SPIDER-MANDATE: Lowe Delivers a State of the Spider-Verse Address, Part 2

Welcome back, web-heads, to final installment of our massive SPIDER-MANDATE two-parter. Since so much has gone down in Spider-Man's neighborhood since this Q&A column last swung through CBR, Spider-Man group editor Nick Lowe is taking part in a "State of the Spider-Verse" interview -- which concludes with today's revealing edition.

Yesterday's SPIDER-MANDATE tackled some of the big questions currently facing the Spider-Verse, specifically focusing on the much-talked-about "Spider-Man" #2 and the mystery surrounding the upcoming "Dead No More" story arc. But when it comes to the Spider-Man line, Peter Parker and Miles Morales are just two of the many, many lead characters fans have rallied behind.

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Read ahead to learn more about "Carnage's" terrifying future, the undefinable nature of Black Cat, the role music plays in "Spider-Gwen," "Spider-Woman's" similarity to "Hawkeye" -- and there's also exclusiveart from "Amazing Spider-Man" and the upcoming "Spider-Women" event!

You talked a bit about this earlier that "Carnage" started as a very dark horror book, but starting next issue we're out of a dark hole full of cultists and onto a boat. Will the tone shift at all with the new arc?

It's still a horror book going forward. Issue #6 is maybe my favorite, it's like a terrifying version of "Life of Pi." Instead of a tiger, it's a symbiote monster. What Gerry sets up here, he sets in motion the next arc. We saw what happened to Carnage in the first arc, with the Darkhold and this bigger picture he's found himself thrust into and our team hunting is now finding themselves thrown into. We're definitely putting our foot on the gas pedal of doing terrifying stuff.

"Silk" reminds me a lot of "Alias" -- the TV series, not the Marvel Comic -- in that Cindy is a double/triple agent, everyone has different alliances. Is that the status quo for the foreseeable future, or is this war with the Goblin Nation going to blow things up?

It goes beyond issue #6. You'll see elements of it in the "Spider-Women" event we have coming up. But she's got her goals to bring Black Cat and her group down.

How do you view Black Cat? Is she good, is she bad, is she playing her own game?

Black Cat is one of my favorite characters in comics, and she has been for some time. I love that she won't be defined. Even from the very beginning she has walked that grey area. And now she's on the dark side of that grey area in "Amazing Spider-Man," and as we move forward. But what it comes down to is we are very much committed to her as "the Queen-pin of Crime." We're not done with her story on this side of things, and it's given her new life with us as a character.

So many times fans of a character get upset when changes are made, and I get that. I'm a fan first and foremost myself as well. But when a character is just one thing, they're not as interesting to the writers and artists anymore. This is a new angle, and she's as important as she's ever been to Marvel Comics.

Spider-Gwen also seems on the cusp of a major status quo change, with enough people finding out she didn't kill Peter.

Issue #6 deals with a lot of that stuff, so I would look to that. Her life is never going to be simple, and it's never going to be -- like most large events in our life, they're rarely one thing. They're usually a mess of things, they're a mess of emotions and elements to them. It so rarely fits into any nice box. Jason, Robbi and Rico [Renzi] are really pushing the boundaries of the sorts of stories you're used to getting a superhero comic. They're very good at subverting expectations -- and we do have a pretty big status quo change coming as part of the "Spider-Women" event that Gwen is very central to.

The early issues focused much more on the music of the book, which is always a neat conceit when you're dealing with a static, non-auditory medium like comics. Are we going to get back to that at all?

We're going to be seeing a lot more of the Mary Janes going forward. They do play a small role in "Spider-Women," they show up there. They pop up in our post-"Spider-Women" arc, but I want some more drumming, dammit! More Mary Jane, more Betty... We're going to get more Betty, for sure.

For "Spider-Man 2099," is Miguel going to ever take off those sunglasses?

[Laughs] It's always so funny especially in comics -- which again, is a silent media -- when you don't have the eyes, it's so strange. But that's been a part of his character since back in the day. It's always seemed a little Matt Murdock to me at times. It makes him seem so Hollywood!

That book is another great example, you let Peter David be Peter David. We just try to get out of the way, for the most part. Peter has been in this industry for a long time, and he's one of the best writers in comic book history. Some of the comics he's written, some "Hulk" issues, some "X-Factor" issues, are the best Marvel Comics -- ever. He's another character writer, the characters dominate more than any plot. But the plot he does have planned there, jumping back and forth to the future and the present is going to really delight people.

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Not to play favorites, but "Spider-Woman" -- it's not just a gorgeous book, Issue #4 made me cry.

Right? Devin and I were weeping, shaking and weeping reading it. And wait until you read issue #5, as well. Issues #4 and #5 are some of the best issues ever -- and [the book] is still kind of a sleeper. Issue #5 has to do with being a single parent. To me, this book is "Hawkeye" level and I don't think nearly as many people are talking about it as should be.

These are two creators here who are working at the absolute top of their game. There's something in the way they work together that is just so perfect. And Jess -- she's someone I've known for a long time as a character, and read up on -- but the way that they've been telling her story has blown me away. I love Jessica Drew.

