SPOILER WARNING: This article contains minor spoilers for "Amazing Spider-Man: Dead No More Free Comic Book Day Special," on sale now.
Power and responsibility are major parts of what it means to be Spider-Man, but death has also been a key part of Peter Parker's identity from the very beginning. Time and again he's been forced to learn that try as he might, he cannot save everyone. From his Uncle Ben to Captain Stacy to Gwen Stacy, Peter's limits as a hero have been tested, causing him pain and anguish in the process. Those deaths may not haunt Spider-Man much longer as the dead are somehow rising in the Marvel Universe. What that means, how Peter will cope with certain returns, and who is responsible all remain to be seen as "Dead No More" arrives.
"Amazing Spider-Man" writer Dan Slott will team with artist Jim Cheung for the event this summer, but things kicked off this past weekend in the pages of one of Marvel's two Free Comic Book Day offerings. The shocking end of the FCBD special left readers with a number of burning questions, some of which will begin to be answered by Slott and artist Giuseppe Camuncoli this August as they bring readers a series of "Amazing Spider-Man" issues under the banner of "Before Dead No More."
Slott spoke exclusively with CBR News about the explosive nature of the reveals of the "Before Dead No More" issues and detailed some of the characters who will appear, including Prowler and the new Electro. The writer also discussed his love for writing horror and how he'll get a chance to flex some of those particular writing muscles with "Dead No More."
CBR News: Your Free Comic Book Day special gave readers a preview of October's big Spidey event story, "Dead No More." How does this tale compare in scope and scale to some of your past Spider-Man event stories like "Spider-Island" and "Spider-Verse?"
Dan Slott: NOTHING THAT HAS COME BEFORE SHALL MATCH "DEAD NO MORE!"
Now that we've gotten that Stan's Soapbox moment out of the way[Laughs], "Dead No More" is a Spider event unlike any Spider event that we've done in that we're going to the graves, we're facing Peter Parker's greatest fears and failures head on. Three hallmarks of Spider-Man Lore; the death of Uncle Ben, the death of Captain Stacy, and the death of Gwen Stacy, these personal tragedies and heartbreaks are raw cornerstones of Peter's life.
When you're reading Spider-Man from the beginning he's having all these adventures and there's a lot of soap opera, but for the longest time nothing strikes him as hard as those three deaths. They're mythic -- they're sacred, and it's kind of become a recurring thing in "ASM" that when a writer comes on board, they want to tell a story that big -- a tale with that much heart and that much loss. And after 50-plus years of those kinds of tales, we've filled up literal graveyards with people close to Peter.
What we're dealing with in "Dead No More" is opening up many of those mausoleums -- only to find out they might just be empty. What happens when the wound left by the death of a loved one isn't just healed it is completely undone? Is it a blessing or a curse? There's going to be action, intrigue and horror in this event, but there's also going to be so much heart.
The Free Comic Book Day special gave readers a glimpse of two of the major players in "Dead No More"; a mysterious masked man in red and a woman who looks a lot like Gwen Stacy. There are, understandably, a number of questions about those two characters, though I'm told some clues -- and maybe some answers -- are coming this August to "Amazing Spider-Man" in the form of several issues under the banner of "Before Dead No More." What can you tell us about the general thrust of these issues?
Will we see more of the man in red in the "Before Dead No More" stories? Yes, but we're also going to see really big puzzle pieces coming into play as well. You do not want to miss these. We turn over a lot of important cards before "Dead No More," major twists, turns and developments of the entire modern day Spider-Man run.
This is up there with "Spider-Island," the launch of "Big Time," "Spider-Verse" and "Ends of the Earth." This is one of our key stories that we've been building to for some time. So the "Before Dead No More" stories aren't just a prelude. Some seismic events happen in them.
"Before Dead No More" begins in August's "Amazing Spider-Man" #16 with a story that focuses on Parker Industries. Will Peter's company comer under attack in this story?
This is not an assault on Parker Industries; it's not some super villain attacking it. When you have a large company spanning multiple cities and countries, where there's so many people in the mix, so many moving parts there will be accidents. In this story there will be an accident at a Parker Industries plant, and if you're Peter Parker what does that do to you? When you have someone with Peter's sense of responsibility what happens when there's a tragic accident at a plant with his name on it?
