SPOILER WARNING: This interview contains major spoilers for "Amazing Spider-Man" #687, on sale this week
Marvel Comics' flagship character, Spider-Man, operates by a mantra of "with great power comes great responsibility," which means that he often feels as though the weight of the world is on his shoulders. In "Ends of the Earth," the most recent arc of "Amazing Spider-Man," the fate of the world truly was on Spidey's shoulders as he raced across the globe in a desperate bid to prevent his old enemies, Doctor Octopus and the Sinister Six, from unleashing a doomsday device.
"Ends" came to a close this week in "Amazing Spider-Man" #687 by writer Dan Slott and artist Stefano Caselli. In the issue, Spidey saved the world, but it was a pyrrhic victory for the Web-Slinger because he was unable to live up to the mantra he recently adopted: "No one dies."
CBR News spoke with Slott about the death that happened in the issue and how it and the aftermath of "Ends of the Earth" will impact the writer's future plans for Spidey, which include a special 50th Anniversary story and the build up to the milestone "Amazing Spider-Man" #700.
CBR News: Now that "Ends of the Earth" is over, how does it feel to have completed yet another Spidey summer blockbuster?
Dan Slott: Great! It's a lot of work, but it's always fun when it's done, and this time around we didn't have a lot of crossovers and tie-ins. There was just the one-shot by Brian Clevinger and Rob Williams, so it didn't feel overwhelming and everyone on the team was happy with the result.
You've written big, event-style Spider-Man stories before, but never one like this where Spidey had to trek across the globe. What was it like telling this tale? Did it allow you to stretch some of the writing muscles you used during your "Mighty Avengers" run?
What was fun about this story for me was, for the first time in a while, I got to tell a Spidey story with truly global stakes. The big question when we were approaching this was, "How are you going top putting all of Manhattan in danger like we did in 'Spider-Island?'" The answer: put the whole world in danger. Of course, now that we're finished with that, what will we do next?
Hmm -- what about a friendly, intergalactic Spider-Man?
Actually, we're going to flip things on their head. Spidey saved New York, he saved the world and now it's time to try and save himself.
I imagine you can't and won't say anymore than that right now, so let's move on. "Ends of the Earth" unfolded on a bigger stage, but as you mentioned, it had less tie-ins than last year's "Spider-Island." Why is that?
With "Avengers Versus X-Men" going on at the same time, we didn't want to make everyone feel like they needed to follow two large storylines at theonce. This made it far more possible for everybody to follow everything.
While you didn't get to feature a lot of international heroes, you made great use of a couple of them -- the Russian Black Widow and the Symkarian Silver Sable, who served as Spidey's primary allies in the story. Black Widow is one of the stars of the record breaking feature film "Avengers," and Spidey will have a brand new movie in theaters in a couple of weeks. Coincidence?
[Laughs] Of course not! I totally planned for that.
For me there was a lot of fun things about "Ends of the Earth." Here's this big Spidey vs. the Sinister Six story that we've been building since the start of "Big Time." Here's this Doc Ock epic we've been promising since issue #600. Here's a big, James Bond-style, globe-hopping adventure for Spidey. And finally, here's this summer's two biggest movie franchises smashed together: Spidey and the Avengers. So yeah, that was totally deliberate.
Why pick the Widow instead of some of the bigger name Avengers? Was it simply that her espionage skills made her a better fit for the story?
Totally. I like the feel of, here's Spidey and the Avengers going to take on the Sinister Six and suddenly -- all the Avengers get taken out. Early on in "Ends of the Earth," Spidey tries a full on assault with the biggest guns. He's got Cap, Thor, Iron Man and the Red Hulk. So he goes in and, BAM! They get their butts handed to 'em. For the rest of the story, I wanted you to feel like Spidey was up against the wall. Now he's going to have to resort to stealth. I liked having him paired down with the much smaller team of Black Widow and Silver Sable, not these massive heavy hitters. It's Spidey and his "Angels" [Laughs] taking on the world.
Speaking of "Silver Sable," you recently brought her back into Spider-Man's world with your two-part time door arc, then in issue #687, she sacrifices herself so Spidey can defeat Doc Ock's master plan. What made you want to bring Sable back? And more importantly what made you want to sacrifice her in your most recent issue?
