SPOILER WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS FOR "AMAZING SPIDER-MAN" #666, IN STORES NOW.
The musical "On the Town" features the song "New York, New York." Its most famous lyrics are "New York, New York, a helluva town. The Bronx is up but the Battery's down." If you applied that song to today's Marvel Universe it might go something like, "New York, New York, a helluva town. Crooks climb up the walls and web their way down."
That's because the epic Spider-Man event, "Spider-Island," has begun; a tale that finds many of Manhattan's residents infected with a mysterious plague that gives them powers similar to Spider-Man's. This epic, which will be available digitally the same day and date as it hits stores, runs from July through November and will have a huge impact on both Peter Parker and the city he lives in. Today we're kicking off our new SPIDER-ISLAND HOPPING feature where we discuss each issue of the main storyline with a member of the "Amazing Spider-Man" creative team. We begin things with an in-depth talk with writer Dan Slott about "Amazing Spider-Man" #666, which serves as a prelude to the storyline.
CBR News: So Dan, after all the months of planning how does it feel to finally have "Spider-Island" hit stores?
Dan Slott: It feels super awesome in that everyone finally gets to see this great, big story we've been working on and all the love we've put into it. On the flip side, it's mega scary 'cause the train is on the tracks! As we speak, almost all of "Spider-Island" has been plotted, and this week half of it'll be scripted. So there's still a lot to do.
We're also moving ahead on the big things that happen after and BECAUSE of "Spider-Island." So I've already turned in the first post-"Spider-Island" plot. We've got this two times a month schedule and with something like "Spider-Island" we've got to keep track of what's going on in "Venom," "Spider-Girl," "Cloak & Dagger," and books like the Shang-Chi tie-in, "Deadly Hands of Kung-Fu." It's very tricky, but also a lot of fun.
You kick off "Amazing Spider-Man" #666 with some captions and dialogue that helps new readers catch up on the recent developments in Spidey's life. Since you write Marvel style, how did you handle that type of exposition?
Just taking the old school approach. One of the things I'm very happy about is I've been reading a lot of feedback from new readers who haven't picked up the book in awhile. And they're all saying the book did a nice job bringing them up to speed WHILE we were telling 'em a story. They get that J. Jonah Jameson's the mayor now. Spider-Man lost his spider sense. Here's Horizon Labs and who works there. We covered a lot of ground in the prelude. If you've been out of Spider-Man for awhile, or if this is your first issue of Spidey ever, you now know where everything is.
After the opening scene you move to the Mayor's office where you briefly check in with J. Jonah Jameson. Going forward, how big of a role will Jonah have in "Spider-Island?"
You'll see more of Jonah, more of his assistant, Glory Grant, and more of what's going on in the Mayor's command center. Jonah isn't the mayor of New York any more; he's the mayor of Spider-Island! He's going to be very busy throughout this story.
You also check in with both Jonah's father, J. Jonah Jameson, Sr., and his stepmother, May Parker-Jameson. We know May and Jay are moving to Boston, but they're still in New York as of #666. Will they also play a part in "Spider-Island?"
Between you and me and the CBR readers, and no one else, keep this on the QT guys [Laughs], the last thing in the world that I wanted to see was Aunt May swinging around New York with spider-powers. There was NO way that was happening. There are levels of this that can be goofy here and there. But at some point things are going to get brutal, and it's gonna be the Spider-pocalypse.
So the idea of Aunt May wall-crawling was a step too far. You think of that issue of Marvel Team-Up where Aunt May got the Power Cosmic and became The Golden Oldie, and three words flash before our eyes: "Assistant Editors' Month!" And that's perfectly fine for something like that. All laws of possibility can go out the window and things can just be silly. But that is NOT "Spider-Island." You're never going to get a scene with Aunt May's spider-sense going off.
What about the other major players in Peter's supporting cast? In #666 you seemed to hint that both his ex-girlfriend Mary Jane Watson and his current flame Carlie Cooper will have parts to play in "Spider-Island?"
Yes. Yes, we did.
So you're not going to give us any hints or spoil anything about that?
Okay, we've discussed a little bit about supporting players. Let's talk about one of the things we know "Spider-Island" will have an abundance of, and that's guest stars. In #666 the first bunch of heroes to appear are the Young Allies. What made you want to involve these characters in the story? Will we see them again before "Spider-Island" is finished?
Well it's really important that we have some people we can kill off -- OH WAIT A MINUTE! Time out! I didn't say that. You know this is an event, right? [Laughs].
One of the things we wanted to do in this issue is show you all the heroes that are in New York. This is very much going to be a Spider-Man story and he'll be in the forefront of it, but this is something so big that everybody has to be there to deal with it. So it was really fun to show what heroes are about and what's going on.
And if you're a Young Allies fan, you'll see 'em again in "Amazing Spider-Man" and also in the pages of "Venom" as well.
You mention that this is a threat so big everyone in New York must deal with it. In #666 you show that includes some of the Marvel Universe's powerful A-List heroes including Reed Richards, the Thing, the Red Hulk, and Wolverine. What does the presence of these heroes say about the scale of the threat in "Spider-Island?" It seems like if these guys are involved that it's not just New York City that needs saving, but the world?
I think that's fair to say. Even though the story "germinates" in Manhattan, the repercussions of it are dire for all of the Marvel Universe. This is the first Spider-centric event in a while. And that in mind, the stakes better be pretty high!
