for the character.
Let’s rewind things back a little further to “The Superior Foes of Spider-Man” #6, where we got to see Boomerang — Fred Myers — making the most of his theft of the Doctor Doom without his mask painting. What’s your overall sense of Fred’s cunning? Is there a potential for him to be something more than the B-List villain he’s perceived to be?
Yeah, part of the appeal of the character is that he’s always just within reach of taking that next step and becoming the criminal mastermind he dreams of being. Watching him get his own way and trip himself up again and again is a big part of the fun of writing the character. There are moments where Fred can seem like a very cunning and clever guy. Then, every time you start to think that, he does something that just makes you slap your forehead and wonder what he could be thinking. That frustration and self defeating tendency is big part of what makes him tick.
Fred and Janice’s stories in “Superior Foes” #6 ended with the arrival of two top gang bosses Tombstone and the Chameleon. Then issue #7 was a flashback that looked at Janice’s past. I assume those two stories from #6 will continue in issue #8.
Issue #8 very much picks up after what we saw in issue #6. We look at the aftermath of Tombstone’s arrival, and there’s more on Boomerang and his getaway with the painting. He’s currently in some hot water with Chameleon and a lot of that will play out in this issue. There are some nice, personal moments for Fred. We kind of took a month off from talking with him, but we’re going to get back into his head and the standard format that we’ve grown accustomed to.
Can you hint or tease some of the events or the gags of the next few issues?
Fred is going to get a showdown with a rival villain that he feels very much wronged by. We’re finally going to see Shocker, again. We’ve haven’t seen him since he absconded with the head of Silvermane a couple months ago, so we’re going to touch base with him, and we’re obviously going to explore the reaction of the rest of the Six to being double-crossed by Boomerang.
The solicits for April’s #12 suggest that a new story will begin in that issue.
In issue #12, we’re getting to the point where all these various, seemingly unconnected plotlines are going to converge and bump into each other. That should create a lot of chaos for everyone involved.
“Superior Foes” is a crime book, but it’s also a black comedy. What’s it like telling that kind of story with Steve Lieber?
Steve is one of the best artists I’ve ever worked with. He’s so much of what makes this book work. It just simply couldn’t exist without Steve. What he brings to each issue and adds to the story is just immeasurable. I really can’t say enough good things about how the book looks and reads month in and month out. I’m just enormously lucky to have been able to collaborate with him here. Each issue just looks and reads better than the last. That’s really exciting. Steve’s voice really comes through on the page. That storyteller credit is there for a reason.
So the emotional and humorous moments in this book are as much from Steve as they are from you?
Absolutely! The weakest scene I write, he’ll make it ten times stronger. Then the best scene that I write, he’ll make it far better than I could have dreamed it being. Hopefully, one of these days I’ll release a scene in script form and people can see just how much he builds into that and adds to it. He deserves an enormous amount of credit.
“Superior Foes” seems to have developed a pretty devoted fan base and has earned some high praise. What is it about the book that you think is resonating with people?
I think this book looks at a part of the universe people have always been intrigued by, the life of working class villains and what makes these particular bad guys tick. Beyond that, to get to do a black comedy within the Marvel Universe is kind of a rare joy. To get to do a book that aims to make people laugh, but also has twists, turns and intrigue to keep them invested has been a nice mix. It’s really fantastic when books like this come together and you can feel everything running on all cylinders.
â€¨Again, a huge thank you to the book’s following because they really have helped make the book a success and given it more life than what we would have had even under our most optimistic expectations. So please — keep it up!
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