Shock(er) to the System: Waid Talks Spidey

SPOILER WARNING: The following contains spoilers for "Amazing Spider-Man" #578, in stores now.

When you live in the Marvel Universe, the simplest endeavors can become harrowing experiences. In this week's "Amazing Spider-Man" #578, Peter Parker hopped aboard a subway train and suddenly found himself trapped underground - just beneath the East River -- and protecting his fellow commuters from a familiar foe. The issue, which is part one of a two-part tale, marked veteran superhero writer Mark Waid's debut on the title. CBR News spoke with Waid about it the latest issue of "Amazing Spider-Man," as well what he has in store for Spidey in part two.

In the early days of 2008, the creators of "Amazing Spider-Man" embraced the title's Brand New Day status quo by telling stories featuring new situations, new supporting characters, and, most importantly, new villains. But the recently completed "New Ways to Die" arc heralded the return of many classic members of Spider-Man's rogues' gallery. That door finally opened, Mark Waid could use in his story The Shocker, one of his favorite Spidey villains, to cause the subway crash in issue #578.

"I've always loved The Shocker for all the wrong reasons," the writer told CBR News. "I love the cushy costume. I love the weird, untraditional color scheme. I like the vibrational powers. And I like the fact that he's pretty clean to drop into a story without having to explicate a ton of back-story."

The Shocker wasn't after Spider-Man when he caused the subway train to crash, his old enemy just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The Shocker's real targets were on the train car directly in front of Peter's. In that car was the jury for the Giacomo Mob trial, and they were on their way to a crime scene associated with in the case. Giacomo's boss Carmine Karnelli hired The Shocker to make sure the jurors never arrived at their destination.

While The Shocker may have successfully derailed the subway car, he wasn't so lucky carrying out the rest of his plan. A face-to-face confrontation with Spider-Man left the villain caught in the very mess he helped create.

"Going into #579, Shocker's in the same boat as the rest--he's trapped under the river with only minutes to live and only Spidey to guide them to safety," Waid explained. "You'd think that would make him easier to deal with. You'd be mistaken. Guy's a jerk. And, it's worse--the battle with The Shocker has weakened the tunnel roof far beyond the capability of Spidey's webs to repair. Shocker's the only one who can blast 'em out--but to where? And with what, now that Spidey's had his way with Shocker's gauntlets?"

The biggest shock in "Amazing Spider-Man" #578 didn't come from The Shocker's vibro-gauntlets, it came on the final page, when one of the jurors revealed his name was J. Jonah Jameson, Sr. "At first glance, a forest fire seems a lot calmer and more rational than his son," Waid stated. "You'll see his personality emerge. He's not much at all like Jonah Junior--but at the same time, there are similarities that neither man recognizes."

Waid's idea to bring J. Jonah Jameson's father into the pages of "Amazing" was sparked by a conversation with fellow comics writer Tom Peyer. "He made a joke about JJJ's dad and that got me to thinking--and to making that my very first pitch to editor Steve Wacker and to the Spidey group, if that's a character they'd be interested in," the writer explained. "All signs were positive, especially once we found a way to weave Zeb Wells's 'Tangled Webs' story of a few years ago[(about Jonah's youth] into this without a hitch in continuity--as you'll see."

As readers may have guessed, Jonah, Sr. isn't a character Waid brought in just for his initial Spider-Man story. Much to Peter Parker's delight, Waid and his fellow "Amazing Spider-Man" creators have big plans for the character. "He's the Superintendent Chalmers to JJJ's Principal Skinner--the one guy who can yell at Jonah (Junior!) the same way that Jonah always yelled at Peter," said Waid. "Which, of course, makes Peter L-O-V-E the man."

Mark Waid was delighted by the way his artistic collaborator on "Amazing Spider-Man" 578-579, Marcos Martin, brought to life Jonah, Sr. and the other characters and situations in the story. "He brings unparalleled storytelling," Waid remarked. "Seriously, this guy was born to draw Spider-Man, and every page was a joy. Everything you ever liked about your favorite Spider-Man artists, whoever they may be, that's all rolled up in Marcos Martin."

"Amazing Spider-Man" #579 hits stores on December 3 and Waid can't wait to hear what readers have to say about his first complete story. Readers who enjoy the writer's take on Spidey won't have long to wait for more, because Waid returns to the character the following month with "Amazing Spider-Man" #583, which features Peter Parker's first date since the launch of the Brand New Day era. "While Peter dating (or failing to date!) is an element in the story, it's also a real examination of why Peter's friends put up with him," Waid explained. "Yes, he's nice, and yes, he's kind-but he's never around, you can't count on him, and he's always cash-strapped and you're picking up the check. And yet, everyone loves Peter. Why exactly is that? Issue #583 gives us one good answer."

Drawing "Amazing Spider-Man" #583 is Waid's long timefriend and frequent collaborator, Barry Kitson, with whom he's worked on "Empire," "The Flash & Green Lantern: The Brave and the Bold" "The Legion of Super-Heroes" and "JLA: Year One." "Barry brings warmth and a sense of humor to the story," Waid said. "And a really fluid, really agile and dynamic Spidey. Barry's another guy who was born to draw Spidey!"

Waid is especially excited that legendary Spider-Man artist John Romita, Sr. provides the cover for "Amazing Spider-Man" #583. "Not only is he all those things, but he's my favorite living comics artist and has been for a very long time," the writer stated. "So this is an honor."

"Amazing Spider-Man" #583 does not mark the end of Waid's contributions to the thrice-weekly title. The writer is already hard at work on his next tale featuring the Web-Slinger. "We've got issues #591-593 tentatively set up as my first three-parter: '24/7,' a story in which --for reasons that will be revealed at the end of #590 and will make your jaw drop-- Spidey's on a round-the-clock tear," Waid teased. " And how will the Vulture play into that? Come see."

Mark Waid is also kept busy by his other job as Editor-in-Chief of BOOM! Studios, a company that publishes a title he thinks would be right up the alleys of many Spider-Man fans. "It's called 'Hexed', about a teenaged supernatural thief who's quite the dark little heroine," Waid said. "It's written by Michael Alan Nelson with art and color by two stunning newcomers, Emma Rios and Cris Peter. It's probably the best-looking book we've yet produced, and the story is great. Drama, action, soap-opera, good characters--Spidey fans should ask for it by name! 'Hexed!'"

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