SPOILER WARNING: The following contains spoilers for "Amazing Spider-Man" #573.
Norman Osborn's position as head of the Thunderbolts keeps him very busy, but that doesn't mean he's forgotten about his old interests… or enemies.
In the just concluded “Amazing Spider-Man” story arc “New Ways To Die,” Osborn brought his team to New York to hunt down his old foe, Spider-Man, but there might be more to his trip than meets the eye. CBR News spoke with writer Dan Slott about that and the many other bombshell revelations dropped in the climatic chapter of Marvel's biggest Spider-Man story of 2008.
On sale now, “Amazing Spider-Man” #573 begins with all roads leading to New Jersey and the Oscorp headquarters. As Norman’s son Harry Osborn approached the building, he told his girlfriend, Lilly Hollister, that his father had the structure built where it was because of the view of the George Washington Bridge. Lily had no idea what Harry was talking about, but Spider-Fans know that Harry was referring to his father's murder of Spider-Man's former girlfriend, Gwen Stacy, on the site of the bridge.
“Everything happened. The fact that Norman Osborn doesn't know who Spider-Man is now doesn't mean he didn't know **then,**” Slott told CBR. “The thing that people seem to have a hard time wrapping their heads around is the fact that no one knows now doesn't mean that no one knew. Something happened and obviously Peter knows about it. Let me say again, whatever Peter did and whoever the 'We' is that he made reference to in 'New Ways to Die' chapter two, Mephisto was not part of that. Peter and his accomplice or accomplices did something and now people don't seem to know that he's Spider-Man.
“Not only do people not seem to know, but you can have Anna Kravinoff discover a Spider-Man costume in Peter Parker's apartment and think it belongs to his room mate Vin Gonzales,” Slott continued. “You can have Venom sitting right in front of Peter Parker in his apartment and not detect symbiote residue in Peter Parker. Yet Anti-Venom can sense it in Spider-Man. You have Norman Osborn finding Peter Parker's camera webbed to a wall with Spider-Man pictures on it and he goes, 'Ah-ha! I've got it! Spider-Man takes pictures of himself and uses Peter Parker as a front!' So Something fishy is going on here.”
Norman Osborn may not remember who Spider-Man is, but his dialog in the opening scenes of issue #573 seemed to indicate he was fully aware of his son's villainous past as the second Green Goblin, and that one point Harry supposedly died as a consequence of that villainy. How Harry “returned” is still a mystery.
After Norman dropped that bombshell, he let loose with another: he wants his son Harry to be a part of his life and his future schemes. “You have to ask yourself, why did Norman come to New York?” Slott remarked. “Did he come to New York to capture Spider-Man or did he have an ulterior motive?”
Harry’s past as the successor to his father’s villainous legacy wasn't the only thing Norman Osborn was aware of. “Amazing Spider-Man” #573 suggests he was aware of secret experiments Harry was conducting at Oscorp. Readers caught a glimpse of one of these experiments when Spider-Man and Norman Osborn, clad in his Green Goblin garb, were duking it out and smashed through a wall and into a secret laboratory. What was going on in the lab is still a mystery, but it was populated with human test subjects and Norman cryptically hinted that it might have something to do with “The Promethean Trials.” And near the end of the issue, Harry snuck back into the Oscorp building to retrieve a file marked “Prometheus X-90.”
“In Greek mythology, Prometheus is the bringer of life and fire,” Slott explained. “The gods punished him for his crimes by chaining him to a rock where his innards were eaten by an eagle and would constantly grow back. What character have we seen chained to the rock? What character was used for strange medical experiments? Then there's the fire reference. There's a lot to Prometheus.
“There are other things to think about as well,” Slott continued. “Like, if Harry set all this up when did he stop working for Oscorp?”
The mysteries surrounding Harry Osborn may have deepened in “New Ways to Die,” but clues and answers are coming very soon. “My next time up to bat is a two-part Harry story in December and January's ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ #581-582,” Slott said. “There are going to be some elements picked up there and there will be major repercussions for John Romita, Jr.'s next arc with Marc Guggenheim, 'Character Assassination,' where a lot of elements will come to a head and big mysteries will be answered.”
Because of their relationship, Harry Osborn's girlfriend Lilly Hollister was ensnared in many of the events of “New Ways to Die.” At the end of “Amazing” #573, it appeared the stress from all she endured caused Lilly to reconsider her choice in beaus, which lead to her kissing Harry's best friend Peter Parker. “There's a lot going on there with Lilly,” Slott said “Harry was being sort of an emotional yo-yo and this was also her first time meeting her boyfriend's dad and she saw that the apple doesn't seem to fall far from the tree.”
The events of “New Ways to Die” also lead to Eddie Brock seeing Spider-Man in a whole new light. As the first host to the alien Venom symbiote, Brock harbored an implacable hatred of Spider-Man. Years later, Brock abandoned the symbiote and discovered that his time as host to the alien parasite had given him cancer. In chapter two of “New Ways to Die,” Brock's cancer went into remission and he was transformed into a new super powered being known as Anti-Venom.
“I think Eddie has turned a corner. Now that the physical venom has left his body, maybe some of the emotional venom has left too,” Slott revealed. “It's one thing when you're sharing a body with a symbiote, or traces of it, that's constantly whispering in your ear how much you hate someone. Now he's his own man in a body completely purged of Venom and he gets to see Spider-Man doing good. Watching Spider-Man in action in this cleansed from gives him a newfound appreciation for what Spider-Man does. Eddie is doing his best to be a good person.”
