In 1982's "Amazing Spider-Man" #229 to 230 from Marvel Comics, writer Roger Stern and artist John Romita Jr. pitted their protagonist against a foe that at first glance he had no hope in beating. The two-part tale was titled "Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut," and it was a story that highlighted Spider-Man's physical and mental endurance. The tale has long been considered a high point for that era of Spider stories.
Now, almost 30 years later, Stern returns to once again test Spidey's mettle with another tale featuring the crimson gem-powered bruiser. In "Something Can Stop the Juggernaut," a three-part tale beginning March 31 in "Amazing Spider-Man" #627, the ongoing Gauntlet that Peter Parker has been running crashes into the supposedly immovable supervillain with unexpected results. CBR News spoke with Stern about that story including how Cain Marko has changed as a character since the original tale, what could bring Spidey and Juggy together even briefly and why there's no reason to rush Mr. Parker into new romance just yet.
CBR News: "Nothing can stop the Juggernaut" – the two-part story where you first paired Spider-Man and the Juggernaut – is widely regarded as one of the best Spider-Man stories ever. What made you want to revisit that pairing now in "Something Can Stop the Juggernaut"?
Roger Stern: That was all thanks to editor Steve Wacker. Before I had even finished the script to "Amazing Spider-Man" #580, he was asking me to write some more stories. The title was an idea that Steve tossed my way as a possible story springboard. Once he said "Something Can Stop the Juggernaut," I couldn't get that thought out of my mind. It bedeviled me until I finally figured out who might have a chance of stopping Juggernaut. And then, I had to write the story.
It's probably because they are in such different weight classes. Despite his identification with the X-Men, you'd expect the Juggernaut to go up against someone like the Hulk or Thor. The fact that Spider-Man and Juggernaut are of such different power levels automatically makes things more interesting.
Let's talk a little bit about the Juggernaut himself. He started off as a villain, several years ago he tried being a hero, and it seems like recently he's in danger of reverting to his old villainous ways. What end of the moral spectrum do you think Cain Marko falls on? Is he more of a villain? More of a hero? Or does he occupy sort of a gray area between the two?
He's definitely in that gray area. They say this cat Marko is a ba-a-ad mother…[Shut yo mouth!] But I'm talkin' 'bout Marko.
Juggernaut is a mean S.O.B., but he's also loyal to and protective of his friends. Of course, he doesn't make many friends.
What do you feel are the Juggernaut's defining character traits?
He has a hair-trigger temper, and he's very single-minded. If Juggernaut decides to go somewhere, he goes – right through anything and anyone foolhardy enough to get in his path. And he doesn’t discourage easily.
"The Gauntlet," a series of interconnected storylines, is currently running in the pages of "Amazing Spider-Man." And in the stories under that banner Peter Parker has gone through the emotional wringer. How is Peter feeling when your story starts? What is on his mind?
Pete is in great pain, but that's more an immediate function of his Spider-sense than of his emotional state. He's still unemployed, but he's managing to get by.
As per usual, Pete is trying to make sense of his world. So when the Juggernaut all but falls into his lap, he just has to figure out what happened and why. Plus, dealing with the mystery as Spider-Man helps take his mind off his personal woes.
Based on the solicits it sounds like during the course of "Something Can Stop the Juggernaut" that Spidey and the Juggernaut will be both at odds and forced to work together.
Well, it's hard not to be at odds with the Juggernaut. And since Cain has been left comatose, he's not much help to Spider-Man – at first.
How would you describe the dynamic between these characters? Are they able to get along? Or is there something about their personalities and past experiences that makes it hard for them to stand each other?
There's been a kind of uneasy truce between the two of them in recent years. Spider-Man, along with the Avengers, came to Juggernaut's aid when the Exemplars were after him. The question is – after all that he's been through – will Cain be in any condition to honor that debt? Or even to remember it?
What can you tell me about the plot and themes of this story?
I don't want to give away too much, but a lot of the story has to do with questions of power, responsibility, and unintended consequences--which, when you think about it, is the overall theme of Pete's life, isn't it?
Let's just say, this adversary feels personally wronged by the Juggernaut. That narrows the possible suspects down to what? A few million?
Another important supporting character in this story is Carlie Cooper. What do you find most interesting about Carlie?
