For some, writing superheroes is a day job. For Dan Slott, it is a calling. The kind of writer who never seems to switch off, his colleagues will tell you that Slott inhabits the Marvel Universe, penning such popular titles as “Avengers: The Initiative,” “Amazing Spider-Man,” “She-Hulk,” and, beginning in January, “Mighty Avengers.” It’s a strange thing to hear Slott speak in the “voice” of J. Jonah Jameson or Benjamin Grimm, but also fitting, as Slott approaches every character with the same youthful enthusiasm he had reading their adventures as a kid, and that enthusiasm is infectious.
CBR spoke previously with Slott about his and Khoi Pham's upcoming run on “Mighty Avengers” as well as "New Ways to Die," his and artist John Romita, Jr.'s chart-topping arc in "Amazing Spider-Man." With that storyline concluding this week with issue #573, the writer discusses with us why writing Spider-Man is the greatest job in the world.
CBR: Between "Mighty Avengers" and “Avengers: The Initiative” and the thrice-weekly “Amazing Spider-Man” — for which you are one of a team of writers -- and teaching at Comics Experience, is that it for you? Are you chained to a desk or do you have more stuff in the works?
Dan Slott I'm chained to a desk. My limit, I've found over the years, is two books and change. I was so grateful that we brought [co-writer] Chris [Gage] onto the book with "Initiative" when we did the "Killed In Action" storyline. Because there were times that I'd be working on two to three Spider-Man storylines at the same time, with two or three different art teams. You have to work so far ahead to make sure it all works and you can get your three issues a month. So even though it looked like I was only doing a book-and-a-half a month, in actuality, when I'm at the office and I'm working, I feel like I'm doing two to three Spider-Man stories a month.
Most people would think it’s easier to work on a book with several writers rather than handling the heavy lifting yourself.
I have never worked harder on a comic than I have on "Amazing Spider-Man," because you have to read everybody's stories. You have to give notes on everybody's stuff because everybody's giving notes to you. You're constantly doing conference calls. You're on the phone with each other individually. You're looking at spreadsheets and it's just crazy how much work goes into this book.
It would be so much easier if we all split up and we put out three or four different Spider-Man comics, if you went back down to "Amazing" and "Web Of" and whatnot. But we so believe in this process, and we're doing something that's never been done before. It's such an honor to be part of this team and be working with these people. I wouldn't trade it. Wouldn't trade it for anything. But, oh man, is it hard work. Working on "New Ways to Die" — that almost killed me. There was a six-week period where the last issue of Marc Guggenheim's "Kraven's First Hunt" and then five issues of "New Ways to Die" came out. You were getting a Spider-Man comic a week for six weeks. That was so much work on everybody's part: John Romita, Jr., Klaus Janson, Dean White and, oh man, I worship the ground letterer Cory Petit walks on! People have no idea how much hard work Cory put into that book to make sure it all came out right.
[Editor] Steve Wacker — there are days he doesn't go home till who knows when-- and even on the days he does go home, he's constantly texting us on his Treo. On the train, going home, when he's home, late at night, on the weekend — it's a 24/7 job for him. He works so damn hard on this book. We're all very proud of it.
You've talked before about having creator-owned projects you'd like to get to one day. You're obviously swamped right now but do you think you're getting to the phase of your career where you'd like to try that soon?
Sure. Totally. There's stuff I'd like to do, I hope one day I can even do it with [Marvel’s creator-owned imprint] ICON. I mean, yeah, there are characters and things. There's stuff I've had in my pocket since High School.
Are they in the superhero vein or are they other genres?
They're all over. There's one thing that's very sci-fi, there's one thing that's very mystical, there's one thing that's almost like a children's book. Almost in the vein a “Narnia”— or one of the Oz or Alice books. There are so many ideas you've had and stories that are in your heart that you want to tell.
That said? I've seen the [Robert] Kirkman video and there's one part where he says, "Who wants work on ‘Moby Dick 2?’ Who wants to work on these characters you didn't create?" And I'm thinking, "Heeee's crazyyyy! He's insane!" I'm the guy that -- when I was a little kid, I had my Spider-Man lunchbox and my Spider-Man PEZ dispenser and my Spider-Man piggy bank. Oh my God, that Spider-Man piggy bank! It was this plastic red bust of Spider-Man, like you might have a bust of Beethoven, this red bust all in one color of molded plastic. And there was a slot in the top of his head to put the coins in, and I kept putting my pennies and nickels from my leftover lunch money in that. I filled it up and it was one of the worst days of my childhood when we had to open it up so I could buy something. I turned it over and I realized there was no hole to get the money out. We were going to have to cut into it. It was this torturous moment for me as a child! I didn't want to ruin it. I was going to keep this thing forever. But I had to get to the money if I was going to buy something cool! When we finally did it, cutting out the bottom, I was going to cry.
