For most of his superheroic career, Spider-Man has been the Marvel Universe's premier solo superhero. Over the years, however, everyone's favorite wall-crawler had plenty of team-ups with his fellow heroes. While most of these adventures have been published, some have yet to be told.
In the 2008-2009 miniseries, "X-Men/Spider-Man" writer Christos Gage and artist Mario Alberti told a story of four different team ups between Spider-Man and the X-Men, occurring in four different eras, yet connecting together to form one tale. This July, the creative team reunites for more interconnected, era-spanning tales of untold team-ups, with the four issue miniseries "Spider-Man/Fantastic Four." CBR News spoke with Gage about the series, which was announced Friday during the Mondo Marvel panel at the Chicago Comics & Entertainment Expo.
CBR News: Christos, it sounds like this project came about because you had a lot of fun with "X-Men/Spider-Man" and people responded to that.
Christos Gage: I guess so! All I know is that my editors Steve Wacker and Tom Brennan asked if I'd be interested in working with Mario on a sequel featuring Spidey and the FF. The prospect of more Alberti art and further exploration of Marvel history was like offering me free pie - I don't ask questions, I just grab! I do know that "X-Men/Spider-Man" sold out and was well received by readers, so I'd like to think that had something to do with it, and I hope they welcome Spidey/FF with the same enthusiasm.
At the heart of this series is the relationship between Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four. In your mind, is the lynchpin of that relationship between Peter and Johnny, or do you think Pete's interactions with the rest of the team are just as important?
That's a great question. Most people naturally think of the Pete/Johnny relationship because it's the most prominent - going back to the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby/Steve Ditko days when they were Marvel's pre-eminent teen heroes. But Dan Slott did a great job exploring that relationship in his Spider-Man/Human Torch miniseries, and we wanted to cover new ground.
So, while the Spidey-Torch dynamic is indeed the focus of our first issue, each subsequent issue looks at how Spidey connects with one of the other team members - Reed, Sue and Ben. It was fun and compelling to me as both a writer and as a longtime fan to really sit down and think about how these iconic Marvel characters relate to each other - sometimes in ways they don't really relate to anyone else.
Both Spidey and the FF have undergone a number of changes over the years - what eras and what line-ups of the FF will we see in this series, and will you make a certain group of Spider fans very happy by using Ben Reilly again?
We open with the Silver Age, soon after Reed and Sue got engaged, not long after the FF battled Dr. Doom in FF #39-40. (I can't remember exactly why I chose this point in time, but I read over the original FF and Spidey books from the period and this is what made the most sense for the story.) In Spidey terms, this is very early in his college years, when he had just recently met Gwen Stacy and Harry Osborn. Incidentally, I was surprised to recall just how contentious Peter and Gwen's relationship was in its early days (she thought he was a stuck up scholarship baby because he was so worried about Aunt May he seemed aloof and conceited), although that was fun to play with!
Our second issue occurs during the John Byrne run, when She-Hulk had replaced the Thing on the FF. Dan Slott actually made an inspired suggestion surrounding the fact that it was the FF who helped Spider-Man get free of the symbiotic black costume that eventually became Venom - and Mario did such an amazing job drawing Carnage last time around, I jumped at it. So look for more symbiote shenanigans!
Issue #3 takes place immediately after the end of the Walt Simonson/Art Adams "New FF" story which saw Wolverine, Hulk, Ghost Rider and Spidey become a "replacement" Fantastic Four. It seemed insane to do a Spidey/FF book and not touch on this era! Our final issue takes place in the present day. As you can see, unfortunately, the timing didn't work out for Ben Reilly this time around - all the more reason for readers to ask for another sequel!
What can you tell us about the plot and themes of "Spider-Man/Fantastic Four?" It sounds like this series will also feature stories that can stand on their own but when read together form a larger tale that spans years and eras?
Exactly - it'll follow the same format as "X-Men/Spider-Man." Each issue has a self-contained story that begins and ends there, but with a common thread running through them that pays off in the final issue. And in this particular case, of course, the four-issue format lent itself toward examining Spidey's relationship with a different member of the FF in each issue, which is a different wrinkle from last time around.
What obstacles and adversaries are you interested in throwing at your cast? Sounds like you start things big right off the bat by throwing two of the FF's biggest foes into the mix with Doom and Namor.
Yep - and how could I not? It came from realizing that Doom betrayed Namor in "Fantastic Four" #6 and Namor never came looking for revenge, which seems very un-Namor to me - so that was all the excuse I needed. Issue #2, as I mentioned, has a pre-Venom symbiote as the antagonist, and in issue #3, the good guys are fighting each other, thanks to some mind-manipulation by a Skrull temptress! Our final issue's villain is a mystery - but definitely a pre-existing character.
Spider-Man is a New York based character, but the FF are known as explorers. What kind of settings are you using in this series? Are you sticking to New York, or going to some more fantastic places?
Empire State University, New York, Monster Island and New York. It just worked out that way. As you said, Spidey as a character is very tied into the Big Apple, and the story elements I wanted to use were nearly all New York-based, so aside from the excursion into Monster Island, we're staying close to home.
Last time around, Mario captured the tone of a specific era in the characters' lives, but his art also has that distinctive European feel to it. Will he be doing things similarly here, or does this story call for a different approach?
You can expect the same stunning work from Mario that you saw last time around. He does it all - pencils, inks and colors - and his style, as you mentioned, has a lush European flavor, but also possesses a timeless quality that captures the essence of Marvel. Whether it's the Silver Age and the innocent beauty of Gwen Stacy, or the horrific otherworldly ooze of Carnage or the aristocratic majesty of Kraven or Mr. Sinister, he gets to the heart of what makes these characters work. He does the same here with Sub-Mariner and Dr. Doom, as well as the FF - his rendition of the Thing reminds me of Barry Windsor Smith's. It's a delight every time I get a page from Mario in my inbox. And he's fast, too!
Like "X-Men/Spider-Man," this is an absolutely stunning looking book. I think our last miniseries took some people by surprise, as it sold out quickly, so I hope readers will pre-order this one - and why not pick up the "X-Men/Spider-Man" collection to whet your appetite?
Spider-Man is simultaneously a loner and one of the most connected heroes in the Marvel Universe. As such, I imagine the possibilities are endless if Marvel were inclined to do another follow up to this story. If you're given the chance, what groups might you be interested in having Spidey interact with?
The Avengers are a natural next choice. Of course, being the nerd I am, a Defenders team up would be fun, but they're not around in the present day, so that would kind of mess up the format. And then there are the single characters - Spider-Man/Iron Man, Spider-Man/Captain America, Spider-Man/Thor - that might be interesting too, don't you think?