One of the reasons I brought her into the time travel story was to specifically put her back on the stage and show a different relationship between her and Spider-Man. I wanted to have a sequence where she looks at Spider-Man and thinks, "Wow. You are very competent." I also wanted to tease a potential romance with the kiss between them so that element wouldn't be coming out of left field when she showed up again in "Ends of the Earth."
Also, ever since we had Spidey make his, "No one dies" vow back in issues #655 and #656, we always knew we would build up to a moment where he would be faced with an impossible choice. This story was the perfect place for that because there isn't a more impossible choice than save one person or save the world. I really wanted it to be someone heroic -- someone Spider-Man greatly admired. Silver Sable really fit that bill.
I wanted her to come in and kick so much butt. She saved Spidey after the Sinister Six took out the Avengers, figured out solutions to all these problems, did things Spider-Man couldn't. I really wanted to pump her up and let her have these great moments all the way up to the end. [Sniffles]
Silver Sable's death is followed up in "Avenging Spider-Man" #8 by you, Ty Templeton and artist Matthew Clark. The issue features a cover with Sable, Spidey and Doctor Strange. What can you tell us about this issue. Is this a flashback story? A present day tale?
We were building towards the finale when we realized we had a lot of ground to cover -- especially with the direct fallout-- and when you hit the end of the last issue of "Ends of the Earth," it ends rather abruptly. You're left with a sense of, "Oh my god. All that happened." There needed to be some denouement.
So in "Avenging" #8, you're going to see Spidey dealing with the aftermath of "Ends of the Earth" and then recounting a forgotten tale while on the way to-- do something that's very important with "Ends of the Earth." It's a chance to Silver Sable in action -- one last time.
I'm doing the bridging sequences, which are all set post "Ends of the Earth," and Ty Templeton, who I love working with, is doing the bulk of the story. We had some fun talks about the core idea for the lead story -- and Ty took it and ran with it. It's a big, sprawling adventure with Spidey, Silver Sable, Doctor Strange and a major Marvel Universe villain.
Everything comes full circle at the end where we come back to "Ends of the Earth" and you'll see some very important developments happen. This is the first person Spider-Man has truly failed since the death of Marla Jameson, and it will continue to have an effect on the book. Spidey kept his "No one dies" vow well past 30 issues. Now that vow's been broken. So what next?
There are things that were built up in "Ends of the Earth" and are going to continue to build in our upcoming Lizard story, our 50th anniversary story, and the following Hobgoblin arc. Everything is laying the foundation for the epic thing that happens in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #700. So even though "Avenging" #8 is an epilogue, something pretty damn big happens there. You've been warned.
Of course, Silver Sable wasn't the only person who died in "Amazing Spider-Man" #687. he Rhino held Silver Sable underneath the rising water in Doc Ock's base, forcing Spidey to choose between the life of Sable and the fate of the world. In doing so, though, the Rhino also sacrificed himself. Does Spidey feel guilty about the Rhino's death as well?
Yes, but he feels a lot more guilt and remorse over the death of Silver Sable. The "No one dies" vow is very hard, especially with someone like Alexi [The Rhino] who wanted to kill himself. Peter regrets the Rhino's death. He wishes he could have saved him, but I don't think the vow was that demanding for instances like this. Even Pete is bound to ask himself, "What was I supposed to do?" In the case of Sable, though, here's a noble, heroic person that you care about and you're Spider-Man! You always find a way. This time he couldn't.
The Rhino stayed loyal to Doc Ock's master plan of death and destruction, but in the last two issues of "Ends of the Earth," his Sinister Six teammate, Mysterio, decided to help Spider-Man and his allies. It's clear from the scenes in "Ends" and his appearances in other stories that you love writing Mysterio. What is it about the character that makes him so much fun to write?
There's something very special about the characters that are so clever that they can take on the big league heroes and all they really have are their wits and guile. Mysterio is to Spider-Man what the Riddler is to Batman. He is someone who spends a lot of time scheming. When you go up against him, you're going up against weeks and months of planning. Mysterio has worked out all these different variables and figured out all these different ways to mess with your head.