Peter is proud to have a company that provides jobs for some many people. To him it's like there are all these Uncle Bens and Aunt Mays working for him as well as moms, dads and other family members. That's something he can relate to from growing up in that house on Ingram Street in Queens -- and all the struggles his family had trying to make ends meet. He understands the value of that life and of all these people who are dependent on him and the success of Parker Industries.
That same month, "Amazing Spider-Man" #17 introduces a new female Electro. And what inspired the creation of this new character and why does she pick up the villainous mantle?
Here's the thing though -- she is not a new character. [Laughs] And she's definitely going to have different motivations than Max Dillon. That's all I can really say.
Issue #17 also features the Prowler, a character you really seem to enjoy writing. What is it that intrigues you about Hobie Brown?
One of the strange pieces of comic book trivia is who designed the Prowler. Do you know who came up with his visual?
He first appears in John Romita, Sr. issues of Spider-Man, but John Romita, Jr. designed him as a kid. His dad liked the design. So the Prowler is like this great legacy character in the Spider-Man universe.
I love Hobie. When we had our first meetings about "Brand New Day" there were all these Hobie Brown issues I wanted to do, but the other guys had some similar stories. So I waited and waited and waited...
I've been trying to put the Prowler in books for ages. If my "Thing" series had kept going, he was going to be introduced into it around issue #9 and become a regular character.
I remember there was this interview with JMS near the end of his "Amazing Spider-Man" run where he was asked, "Is there anything you haven't done in Spider-Man that you wanted to do?" He replied, "I never did an Electro story." And you could read the sadness in his response. That kind of breaks your heart. It made me think, "I'm getting near 150 issues of Spider-Man and I still haven't done anything with the Prowler!" I don't want to look back years from now and regret that. So I made sure we got him into our all-new, all-different set up.
These two lead-off issues of "Before Dead No More" feature art by your trusted collaborator, artist Giuseppe Camuncoli. How does it feel to be heading toward this big event with him?
I have so much fun working with Cammo! As comic book artists go, the man's a quintuple threat! He's an incredible storyteller, he can pace out an action sequence like nobody else, his figure work is the best, he never skimps on the backgrounds -- building whole worlds with amazing details. And, the most impressive thing of 'em all, on top of all of that, he's a consummate professional. He will kill himself to get a book in!
He did issues #1-5 of our current volume. Then we had Matteo [Buffagni] come on for three issues, but that wasn't to give Cammo a break! We do far more than 12 issues a year -- way over a book a month. Just look at how many issues Cammo has done -- and is doing this year! He's a madman. And I love him for it! Hardest working and most talented man in the industry!
Then, as we talked about, "Dead No More" begins in October and sees you teaming with artist Jim Cheung. Have you two worked together before?
Jim used to do the covers for "Avengers: The Initiative," but this is my first time working with Jim on interiors and I'm so excited! The first issue is in the drawer, and it's gorgeous! It is beautiful!
The nature of "Dead No More" means it will be an epic and intensely personal story for Peter Parker, but what about his rather large supporting cast? Will they have parts to play and losses to confront as well?
Yes! No one escapes the cruel touch of "Dead No More." [Laughs] This one has got a lot of gut punches in it. Also if we do it right, each one will freak you the hell out. There are moments where my editor Nick Lowe is like, "You are going to give small children nightmares." I'm like, "Great!" [Laughs]
I remember reading comics that creeped me out when I was a kid -- in the horror comics, EC books, and, yes, even stuff that would happen in Spider-Man. There would be some really creepy stuff in there, and I think that's good for you. I think it's good for you to have genuine scares and freakout moments, because at the end of the day Spider-Man is there. And he's going to save you -- hopefully. [Maniacal laugh]
[Laughs] You're not known for writing horror, but I know you do enjoy it. Your first horror story that I remember is "Arkham Asylum: Living Hell," which mixed horror with comedy.
Yeah, very macabre comedy. And this is Spider-Man. He's always going to be Spider-Man. Sometimes things get serious, but humor is how he copes.
When we were at the last Marvel retreat before we even got to the part where I walked people through "Dead No More," I was walking fellow Marvel creators through "Before Dead No More." And when I mentioned this one beat in the story there was one creator who went, "NOOOOOO!" I emotionally gut punched a writer from across a table.[Laughs] I had to meet with them during breaks, hug it out, and tell them it was all going to be okay. Which, let's be honest, was an enormous lie. [Laughs]
"Before Dead No More" begins this August in "Amazing Spider-Man" #16. "Dead No More" kicks off in October from Marvel Comics.