Coming back from an out of town business trip can be disorienting, especially if you're Spider-Man. In "Amazing Spider-Man" #591, the Marvel Comics web slinger returned to New York from another dimension to discover that life wasn't standing still while he was gone. Life was moving a lot faster than he was used to, in fact, because even though Peter Parker was only gone a short time, upon returning he discovered he'd lost two whole months.
CBR News spoke with writer Dan Slott about the Barry Kitson & Dale Eaglesham-illustrated issue, some of the big things that happened while Spider-Man was gone, and what's next for Peter Parker.
Spider-Man the Fantastic Four traveled to the dimension known as the Macroverse, a place where time works differently. In "Amazing" #591, Reed Richards explained the nature of time on Earth and the way it works in the Macroverse, but Slott made a mistake with Mr. Fantastic's dialogue. One that fans noticed when "Amazing" #591 preview pages were released. The writer told CBR News, "I goofed and everybody caught it when they saw our preview pages. In issue #590, we saw a past adventure of Spidey and the FF in the Macroverse and then we found out that they lost two days while they were there. In #591, they go back on a present day adventure and discover that a whole lifetime has passed since their last adventure. Then Reed Richards tells the others, 'We have to get home right now, because time is moving much faster than I thought on Earth.'"
"The problem is, when I wrote that scene, I slipped up and scripted it like the Macroverse was Narnia When you go to Narnia, everything moves really fast, and when you come back it's like no time at all has been lost. But you can see from all the pieces we set up, the Macroverse is set up differently. The Macroverse works like flipping a playing piece in the game of Othello. The polarity of the time distortion flips when you breach the dimensional barrier. So when you go to the Macroverse, everything is going slow and, relatively, everything on Earth is going fast. When you breach the distortion area again, everything in the Macroverse goes fast and, relatively, time on Earth goes slow. It was never intended to be Narnia. You can see that in #590 when Sue mentions the previous two-day skip forward on Earth, and then you still see the lifetime skip forward in the Macroverse.
"I was scripting #591 late at night and treated the Macroverse like Narnia. I'm horribly sorry. I made a mistake. Here is the way I should have scripted those three balloons. And this is how it will run in the trade."
A number of significant things happened to Spider-Man's friends, family and hometown in those two months he was adventuring in the Macroverse, the biggest one being the election of a new Mayor of New York City: world famous Spidey hater J. Jonah Jameson. "We told you there was going to be something astronomically big in is 'Spidey' #591 and there it is, MAYOR J. JONAH JAMESON!" Slott said. "With the exception of books like 'Nova,' 'Guardians of the Galaxy' and 'Captain Britain and MI13,' a lot of what goes on in the Marvel Universe takes place in New York City. So this is going to affect a lot of the MU because now they're living in J .Jonah Jameson's City."
It was quite some time ago that Slott and his fellow Spider-Man creators came up with the idea to make Jameson Mayor of New York. "At one point we asked each other if any of us wanted to see Randall Crowne or Bill Hollister as the Mayor. They're interesting characters, but if you ask someone outside the current run of 'Amazing Spider-Man' who those guys are, most people wouldn't know," Slott explained. "We looked at all the pieces and we had Jonah out of the Bugle at this point [when his wife sold it after he suffered a heart attack]. So we were like, 'We'd be fools not to do this! Mayor J. Jonah Jameson! You hear that and you can imagine J.K. Simmons [who played Jameson in all three Spider-Man films] pounding on a desk. It's golden."
Other Marvel creators plan on making the most of Jameson's new office in their books. "We mentioned it to other writers and they were like, 'We can't avoid that!' Jonah Jameson is the Mayor of New York in 'Spider-Man,' he's going to have to be the Mayor of New York everywhere else," Slott stated. "I'd be there for these different Marvel creative summits where they'd outline what was going on for the whole year and there was always this point where someone would write on the board ' From here on out, J. Jonah Jameson is Mayor. Plan accordingly.'"
As the mayor of NYC, Jameson is now a very powerful person in the Marvel Universe, with a preexisting and very tumultuous relationship with the Marvel U's most powerful figure, Norman Osborn. "A good place to look out for that is Joe Kelly's next arc, 'American Son,' which will deal with a lot of the Dark Reign elements in Spider-Man's world," Slott revealed. "That's going to follow the '24/7' arc, which is Mark Waid's next arc, and that all comes about because of the blowback from Jonah becoming Mayor."
Jonah's father, J. Jonah Jameson, Sr., also had a big moment in "Amazing" #591. He got to meet Spider-Man's Aunt May Parker, and their relationship blossomed into a romance. " At the first Spider-Man summit with the newcomers to the 'Web Head' team Mark Waid and Joe Kelly, we started bouncing around ideas and one of the things Mark wanted to do was bring in J. Jonah Jameson, Sr.," Slott recalled. "We started talking about different hooks and possible romances. And someone brought up a relationship with Jonah Sr. and May and everyone started cracking up. So we thought we've got to put them together. There's just too much potential in that."
