Because of his relatable problems and determination in the face of constant setbacks, Spider-Man has been the everyman of the Marvel Universe almost since his debut as a down-on-his-luck high schooler back in 1962. As Marvel's resident everyman, Spider-Man is the perfect character with which to explore the many unique facets of the Marvel Universe. Peter Parker's adventures can also feature a wide variety of tones; everything from the powerful and poignant to the hilariously weird can factor into a Spidey tale.
This year's "Amazing Spider-Man Annual" will show just how diverse Spidey and his world are with two separate tales -- one by Sean Ryan and Brandon Peterson and a backup by Jai Nitz and Ron Salas. We spoke with Ryan about his lead story, which explores Peter Parker's penchant to put others first, and Nitz about his adventure, which spotlights two of the Marvel Universe's loudest villains -- the Steve Gerber creations Doctor Bong and Angar the Screamer.
CBR News: Sean, when you worked for Marvel as an editor back in the 2000s, you primarily edited the X-books. Now that you've returned to the company as a writer, you are getting a lot of assignments involving Spider-Man. What's it like to finally get a shot at Spidey and his adventures? How long have you been a fan of the character?
Sean Ryan: It's fantastic! I love Spider-Man. He's the best superhero around and just such a fun character to write. I've been a fan of Spidey since I was a kid. I really got into the character with the help of the Fox cartoon from the 90's. In the 90's all the clone stuff was going on and my kid brain was frightened of how complicated that looked -- though I read X-Men comics in the 90's, so I'm not sure what I was worried about. But I loved that Fox cartoon and it was great at introducing me to the character and all his villains.
Jai, you've written for a number of Marvel books over the years, but this is your first chance to explore Spider-Man's world. How does that feel?
Jai Nitz: It feels weird and challenging. I wanted to take a cliched Spidey story and turn it on its ear. I hate it when writers go out of their way to make Spider-Man witty and quip-filled and banter-tastic to the detriment of the story, so I wanted to write a story that focused on silence and sound -- which don't exist in comics. Sound effects have to be visualized via the art. I knew I had Ron Salas as the artist, so I cut loose on the script and threw the kitchen sink at him.
Sean, what do you find most interesting about Spidey's current post-"Superior Spider-Man" status quo, now that he's wrested control of his body back from Doctor Octopus? Which aspects of his life and character are you especially interested in exploring in this year's "Amazing Spider-Man Annual"?
Ryan: What I think is interesting about the current status quo is how Peter has woken up to this whole new life that Otto made for him. Peter's basically in charge of a company now. Peter's always had to tackle keeping a balance between his Spider-Man life and his Peter Parker life, but now, running a company, that balance seems harder to maintain. He's got employees counting on him to do his job, not just J. Jonah looking for some pictures. So in my story, I explored how he's got this new life and how the pull of being Spider-Man is always so tempting to Peter.
What can you tell us about the plot?
Ryan: The story is called, "I Can't Help Myself," which means that Spider-Man just can't help himself; in the sense that he can't help but help people. It's all that great power and responsibility stuff. If he thinks he can help someone, he's gonna do it. But the title also means that he can't help himself, in the sense that Peter's life seems to always be the lower priority when compared to helping someone else. In the story, Peter spends a long time trying to help someone else while letting his problems fall by the wayside.
Who is Spidey up against in this tale? Did the story give you the opportunity to use one of his classic villains?
Ryan: As I alluded to a bit in the previous question, the enemy in this story is really Spider-Man himself. Peter's got something he's got to do for work, but it's that pull of being Spider-Man and helping other people that's always so strong.
There are villains that do show up in the story -- the Menagerie, who showed up in "Amazing Spider-Man" just a few months ago. They're great looking villains, and I needed some folks to be robbing something, and these guys fit the bill perfectly. One of their members is a Hippo man, so what's not to like?
Since Spider-Man's non-costumed life plays a significant part in this "Annual," did you get the chance to write any of his supporting characters?
Ryan: His non-costumed life plays a part in the sense that he's trying to avoid it. He's given some material to read for work by Sajani Jaffrey, but like I said earlier, he has to be Spider-Man. Sajani was great to write. She's not in the story all that much, but it's great to write characters that are so new.
Your story has Brandon Peterson on art, and he's done some large scale and intense projects for Marvel like "Age of Ultron" and an arc of "All-New X-Men." Will his story in the "Spider-Man Annual" be big in scope and scale, or will we see what Brandon can do on a smaller story?
Ryan: Having Brandon on this story has been amazing. I've been a fan of his for forever, so to have him drawing a story I wrote is sort of surreal. As for the scope, this is probably the exact opposite of "Age of Ultron." This story is fairly small in scope, but that doesn't mean Brandon skimped on the visuals. This story takes place all over New York and the details Brandon gets into the backgrounds to make this really feel like a story taking place in New York have been fantastic. And there's a double page spread that I was nervous about writing in, but Brandon definitely exceeded my expectations. He really nailed it.
This is a story about how no matter how big or how small a problem may seem, Spider-Man will do his damnedest to help that person with that problem. Whether it's the whole city being destroyed or if someone has just lost their cell phone, Spider-Man will always solve those problems before even thinking about tackling his own. He just can't help himself.
Jai, let's chat a little bit more about your story of sound and silence. I understand it stars two Marvel villains.
Nitz: Yes, I tackled sound villains because the story was about silence and cacophony. I picked two Steve Gerber villains -- Dr. Bong and Angar the Screamer. Then I added the Headmen to complete the Gerber superfecta. Besides being wonderfully absurd, they're also visually cool. Steve Gerber said that Dr. Bong was the result of a particularly weird fan letter. This story is my fan letter to Gerber.
What kind of misadventures are Doctor Bong and Angar embarking on in your tale?
Nitz: Dr. Bong becomes cosmically powerful on the level of Thanos. The story has all the gravitas and action of a huge summer crossover event, but Ron and I still resolve everything in eight pages. This story is "The Killing Joke" for Dr. Bong.
Ron Salas' body of work includes a number of both sci-fi and horror books. What was it like collaborating with him on this story?
Nitz: Ron did a pin-up for me and [artist] Greg Smallwood for [Dark Horse Comics'] "Dream Thief: Escape" #1. He's a wonderful artist who brings a specific style to the table. I asked Ron for some pretty difficult layouts and visual tricks to portray the silence and noise. In typical Salas fashion, he exceeded my expectations. Ron proves he could carry a monthly Marvel book
While we're on the topic of "Dream Thief," your creator-owned series from Dark Horse, what would you like readers who might be discovering your work with this annual to know about "Dream Thief"?
Nitz: Nick Lowe loved "Dream Thief" and has specifically hired Greg and me both at Marvel based on its quality. Greg took over art on "Moon Knight" -- and we throw a shout out to Greg and Mr. Knight in our story. Also "Dream Thief" was originally titled "Sleepwalker," so I asked Ron for a Sleepwalker nod in this story. I know fans of this annual short will love the innovative work Greg and I did on "Dream Thief." I hope it leads them to Ron's work too, because he's a badass.
"Amazing Spider-Man Annual" #1 goes on sale December 10. Check out a lettered preview here on CBR.