When we had any kind of project to do in grade school, I would somehow turn it into something about Spider-Man or the Hulk.
Can you give us an example?
Yeah. There was like a snack-Thanksgiving-dinner-thing for parents' night. We'd sit around and have a fake Thanksgiving dinner for parents and teachers. Each parent was supposed to find their kid's set-up based on the little art project turkey you'd made. One of the things we had to do was make a little pilgrim and a pilgrim wife that you put on a Popsicle stick and you glued it and stuck it into a little cup filled with candy corn or something. My parents were the first parents to find their kids’ area and sit down, because instead of doing a pilgrim and his wife, I did Spider-Man in a pilgrim suit and the Hulk in a pilgrim suit.
So the idea of Kirkman saying no one would want to work on this stuff — Holy Jesus. I've wanted to do Spider-Man my whole fricking life. I could not be happier working on "Amazing Spider-Man." It is physically impossible for there to be more endorphins rushing through my brain.
You're obviously true blue Marvel in every way, but if you were still working for DC —
You didn't even have to think about it.
No. When I was a kid there were five comics that I bought that I knew I was going to buy every month. Those books were always "Amazing Spider-Man," "Marvel Team-Up," "Detective Comics," "The Brave and the Bold," and "Marvel Two-In-One." I learned the Marvel Universe through who Spider-Man teamed up with in "Marvel Team-Up" and who Thing teamed up with in "Marvel Two-In-One." And I learned the DC Universe through who Batman teamed up with in "The Brave and the Bold." Then if I had an extra quarter saved up from extra lunch money, I'd buy the adventures of the guys they teamed up with. I'd buy "The Avengers," "Fantastic Four," usually the team books so you'd get more guys.
But yeah, I got a lot of Batman out of my system at DC, working on "Arkham Asylum," working on "Batman Adventures," working on "Justice League Adventures."
What parts of the DC Universe did you not get to play with that you would like to?
There are weird, wonky characters I've always liked. I have an insane love for The Creeper, Deadman, the Silver Age Doom Patrol -- all the Arnold Drake stuff. Maybe Plastic Man and maybe Captain Marvel. But there's still so much of the Marvel world to cover. And the Marvel world is really where my heart is. Like I'd love to take a crack at the Fantastic Four one day. And when I was in high school, my favorite thing was Bill Sienkiewicz and Dough Moench's "Moon Knight." I have an insane love for Moon Knight. Conversely, I have deep-deep love for Walt Simonson's "Thor" but part of me knows I don't have the chops. Thor's not in my wheelhouse. Just like when I sit down to read a book -- I read an Elmore Leonard novel, I read crime novels and I don't think people think crime novels when they think of me.
You have safe-zones that you work out of. I wouldn't want to write Thor as a monthly because I wouldn't want to read my Thor. I'd rather read my Hercules because he's drunk Thor. I would write Thor as a member of the Avengers, but J. Michael Straczynski’s "Thor" is amazing and whenever [Matt] Fraction touches Thor it's awesome. But part of me knows, I should stay away from solo Thor.
Just like part of me knows that while I love The Atom, I should stay away from him. Because what I know about physics could fit on the back of a fortune cookie fortune. And you have to know your physics when you're working on The Atom because part of it is what cool thing are you going to do that uses Ray Palmer's incredible scientific knowledge? So somewhere in between the Shakespearean language that comes out of Thor's mouth and the scientific knowledge that comes out of The Atom's, those are the two far points of my spectrum where I don't want to go; my ultraviolet and my infrared.
What’s coming up in “Amazing Spider-Man?”
Everyone should pick up the last chapter of "New Ways To Die" [on sale now]. Also, if you're someone who's been reading "New Ways To Die" and digging it, you should start reading the "Brand New Day" trade paperbacks, which start coming out this week too! Since the “Kraven's First Hunt” story, I think the whole Spider-Team has been firing on all cylinders.
Right after NWTD wraps up, Marc Guggenheim has a done-in-one story with Flash Thompson that I think is one of the best single issue Spider-Man issues in the past ten years. Joe Kelly's two-part Hammerhead story is wonderfully brutal. Mark Waid's got a winning arc up after that! It just doesn't stop! Spider-Man fans are in for a good long run of awesome stories! I'm so serious! This stuff is not to be missed!