Being bitten by a radioactive spider gave Peter Parker superhuman abilities and launched his career as Spider-Man, which would eventually lead him to become a hero - and a well connected one at that. Those connections mean that Spider-Man's place in the Marvel Universe is a big one, and in the months ahead, writer Brian Reed will illuminate some of that world with two projects. The first is the one-shot "Siege: Spider-Man," in stores April 21. The second is the four issue miniseries "Amazing Spider-Man Presents: American Son," which hits stores on May 12. CBR News spoke with Reed about both books.
"Siege: Spider-Man" occurs right after the events of issue #3 of the current "Siege" miniseries by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Olivier Coipiel. That issue saw Spider-Man and his fellow Avengers come to the rescue of Asgardian Gods, whose home is currently under siege by the forces of Norman Osborn, the Dark Avengers and the Initiative. Osborn is one of the chief villains in Spider-Man's rogue's gallery, but the one-shot will find Spider-Man going toe-to-toe with another one of his longtime rivals, the Dark Avenger known as Venom.
Compared to other well known Spidey villains, Venom is still a relative newcomer, but he's just as popular as many of the older villains. "I think originally it was just that we all liked Spider-Man's black costume. It was new and different. Then when it was transformed into Venom, it was neat that this thing that you had been taught to identify as Spider-Man was now evil. I think that's really clicked with a lot of people, it's like, 'Wow. This really turns the concept on its ear,'" Reed told CBR News. "For me, the current Venom, Mac Gargan, is great, because with Eddie Brock - he was evil. Gargan is insane. They're two very different things, and insane is fun [Laughs]. It's fun to write, because you can do anything on the page and it clicks. It's like, 'All right, he's eating squirrels. Yeah, sure, go.'"
"I really like Mac, and this book came up after my series 'Dark Reign: The Sinister Spider-Man' where Mac was the title character. In that series, we never got the chance to see Venom and Spidey together, and this was a chance to do that," Reed continued. " So I was like, 'I get to write somebody that is so fun I write extra pages of dialogue for them?' Yes, I will happily tell this story.'"
The story in "Siege: Spider-Man" begins from Venom's point of view, but the tale is mostly from Peter Parker's perspective, relating Spider-Man's reaction to the fact that, for months now, Venom has been posing as Spidey in the eyes of the denizens of the Marvel Universe "Pete is about as angry as he can get. It's finally his chance to really confront Mac and go, 'All right! Listen! You've gone around making people think that you're me! And that's not cool,'" Reed explained. "This definitely has a side-tale vibe to it. It's happening between moments in the main 'Siege' series, but it was really the one chance we were going to have to go, 'This is Peter's reaction to what Mac has been doing.' It was also the chance to get in and have a little bit more fun with his relationship to Ms. Marvel, who shows up for a bit."
Which is not to say that Ms. Marvel is the only important supporting player in "Siege: Spider-Man." "The symbiote gets put on someone new for a little bit," Reed said. "So for a few pages, at least, we get to see yet another version of Venom."
"Siege: Spider-Man" reunites Reed with artist Marco Santucci, his collaborator on the 2008 "Secret Invasion: Spider-Man" miniseries. "It's great to be working with him again," Reed remarked. "People can expect the same awesome work he always does. I haven't seen any of his pages yet, but he's been asking me questions about how he could frame a shot and how he wants to do something else. Every time I'm like, 'That's better than what I wrote. Do it!' [Laughs]."
The tone and feel of "Siege: Spider-Man" is fast paced and it unfolds very quickly. "If things were occurring in real time, it would be less than an hour-long story," Reed revealed. "It's a very action-packed tale, and it's definitely got a sense of humor with those three characters. They're always funny when I get them together. So there's definitely some humor in there, but the undercurrent of it all is that Peter Parker is really kind of upset about all of this. So even though we've also got that humor, there is an undercurrent of anger to the story."
"We strove to make sure this didn't feel like a throwaway story or filler," Reed continued. "There was a lot of talk about making sure the readers were getting something out of this, and I think we nailed it. We put two or three things in that I think are actually really important character pieces, that, as a fan, I would be satisfied with."
Three weeks after "Siege: Spider-Man" hits stores, Reed returns once again to Spider-Man's world with the first issue of the "Amazing Spider-Man Presents: American Son" miniseries, which moves the spotlight off of Spidey and onto his best friend, Harry Osborn. The tale has it's roots in last year's "American Son" story arc in "Amazing Spider-Man," a story which saw Norman Osborn attempt to manipulate Harry into becoming an armor clad patriotic superhero known as American Son.
