Paul Webster's lyrics to the theme from the 1967 "Spider-Man" cartoon famously proclaimed, "Wealth and fame he's ignored. Action is his reward." Now that Norman Osborn's Dark Reign has begun, that's no longer the case. Indeed, Osborn has given the Marvel Universe a new, very public web-slinger. This Spider-Man is hungry for riches, acclaim, and occasionally-- human flesh! His name is Mac Gargan and he's the star of "Dark Reign: The Sinister Spider-Man," a four-issue miniseries by writer Brian Reed and artist Chris Bachalo, which begins this June. CBR News spoke with Reed about the series.
In "Dark Avengers" #1, Norman Osborn recruited Gargan, who is really the symbiote-enhanced supervillain Venom, to impersonate Spider-Man in his new team of Avengers. "'Sinister Spider-Man' came from talking about the fact that the whole Marvel Universe thinks Spider-Man is living in Avengers Tower, when it's really Mac Gargan, who has a long history as a sociopath," Reed told CBR News. "So what does a guy with that kind of history do with this sudden recognition? Because now the Avengers are the most popular people on Earth and even New York loves Spider-Man at this point. So what does a guy like Mac do in a situation like this? As it turns out, some pretty twisted stuff."
Reed jumped at the chance to chronicle Gargan's demented solo adventures in "Sinister Spider-Man." "The bad guys are always fun to tell stories with and I think the phrase that really cracked this story for me came when my editor Tom Brennan and I were talking about the series. He said this should be a fractured fairy tale. And that's when I went, 'Yes!'" Reed said. "I'm writing a Spider-Man story, but I'm writing it inside out."
Marc Gargan as a man with a long history of mental and emotional problems, and he didn't do his damaged psyche any favors when he bonded with the Venom symbiote. "I'm not sure how much of the original Mac Gargan is left from his pre-sociopath days because he went a little nuts for a few years when he was still operating as the Scorpion [a villain who was also part of Spider-Man's Rogues' Gallery]. I think that just got exacerbated with the symbiote," the writer explained. "He's got an absolute and total disregard for human life. It's not necessarily that he's like, 'I'm going to go kill everybody!' It's just that he has no concept that other people are people. It's Mac's world and we all just live in it."
Out of all the hosts that have bonded with the Venom symbiote, Gargan has been the one that's most susceptible to its monstrous influence. Brian Reed says it's because Gargan is essentially a very weak willed person. "That goes back to when we first saw him show up way back in 'Amazing Spider-Man' #19, with Jonah Jameson hiring him to find Spider-Man," he said. "Then he was just a detective doing a job, but his reaction to the fact that he couldn't find Spider-Man was, 'Yeah sure I'll put on a suit and kill him.' Mac wasn't real right in the head to begin with."
If you ask Gargan, he'll say he was a pretty decent guy right up until he took those ill-fated jobs for Jameson; jobs that ended up causing him years of misery; misery that he has hasn't forgotten about. Along those lines, "Sinister Spider-Man" finds Gargan looking for payback from the man he blames for those years of torment. "He was a detective and maybe took a few jobs to pay the bills that he didn't 100% morally agree with, but he was no super villain," Reed explained. "Then along comes J. Jonah Jameson who says, 'Hey, put on this suit and drink this batch of chemicals I paid this scientist here to cook up.' Mac becomes Scorpion, goes insane, and begins a life of crime. Now, all these years later, Mac has more power than he knows what to do with, and the world loves him. But right across town is J. Jonah Jameson, and he's not just some punk running a newspaper any more. He's the mayor of the greatest city on Earth! Well, Mac doesn't like that very much, and he takes it upon himself to make J. Jonah Jameson's life a living hell."
When "Sinister Spider-Man" begins, Mac Gargan is on top of the world. "He's an Avenger and New York loves Spider-Man. He's able to go out and swing around the city and feed the symbiote whenever he wants. The first scene is really about showing you that this is a Spider-Man book-except it's all fucked up," Reed laughed. "We see a bank robbery in progress. Spider-Man swoops in and stops the robbery and everybody cheers for him. He then grabs the bank robber and the bag of money and swings off. We then see him on a nearby rooftop where he eats the robber's arm and takes the money with him."
"Sinister Spider-Man" is certainly about Gargan's solo exploits, but his teammates in the Dark Avengers do play roles in the miniseries. "If you remember when Norman Osborn first formed the Dark Avengers, he got them all in a room in Avengers Tower and goes, 'You guys don't leave the Tower without asking me. You don't talk to the press or I'm sending you back to Thunderbolts Mountain. Don't cross me!' Mac believes that he can cross Osborn just fine because Osborn can't really get rid of him," Reed explained. "So there's a question then of whether or not Norman can get rid of him and you get a sociopath fighting a psychopath."
Another important "Sinister Spider-Man" character is looking to stop Mac's plans, but his reasons for doing so are much more altruistic than Osborn's. This character's name isn't Peter Parker, though. "[Marc's] also going to run into a gentlemen, a new character, who that thinks that even the most evil people can be saved and they're going to have a bit of a chat," Reed hinted.
"Dark Reign: Sinister Spider-Man" is a story that mixes humor with elements of psychological horror. "For me, this was all about making sure you're laughing but that you're laughing because you're really uncomfortable," Reed remarked. "If you say you read this and had a lot of nervous laughter, then I did my job."
"Sinister Spider-Man" will also feature some elements from noir fiction to reflect Gargan's past as a private detective. "There is going to be some of that. Mac is telling us the story and it's narrated in this kind of pseudo-noir because I wanted to get the flavor of him, but I also wanted you to see things from his point of view and be like, 'Okay. I'm uncomfortable now," Reed joked.
Brian Reed is very excited to have Chris Bachalo bringing to life his "Sinister Spider-Man" scripts. "It's going to be great," he said. "We've already exchanged e-mails about character designs and other stuff."
In addition to "Dark Reign: The Sinister Spider-Man," Reed also penned the recent "Secret Invasion: Spider-Man" miniseries, which starred several of the supporting cast members from "Amazing Spider-Man." Both these books may only be on the periphery of Spidey's world, but Reed has enjoyed working on them and hopes to spin more Spider-Man related yarns in the future. "Matt Fraction grew up reading 'Uncanny X-Men.' Ed Brubaker grew up reading 'Captain America' and I grew up on Spider-Man," Reed said. "He was the thing that all of my allowance went to. So even working out here on the fringe of it is a lot of fun. I still know everything that's coming up in 'Amazing Spider-Man' and I'm able to contribute to that and help set everything up."
"Dark Reign: The Sinister Spider-Man" slithers into stores on June 17.