The development of the Spider-Man film franchise may be slowing down as 2010 starts off, but on the four color side of Peter Parker's world, Marvel Comics has been ramping up new plans for their thrice-monthly "Amazing Spider-Man" series. Shortly after the new year hit, the publisher started releasing puzzle piece after puzzle piece of a broad Spidey teaser image. Drawn by artist Pasqual Ferry, the image featured characters and topics both expected and controversial, including villains like the Lizard and Doctor Octopus and images like Spider-Man's former wife Mary Jane Watson in a wedding dress and a mysterious baby.
"I thought it would be cool to release the whole thing right at the stroke of midnight, because aside from 'Blackest Night' #6, there was nothing going on in comics that week. It was a nice anti-black hole promotional tie-in," "Amazing Spider-Man" editor Steve Wacker explained of the promotion. "Marketing came up with the whole puzzle idea, which I thought was interesting. And in terms of the actual art, I looked at my big spread sheet that had all the beats coming up for the year, and I drew up a really crappy sketch to send to Pasqual. He made it much better.
"This is pretty much a complete overview of our plans for the year. I think the way the Spidey books have been run since I took over is that we've tried to really maintain the ongoing subplots with one story flowing right into the other -Â not just having a set story with a beginning, middle and end. There are beginnings, middles and ends to different subplots, but it's really that classic Stan Lee style that he created for the book. All these scenes are from stories that will happen this year, but they sort of reflect what happens in Pete's life throughout the whole year. It's not just one story with all these little bits in it," said Wacker before taking CBR on a tour of what each image clue portents for Peter Parker in 2010.
THE SPIDER PLAYERS
The first piece of the puzzle revealed a bevy of Spidey supporting characters and alternate looks, including Madame Web and AraÃ±a who have recently gotten into hot water in issues of "Amazing" penned by Joe Kelley. "You've already seen [these guys] within the pages of 'Amazing,' and I don't want to go as far as to say this is the last stand of the Spider-Friends, but an ongoing theme that Joe Kelly is working with in his stories that everyone has jumped on to is that the Kraven family is hunting Spiders," Wacker said. "We've really tried to go through the whole encyclopedia of characters that are somehow releated to Peter Parker and Spider-Man through one connection or another, be they powers or simply name and costume. So this gathering is a little metaphorical, though you will be seeing them all in the books."
Asked whether there were any Spider characters the creative team couldn't or didn't work in, the editor said, "There are a few supporting players who are troublesome -Â say a guy like Kane, who is Peter's clone. When we decided to bring him back in the book, there was a little hemming and hawing on how we'd bring him back and give him something to do where it's not just showing everyone that we remember a comic from 15 years ago. But Joe Kelly has done a tremendous job of finding those connecting threads back to the main story. Everyone hopefully feels like they have an important role to play here."
One of the elements of Spider-Man's Brand New Day continuity that editors and writers for "Amazing" have continually championed as a necessary feature of Spider-Man's life is girl trouble for Peter Parker. The second piece of the image primed fans for more romance in the series, as Spidey's alter ego locks lips with supporting character Carly Cooper. "Events will definitely drive Pete and Carly together, at least for a moment, but Pete's love life will start taking the focus again in the book -Â especially with Mary Jane on the scene," Wacker teased. "We haven't seen a lot of her yet, but she's back in town. But the books always had a lot of romance in it, and we shied away from it a little in our first two years because we knew people were so sensitive to the issue. But Pete's love life will continue to be an ongoing dilemma for both Pete and Spider-Man."
THE HUNTER & THE HUNTED
A mix of classic and reinvented villains will populate "Amazing" throughout 2010, from the currently running "The Gauntlet" super story through the creative team's next batch of plans. The third piece of the puzzle to hit the web illustrated both sides, including a peak at Ana Tatiana Kravinoff AKA the latest Kraven the Hunter. "That's a take on an old Spidey cover from 'Kraven's Last Hunt,' and it should come off as somewhat victorious. She will have a big win by the end of the year, that's for sure," Wacker said.
