[SPOILER WARNING: THE FOLLOWING CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR "AMAZING SPIDER-MAN" #673, IN STORES AND AVAILABLE DIGITALLY NOW]
The heroes of the Marvel Universe know their actions have consequences, but no other Marvel hero is as conscious of that fact as Spider-Man. His whole super heroic career stems from the fact that he chose not to act when he was needed which resulted in the death of his Uncle Ben. Spidey also knows that even when he chooses to do something heroic there will be a price to pay. That he keeps going in spite of this is one of the many reasons he's a great hero.
In part six of the ""Spider-Island" storyline running through "Amazing Spider-Man" and several different tie-ins, Spidey pulled off one of the most heroic acts of his career when he helped cure the people of New York from a virus that had transformed them into giant, monstrous spiders. Such a large scale action is bound to have consequences for Peter Parker and his entire supporting cast of characters.
In "Amazing Spider-Man" #673 writer Dan Slott and artist Stefano Caselli examined some of those consequences. Today marks the final installment of SPIDER-ISLAND HOPPING, our in-depth look at each issue of the main crossover, as Slott spoke with CBR for a discussion about issue #673, the epilogue to "Spider-Island."
CBR News: So Dan, there have been several Marvel events of late including "Fear Itself" and "Schism," and many readers have been wondering when "Spider-Island" takes place in relation to these other events. It looks like you finally answer that question in #673. Why did you have to wait so long to do it?
Dan Slott: Well, with "Fear Itself," "Spider-Island," and "Schism" all being published at the same time, we didn't want to give out the specific order until at least two of them were done. Or else it would have let you know that everyone who appears in this, that, or the other story was safe; and that nothing bad could happen to characters X, Y, or Z.
But this is how it is with all comics in a serialized shared universe. We know they can't all be happening at the same time. It'd be silly to think that at the exact moment Punisher is shooting a gangster in an alley, he can look up and see Galactus' ship in the sky over New York, because that's what happening over in that week's issue of "FF." We understand that storylines happen, and when they're done, then we place them in a Marvel U timeline.
That said, once we hit "Amazing" #673, we threw in a nod where Iron Man says to Steve Rogers, "Why aren't you in your Captain America suit?" And he replies, "Because this started off as a military mission and I had to dress down." Of course the real reason was that we didn't want people to know that "Spider-Island" takes place after "Fear Itself." That's why you don't see Thor in "Spider-Island," and you don't see Spider-Man use his spider sense in "Fear Itself," because he hasn't gotten it back yet. And in all of our issues Steve, just like he does in the post-"Fear Itself" issues of "Secret Avengers," wears the Super Soldier uniform. Otherwise it would have tipped Matt Fraction's hand over in "Fear Itself."
That conversation between Iron Man and Steve Rogers happened at the beginning of the issue while various super heroes were helping to clean up the giant carcass of the Queen, the main villain of "Spider-Island." While that's going on we learned that the story line's other villain, the mad scientist known as the Jackal, had escaped death in the last issue because it was actually one of his clones that had been involved in "Spider-Island," and not the real Miles Warren. So the Jackal is just as cunning as he is crazy?
I'd say he's just as cautious as he is crazy. Look, if you've got cloning technology, why not? If you were the Jackal, would you ever send the real you to hang out with other super villains? These are very touchy guys [Laughs]. Doctor Doom might kill you if he had a bad sandwich that day. So if I'm the Jackal, I never send the real me. I stay back at home and catch up on all my episodes of "House."
In that scene with the Jackal he says, "I, the real Jackal." We have to wonder though, wouldn't a clone say that? With all these clones running around is there such a thing as a "real" Miles Warren anymore?
Is there, Dave?! IS THERE?! [Slott hums spooky Theremin-style music]
Okay, let's move on then. While we're on the topic of deranged Spider-Man foes let's touch on Eddie Brock. Eddie has always possessed a strange code of honor that often made him more of a hero that would "save" you whether you wanted to or not instead of an out and out villain. In "Amazing" #672 he sacrifices his Anti-Venom symbiote to produce a cure for the spider plague. In issue #673 he gets recognized as a hero for that. Is Eddie still his same aggressively self-righteous self or did sacrificing his symbiote somehow change him?
The first time we met Eddie Brock in "Amazing Spider-Man," he was praying in Our Lady of Saints church asking for a way to seek revenge. Then symbiote dripped down on him and he became Venom. Even in those early Venom stories, every now and then, it would be kind of creepy because his costume would change into street clothes, and one of the outfits he kept appearing in was a collar wearing priest. So Eddie's always had a weird, religious, and self-righteous side to him.