Romance is springing up in other places as well. Norah Winters, Peter's colleague at the newspaper "Frontline," began dating Randy Robertson, the son of her editor Joe "Robbie" Robertson. "This is what happens when you go off-planet for two months. You miss Flash Thompson's doing his first wheel chair Olympics, you miss out on being there for Aunt May and her big Sunday dinner. Then suddenly, everyone is hooking up but you," Slott remarked. "I think that's all part of the 'Parker Luck.' You try to do right, but your life as Spider-Man always gets in the way."
While they didn't start dating, but Peter Parker's friends Carlie Cooper and Harry Osborn became quite close in "Amazing Spider-Man" #591. "At the end of the day, Harry went through a bad patch and this was a time when he really needed his best pal, Peter Parker, and Pete wasn't there for him," Slott explained. "Carlie stepped up as a friend. Will that become anything more than friendship? We'll have to wait and see."
Slott continued, "To me this is part of the fun with Spider-Man. It isn't just, 'Today is the day you punch the Shocker or Doc Ock.' It's also, 'Oh my god look at this soap opera! And let me tell you, it was fun to do the ultimate non-decompressed story in #591; have everybody's subplot race at you at hyper-speed. There's something cool about that."
A brand new subplot began in "Amazing" #591, when Mary Jane Watson called Peter Parker while he was out of town, but his full answering machine cut off whatever message she was going to leave. "I think that was actually Jackpot," Slott joked. "No! I kid. MJ called, was cut off mid-sentence, and the machine erased it. She could have been saying anything. If only we knew what she was saying . . ."
"Amazing Spider-Man" #591 also saw a development in one of the book's ongoing mysteries. For months now, readers have seen villains and other characters jump to incorrect conclusions about Spider-Man's secret identity, a consequence of Spider-Man's being equipped with a psychic blindspot. Dan Slott explained, "If someone sees Spider-Man getting unmasked, they're going to think he's Peter Parker, unless there's evidence that makes it look like he's going to a costume party, or that Peter Parker was faking photos as Spider-Man. There needs to be some obvious hint. If he's unmasking while sticking to a wall, you know he's Spider-Man. But if somebody shows you a stack of evidence you'll go, 'That doesn't make sense.' Your brain will come up with alternate routes to satisfy yourself. So if you're clever and cunning, you will come up with an equally clever and cunning solution. It's how the psychic blindspot works."
Of course, the source of the psychic blindspot phenomenon is still a mystery. "This issue was about covering the mechanics of how it works and how people can learn who Spider-Man is again," Slott said. "There are other stories planned about this. Everything has been worked out. We know where all the pieces fall and the other writers are going to handle those pieces."
The Fantastic Foir --along with the rest of the world -- used to know Spider-Man was Peter Parker, and the fact that they suddenly didn't know that became a point of contention between Spidey and the Human Torch, who were once best friends. Parker once again revealed his identity to the FF, making it possible for Spider-Man to renew his longstanding friendship with the Marvel U's First Family, a friendship that Slott helped cement at the end of his "Spider-Man/Human Torch" miniseries from several years back.
"Isn't that lovely? They're a family again!" Slott remarked. "How much of that is me being a sentimental pile of mush? Or is it me going, 'There's no way in hell you're invalidating my 'Spider-Man/Human Torch' mini!' (ahem) Coming soon as a hardcover from Marvel Comics."
It's been a big month for people discovering Spider-Man's secret identity. In the recent "New Avengers" #51, Spidey revealed to his teammates that he was really Peter Parker. Careful readers of the "DB" recap page in "Amazing Spider-Man" #591 saw that in terms of continuity, the story there takes place before the story in "New Avengers" #51. And if fans were especially mindful, they saw some more headlines describing what was going on in New York City during Spider-Man's absence. "There's all kinds of wonderful things you can find if you go through and examine the 'DB' headlines," Slott said. "My editors Steve Wacker and Tom Brennan put a lot of hard work into those. And they're always stuffing 'em full of nifty Easter Eggs."
"Amazing Spider-Man" #591 won't be the last the we see of the Macroverse. "The Macroverse is a big place-(rimshot) Thank you folks I'll be here all week. Try the veal," Slott joked. "I mean that in its counterpart, the Microverse, you have all those different places from the planet Psycho Man's from to Jarella's world. So the land of Kort, which we saw in this story, is just a tiny corner of the Macroverse and you'll see more of it over time. This is a universe we'll journey to again and again."
The next time "Amazing Spider-Man" fans go on a journey with Dan Slott will be the series mega-sized 600th issue, which features a story where Slott and John Romita, Jr. pit the Wallcrawler against his old foe, Doctor Octopus. "I've seen some of the covers for 'Spidey' #600 and they're beautiful. I can't wait for people to see them," the writer said. "In 'Spidey' #600, you're going to get an enormous story all in one shot. No waiting for week one, week two, and week three. Just bam! A complete epic! And a ton of other all-new goodies. Steve Wacker is working overtime to make this the biggest damn comic on the racks. With this new Doc Ock story, one of my goals for Doctor Octopus is to elevate him to a Doctor Doom level threat. I want to get him up there with villains like Doom, the Red Skull and the Mandarin. I want to make him a big power player."