In Marvel Comics’ “Amazing Spider-Man” #618, in stores now, writer Dan Slott and artist Marcos Martin kicked off a three-part arc that found the titular Web-Slinger knee deep in dead men who had suddenly come back to life. They weren’t flesh-hungry zombies, though, but members of New York’s Maggia crime families who had faked their deaths to escape punishment or prosecution. They did so with the help of Spidey’s old foe the master of illusions, Mysterio.
The reasons for the mobsters return? The Maggia’s war against Chinatown crime boss Mister Negative is heating up and they want to make sure their side wins. So Spider-Man must not only contend with Mysterio but also two warring mobs, each with their own super powered enforcers: Hammerhead for Mister Negative and for the Maggia, the not-really-dead and robotically-enhanced Silvermane.
Complicating things further is the fact that Peter Parker’s Aunt May stumbled upon Mister Negative committing a murder at one of the homeless shelters he runs in his civilian guise of Martin Li. The crime lord covered up the murder by using his super abilities to corrupt her, turning Aunt May into a bitter, angry and nasty individual that Slott has dubbed "Anti-May." To make matters worse, none of May’s friends or family are aware that she’s been corrupted.
So what’s next for Spider-Man? How will he survive the mounting odds he’s facing in this arc, and since he's going up against Mysterio can he trust anything he sees? For the answers to these questions and more, CBR News spoke with Slott about his Mysterio storyline, which is part of “The Gauntlet,” an ongoing plot line in “Amazing Spider-Man” which features the return of many of Spidey’s classic villains. The Mysterio arc continues this week in "Amazing Spider-Man" #619.
CBR News: Dan, at its heart it seems like this story is a street level crime tale, which is not something you’re widely known for, but you have done in the past. Do you enjoy telling these types of Spidey stories?
Dan Slott: Yes, I remember reading "Secret Wars" #3 as a kid and there’s a sequence in the book where Spidey is confiding to the Torch about how being off on this cosmic-style adventure is freaking him out a little, and my favorite book at the time was "Marvel Team-Up" where every other issue they’d visit a mystic realm, an alternate future or outer space. So it was like "Dude! You’ve done that a million times what’s your problem!" What they were doing was right though. A lot of it was dialing the character back to where he should be.
Spidey is most at home fighting muggers and bank robbers. That’s his world. When the villains pop up they’re a strange and fantastical element in his world. Like, "Oh my god! There’s a lizard!" But now we’ve been with Spidey for 50 years. So now it’s like old hat. Plus Spider-Man has a history of mixing it up with big time criminals and organized crime figures like the Kingpin, Silvermane, Tombstone, and the Crime Master.
Speaking of organized crime, why did you want to have Mysterio partner with the Maggia?
When you have the Spider-Man villains with real crime they become a little more real themselves, but also in the Marvel Universe characters you believe dead are popping up all the time. So I thought it might be fun if there was someone in the Marvel Universe who made a living because of that, and who better than the master of illusions? What if this was a service he provides? It explained so much and provided a rich jumping off point for a story.
I liked the way the pieces all fit together and I pitched the story back at our first ever Spider-Man summit. I wanted to do Mysterio as Winston Wolfe [Harvey Keitel’s character] from "Pulp Fiction" meets Rollie [Bryan Brown’s character] from "F/X." He uses these special effects to make everybody think you’re dead, which cleans up your problem. Then you go into the Maggia’s version of the witness relocation program.
In issue #618 you brought back several Maggia members from witness relocation. The biggest and most important member to return was former Maggia don turned cyborg, Silvermane. What made you want to bring Silvermane back?
Silvermane was the perfect puzzle piece to connect all the other pieces I laid out. Before Fred Van Lente did his recent "Dark Reign: Mister Negative" mini-series I told him the origin of Mister Negative so he could reveal it in the series. And for those who don’t know, Mister Negative was in the same group of test subjects that Silvermane conducted an experiment upon. That experiment created Cloak and Dagger. Cloak was given darkforce powers and Dagger was given light force powers, but Mister Negative, who was the only other surviving test subject was given both light and dark powers. So just like Cloak and Dagger he has a strong hatred for Silvermane.
Also we saw in my first Spider-Man story that Negative’s hatred of the Maggia lead to an attack that wiped out a lot of Maggia members. The only one left was Bruno Karnelli, who made a pact with Negative, and he’s an idiot. So if you’re in the Maggia the problem now becomes, how do you get rid of Bruno and put somebody smart back in charge? The answer is you need a high ranking Maggia guy to come back from the dead. So why not go for Silvermane, from the classic petrified tablet story in "Amazing" and with the robot body from all those great "Peter Parker, Spectacular Spider-Man" stories?
Silvermane’s return shocked several characters in “Amazing” #618, including his former enforcer Hammerhead, who now works for Mister Negative. So it seems like Hammerhead’s loyalty is going to be tested in this arc. How important of a concept is loyalty to Hammerhead?
Very. In his great Hammerhead story in "Spider-Man Extra" and then his two part Hammerhead story in "Amazing," Joe Kelly really helped flesh out the character and put him in an interesting place.
Another character who is in an interesting emotional place because of the return of someone they believed dead is Carlie Cooper. On the final page of #618 you reveal that Carlie's father, Ray, is not dead as she believed. How big of a shock is this to her? What did the memory of Carlie's father mean to her?