Normally when you bring a baby or pregnancy in a comic, you have one of two options: the baby is stolen, or the baby comes out and says, "Hello, I am a fully grown adult with superpowers now." This story seems to be playing out the long term ramifications, instead.

Oh yeah. It's not something we went into lightly. Dennis [Hopeless] and his wife have one-year-old twin, and Javier has an almost one-year-old baby. And I've got a two-and-a-half year old, and an 11-month old. We very much have baby on the brain. It's pretty nuts.

The whole goal here, we don't want "baby as hostage." We were going through this stuff in our lives, and we thought there was something to be said there. I've got to be honest, if "Spider-Woman" was our only female solo character book, we wouldn't have done the story. I know what shaky ground it is with guys telling the story. Rachelle [Rosenberg] is on the book, and she does a fantastic job on colors, but trust me: I know we are working on thin ice with an all-male team here.

Because we do have a pretty big bench of solo, female spider-characters that we could tell this kind of story [with]. On the plus side, Dennis and Javier are such great storytellers, you don't have to be a parent to read this. It's pretty darn amusing. She's still a superhero, and we're going to deal with that: how do you keep being a superhero, and a parent? How do you balance that?

The biggest challenge for any parent, is balancing your life. Where are your priorities? How does it define your life? These are all the issues we're going to be digging into with Jessica, and "Spider-Woman."

A lot of fans have focused on the mystery of who the father is -- how important is that to the overall narrative?

I'll let the story speak for itself! People should definitely pick up "Spider-Woman" #5. We deal with some of that question there. It was something we debated long, and hard. I don't think we ever got to shouting -- but not too far from there. It's been really interesting.

Now that we're wrapping up the first arc of "Web Warriors," what's next for their universe spanning adventures?

There's a lot of ramifications from this first arc on who they are, and why they do what they do. This is the most direct outgrowth of "Spider-Verse," and what we did there. So this is very much us playing with that concept of all these different spider characters. It's been really, really cool. Devin is the editor on that book, and he and Mike Costa work very closely.

We're going to be bringing in some new Web Warriors -- new to the book, not necessarily new to existence. But you're going to be seeing some characters we haven't seen since "Spider-Verse," a shake-up of the team. It's all coming up, but at it's core it'll remain one of the least predictable books on the market.

Let's talk about "Spidey." It seems like every five or ten years we get a modern reinvention or retelling of Spider-Man's early adventures. What makes this territory important for Marvel?

There are all kinds of reasons why we did this, but at the end of the day we try to build the most wide ranging, diverse spider-line that's ever existed. "Amazing Spider-Man," we never go too dark -- we'll be testing that with "Dead No More" -- but it's still stuff a little kid wouldn't want to read. But at the same time, we didn't just want to do an all-ages Spider-book, because sometimes people tune out. They think it's not important, it's not vital.

We wanted to find a way to do it, and attacking from this angle was an interesting way to do it. We wanted to make a great "Spider-Man" book that you could hand anyone, old or young, this book, and they would enjoy it. I wanted this to be interesting to adults, as well. With all-ages stuff, sometimes... The stakes are just not that high, and it's empty fun.

That's why I wanted Robbie Thompson to write this book. He's so good with stakes, and putting the characters in danger. I really wanted to cultivate that "anything could happen." It helps having Nick Bradshaw and Andre Araujo on art. But I love these stories, and I love where they're going with them. They feel real, and they have emotional resonance, and they're the kind of stories we can't tell right now in "Amazing Spider-Man" because Peter is in such a different place.

Lastly, you mentioned "Spider-Women" a few times, so what can you tease about it?

It is so much fun to see Jason and Robbi and Dennis working on this. We had a summit some time ago where we really broke the story down, and what's actually happening is so exciting. Vanesa Del Rey finished with the art for the Alpha issue, and oh my god is it gorgeous. Jordie Bellaire is coloring it right now. We've got the lettering in today.

We've got Vanesa, we've got Bengal on the "Spider-Gwen" issues, and that guy is a genius. We've got Tana Ford, she's sticking around for the "Silk" issues. Issue #6 of "Silk" is her best work to date, and if anything getting better from there. I'm so proud of the work she's been doing on that book. And Joelle Jones is doing the "Spider-Woman" issues. She just turned in her pages, and Devin has been jumping up and down in the office, so much so that I've had to say, "Devin. People work here." [Laughs]

The story goes to some really intense places, and is going to really shake up all three of these characters, and put them in very different places. We have a great villain in it with Cindy Moon of Universe-65... But there's still plenty of surprises there.

It's such a great story, and such a fast-paced, crazy event. But each of the books still maintain their individual identities, as well. So if you're crazy and don't pick up the Alpha issue, and don't pick up the other stuff, you'll still get a self-contained read if you want to. These books are incredible, so I hope people check them out.

Spider-Mandate will be back for another chat with Nick Lowe next month, and we'll be taking some of your fan questions then. Hit us up in the comments, or me on Twitter @azalben. But before that, stay tuned for a surprise member of the Spider creative team in just two weeks!

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