Carlie is the first woman in Pete's life who really shares his interests. They're both science geeks. In fact, when it comes to forensic science, Carlie can give Pete a run for his money in the smarts department. Plus, she definitely has guts. When Doctor Octopus had her tied up with Octobots, she still tried to arrest him. And she was the one who invited Johnny Storm to be her date to May Parker's wedding.
For any of you old "WKRP in Cincinnati" fans out there, Carlie is like a more outgoing Bailey Quarters. For those of you who watch "Bones," she's Camille Saroyan – or a socially adept Temperance Brennan – to Mary Jane Watson's Angela Montenegro. Carlie may be the nerdy-girl, but she's not lacking in social skills.
There's a real sweetness to Carlie, even when she's elbow-deep in bloody body parts.
And now that it seems like Pete and Carlie are trying to start up a romantic relationship what do you think they see in each other?
Geez, why are fans always trying to play matchmaker for Pete? Let's take things one step at a time, guys. In the scheme of things, Pete hasn't known Carlie all that long. She has become a good friend, though. It was Carlie, after all, who found him his current apartment. Will she become more than just a friend? I don't know. So far, they're having trouble just getting together for dinner. Conflicting schedules, and all that – and whose schedule has more conflicts than Pete's, right?
What do Carlie and Pete see in each other? Well, as I said, they're a good intellectual match. He admires her spirit and resilience--and he thinks she's cute. She admires his wit and realizes that there's a decency to Pete, despite his sometimes clueless behavior. Plus, she thinks he has a nice butt.
What do I personally think? Allow me to paraphrase Tom Hanks from "That Thing You Do": Mary Jane is the wild one, Harry is the troubled one, Pete is the smart one, and Carlie…well, Carlie is special, isn't she?
That's what I think, anyway.
How would you describe the tone, stakes, and scope of this story?
Tone? Mystery and intrigue, danger and drama. The stakes are high, with many lives in the balance. And the scope? Well, in the course of three issues, we'll be following Spider-Man from one end of Manhattan to the other and back again, with a little foray into New Jersey.
From the solicitation info it sounds like the fate of New York and possibly the world is in Spider-Man's hands?
Could be. Let's just say that at one point, Spider-Man has to step up and play the grown-up, and it's not a role that he's comfortable in.
For this story you're once again paired with your "Amazing Spider-Man" #580 collaborator Lee Weeks. What's it like to be working with Lee again? What do you feel he brings to this story?
It's great fun to work with Lee. He brings a lot of passion as well as craft to his work. He's an expert storyteller, and incredibly versatile. Lee can deliver big cosmic-level power and down-to-earth humanity. He really brings the characters to life. When Lee Weeks draws Spider-Man, you'll believe that a man can stick to walls.
"Something Can Stop the Juggernaut" wraps in April, but fans don't have to wait long for your next Spider-related story. You have a short piece in May's "The Many Loves of Spider-Man," where you revisit Mary Jane Watson. What's it like to write Mary Jane again?
Ah, it's so fine. I've always thought that Mary Jane Watson was Stan Lee and John Romita's great contribution to the whole Spider-Man mythos. (Yeah, I know that MJ had appeared – sort of – during Steve Ditko's tenure, but it was Romita who really brought her to life.)
I never got to write that many stories featuring M.J. during my first run on "Amazing," though I did outline her past life. Back when I was a regular Spider-writer, I realized that we knew almost nothing about Mary Jane's family. So I figured out her early family life, and wrote out an outline of what it was like and why she had become a party girl. I had just started setting her background up [in ASM #246] prior to my leaving the book. Tom [DeFalco] and Ron [Frenz] later used my outline – with my blessings – to finish establishing M.J.'s youth during their run, and did a magnificent job.
So, getting a chance to feature Mary Jane in her own story is great – even though it's just a few pages in length. It's like seeing an old friend after an absence of few years, and catching up on what she's done and where she's going with her life.
Any other projects in the near future, Marvel or otherwise, that you can hint, tease, or talk about?
There's at least one more issue of "Amazing Spider-Man" in my future, one that features yet another woman in Peter's life. And I'm writing a non-Spider-Man miniseries that will probably appear later this year. It's a little too soon to talk about that project, but it does involve characters I've written before. Let's leave it with that little tease.
Any final thoughts you'd like to share about your upcoming Spider-Man work?
Just that writing Spider-Man is some of the most fun you can have in comics. It's always an honor and thrill to be allowed to do this. And on top of that, I even get paid!
"Amazing Spider-Man" #627 is in stores on March 31.