Kaine, the star of Marvel Comics' new ongoing "Scarlet Spider" series by writer Chris Yost and artist Ryan Stegman, has got super human strength, can stick to walls and swing across the city on web lines, but that doesn't mean he believes "with great power must come great responsibility." That's Peter Parker, the guy he's a clone of. Kaine was one of the early clones the villainous Jackal made of Parker in a flawed process -- the physical scars from the cloning and the emotional scars of having the Jackal as a "father" initially led Kaine down a road of villainy. Recently, he was killed, resurrected and transformed into a monstrous spider creature. Then, in 2011's "Spider-Island" storyline, Kaine was exposed to a cure for a spider-like virus which transformed him back into a healthy and fully healed clone of Peter Parker.
He may have a new lease on life, but Kaine's past hasn't gone away. He's still wanted for his crimes committed during his time as a super-villain. Fleeing New York City, the first issue of "Scarlet Spider" finds him in Houston, Texas. While exploring the city, something strange starts happening to him -- he begins to have heroic urges. Can Kaine fight these urges or is being a hero engrained in his DNA? For the answer to these questions and more, CBR News spoke with Chris Yost about his plans for "Scarlet Spider."
The question of nature versus nurture has been explored countless times in comics but with "Scarlet Spider," Yost has a unique opportunity to look at the question from a different perspective -- especially considering Kaine's not just a physical copy of one of the Marvel Universe's greatest heroes; he's a mental copy as well. However, there's more to character than physical appearance and brainwaves.
"Where Peter had Aunt May and Uncle Ben and incredible life lessons, Kaine had the Jackal, somebody who was trying to kill him the minute he was born. So this is a guy who's been a super villain his entire life. He went down the dark path because that's all he knew; revenge and hate and all these things." Yost told CBR News. "The question is, can you come back from that kind of upbringing? Can you turn things around and be good? Because obviously his genetic duplicate, Peter Parker, is good. So it will be interesting to see what Kaine does now that he's got this new lease on life -- because his instincts are bad. In pretty much every situation his instinct is to do the wrong thing."
While he may be hundreds of miles away, Peter Parker will still play a role in his clone's life in "Scarlet Spider." "Essentially Peter is going to become his Jiminy Cricket; the little voice whispering in his ear. So, I think he's worried about going in Peter's shadow," Yost said. "He thinks Peter Parker is kind of a fool and wasting his life being a hero. He's sacrificing himself and not living his life and of course Kaine's first instinct is to not do that."
Even if Kaine starts to act more like Peter, he won't exactly be Spider-Man. In "Scarlet Spider" #1, Yost illustrated the title character has his own particular brand of crime fighting and his own set of powers. "As the first year goes on, you're going to see first hand what all the differences are," Yost explained. "It's true that he has super human strength and the ability to cling to walls, but he doesn't have spider sense and his web shooters are organic. Plus, he has some other stuff that was hinted at in 'Spider-Island.' So as time goes on you're going to see that there's a lot more to Kaine then there was previously."
"Scarlet Spider" readers will also get to know more about Kaine's new locale: the city of Houston, Texas. "Houston is a big city. It doesn't get a lot play or mentions here and there, but it's one of the largest cities in the U.S. and I believe it has the second biggest port in the country. Ryan Stegman and I were just down there cruising around and checking it out," Yost stated. "It's got a different feel and vibe than New York. There's definitely crime there and a wide range of it. They deal with the standard muggings and shootings and things that any city deals with but they've also got some big problems coming from south of the border like human trafficking and drug cartels, which will give us a chance in upcoming issues to visit the Mexico of the Marvel Universe."
In "Scarlet Spider"#1, Houston didn't seem to have much in the way of super powered activity, something Yost plans to change in subsequent issues. "Scarlet Spider is definitely the first super hero for Houston but that doesn't necessarily mean that there weren't super villains here before him," Yost remarked. "Plus there's an old Marvel hero group called The Rangers. They've generally been involved with Texas and the American Southwest. They were never really specific to Houston, but I wouldn't be surprised if we ran into them soon. When we do, expect to see some familiar members of that team like Shooting Star and Firebird as well as some new ones."
Kaine will often become embroiled in adventures that have one foot in the world of the fantastic and super powered and one foot in darker territories -- like gritty street crime. In issue #1, he shut down a human trafficking operation, which led a mysterious super powered assassin to step from the shadows to try and erase any traces of the operation's existence.
"Kaine seems to be kind of a magnet for the darker stuff. He's never going to be a light and happy character, or at least not for a long time. So I think we're going to have a darker book than 'Amazing Spider-Man,' because we have a darker character than Spider-Man and he tends to approach things in a much darker way. We'll always have room for some fun because I want this to be a fun book, but in our first issue we're mainly introducing Kaine," Yost explained. "Our second issue is kind of a big super hero-super villain throw down between Kaine and the Salamander. Then in issues #3-4, we get a little more into Kaine's history. We see that he has a history with a New Orleans based group from the X-Men books, the Assassin's Guild."
The Salamander is the mysterious assassin with fire based powers Yost introduced in issue #1 and he'll be one of the book's recurring characters. "We introduce him in issues #1-2, but you're going to find out a lot more about him down the road. He's going to mention a few things. For instance, he's in this story for a very specific reason. Plus he has a very specific connection to Aztec mythology and that will be explored as the book progresses," the writer said. "Also, Salamander is an agent of someone or something and the mastermind behind him is part of the larger story we're telling in the book."
"Scarlet Spider" #1 also introduced quite a few non-super powered supporting cast members as well. "Everyone you meet in the first couple of issues is going to be part of his life. There's a doctor named Leland who's going to be a continuing supporting cast member," Yost stated. "We also have an officer of the Houston Police Department named Wally Layton, who's going to be a cast member. The bartender will be back in issue #3 and she'll be an important part of the book. Plus the girl that Kaine saved from the human traffickers in issue #1, Aracely, will also be a huge part of the book."
Each character in "Scarlet Spider" is distinct and different so it's fitting that each one is brought to life by an artistic team with its own style. "We've got Ryan Stegman on pencils, Mike Babinsky on inks, and Marte Gracia on colors and they're one of the best functioning teams I've ever seen. Every time a page comes in it's amazing. At pencils, at inks they're even more amazing, and the colors are just dazzling," Yost said. "This team really has their own unique style and I think they're going to be huge."
Yost hopes to keep his team busy with "Scarlet Spider" for quite a while -- he's got big plans for the series and quite a few stories he'd like to tell. Furthermore, he's happy and grateful readers have responded so enthusiastically to the first issue of the series.
"I'd say our first six issues are smaller stories that establish Kaine and his unique corner of the Marvel Universe. Then in the second half of 2012, we're really going to hit some of the bigger stories. We previously teased a Roxxon story and you'll see more of Spider-Man's rogues coming after Kaine as well. Then it would certainly be an interesting story if Kaine and his "father," The Jackal, ran into each other again," Yost said. "The reaction to issue #1 has been great. I can't tell you how much I appreciate everyone taking a chance and checking it out because obviously Scarlet Spider comes with a lot of baggage and preconceived notions like fear of the return of the '90s. I think we've got exciting and great stuff coming up and if fans support this book, we'll be able to take the time to tell some of these stories. So I appreciate everyone picking up the book and please continue to do so. I think you'll really dig what we've got coming up."
"Scarlet Spider" #2 is on sale February 8.