You know how it is when guests come to town. You just end up stressing out because you want everything to go smoothly. Unfortunately for Peter Parker, his current out-of-town guest is his old foe Norman Osborn, and making sure things go smoothly means protecting his secret identity as Spider-Man and avoid getting killed. This is the setup of "New Ways to Die," the six-part "Amazing Spider-Man" story arc by writer Dan Slott and artist John Romita Jr., which began in last week's #568 and continues in $569, on sale now. CBR News spoke with Slott about the events in the issue and what's next for everybody's favorite Web-Slinger.
Marvel's Brand New Day Spider-Man books have been largely villain-free, at least with baddies of the classic variety, which makes Osborn's presence in "New Ways to Die" a bit of an auspicious occasion. "We took all the classic Spider-Man villains and put them on a shelf for a few months. Now we're dusting them off and bringing them out full force," Slott told CBR News. "We knew this story was going to start Wave Two [of Brand New Day] and [editor] Steve [Wacker] wanted a primer at the top of the book to bring everybody up to date."
As such, the decision was made that "Amazing Spider-Man" #568 wouldn't begin in the present, but would instead kick off by flashing back to the most important moment in Peter Parker's life; the day he met a certain radioactive spider. "When I heard that, I was like, 'I get to retell the origin!' and Bob Gale was like, 'Do we really need to see that again?' I was like, 'Yes! I really need to see John Romita, Jr. draw that!'" Slott said. "And when the first page of 'New Ways to Die' came in, Steve emailed it to everybody and you can tell what giant fanboys we are because the email chain just lit up. To have John Jr. give his telling of Spider-Man's origin was great."
The present day action in "New Ways to Die" begins with the new villain Menace attacking a truck bringing supplies to one of philanthropist Martin Li's F.E.A.S.T. (Food, Emergency Aid, Shelter, and training) homeless shelters. The reason Menace gives for the attack is that Li has chosen to endorse candidate Bill Hollister in New York's upcoming Mayoral election. "Menace seems very intent on deciding who's going to be the next Mayor of New York," Slott said. "We've seen Menace be responsible for the death of one candidate and we saw the villain try to assassinate Bill Hollister as well.
"Bill Hollister is the crusading ex-District Attorney and the father of Peter Parker's friend Lilly Hollister, the young, hip, partying socialite," Slott continued. "He's also a surrogate father to another one of Peter's friends Carlie Cooper. There have been hints that Carlie's father died years ago and she was raised by Bill Hollister. So he's like a father to her to. In addition to that, Lilly Hollister is dating Pete's best friend Harry Osborn, who's been very active in backing the Hollister campaign."
It was Hollister's opponent in the election, businessman Randall Crowne, who coined Menace's name, which the villain seems very proud of. This and Menace's attack on Hollister would seem to indicate the villain is pro-Crowne. However, the end results of Menace's attack in "Amazing" #568 make things a little less clear in terms of which candidate the villain favors. "Here Menace launches an attack on a pro-Bill Hollister truck but the end result of the fight peels back a scandal that hurts Crowne " hmm " that is very coincidental," Slott laughed.
The scandal resulted because Menace destroyed a building that housed a sweatshop owned by Randall Crowne. Spider-Man snapped pictures of the workers fleeing the building and called Harry Osborn for advice as to what to do with them. Even though Harry is a man with a lot on his mind, he still had time to help his oldest friend. "Harry has got a lot of irons in the fire," Slott remarked. "He's got a hot girlfriend, he used to be running Oscorp and he's now running the Coffee Bean. And if you read the issue you know his dad is coming to town."
Harry may be Peter Parker's best friend, but to "Amazing Spider-Man" readers he's also a man of mystery. The climax of the controversial "One More Day" story arc altered Peter Parker's timeline so that Harry Osborn never died as the second Green Goblin. What this means and what Harry's been doing all these years are questions which have been lingering since Harry's reemergence in Peter's life as part of Brand New Day. "We will see some things about Harry in 'New Ways to Die,' but when the solicitations for December come out one of the things you're going to see is that we're really going to lift up the skirt and show you a lot about Harry and where he was and what he was doing in between 'One More Day' and the start of Brand New Day," Slott revealed.
Since Peter quit his job at the DB (formerly the Daily Bugle) and its new owner Dexter Bennett had him blacklisted, Harry advised Parker to take his pictures to the DB's rival paper, Frontline, which is owned and operated by former Daily Bugle reporter Ben Urich. "We always knew there was going to be warring papers, Slott said. "In any election you'll see different papers take different attitudes. We've seen a lot of what's been going on at the DB and the sinister dealings of Dexter Bennett and you need an opposition to that. I knew from the minute I did the 'Peter Parker, Paparazzi' story and Robbie Robertson quit the DB that he was going to Frontline."
Peter's going to work with Frontline means he'll be interacting with one of the paper's reporters, Sally Floyd, a controversial character among comics fans. In an interview with Captain America (in "Civil War: Frontline"), Floyd told the Sentinal of Liberty he was out touch with the country. "People have got some really strong opinions on Sally," Slott laughed. "Any character that attracts that much attention and even ire is always a fun a character to play around with. You're going to see her butt heads with [DB crime reporter] Betty Brant as kind of feuding reporters. That will be fun."