Becoming Anti-Venom may have cured Brock of his hatred for Spider-Man, but the transformation seems to have worsened his delusions of grandeur. “He feels that he was handpicked by God and that God has a greater purpose for him,” Slott explained. “Every now and then, when he was Venom, you'd see Eddie Brock change his costume into that of a priest's. We've also seen Eddie praying in church and we saw him dealing with the Sin-Eater, a villain who dealt a lot with scripture. So Eddie is a very religious person and he's trying to do right but now his craziness might turn into zealousness.”
In “New Ways to Die,” Brock tried to do right by assisting Spider-Man in his attempts to foil both the schemes of Norman Osborn and the current host of the Venom symbiote, Mac Gargan. During his confrontation with Gargan in #573, Brock revealed that while he may feel his new mission as Anti-Venom is divinely inspired, he still has no compunctions about killing “evil doers.” “When you think about it, Eddie believes that he's an instrument of the All Mighty and maybe he sees himself as the flaming sword that gets to carry out that will,” Slott said. “There have been many religious soldiers in the history of man.”
Now that “New Ways to Die” has wrapped, readers can expect to see more of Anti-Venom in “Amazing Spider-Man” -- and perhaps other titles as well. “He's out in the Marvel U, but we will see him again soon in a solo adventure,” Slott confirmed. “To me, one of the more interesting things about Anti-Venom is that one of the people that helped clear Eddie Brock's name and get him back on the street was Matt Murdock. So that's another connection he has to the Marvel U.”
Eddie Brock was transformed into Anti-Venom by the healing touch of millionaire philanthropist Martin Li, already an enigmatic figure because of his mysterious connection to the Chinatown Crime Lord Mr. Negative. The final pages of “Amazing” #573 seemed to indicate there's more to his healing ability than meets the eye. “Some of the stuff [Li] did to people is wearing off and he's not feeling so well himself,” Slott stated. “And than suddenly he's got black eyes with white pupils.”
Next year's "Character Assassination" promises to conclude several of the ongoing mysteries in "Amazing Spider-Man," and the stories leading up to that arc will contain both clues and questions to what's really going on. "Before 'Character Assassination,’ we'll touch base with the Spider Tracer Killer storyline. Before 'Character Assassination' we will see more of Mr. Negative in action," Slott said. "And before 'Character Assassination,' we'll learn more about Harry and his secret projects.
“We've got some great stuff coming up. We've got what I think is one of the best done in one stories to be done in years in 'Amazing Spider-Man.' In issue #574 Marc Guggenheim's amazing story shows us where Flash Thompson has been. Then right after that, we're getting writer Joe Kelly's first Spider-Man two-parter. The first time I swore in the comments section of a comic was when we were reading his scripts and giving notes. I couldn't express myself without swearing, I just went, 'This story is fucking awesome.' It's a powerhouse story and the Chris Bachalo art is beautiful. Than there's the giant Spidey-Punisher team up by Zeb Wells and Paolo Rivera.”
“Amazing Spider-Man” #578-579 sees the return of Marcos Martin, one of Slott's favorite Spider-Man artists. “It's a great two-part story by Mark Waid that's going to introduce a very important supporting cast member to the world of Spider-Man; someone I'm sure the fans will eat up,” Slott revealed. “It's also the return of another classic Spidey villain. Then we've got a Roger Stern-Lee Weeks jam. We've got just one killer hit after another. We're hitting the zone over and over.”
Dan Slott and his fellow Spider-Man creators are already hard at work on the next chapter in Peter Parker's tumultuous life. “I've got a two-party story with Barry Kitson on the other side of 'Character Assassination' where we're going to have a big Spidey-Fantastic Four team up. We'll see some fun Spider-Man-Human Torch interaction where you'll probably have to deal with the fact that the Torch doesn't remember Spider-Man is Peter Parker and how that makes him feel,” he said. “And once we come out of that story, there's going to be a change to the Marvel Universe that comes from the Spider-Man books.”
Change will be a two-way street because “Amazing Spider-Man” will be affected by current and upcoming big events in the Marvel Universe, like “Dark Reign.” “It's going to reach out and touch everything,” Slott teased.
The writer is even more fired up about the future of “Amazing Spider-Man” now that he's completed work on “New Ways to Die.” “This was my first six-part anything I've done since 'Arkham Asylum: Living Hell,' and the fact that five issues of it came out in five weeks is crazy,” Slott remarked. “But what a ride! As a Spider-Man fanboy, there's always that joy of seeing him on the glider punching the Green Goblin. It feels like you're playing a note in some great jazz riff.”
What made “New Ways to Die” a truly rewarding experience for Slott, though, was the chance to collaborate with a host of talented creators. “John Romita, Jr. is the Spider-Man artist of this generation. There's no other way to say it. It's just been a privilege and a pleasure to work with him,” Slott said. “And with Klaus Janson's inks and Dean White's colors, it's just been a beautiful, beautiful book.”
The writer has nothing but love for the entire team responsible for “New Ways to Die,” including letter Cory Petit, the people who helped promote the book, assistant editor Tom Brennan, Executive Editor Tom Brevoort, and most of all editor Steve Wacker; who Slott sees as the unsung hero of “Amazing Spider-Man.” “If not for all the spoilers it would give you, I think it would be a trip for people to see 24 hours in the life of Steve Wacker; to see what he has to do to make this book work,” Slott said. “He has almost a 24-7 job. The man is on his way home and he's talking to all of us on his Treo. You'll be working on a script late at night and you'll get an instant message from Steve at some ungodly hour. He stays on top of things. I don't think I or a lot of men on this planet could do that job.”