"Ah!" screamed Dan Slott, writer of "The Amazing Spider-Man" and "Superior Spider-Man," as he saw his face on the projector screen at WonderCon in Anaheim. "This is all Spider-Weight," he said. "This did not exist before 'Spider-Man.'"
As he dealt with technical issues setting up his laptop, Slott frantically rearranged files on his screen, which was projected on the wall. He seemed particularly keen to hide a file titled "Embassy Earth," but didn't explain why.
The crowd was alive with laughter throughout Slott's panel, and the floor was immediately opened for questions. The first fan asked what was Slott's favorite work.
"Outside of the Spider-Man stuff," said Slott, "the holy grail is 'Ren & Stimpy Special #3,' called 'Masters of Time & Space.'" The book used the "choose your own adventure" format to allow readers to explore multiple storylines as well as forcing readers to read pages more than once thanks to time loops.
"One of the potential stories in the 48-page book was 56 pages long," said Slott. "To make it work, I had these giant pieces of butcher paper that I hung around my living room, and I did all these flowcharts... It took my about six months to get it all work right... and then I took down the butcher paper and the marker had bled through and was all over the walls."
Slott went on to discuss the ins and outs of writing for a licensed property like "Ren & Stimpy." "Someone told me it's a licensor's job to cut 20 percent of your material no matter what, so write 20 percent over. Come up with the most nastiest [sic] stuff to give them things to cut, and that was a bad move because the nasty stuff would stay in... like, Powdered Toast Man went insane because he had a yeast infection."
The next fan asked how Slott picked the characters in his "Might Avengers" lineup. Slott corrected him, saying it was more like "here's the guys you can have."â€¨
"There was a time at Marvel [Comics]--and I'm guilty of this too-where we were all very much, 'This is my toybox; I'm not going to let you play with my toys.' ... It's like I got to coach the Yankees, but when I got there all the players were gone and the uniforms were left."
After he grabbed a couple of characters from "Avengers: The Initiative," which he had been working on immediately before "Mighty," Slott said he knocked on doors and begged writers on other books for characters.
"Some people hopped up and were very giving," said Slott. "Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente asked, 'Do you want to use Hercules?' I was like, 'Yes!'"
The one condition for Hercules? Slott would also have to take Amadeus Cho, boy genius.
"OK, I'll take Amadeus Cho," said Slott, sounding defeated. "But he became one of my favorite characters. So you should never close your mind to who's useful and who's not. I loved Amadeus Cho because he was like a super-smart Rick Jones to Hank Pym's super-scientist.
"Quicksilver was a last minute add-on... and then I suddenly had a team. It ended up being a really fun book."
It was so much fun that when editor Stephen Wacker offered to pull Slott off "Mighty Avengers" so he could put him on "Amazing Spider-Man," he had to think about it.
"I called my dad," said Slott, "and I was like, what should I do? 'They're offering you Spider-Man?' Well yeah. 'Take it!'"
The next fan asked when Slott knew the ending to "Amazing Spider-Man" #700, where Peter Parker dies after getting his consciousness swapped with a terminally ill Dr. Octopus.
"[Issue] 600," said Slott. "When I wrote 'Amazing' #600, I knew I would get to 700 ... It wasn't a last-minute gimmick; it's something that's been brewing for some time."
Slott explained that in issue #600, Spider-Man used Doc Ock's helmet to gain the upper hand in a fight. Slott then used every opportunity for Spider-Man to wear the helmet, which analyzed his brain patterns and facilitated the mind swap.
Another fan asked if Slott would do any creator-owned work any time soon.
"If I wanted to do my own stuff, I'd do 'Dan Slott's Astro City,'" joked Slott. "Actually, I'd do 'Dan Slott's Kurt Busiek's Astro City.' But no, I've always wanted to do Spider-Man... This is like the dream job."
The topic turned to the rumors that Slott is working on a "Silver Surfer" book. "We've got cosmic stuff coming up," said Slott. "For Free Comic Book Day we have a Thanos book, and Thanos was really big in ["The Avengers"] movie. It would be fun, and I'm fooling around with it, I won't lie. I am playing around with the idea, but let's be serious: I'm doing two Spider-Man books a month. It ain't happening."
A fan asked about the possibility of seeing Miguel O'Hara, a.k.a. "Spider-Man 2099," in any of Slott's Spider books.
"100 percent serious: you will see Spider-Man 2099 in 'Superior Spider-Man' this year."
The fan asked a follow-up question about whether this meant the inter-dimensional Exiles team would also be making an appearance.
"You'll have to wait and see," said Slott in a goofily mysterious tone.
The next question was if Slott had planned out "Amazing Spider-Man" #800.
"I have worked out everything I want to do up through 2014," said Slott. "I've got all my 2014 plans in place."
Slott said that planning too far ahead can be disadvantageous. "The Marvel Universe is a big place," said Slott, "it's a big tapestry, and things change. Suddenly Johnny Storm is dead, or this or that, and you have to go with the flow."