Marvel Comics' "Amazing Spider-Man" is ostensibly a solo book, but the title character's life is just as intricate and complex as the webs spun by his namesake, including a supporting cast that is as vital to the series and it's stories as Spidey himself. On top of that, "Amazing's" three times a month shipping schedule means that coordinating all the developments in Peter Parker's life can often be a complex and bewildering task. Fortunately for Spider fans editor Stephen Wacker is up for the job. In part one of our interview with Wacker about "Amazing Spider-Man," we spoke about some of the things involved in keeping Spidey's web spinning, including the creator summits where many of the book's big stories are born and the work that was done for "The Gauntlet," a series of interconnected storylines that polished up and reintroduced many of Spider-Man's classic rogues. Today we conclude our conversation by chatting about another big topic in Spider-Man's world, his romantic life, and the big story that's bound to affect it, July's "One Moment in Time." We also discussed Spider-Man's role in the street-level corner of the Marvel Universe and what the future might hold for the Web-Slinger.
When Spider-Man's adventures began back in the 1960s, the love triangles and romantic misadventures Peter Parker often found himself in were major subplots in the book. In the late '80s, that focus shifted when Peter married Mary Jane Watson. Then, in the controversial 2007 storyline "One More Day," that marriage came to and abrupt end, and thanks to some magical machinations, was flat out erased from existence. Marvel assured readers, however, that Peter and Mary Jane still had a life together - they just never married. When Wacker and company came on board "Amazing Spider-Man" in 2008, Peter and Mary Jane's relationship they made the most out of that story opportunity by introducing and reintroducing old romantic flames like Black Cat and later Mary Jane herself, as well as possible new ones like Carlie Cooper and Norah Winters.
"Peter Parker is a single guy in New York. His romantic life is going to be a part of the book and he's such a great character to get into these situations. I think I differ from a lot of fans who read Spider-Man for a long time, because I always read it as a pretty dark book. I don't completely 'get' the always jokey, fun Spider-Man that everybody seems to remember. I read those old issues and my reaction was, 'Boy this is a guy who keeps screwing up and he can't get a break.' The sort of ups and downs and the soap opera of his life-and they way he would try to deal with those problems through humor - was always fascinating to me," Wacker told CBR News, "but that still didn't make it a comedy to my eyes." "What I loved-and still love was that sense of: what could possibly happen next? This guy's girlfriend was thrown off a bridge! Plus, he may or may not have killed her while he was trying to save her! That's so dark! And to me that's been the opera of the book since issue #1. That's why I love it so much. And one of the ways you handle that in stories is through romance. People love Pete just as much as some people hate him. Getting that into the book again was always going to be one of the biggest changes when we took over. That kind of soap opera hadn't been part of the book for so long."
While Wacker and his creators are utilizing the story opportunities that come with Peter Parker's status as a single man in New York City, that doesn't mean they've ruled out the possibility of long term romance or even another marriage for the character. "I don't think most relationships in comics - or any long-term storytelling format - are all that steady in the long term. I think people tend to read about them for a long time and they sort of get tired of them and feel like those relationships - be they romantic or not - should change or have some obstacles thrown in the way. A non-dramatic relationship of any sort with no conflict whatsoever just isn't very practical or realistic. Am I supposed to believe that the Thing will never leave the Fantastic Four again?" Wacker remarked. "Then I've taken some of the fun out of reading that book. So in terms of Spidey, I definitely think Peter could get married again at some point to change things up down the road. I've said that from the get go.
"I don't think what they did in 'One More Day' meant that the marriage wasn't important. I don't think you could have done that story without the marriage...without their love. We couldn't have the status quo we have now without those years of great stories with the marriage, but sometimes you do something else for a while."
Over the years, Peter Parker has dated or been romantically involved with a number of women. All of them have been beautiful, but each has their own different and distinctive personality. Mary Jane Watson was a bit of free spirit, Gwen Stacy was caring and more dependable. The Black Cat was reckless and wild, and Carlie Cooper, the latest woman that's been linked romantically to Peter, is a brilliant and insightful detective and scientist. All of this begs the question, does Peter Parker have a "type" of girl that he's interested in?
"That's a great question. In terms of pure physicality, I don't know of a woman besides Aunt May that he wouldn't be attracted to. That's just because in comic books, we have beautiful people doing beautiful things. Even Peter is great looking! Even when he was a nerd, he was good looking. If I could look like Peter Parker for five minutes, I'd be thrilled," Wacker joked. [Wacker note: Wacker's not joking!] "I think the classic set up for Pete is that he's trying to figure out who he is, and I think that's true of most young people. The 20s have sort of become what the late teens used to be. So until he figures out who he is, I think he might have trouble trying to figure out who the right woman for him is.
"For a while, Mary Jane was the right woman for him and events eventually broke them up. They might bring them back together at some point, too. We've certainly talked about that. We never had any intention of writing her out of the book," Wacker continued. "I think anyone that Pete decides to love next is inevitably going to have to be compared by the readership (and Pete) to Mary Jane because she's such a great person and has been his longest, deepest relationship. She has her own problems, but the yin and yang of their personalities worked really well. But on the other hand, it's like, 'Oh my God! Is Ms. Marvel looking at me? Does she like me? What's going on here? I can't tell!' I don't think Pete reads signals very well. Socially, he can be kind of clueless. On this subject, I am well versed."