The new Madame Web, Julia Carpenter, is another hero that will be involved in "Spider-Island." In issue #666 she warned Spidey that in order to stop the coming crisis he's going to have to kill someone or something. At this point in the story what exactly are Spider-Man's feelings on killing? Is Peter someone who can make the hard choice to kill one person to save thousands?
Back in #654, Spider-Man failed to save a member of the supporting cast, and it really made him look back at just how many people he's lost over the years. It's motivated him to push himself harder than ever before -- to try to live up to his full potential as both Peter Parker AND Spider-Man. Part of this new push centers on a vow he's made, that from now on, whenever he's around, no one dies. And that includes bad guys.
It's an impossible goal. Like announcing a "war on drugs" or a "war on terrorism." How do you achieve that? Does it ever end? For now, Spider-Man's pulled that off. But since he's made that vow, he's yet to face anything as overwhelming as Spider-Island!
Heroes weren't the only people that were busy in "Amazing Spider-Man" #666. Villains were also going about their nefarious machinations. The first major villain we run into in the story is the new Hobgoblin, Phil Urich. In the past several months Phil has aggressively pursued the things he's wanted and he's attained most of them. In his civilian identity he's now one of the Daily Bugle's top photographers, and as the Hobgoblin he's one of the Kingpin's top enforcers. The only thing that appears to be eluding him is Daily Bugle reporter Nora Winters. How big is Phil's obsession with her? Ultimately what does he want from Nora? Does he simply want to become her boyfriend by any means necessary? Or is he after something much more sinister?
This week, one of the two stories in the "Spider-Island: Deadly Foes" one-shot will bring that all to a head. There's going to be a big turning point in the lives of Phil, Norah and Randy. You're going to have to tune in to see what. Something big happens. If you're liking the new Hobgoblin, you NEED to read this book!
From the "Infested" shorts we know that the Jackal will be one of the chief villains in "Spider-Island." In #666 he approaches a gambler who recently acquired spider powers with an offer. In the "Infested" shorts we saw the Jackal was interested in other spider-powered criminals as well. So it seems like in "Spider-Island" you'll be exploring how the spider powers epidemic affects crime in New York City, is that correct?
Read this week's #667. That'll answer your question.
Jackal is accompanied by a hulking monstrosity he calls Kaine through most of the issue. Is this the same Kaine that appeared to die at the end of the "Grim Hunt" arc of "Amazing Spider-Man?"
He did not die at the end of "Grim Hunt." Go back to the final issue of that story line and turn to the end. There's a final scene with Kaine crawling out of the grave -- in a new, mutated body. I've read that some people have been confused by the scenes with Kaine. If you go back and look, the Jackal clearly calls the creature that's with him Kaine though.
If you want to see HOW the Jackal and Kaine reunited? That's the second story in the DEADLY FOES one-shot. And wait 'til you see who else shows up in that one! Longtime Spidey readers are in for a shock.
We've also have to wonder about the identity of the guy shown floating in an opaque tube in the Jackal's lab...
Don't you just hate that when someone is in a tube and there's mist or liquid in there that makes it cloudy and you can't see who it is? Who designs these tubes anyway? Why can't you just have a CLEAR tube, darn it?! I saw someone online call that character inside "Tubey McGee." That's a great name for this guy. He IS "Tubey McGee!" We should make that canon [Laughs]!
We know that some readers are hoping that the man in the tube is deceased Spider-Man clone, Ben Reilly. We imagine you can't confirm this one way or another, but can you discuss your thoughts on Ben as a character? What do you find interesting about him?
I feel it's a shame to waste any thought on Ben as a character because, well, he dissolved into a pile of goo. So why waste time thinking about goo? I mean HOW COULD THAT GOO POSSIBLY EVER COME BACK? How? It's goo! It's almost like you'd need a Jell-O mold in the shape of Peter Parker to bring him back [Laughs]. Wait a sec...
Look, all we know about "Tubey McGee" is that he is a guy. The biggest clue we have about him is what the Jackal says, "He's perfect. Down to the last cell. For all my years of obsessing over Parker's DNA, I have to admit I always dreamed of studying this prime specimen." Hmm... Interesting.
It's also interesting that the Jackal says, "Parker's DNA." Does the Jackal know that Peter and Spider-Man are one in the same? Or was he too affected by the events shown in "One Moment in Time," which wiped Spider-Man's secret identity from the minds of almost everyone on Earth?
"Amazing Spider-Man" #668 will answer that question.
You end the issue with a quick glimpse of a mysterious female mastermind who appears to have some authority over the Jackal. The fact that you're hiding this woman's identity seems significant. Is she a character Spider-Man fans have met before?
What else can you tell us about "Amazing Spider-Man" #666 and the reaction to the start of "Spider-Island?"
Stefano Caselli did an amazing job on this issue. The art is gorgeous. And I'm really happy that everyone took a shine to the retailer variants that David Gabriel and the guys at Marvel cooked up. We had a great response to that. It was really cool to see, especially with the guys who put their store regulars on the covers. That was very neat. And the more hands we can get the comic into the better. Here's hoping we hooked some of those guys with the insides!
I'm also happy with all the reaction I've seen online. People really seem to dig the issue.
Finally, can you offer up any hints or teases about "Amazing Spider-Man" #667, now available in stores and digitally?
Expect to see some of the "Infested" characters show up. At least one will play a big role, which is neat if you've been following things the whole time. Plus there will be lots and lots of fighting!
"Amazing Spider-Man" #667 is on sale in comic shops and digitally now.