When it comes to the inclusion of frequently on-the-run villain the Lizard, the editor noted that his interest in Dr. Curt Connors was piqued after an adorable young fan of nine or ten asked at a panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego when the monstrous bad guy would appear again. "Obviously, whenever you're making Spider-Man plans, you think of classic villains, but that kid put it over the top. His enthusiasm for the character. I hope he's still reading. We should have gotten his name. If you're out there, and you're reading...contact CBR! He loved the Lizard, that kid. I would have loved to find out what he digs about him. Is his ideal Lizard from the cartoon or from the McFarlane stuff?" Wacker laughed before adding, "The truth, too, is that Zeb has been wanting to do the Lizard for a while, and Chris [Bachalo] was always the go-to guy in my head to do a Lizard story."
ONE MORE WEDDING DAY
When the fourth and final piece featuring Mary Jane, dressed and ready for the altar, appeared, the full plan of the "Amazing" teaser came into light in more ways than one. "When I asked Pasqual to do this, I was trying to harken back to the original promo piece for 'One More Day' where Pete and MJ were reaching for each other over the words 'One More Day,' made of this big piece of granite," said Wacker, responding to the obvious question about MJ's threads with "Yes, you will see Mary Jane in a wedding dress. You will get the story of what happened on Pete and Mary Jane's wedding dress this year. We tend to title our arcs, though there are sub-plotty things that run through them, and this is going to be an arc that's part in the modern day and part flashback."
Of course, the dress wasn't the only element of the image that threw readers for a loop. Once completed, the teaser also revealed a baby in the mechanical arms of Doctor Octopus, a plot point teased by Joe Quesada in his Cup O' Joe column here at CBR. "You can just assume that a baby plays an important part in the next year. Apparently, it has something to do with Doctor Octopus. I think that's all I can say about it at this point," teased Wacker before immediately continuing to speculate. "Or it could be Doc Ock's baby...remember he's dying at this point. Or it could be a clone!"
One other plot point revealed with the final puzzle piece falling into place was the fact that Spider-Man and X-Men villain, the Juggernaut, will soon meet again in a confrontation that will run them both ragged. Set for March 31's "Amazing Spider-Man" #627 by Roger Stern and Lee Weeks, Wacker explained the origin of the new story which harkens back to a classic Spidey tale.
"I was working with Roger Stern on some stuff here, and I know that that story's got a huge following with a lot of die hard fans. It's a 25-year-old story, but people love it. I gave him a little word play on the title [with 'Something Can Stop The Juggernaut'] and asked if he could do something in one issue with that to have fun. It's really just to keep Roger here in the office, and it turned into a longer story, with guest stars in it, at three issues, and it fit perfectly into what we're doing on the book. I hope he's not insulted by this, but Roger's been a decent guy coming off the bench for me. I always dug his Spider-Man work a lot. It was the stuff that was coming out when I was growing up. I always dug his take on the character, and he does a great job of rooting Peter in his environment in New York City. The opportunity to work with one of the classic Spider writers -Â anyone would take that on. And the fact that it fit perfectly with what we were doing, that's because Roger's digested the status quo of the book really well...which isn't surprising, because it's pretty much his status quo that we're doing, too. So that's the secret origin there. It started with me making fun of the title of his classic Spider-Man story and him running with it."
As with all things "Amazing Spider-Man," the editor explained that there was still plenty of room for new twists to turn up as 2010 rolls along, with new creators improvising unexpected ideas in the Brand New Day continuity. "As things have gone along, we've definitely had to improvise more. We've had to bring in some people to help finish up and maintain the schedule. We got hit by many different personal problems with many different people on the creative team last year, so I had to ride that out a little bit. But when we began, the idea was always to do the four three-parters with set teams, and I knew from experience that that wasn't one thing you could maintain -Â keeping four teams together on a book that comes out this fast. When I was working on '52,' we had a bit of a shortcut in that we had Giffen doing all the layouts, so we had an artist keeping a certain visual consistency. With Spidey, I didn't think that was so important. I liked the variations of Spider-Man art. Keeping a consistent art look wasn't the point of this project, and I knew we didn't even have those artists for the long term. We were just renting them for the launch, with Salvadore on 'Iron Man' and McNiven on 'Wolverine.' So, from the beginning I knew the plan would be matching an artist with a story and keeping them as busy as you can until you find another pretty girl to take out. And we had had to improvise a bit over the last year, and the immediate reaction to changes has been angry, but if the books were pushed back a month, we'd be hearing it worse. In the end, I'll put up the consistency of the Spider-Man books against anything else coming out of this building."