"We've been waiting until the story is ready," explained Andrews. "And now, it's ready. The official announcement is only a few days old. But really, this project has taken me six years to put together. I pitched this thing before 9/11 happened. When I think about it that way it seems odd. The world has changed so much since then. And in a strange way this odd story of the future has become a very relevant story of today. My totalitarian City has become a real world option.
"I first pitched this project to Axel [Alonso, Marvel Comics editor] right after I wrote and drew my 'Tangled Web' story. I've been working on this thing in one way or another since then. I've been distracted by other projects, other commitments, but this story has always stayed with me. It wouldn't leave. I realized the only way to get rid of it was to draw it. Each issue 36 pages in length. I specifically asked for a larger page count so I could tell a larger story. Everything is affected by page count. Weird isn't it? But it's true. Pacing, content, amount of word balloons, even the price of the book.
"The book features all of the classic Spider-Man characters: Peter, Aunt May, Mary Jane, Jonah Jameson. What happens to these characters 35 years from now? Maybe Peter returns to that troubled loner he once was. We all regress at times. Bitter, broken, a failure, those are the words that once again describe his life."
When it comes to villains, Andrews is a bit more guarded about who will appear, though he does offer some hints. "All of my favorite Spider-Man characters are in this book. I won't tell you who they are," Andrews said. "There is definitely one villain that no one would ever think of but for the most part you could probably guess any of the top tier Spider-Man villains and I would nod my head. I also have a new villain, the worst kind of terrible scum you could imagine: a politician."
While not as dark or graphic as their MAX imprint, the Marvel Knights imprint is reserved for grittier, more "mature" takes on classic Marvel heroes and "Spider-Man: Reign" will be published under that imprint. Andrews explained why this book needed to be a Marvel Knights series. "I could not tell this story without the 'mature readers' tone of Marvel Knights," he contends. "It wouldn't fit. This story, more than any normal Spider-Man story, is about hurt and pain. Grieving and violence. It's about hiding and turning your back on the world you live in. The label isn't there as an excuse for Peter to curse. It's there because I am dealing with adult themes and real world consequences.
"I have a boxed set of 1960s Spider-Man cartoons I can lend you if you want to show something to your kids. Or maybe they're old enough to watch the new movies. I'm just saying you already have that. If all you're looking for is what you know then best wishes. But if you're looking for something new, something you haven't seen, we'll hook you up."
For an artist with as unique a style as Andrews, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the inspirations behind his work are also quite interesting. The creator is drawing on his love of Spider-Man, but taking it further by mixing his own passion for the human condition and the comic book medium itself. "In terms of visuals I am firmly setting the style of art as a kind of 80s-future hybrid," explained Andrews. "I love this medium and want to see it grow both in artistic and technological terms. But I am also paying tribute to that decade when I first knew of and embraced this medium.
"In terms of story, I am asking questions. What happens to a man who forgets the most important lesson of his life? What happens to a woman who marries a guy with radioactive blood? What happens to a newspaper baron in a world of television news? What happens when a city forgets it's own responsibility? What happens when we lie to the ones we love? When we lie to ourselves?
"The answer to all of these questions, one way or another, is pain."
If you're one of those fans for whom continuity, specifically obeying it, is of paramount importance to you, then "Reign" might not be for you. "This story is not about continuity," asserts Andrews. "It's an option. An opinion. This is me taking these characters and putting them in a world of my own design, and by doing that I am given a lot of power. The great thing about not being entrenched in continuity is that the responsibility becomes one of 'standing out' and not 'fitting in.' It allows me to avoid being homogenized by the current work of everyone else. There are big things ahead for Spidey in those monthlies. Axel assures me you'll like them. I hope you'll like this thing too."
However, if you're a fan of exploring the human psyche and the many flaws of humanity, this is definitely the book for you. "Reign" is tackling some heavy subjects, most notably power and responsibility, which have always been ingrained in the Spider-Man character, but hold special significance for Andrews. "I battle with those themes on a daily basis. Don't you?" he asks. "That's the reason why Spider-Man is the fundamental superhero. We all have power. We all have responsibility. I don't need to preach this kind of thing. I just need to tell my story. You want someone to yell at you from the mountain go to Church, or turn on Fox News. It's that exploration of themes that I'm interested in, not the result. That exploration isn't a means to an end, that exploration is the whole deal onto itself."
When talking to Andrews about "Reign," he's quick to point out that this is a dream project for him and one born our of true passion. "Some of my very first memories are sitting on the floor in front of the TV, eating cereal and watching Bakshi's Spider-Man," said the creator. "Now I'm in a position to affect him. Whether my story lives and breathes for any longer than the four months it's on the stands is beyond my control. But I'm ready to try. I'm ready to give it all. Bare my soul and spit up everything that ever drew me to comics in the first place.
"Part of me feels like I'm lying to you. That I'm just some snot nosed kid from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan who still dreams of drawing for the House Of Ideas. The one that desperately wanted to be a part of the world I would visit every Wednesday at the comic shop."
As both the writer and artist of "Spider-Man: Reign," Andrews is controlling almost all aspects of the book, a task that isn't without its challenges. "Yes, it is challenging," admits Andrews. "But I think it provides more opportunities than challenges. And I am using this opportunity to investigate this medium. I'm playing with pacing, content, story and visual design. I'm playing with technology. It took me three times before I found my visual footing on this book. That's a luxury I paid for with time and patience but the bigger the challenge, the bigger the opportunity, the bigger the personal reward. I feel good doing this book. I was supposed to do this book. I am putting everything I have into it. It's a little scary because at the end of the day 'everything I have' will be a sales number next to a list of 300 other titles. And what if it's not enough? That's why you make it challenging for yourself. Because on some level, fail or succeed it has to mean something to you. Otherwise, I would be doing something else."
Many creators would push a high profile book like "Spider-Man: Reign" with the hyperbole and spin you'd expect, but Andrews isn't most creators. When asked why he feels that Spider-Man fans should check out "Reign," he replies, "I'm not sure they should. Spider-Man is maybe too precious. If you love the character as much as I do, than maybe you shouldn't watch what I'm about to do to him because I am going to beat him into submission. I am going to take away everything he loves, and not give it back. I am going to give him pain and humiliation. He will face the worst and he will fail. No, maybe you shouldn't pick it up. Maybe you should look away and read something funny. Go watch a romantic comedy or something, because I'm not interested in pleasing a particular fanbase or meeting someone else's expectations. This is my shot at a character I grew up with, a character I love. And I am aiming right between the eyes."