She's followed in his foot steps. She patterned herself after her dad. Ray Cooper was a good cop. We hear that line in Spider-Man a lot. Someone mentions Ray Cooper's name and they say that. So he's Carlie's role model. She grew up to be everything he supposedly was.
Carlie figured prominently in the recent 2010 teaser ad for “Amazing Spider-Man.” So many readers are wondering if she'll have a significant role in this story or will Carlie's big stories come later this year?
More than any story you've seen so far this arc is really going to flesh out Carlie's character. We're going to learn things about her past and she'll be put through the wringer in this three part story. Then following that is a one-off issue of "Amazing" that I'm doing with Michael Lark, which should give most readers strong feelings about Carlie.
Carlie wasn't the only regular supporting cast member to play a significant role in “Amazing” #618. In one scene a corrupted Aunt May, or Anti-May, verbally tore into Peter about the lack of stability in his life. How badly did that tongue lashing hurt Peter?
Peter has been drifting through life really ever since he stopped going to college and graduate school. He's gone from one thing to the next. He's been a photographer and a teacher, but he really hasn't been able to hold anything down because he goes missing for weeks on end. The Avengers may need to visit the Kree Galaxy, or he may have to go to Africa to meet with an ancient spider god. Not all these events can work into a regular schedule, even if you're a teacher who has summers off or a freelance photographer who sometimes goes awhile in between assignments.
Peter Parker has yet to meet the career that syncs up with his life as Spider-Man and he has to be Spider-Man. He has this power and this great responsibility. Though he's tried a number of times he can't throw that into the proverbial trash can. This is something he has to do and that means to his loved ones and his friends, he looks like he doesn't know what he's doing.
In his heart of hearts Peter knows he's a good person and that he's doing the right thing even if he has to keep it secret, but it breaks his heart. His surrogate mother basically tells him that he's a schmuck. No one knows Aunt May is under the influence of Mister Negative so for her to tell him basically that's he's a horrible disappointment is an emotional sucker punch.
As painful as Anti-May's tirade was it did seem like it got Peter thinking. How would you describe Peter's state of mind once he's had some time to think about what his Aunt said to him?
After she yells at him he goes off and does the thing he usually does whether he's worried about a girl, a friend, the rent or any other crushing personal problems. Sometimes he goes out on patrol as Spider-Man not to look for crimes but to stop being Peter Parker for a little while. He starts swinging to clear his head, and this time while he's doing it he's thinking back to "Amazing Spider-Man" #600. He's thinking 'I've got a brain that rivals Doctor Otto Octavius's! I beat him in a brain battle! What am I doing with my life? Isn't that a kind of a power that I need to be responsible about too? Am I not living up to my full potential?
"Amazing Spider-Man" #619 is in stores January 27th and then your Mysterio story comes to a conclusion in issue #620, on sale February 10th. Any hints or teases about what fans can expect from the remaining chapters of this story?
Expect another Spider-Man villain back from the dead. And I don't mind putting on my P.T. Barnum hat and saying that you can expect the shock of the year in the next issue of "Amazing." It's huge.
For this arc you're once again working with artist Marcos Martin. What can people expect from his art in the remaining chapters of this arc?
Every page that's coming in is gorgeous and so well thought out. It's just blowing me away. What I love about Marcos is that he's a designer. Each page is beautifully designed. The flow of the page is amazing. When I turn in the script Marcos does the placement of the world balloons. So he makes sure everything flows beautifully.
Another thing I love about Marcos is that even though he's all the way in Spain he gets New York. He works in in major New York architecture, but he gets things right. Like when he does the meatpacking district, you look at the ground and it's cobblestone! He's not just winging it or faking it. That's New York. Little touches like that may go over the heads of a non-New Yorker but New Yorkers will be amazed by how well he nails the city's details. His work is just great and it's gorgeous too.
Once your Mysterio arc wraps you're not going anywhere. You're also doing “Amazing Spider-Man” #621. What can you tell us about that issue?
It's the one-off issue I mentioned earlier that I'm doing with Michael Lark. It's a story that rises naturally out of developments in the Mysterio arc. It's Spidey and the Black Cat versus Mister Negative. It's gorgeous and it's a completely different story than what I'm doing with Marcos.
Marcos's art is very stylized and Michael's art is hyper real. There is such a different vibe, so I'm gearing up to switch gears and do that script. I can't wait for people to see that too. It's very exciting. Some of the things that happen are pretty big for certain characters and it's the first time we've seen Mister Negative go toe-to-toe with Spider-Man. For two and half a years he's just been the crime lord rubbing his hands together while his minions attack Spidey. We have yet to see Spider-Man lay a finger on him. That ends with this issue.
It sounds like the street crime elements will continue to be a prominent part of Amazing Spider-Man for the immediate future. And now Steve Wacker is editing another one of Marvel's major street level titles, “Daredevil.” Any chance we might see some cross over elements between “Amazing” and “Daredevil”?
Steve is really good about having synergy with the books he's editing. When he was editing "Ms. Marvel" you started to see the Spidey-Ms. Marvel dating elements. So you might start to see some more Matt Murdock and Daredevil stuff. We've been really good with DD since we started our run: he and Spidey swapped costumes in the "Kraven's First Hunt" story arc and he showed up in "Character Assassination" and Spidey #600. So we love Daredevil. We'd love to keep using him in our world and now that he's running the Hand he's even more interesting.