After Eddie found out the symbiote was killing him and had left his body riddled with cancer, he went back to Our Lady of Saints church, prayed again, and Martin Li, Mister Negative, put his healing hands on him. That super-charged the alien anti-bodies that were still inside him, cured him of his cancer, and turned him into Anti-Venom. He could now use his powers to "cure" us all.
For him, "Spider-Island" was this ultimate fantasy. He got to be Jesus walking amongst the lepers, curing the infected with the powers given to him "from above." To complete his martyrdom complex, he made the ultimate sacrifice. He gave up his gift. He can never be Anti-Venom again. So we're very much left with this self-righteous, holier-than-thou Eddie Brock -- and his story continues in Rick Remender's "Venom" series. He's going to become a very important supporting cast character over there. Even without that symbiote -- or those anti-bodies -- Eddie Brock still has a lot of story left in him.
The cure made from Eddie's Anti-Venom suit had a profound impact on Peter Parker's flawed clone, Kaine. It changed him back from his monstrous Tarantula form and healed him of all the defects from the flawed cloning process that created him. When we see Kaine in "Amazing" #673 he appears much happier because of this. Is he really though? Or deep down is he still his old angry self?
We will find out more down the road. But this is a new lease on life for him though. It's like if you're watching "Beauty and the Beast" and the spell gets lifted and suddenly he's the handsome prince again. That's going to immediately change how he reacts to the world.
Kaine has always been Peter Parker-distilled when it comes to angst and the Parker luck. You'd see Peter Parker kicking cans because he couldn't get a date, or Jameson wrote something mean about him. Kaine is like, "I'm you, but I'm a hideous freak! All my powers don't work right and I was born in a tube. Shut up!" He's a guy with the Parker Luck to the Nth degree. Now, for once, he's gotten a good bounce. He's now human. He's cured. He's fine and he's got spider powers -- and some extra stuff.
Peter and Kaine are pretty much brothers, and after the scene with them talking in #673 we also get a scene with two people who have been friends so long they're practically brothers in J. Jonah Jameson and Robbie Robertson. They're chatting in a place that seems to be popping up a lot lately in Marvel books, The Lion's Head Pub. What can you tell us about this place? Why has it become such a popular Marvel U locale?
The Lion's Head is neat, because what you're looking at is an actual New York bar that does have a history with journalists. If you zoom in on the walls of the Marvel Universe version of the Lion's Head, you'll see all these "Daily Bugle" headlines from all across the years. When were doing the final lettering on the issue my editor, Steve Wacker, sent out an e-mail to everyone on the crew asking for Marvel Universe centric headlines. Some of them are really tiny, but they are actual headlines.
We can make out one that says "Captain America Alive!"
Right. There's stuff from the "Civil War" era, but there's also stuff about "Horton's Human Torch" and "Invaders Liberate Paris." There's all kinds of different things. If you pull out the magnifying glass you'll see that wall is covered with Marvel U history.
The Lion's Head is the backdrop for a discussion between Jonah and Robbie about how Spider-Man saved New York during the spider virus outbreak. How hard is it for Jonah to hear and understand what Robbie telling him about Spider-Man?
Jonah is a very strange character because over the years people have played him very differently. You read Frank Miller's "Daredevil" and he comes across as this earnest, crusading reporter. You read Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's Jonah and he's clearly putting out the most libelous garbage in the world about Spider-Man. There's no ethics at all [Laughs]. He uses the flimsiest excuses to attack and go after Spider-Man. "I saw him back lit against electricity! He must be Electro!" Then when he finds out they're two different guys he's all, "Well, they were in cahoots!"
We saw a classic shot in one of Stan's stories where it's just Jonah in a pool of light and he says, "The real reason why I hate Spider-Man, and I'll never admit it to the rest of the world, is because I envy him! I'm jealous of him -- I wish I was him!" So Jonah's emotions and feelings run the whole gamut. There's even been times, like when his wife Marla died, that Jameson tells Spider-Man, "This isn't your fault." You never know where you're going to go with Jonah. He's very unpredictable, but here he realizes that if it weren't for Spider-Man he would've been turned into a six foot tall spider.
It seems like that scene is about accepting difficult truths and you follow it up with a scene where the truth comes out. In that scene Peter is forced to admit to his girlfriend, Carlie Cooper, that he is Spider-Man. She delivers a few choice words and then promptly dumps him. Based on what Carlie says it seems like Pete basically blew it with Carlie. Is that true or was something else going on?
He had every chance in the world to tell her he was Spider-Man. In the recent "Revenge of the Spider-Slayer" arc he had Mary Jane advising that he should tell her. He even had a moment right before "Spider-Island" where the two of them were working on a case and she found out that the new Wraith was Captain Yuri Watanabe. Spider-Man was a bug on the wall watching this as Carlie didn't give Yuri up. Carlie was like, "Yes, you're a vigilante, but you were doing stuff for the right reasons. You're a good person and I'm not going to turn you in."