Another fun element of Mysterio is his pride in his work. For him, it's all about pulling off the great con or the cool special effect and doing it with style. Plus, he's very much this L.A. movie guy, if you think about it. That's fun to play with, too. Spider-Man doesn't sell him on teaming-up. He sells him on the "elevator pitch." He knows how to talk Mysterio's language.
One of the things that screws up Mysterio's plan in issue #686 -- and leads to him working with Spidey -- is the fact that Mysterio wanted an audience. He came up with this great plan, and no one was watching it. It's very much that he's a slave to the imp of the perverse. He can't just pull off the coolest thing -- not when it means performing to an empty house.
Mysterio's help allows Spider-Man to infiltrate Doc Ock's base and have a final confrontation with him. In that final confrontation Spider-Man is trapped in a room that's flooding and must perform a herculean feat of strength. Was this a deliberate call back to "The Final Chapter!" story in "Amazing Spider-Man" #33 by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko?
Yep! [Laughs] It's very much in the zone of Spide-must-do-the-incredible-thing. Normally it's "I have to do this to save (insert name here)." The thing that pushes him over the top this time is, "I failed Silver Sable. I can't let her death be for nothing." He's not doing this for the living. He's doing this for the dead. If he doesn't do this, he's let Sable down. Twice.
That feat of strength allowed Spider-Man to crush Doctor Octopus' master plan. Doc Ock responds by trying to drown himself, but Spidey wouldn't let him die. So what are Otto Octavius' thoughts as Spider-Man carries him away from the wreckage of his sinking base?
In issue #600, Otto decided to do something great for the world. He was going to create this mechanized version of New York that all followed his brain patterns. All the trains would run on time and it would be the city of the future. From his point of view, Spider-Man ruined that and he had time for one last plan. Instead of doing something great, he decided to do something terrible. He reasoned, "If I am going to die, I prefer to live on in infamy. I'm not going to kill the world. I'm going to kill 99 percent of it and for that one percent who survive, I'll be bigger than every bad guy rolled into one. People will never ever forget me. My name will be an adjective for evil till the end of time."
When Spider-Man stops this and all the satellites go down, he has nothing to show for it. He's just another super villain who had another plan that didn't work. Instead of being this great and wonderful thing, it's case number 8,622 in the Avengers files and everyone will forget it as they move on to the next thing. That is the worst thing you could do to Otto Octavius.
Is there still some story there left to tell, or are you finished with Doc Ock?
The man is practically a vegetable. There are not very many ticks left on the Doc Ock clock.
Part of the reason Doc Ock will have these few remaining days is because the gang at Horizon Labs was able to build him an emergency life support apparatus, and this wasn't the only way the Horizon staff assisted Spidey during "Ends of the Earth." So how big a story is "Ends" for the Horizon gang? Will people know that they helped save the world?
Right now, Horizon has to be in that ship because Jonah Jameson, the Mayor of New York City, has had it up to here with them. He's all right with Spider-Man, but not with those guys at Horizon! Every time he's turned around, they've built some device that's put the city in jeopardy. "They've got a vampire on staff! They built a time door that blew up the New York of tomorrow. Then they put my son on a satellite that blew up! These people need to be stopped. They're menaces!"
So, Jonah shut off all their power via ConEd. It forced them out of their building and onto the water in this big ship. We're going to have to see what happens next. If Horizon goes away, that's all the wonderful stuff that Peter Parker has gained during "Big Time." This is Spidey's new lease on life and it's directly related to this company. And now Jonah is out to destroy it.
In "Ends," you hinted at another way that Horizon may be in trouble when you had Peter realize that many of the weapons Doc Ock used in the story were inspired by his inventions for Horizon. Will this plot thread be followed up on soon?
You'll have to wait and see.
Fair enough. You also had some time in "Ends" for developments with some other supporting players; most noticeably Mary Jane Watson, who is now a nightclub owner.
Yes, Mary Jane Watson now owns a nightclub. One of the fun things about the Marvel Universe is Marvel geography. It's always fun to create something new, especially a place you can keep going to. You'll see it in the X-Men books with places like the Hellfire Club, the Morlock Tunnels and the Jean Grey School. You get these pieces of geography that become characters themselves.