On July 21, in "Amazing Spider-Man" #638, fans will finally read the first chapter of a previously unrevealed event from Peter Parker's romantic life as writer Joe Quesada and artist Paolo Rivera kick off "One Moment In Time," an arc set to detail exactly what occurred on the day Peter was supposed to marry Mary Jane. " It's the story of what happened on the wedding day, and it's the story of what broke Mary Jane and Peter apart. It's a big story for us because it's the sequel to the giant story, 'One More Day,'" Wacker explained. "It's certainly our tentpole book of the summer. We've got beautiful art, both by Paolo Rivera and Joe (along with his partners in crime Danny Miki and Richard Isanove). We're running a chunk of the original Wedding Annual in there as well, because it spins out of that story. So the lovely Paul Ryan art from the 1987 Wedding Annual will be seen in the book.
"Like 'One More Day,' though, this story is ultimately a small, emotional character piece. It's big because of how it affects continuity and all that external stuff, but plot wise, it's not 'Siege.' If you're invested in these characters, that's what's driving this story," Wacker continued. "'O.M.I.T.' is a small story filled with big decisions; decisions that change two people's life dramatically. We've all had endless numbers of decisions that we've made - big and small - which affected the course of our lives. A decision to turn right when you're walking out of Grand Central Station affects you life in ways that you may never even know. So in my mind, stories like these are small...but if you care about the characters, you want to see how the choices they make in these stories shape them."
"O.M.I.T." will also include several revelations about some other long standing mysteries in "Amazing Spider-Man." Wacker revealed that readers will learn the secret behind the mysterious psychic blind spot that's been protecting Spider-Man's secret identity since the "Brand New Day" era begin.
Beyond "O.M.I.T.," amping up the romantic tension and soap opera sub-plots is just one of the things Wacker and his creators are doing in their quest to make "Amazing Spider-Man" a compelling read by tying Spidey's adventures and characters into other areas of the Marvel Universe, especially "Daredevil," a book which Wacker recently took over as editor. "We're definitely interested in some crossover elements between Spidey and DD's worlds," Wacker told CBR. "We've already discussed characters like the Kingpin. We're going to try and keep developments with him consistent between both books. Spider-Man is also player in 'Shadowland.' There's a 'Shadowland: Spider-Man' one-shot that Dan Slott wrote featuring Shang-Chi. So through the course of things, I'm going to try and create some consistencies even if it's just in background elements."
"Shadowland" is an event storyline, birthed out of events in "Daredevil," but is being billed as "The Battle for the soul of New York," a tagline that has many readers wondering if Spider-Man's oldest foe, New York City Mayor J. Jonah Jameson, will play a role, which Wacker is happy to confirm. "You see [Jameson] reacting, but you're still going to see him about as much as you ever saw the mayor of NYC in our books. I've heard some complaints that the books aren't showing Jonah as Mayor, but I don't know when these comics came out where the Mayor was appearing everywhere. The Mayor of New York will appear in this story and other places as necessary. And we've certainly seen more of Mayor Jonah Jameson in our book then we saw of any other Mayor I can remember, with the exception of maybe Ed Koch back in the '70s."
The street-level corner of the Marvel Universe is inhabited by heroes with passionate and intense feelings about crime and criminals, including the Punisher, Moon Knight and Daredevil. Spider-Man is able to look at those things a little bit more objectively, Wacker believes, because the character feels like an outsider in not just the street-level corners, but the entire Marvel Universe.
"To me, he works best when can't fathom how he's in the situation that he is in. 'How in the world am I on the Avengers? What is happening to my life? I've got rent to pay! I've got to be at work!' So I don't think Pete sees himself as a street-level character, either. He sees a bunch of street-level characters hanging around and feels like he's always the outsider. That, 'I'm not fitting in feeling' in is something I think we can all certainly understand. I often feel the same way in life. I'm not much of a joiner by nature, and I don't think Spidey is either. He's asked to do these things, but to him he always feels like he's the odd man out. Like he's the unpopular guy on the dodgeball team because the teacher told the captains they had to pick one of the unpopular kids. Again, on this subject, I am well versed."
"Shadowland" and "One Moment In Time" aren't the only big stories in Spider-Man's future. Wacker and his team of creators have already laid out several more stories that will test their protagonist's mettle and rock his world to its very core. "For the couple of months coming out of "One Moment in Time," we're going to be bringing a lot of threads of Peter's life that we've been developing since we started working on the book into one big story, 'Origin of the Species.' It sort of gives Pete a moment to assess all the stuff that's happened to him for the last 100 or so issues. Beyond that, we've already started talking about the fact that it might be time for a new, or at least better, Spider-Man. I feel like we've done as much as we can do in terms of Peter Parker's time as Spider-Man."
Readers can also expect the events of a number of current and upcoming Spider-Man related miniseries to have some impact on Peter Parker's life. "The current 'Amazing Spider-Man Presents: American Son' book that is going on and focusing on Harry will put him in an emotional place that we'll follow up in 'Origin of the Species.' So if you're a fan of the Harry Osborn and Peter Parker friendship that's something to keep your eye on," Wacker said. "And the 'Amazing Spider-Man Presents: Black Cat" miniseries by Jen Van Meter and Javier Pulido is told through the backdrop of 'Grim Hunt.' It goes on longer than 'Grim Hunt,' but the plot doesn't directly tie in. The Kravinoff family are sort of in the background. That series will be very important for Black Cat. It sets a lot of things up for her and explores the members of her support network. That book is looking beautiful.
"In Christos Gage and Mario Alberti's 'Spider-Man/Fantastic Four' miniseries, which begins July 8, we'll be looking at the relationships between those characters over the years," Wacker continued. "Sort of like what we did with 'X-Men/Spider-Man.' That will give readers a good sense of the relationship between that team and Spider-Man, which will play into some of the stuff we'd like to do over the next year as well, whenever we have our new Spider-Man..."