His hesitation before that scene is understandable because before that we saw that Carlie was the person willing to turn in her own father when she found out he was working with Mysterio, or that the guy she was interested in, Vin Gonzalez, was he's tied to the Spider Tracer Killings. She has a very well rounded approach though to someone having a secret identity. At the end of the day what matters to her is, "Are you a good person? Can I trust you to do the right thing?" So she totally could have handled Peter's secret, but Peter never told her.
We find out later on that Carlie was able to deduce Pete's identity because he basically negated the spell that Doctor Strange cast to protect it when he went on TV as Peter Parker, revealed that he had spider powers, and encouraged the rest of Manhattan, who had also received spider powers thanks to the early stages of the spider virus, to help him battle a horde of enemies. Now that the identity protection spell is gone, let's talk a little bit about it in the narrative sense. Why was it employed in the first place?
It gave the book a way to restore Spidey's secret identity after he revealed it during "Civil War." Basically, when the "Brand New Day" team came on "Amazing Spider-Man" what was going to happen in "One More Day" and what Mephisto was going to do was explained to us. The BND team was all of one mind that our take on that was that Mephisto was basically tugging one thread and all the other things that happened all happened for different reasons; reasons that could happen within the framework of things we already knew about Spidey's world.
Like in the past we've seen Doctor Strange do a spell that affected the entire world to protect his own secret identity. And in the past we saw Iron Man use an A.I.M. Satellite to beam brainwaves across the entire world which would wipe out the knowledge of his identity. So we've already seen things like this before in Marvel continuity. And the BND team wanted to take established things that worked and say that Mephisto pulled a clever pool shot, knowing that all these pieces would fall certain ways. It was the equivalent of The Butterfly Effect, but stepping on the correct butterfly.
We then tired to figure out the exact way in which the spell worked. We also tried to make a list of all the characters that would still remember that Pete is Spider-Man after Doc Strange's spell went into effect. But the list just went on and on and got really confusing. It included several heroes, some of Spidey's villains, and anyone who went to "House of M" and saw Peter Parker as a wrestler in an alternate universe -- and on and on and on...
It was Tom Brevoort who suggested, "No one remembers." That was clean, simple, and a lot easier to explain to all the readers -- both old and new. Then you had to work out what happens next. Like the second you do the spell the Watcher knows. Madame Web has to instantly know. If you're someone like Jackal and you're still alive and growing all these clones, of course you know.
The spell did force us to ask some questions though. Like can people figure out Spidey's identity and what are the limitations of the spell? So it became confusing and we wanted to made things simple and easy to understand again. So now the rule is simple again: No one remembers, but now they can learn.
So it was always your intention to do away with the spell, and "Spider-Island" seemed like a good place to do it?
Yeah, especially since we had that almost-sort-of-unmasking bit where Peter goes on camera and tells the world who he is and that he has spider powers. It was like, "Uh-oh. That's not good."
Spidey may not have Doctor Strange's spell protecting him anymore, but he has another important mystical resource in the form of his ally, Julia Carpenter, the former Spider-Woman and the current Madame Web. Julia seems to be a character you enjoy writing. Which aspects of the character do you find most interesting?
It's fun to write this new Madame Web because she can always drop a hint -- and she's not the original Madame Web, who really seemed to know and see all. Julia is still finding her way in all of this and is still screwing up. It's tough to be an oracle. Right now she's been very mysterious because we've just focused on this part of her life. What will be fun, though, is to go, "Hey. She has a daughter, a life, and these other things going on." So the next time we see her we'll get more into that.
That said, it's probably going to be a while because at the end of the day this book is about Peter Parker. It's got to focus on Spider-Man and his life. But because Spider-Man has the best supporting cast in comics it's very easy to take your eye off the ball. So you'll see how characters like Mary Jane, Jonah and Robbie relate to Spider-Man, but with the amount of stories we're telling and the ideas we've got planned, we really have to keep the focus on Spider-Man/Peter Parker.
Spider-Man chats briefly with Madame Web at the end of #673. You then bring the issue to a close with a roof top chat between Peter and his former girlfriend, Mary Jane Watson. In "Spider-Island" Mary Jane briefly received spider powers and some insight into why Peter uses those powers for good. She also revealed that she still loves him. Now that the two of them are here together after Carlie dumps Peter, what's running through their minds? Does it seem to them that fate is trying to force them back together?
That's all I'm saying. [Laughs] There are so many people who want them back together and so many people that don't. It's fun to see them all go, "Augghh!"