In Spider-Man's world, we have the Daily Bugle, the Coffee Bean, Horizon Labs and now we have MJ's, which is a fun place where all these characters can go. We've told other writers that whenever they need a nightclub for their guys to hang out at, why not go to MJ's? You can always have Mary Jane Watson walking around greeting people and having a great time.
When Mary Jane bought the club in "Amazing" #686, she mentioned that it's first gig would be a party for a very close friend --
Yep. The main reason she bought it on impulse was, "I'm going to throw Peter Parker the coolest party in the world. Because he's earned it. I'm going to show him that someone out there cares."
In "Amazing" #686 we also got a glimpse of some friction between J Jonah Jameson and his father Jay Sr. What's going on there?
Their relationship has been pretty lousy ever since Jay announced that he was going to move to Boston. To say that to a New Yorker is one thing. To say that to the mayor of New York is another. And to say it to your son, who is the Mayor of New York that you already abandoned in the past? That just compounds it three ways.
And, oh my God, the whole world might've ended and Peter Parker never bothered to call Aunt May. He was kind of busy. Here's Aunt May and Jay over in Boston, away from the rest of the cast. It's almost like they've been shipped off and forgotten. So we can expect Jay and May to come back to the book, or at least come back to New York for a little while. RIGHT AROUND THE TIME OF SPIDER-MAN'S 50TH ANNIVERSARY!
That gives us a nice segue to talk about your upcoming plans for the series. We already talked about the epilogue of "Ends of the Earth" in "Avenging Spider-Man" #8. After that, it looks like Spidey gets back to business in New York in "Amazing Spider-Man" #688, which kicks off "No Turning Back," your big Lizard arc!
Yeah, we're going to come back and immediately go smack dab into our big Lizard adventure -- and this is a decidedly different Spider-Man that's back. This is a Spider-Man who's failed at his vow. This is a Spider-Man who's still very torn up that he let a good friend die. And dealing with the Lizard -- who's another reminder of one of Spider-Man's failures: Billy Connors. Sure, Spidey saved Billy many times in the past, but Billy recently died because Spider-Man failed him -- once.
Peter Parker won't be the only haunted character in "No Turning Back." Michael Morbius, the Living Vampire, also plays a major role.
Right. In issue #648, we began teasing the identity of the scientist in Lab Six. In "Spider-Island," we revealed it was Morbius. Then, right after "Spider-Island," we had Spider-Man discover that little nugget -- and it's been percolating and causing problems with places like the Mayor's office. Ever since our Point One issue, everyone at Horizon knows that there's a vampire amongst them, and that's not really all that great for workplace morale.
"No Turning Back" is just one of the big Spider-Man stories that will be released in the remainder of 2012. Before the year is out, you'll have told two more high profile Spider-Man stories; one celebrating the 50th anniversary of Spidey's first appearance in "Amazing Fantasy" #15 and the milestone issue "Amazing Spider-Man" #700.
After our Lizard story, we're going to have our 50th anniversary story which harkens back to a key element of "Amazing Fantasy" #15, but in an all-new way. The story's called "Point of Origin" and it kicks off in an oversized issue. After that, we have our Hobgoblin arc, which has some surprises in it, and when it ends, Phil Urich will have a new status quo. After that you're looking down the gun at Spidey #700.
Everything that happens at the end of "Ends of the Earth" -- the epilogue in "Avenging Spider-Man" #8, the Lizard story, Spider-Man's 50th Anniversary arc, the Hobgoblin epic -- will all have pieces that build to issue #700. Something truly mind-blowing is going to happen in #700. I've been working in comics for 20 years, and this is the tipping point.
Every now and then, someone says, "This will break the internet in half" or some other great piece of hyperbole. I can say this with a straight face -- and not an ounce of shame or showmanship -- this is the biggest damn thing I've ever done with any character in any story I've ever worked on.
Earlier on CBR, in one of the AXEL IN CHARGE features, Axel mentioned that he had to make all these calls to everybody and remind them and explain to them what is happening in Spidey #700, and that there's no avoiding it. It's inescapable for any book that has dealings with Spider-Man or the Spider-Man section of the Marvel Universe. There's no way around it. This is where Spider-Man world is going!