"After 'Sinister Spider-Man,' Editor Tom Brennan and I were talking about what we wanted to do, and we wanted to do something with the American Son armor. As we started talking about things, we went through four or five completely different ideas of what to do with this story and we finally found the one that felt right and felt like it had the most meat on the bones, " Reed explained. "That's where we ended up, and that is Harry Osborn trying to get his life together with everybody else pretty sure that he's secretly playing superhero on the side."
"Amazing Spider-Man Presents: American Son" takes place in the Marvel Universe's new Heroic Age. Norman Osborn is no longer king of the world, but the ghosts of his "Dark Reign" are still haunting Harry. "His dad's downfall is proving to be Harry's, because the whole world wants to know what Harry Osborn thinks. He's got paparazzi on him 24 hours a day. He's got FBI agents coming to visit him to find out about his dad's old projects," Reed said "He's got all this craziness going on, and in the middle of all of it, the rest of the world sees this American Son armor running around. Someone is in it doing superheroic things, and the most obvious suspect is, of course, Harry, because only he can wear the armor. No one else is supposed to be able to use the suit. So who's in there if it's not Harry? "
Readers familiar with Harry's problems with drug addiction know that he doesn't always cope well with pressure, and when "American Son" begins, he's having an especially difficult time dealing with his life. "He's popping Oxycontin and flipping out on people," Reed remarked. "He's trying to prove to the world that he's not Norman Osborn, and the fact that he keeps not accomplishing this is really wearing on him when this story starts."
Harry's quest to prove to the world that he's not his father combined his frazzled mental state means that "Amazing Spider-Man: Presents: American Son" will have the tone and feel of a paranoid, noir-style thriller. "It's a mystery and it's rather dark in tone," Reed stated. "There's fun humor in it, but it's pretty much the dark days of Harry Osborn."
Investigating the mystery of the person inside the American Son armor will lead Harry to encounter a cast of eclectic characters, many of them bizarre and dangerous, including Harry's half brother Gabriel Stacy, who made his debut in the controversial 2004 "Sins Past" storyline in "Amazing Spider-Man," where it was revealed that he and his twin sister Sarah were the children of Gwen Stacy and Norman Osborn. They're actual age is about 5 years old, but the enhanced blood they inherited from their father caused them to age faster and reach adulthood in the span of several years.
"Gabriel is interesting in part because fans have such strong feelings about him, including myself. As I was coming up with this story, I went, 'Oh man. You know who would be great here? Gabriel Stacy.' I then thought that I could never do that. And it was because I had that reaction that I went, 'Okay. Now I have to find out how I can do that,'" Reed said. "The other thing that fascinates me about Gabriel is that he could have been Harry, part two. He never had that upbringing, though. He never had any of those pieces, and he's jealous. We all know how bad Harry's life was, but to Gabriel it was like, 'You had a dad. You had a life. I didn't have those things. I grew up mutated. I went crazy, and now I'm going to kill you' [Laughs]."
Spider-Man may be named in the title of "Amazing Spider-Man Presents: American Son," but the Webslinger is only a supporting player in the miniseries. "He's in and out throughout this story. The approach that I discussed with my Editor Steve Wacker when I first started on this was that do we do this as a the fourth week Spider-Man book, but that it be done from Harry's point of view. So it's still a Spider-Man story, Spider-Man is still involved, but we're really seeing things through Harry's eyes."
The supporting cast of "American Son" will be rounded out with several key players from Spider-Man and Harry Osborn's life. "We see the 'Front Line' staff and a lot of the Spidey secondary players. Not a lot of A-List guys, but definitely the meat of the universe. Characters like Mary, Jane Norah Winters and Ben Urich," Reed explained. "Also, Harry's former fiancee Lily Hollister is definitely a part of why he does the things he does."
Artist Phil Briones ("Iron Man Vs. Whiplash") is bringing to life Reed's scripts for "ASM Presents: American Son." "He's great. What little I've seen so far of his art has been very good," Reed stated. "It's always exciting to work with somebody for the first time and see how they approach your script."
"Amazing Spider-Man Presents: American Son" isn't simply a side story featuring Spidey's best friend - Reed intends for the series to have a profound impact on Harry Osborn and his place in the world of "Amazing Spider-Man." "This is one of those fun stories where there's so much you can't say about it, but this very much sets [Spider-Man] up for what happens next in his world," Reed said. "This is why he's able to do certain things in a Spider-Man story that's coming up in the fall."