Frontline's story on Randall Crowne did not go unnoticed by the Mayoral Candidate. Because of the report, he reached out to his longtime friend Norman Osborn, head of the Commission on Superhuman Activities Thunderbolts program, for help and offered Osborn access to his "Secret Resources." "This is the first mention of Crowne's Secret Resources," Slott said. "They'll have many ramifications in the world of 'Amazing Spider-Man.'"
Osborn agreed to help Crowne if he used his clout with the city to get the greenlight for Osborn to bring the Thunderbolts to New York -- in order to hunt his hated foe Spider-Man. The okay was given, but Osborn only brought Thunderbolts members Bullseye, Venom, Radioactive Man, and Songbird to the city, leaving the remainng members behind. "The T-Bolts you're meeting here are the T-Bolts for the story," Slott stated. "And a lot of that is with the arrival of a new character next issue. There's only so many people you can move onto the board and still have time for character moments as well as keeping the action moving."
Osborn and the current Venom, Mac Gargan, aren't the only old villains returning to Spider-Man's life in "New Ways to Die." Issue #568 revealed that Eddie Brock, the former host of Venom, is working at and staying at one of Marti Li's F.E.A.S.T. shelters. When Brock abandoned the Venom symbiote, he was left cancer ravaged and alone with only his religious faith to give him comfort. In the coming months Eddie's faith is only going to grow stronger. "Eddie got the original symbiote when he was praying for vengeance in a church," Slott explained. "He meets Martin Li in that same church when he's praying for forgiveness and now thanks to a miracle he's cancer free. He's going to live. This is going to have a profound effect on Eddie Brock."
Eddie was just one of a growing number people who found themselves mysteriously healed of an affliction after an encounter with Martin Li. In Bob Gale's recent two-part arc in "Amazing Spider-Man" #562-563, a disabled man was able to walk again after being touched by Li, and in issue #568 readers got to see what happened when Li touched Brock. "Didn't Aunt May have a gunshot would?" Slott remarked. "What I really like about the scene where you see what Martin's touch does is that it works on the same kind of visual wavelength as the half-Peter Parker half-Spider-Man mask. It's really for the readers' benefits. There are all these weird little anti-bodies sucking what looks like this weird black tar out of Eddie Brock's body. Hey! That almost looks like a little spider pattern on the anti-bodies!"
Whether or not Li is aware of the effects of his touch is unclear, and it's also unrevealed if Li is aware of his physical connection to the villainous crime lord, Mr. Negative. "Martin 'The Martyr' Li is one of the nicest people in New York City. He's a philanthropist with a heart of gold. He runs these homeless shelters using money from his own pocket," Slott said. "However, Martin Li is probably secretly Mr. Negative, unless there's something weird going on. We've seen Mr. Negative and than there's a flash of light and Martin Li appears. There may be more to that but I can't elaborate."
"Amazing Spider-Man" #568 ended with Norman Osborn and the Thunderbolts confronting Peter Parker in his apartment, and the action picks right up this week in issue #569. "You'll see Spider-Man versus Norman Osborn," Slott hinted. "There's also some very important stuff with Eddie Brock that happens in the issue."
"New Ways to Die" is an epic that's been gestating and evolving for some time. "[The story] was in development before the first Brand New Day issue of Spider-Man hit stores in January," Slott confirmed. "For this book to come out 36 times a year, we really have to plan things that far ahead. We want to have the train on the tracks and moving but at the same time we want to be able to have some flexibility as ideas happen organically and plans change. Like one of the things that happened before issue #546, the first Brand New Day issue that came out, was that we thought because of all the things happening in 'New Ways to Die' Harry should own the Coffee Bean. So things in the future affect the past and vice versa. It's all one big 'Slaughterhouse 5' Billy Pilgrim-like knot.
"The title, 'New Ways to Die,' was me," Slott added. "I threw that out there because it sounds so cool, so James Bondy. In fact, on that last page of #568, it would have worked even better if Osborn had a cat in his lap and was stroking it. 'Parker! Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!'"
Naturally, one of the highlights of "New Ways to Die" for Dan Slott is seeing his scripts brought to life by John Romita, Jr. "Working with John is one of the highlights of my career," the writer agreed. "I've coined a new phrase. It's kind of sick but there is a moment in the fifth chapter of 'New Ways to Die' that, and there's no other way to say it, if you're a Spider-Man fan you'll experience a 'Spider-Gasm.' It's just such a fricking cool Spider-Man moment."
What may please Slott even more is having his artist's father, legendary Spider-Man artist John Romita, Sr., contribute a variant cover for "Amazing Spider-Man" #568. Explained the writer, "The thrice monthly shipping schedule of 'Amazing Spider-Man' is very demanding and causes me to spend a lot of time in front of the computer. So I've put on a lot of weight. I call it my spider-baby and I hired a personal trainer to help me work it off. One day I was at my lowest and I was like, 'I don't want to do this anymore!' and the trainer replied, 'Come on, Dan! 10 more minutes!' Then the phone rang and I said, 'This is work. I have to take it.' I pick it's up and it's Steve. He goes, 'Dan, how would you feel about John Romita, Sr. doing a cover for 'New Ways to die'?' and I was like, 'Yes!' So I run back to the trainer and I'm like 'Come on! Ten more minutes!'
"I grew up reading John Romita, Sr. That was my Spider-Man era. So to me this is one of my greatest dreams come true. I have a comic with a John Romita, Sr. cover."