And remember, she didn't tell Peter she loved him. She whispered it on the wind -- while fighting giant spiders that were climbing up the Empire State Building. That's how you tell someone you love them in the Mighty Marvel Manner! [Laughs]
Spidey and Mary Jane's conversation comes to a close on the final page of "Amazing" #673 with a splash page of New York City saying "thank you" to Spider-Man by lighting the top half of the Empire State Building with Spidey's red and blue colors. Where did the idea for this sequence come from?
I loathe splash pages. The space we get to play with in a comic is very valuable real estate! My feeling is if you're pulling out a splash page you better be using it for a good reason. It better have a visual pow. Even though it's one visual, it better tell a lot of "story."
I've been wanting to do this sequence forever. The idea for it came one night when I was walking down 33rd Street, and I looked up, and it was one of the many times the Empire State Building had been lit a different color. I stopped and went, "If Spider-Man ever saves the city they should make it red and blue." And I pulled out the notebook and scribbled that one down.
I don't think we've ever seen that in a New York comic before; someone lighting it for the heroes. And the Empire State Building is both a New York icon and a Spider-Man icon -- because it's long been established that it's a special place for both him and Mary Jane. It was such a good way to go out on a storyline that's so much about Spider-Man and so much about New York. I was very happy with it, and Stefano drew the hell out of it.
Originally the first chapter of "Spider-Island," issue #667, was going to open with Carlie on the ceiling. Steve said, "I think we need to add an extra page where we introduce the city of New York. I think we should do it from the top of the Empire State Building so that it will have some resonance." It was one of those moments where it's like, what's one of the millions of things an editor does? THAT! They do that kind of brilliant thinking! So that's why we have that opening scene, because of a note from Steve, and here we come full circle.
How does it feel now that "Spider-Island" has wrapped and all of its installments have made it into readers' hands?
It feels so good! This is the longest story I've written in my entire 20 years of working in the business. Besides this I've only done two six-part stories, which were "Arkham Asylum: Living Hell" and "New Ways to Die." This is an eight-part story with the prologue and the epilogue. That's not counting the little "Infestation" set ups or the Free Comic Book Day lead-in. This has been one very large endeavor! And it would not have happened without Steve and his assistant editor, Ellie Pyle, taking care of not just the herculean task of making sure all the tie-in books fit and came out at the right time, but also helping me get eight issues out of my brain. I still don't believe that happened. They're awesome!
The MVP of Spider-Island is defintitely Humberto Ramos. He worked night and day on this. We went heavy on a lot of chapters. There were a lot of 23-page issues and every page and every panel had zillions of characters in them. He never missed a step, though. Humberto drew all the time and took just one day of vacation; Mexican Independence Day. It's a national holiday and we got a couple of e-mails that day that were so apologetic and sincere that said, "Sorry I'm taking the day off to be with family and loved ones." Then, after all of that, another page showed up at 4:30 in the morning! So I LOVE Humberto Ramos. He turns in a page a day every day, and every page had a day's work in it.
Plus we had Victor Olazaba, with Carlos Cuevas and Karl Kesel, doing inks and Edgar Delgado doing colors around the clock. And Joe Caramagna was up lettering at all hours of the night. It's really tough to do these event story lines, but when everything comes together, like it did here, it's just the best gift. I'm really proud of the entire "Spider-Island" crew; that includes everybody who worked on "Amazing" and the creators responsible for some of the best and tightest event tie-in issues I've ever seen!
Now that you've finished your biggest "Amazing Spider-Man" story thus far, many readers are wondering what you're going to do now.
No, I mean, can you tell us about what you're going to do as a follow up? What's the next big Spidey epic?
Our next "big" Spidey story is in 2012 and it's an adventure with Doc Ock titled "Ends of the Earth." It's the big Sinister Six story that we've been building and building and building. We saw hints of it all the way back at the start of "Big Time" in "Amazing" #648 and recently Doc Ock has been on a massive victory lap in the Marvel Universe. He's bested Iron Man. He totally punked Reed Richards. He broke into the Baxter Building and stole some things while making everyone in the FF chase fake zombie pirates. Plus he pulled one over on Hank Pym in "Avengers Academy." So right there you're looking at three of the biggest brains in the Marvel Universe who all just got pantsed by Otto Octavius -- on his way towards his biggest master plan ever.
Back in "Amazing" #600, we learned that Otto is dying. In "Marvel time" he was given months to live. We're reaching the point where he's only got weeks. So he's got one last shot and Otto isn't going to be content at taking over New York or pulling one over on the scientific community. He's making the BIG grab. He's got one shot at a master plan with the Sinister Six and he's going for THE WORLD! And to stop him Spider-Man will have to take their fight to... "THE ENDS OF THE EARTH!"
How's that for an ominous title?
While SPIDER-ISLAND HOPPING may be finished, keep it tuned to Comic Book Resources for all the latest on "Amazing Spider-Man" and the lead-up to "Ends of the Earth."