The title character of Marvel Comics' flagship title, "Amazing Spider-Man" has a number of deadly foes, but none of them are as dangerous as the multi-armed mad scientist Doctor Octopus. Unlike Spidey's other rogues Doc Ock (AKA Otto Octavius) has nothing left to lose. Several months back he discovered he was going to die and that knowledge inspired Octavius to launch two very ambitious schemes to make his villainous mark on the world. Both were foiled, by his arch-enemy, and now Otto Octavius is locked in prison with just hours left to live. That doesn't mean, though, the villain will just gently into that good night.
In "Amazing Spider-Man" #698, in stores November 21, writer Dan Slott and artist Richard Elson kick off "Dying Wish" an arc that chronicles Doctor Octopus' last desperate scheme to destroy his most hated foe. CBR News spoke with Slott about the arc which comes to a close in December's milestone issue "Amazing Spider-Man" #700, and the new ongoing Marvel NOW! series that follows it "Superior Spider-Man."
CBR News: Dan, it feels like a fuse has been burning toward the "Dying Wish" arc for awhile now. You've reminded readers of that via the scenes with Julia Carpenter, the current Madame Web, who serves as a prophet of sorts who must balance the burden of seeing the "web of life" with raising her daughter. What was it like writing that character and these scenes with her?
Dan Slott: It's pretty easy to write Julia Carpenter now, because she's in a coma ward at Colombia University Hospital. There won't be any new prophetic words coming out of her lips for a while.
But, keep in mind, she's ALREADY dropped a lot of hints about what's coming up as far back as "Spider-Island."
As you mentioned, she's currently in a coma ward and it's there where we discover Julia has gone out of her way to make sure her doctors couldn't identify her. Can you talk about why she did that? Or is that something we'll learn more about later on?
If you can see the future, and you've gone out of your way to sand off your finger prints, and made sure you had no identification on you, there's probably a good reason.
Fair enough. Julia's last bit of prophecy before she lapsed into a coma was about how "his future will end in a flash of gold." And we've seen a golden Octobot twice now in recent issues. In "Amazing Spider-Man" #695 we saw it in the double-page spread depicting Madame Web's visions of the future. Then in Issue #696 we see it emerge from the river. Have we seen this Octobot before those two issues?
Yes you have. You saw Doc Ock programming it during "Ends of the Earth." And later, in "Avenging Spider-Man" #8, you saw it was the one thing that emerged from the wreckage of Doc Ock's base in Guatemala. In that issue it started its long walk across the ocean floor towards New York.
So the golden Octobot has been slowing working it's way here -- and it came ashore in Issue #696. I bet you'll see even more of it in Issue #697.
While you've been telling this story with Julia Carpenter and the mysterious golden Octobot, you've also been telling a story titled "Danger Zone," which comes to a close on November 7 in "Amazing" #697. This story features both the Hobgoblin and the Kingpin. What do you enjoy most about writing these two villains?
To me, the most fun has been the agita that we created when we cut off the head of someone wearing a Hobgoblin mask. Oh the hate mail! [Laughs] Oh the angry diatribes on YouTube! But no, we never cut off Roderick Kingsley's head. The first time we showed you Hobgoblin in the current "Big Time" era of "Amazing" he was down in Delvadia going after drug kingpins as a mercenary. Sure enough, when we next picked up with him he was still in Delvadia... which was the home country of the original Tarantula. And we see that he did the exact same thing to the Tarantula's identity that he did to the Green Goblin's. He co-opted it, changed it, and made it his own.
So he's become a new Tarantula, known as The Devil Spider. There might be some more to that before our current Goblin War arc is over. Also there might some more goblin-ish surprises as well! Hmm...
What about the current Hobgoblin's employer, the Kingpin? How big a role will he have in the remainder of "Danger Zone" and in Spider-Man's life going forward?
You'll see some more of Wilson Fisk, but I don't want to give stuff away. And you'll see him again too in his role as one of the major crime bosses of New York City.
Let's move from "Danger Zone" and into the arc that follows it, "Dying Wish," which feels like the end of rivalry between Spider-Man and Doc Ock that's been building for almost 100 issues. What is it about their animosity that you found so appealing and made you want to take it to this epic next level?
In the same way that the Kingpin sort of left the Spider-Man books and went over to "Daredevil," Norman Osborn left Spider-Man's corner and went over to the greater Marvel Universe. With everything that Warren Ellis was doing with him in "Thunderbolts" and Brian [Michael Bendis] was doing with him in "Dark Avengers" and all the major Avengers-related stories, Norman had kind of grown into the big bad for the entire Marvel Universe. And when you look at Spider-Man's world, without Norman Osborn as one of the game pieces, Doctor Octopus is indisputably the number one villain. There's just no topping him.
Plus, he's always been one of my favorites. There's something about Doc Ock where if you look at his origin, it's a reflection of Spider-Man's. He gets into a radioactive accident and becomes this eight-legged thing. And when you see Peter Parker at the beginning of "Amazing Fantasy" #15, before Uncle Ben is shot, and before Peter gets his spider-powers, he's that nerd in the glasses who's actually sneering at the other kids and saying, "One day I'll show them all!" [Laughs] I'm not making this up. If you go and look at "Amazing Fantasy" #15 that's the track Peter Parker was on, and when you think about it, that's so very Otto Octavius-like.
We've seen in the past that Otto had an over protective mother and an abusive father. You've got to wonder if he had an Aunt May and an Uncle Ben would he have turned out differently?
The rivalry between Spider-Man and Doc Ock really started to escalate in "Amazing Spider-Man" #600 when you reintroduced the villain as a man whose death is rapidly approaching. Takes us back to the days when you were planning that issue. How and when did you come up with the idea to give Otto Octavius this terminal fate?
That came about during one of the Spider Summits of the "Brand New Day" era. When we began, we had taken all the major villains off the plate for half a year. So for half a year our stories would only feature new Spider-Man villains.
The idea behind that was that for too many years Spider-Man villains were getting jobbed. There was this one period of two weeks where in a number of books someone made their hero look cool by taking out the Rhino with one punch. So we took those villains and put them in a box to marinate, knowing that when we brought them back we were going to bring them back in a big way.
We don't usually have artists at these summits, but Phil Jimenez was at one of them. He threw out some ideas and while we were all talking, Phil was doodling. He was thinking up ways to reimagine Spider-Man villains. One of the things he started drawing was this really creepy sketch of Doc Ock where he had eight arms and his human limbs looked kind of withered. He also had these mini Octobots crawling around him and grooming him. I looked at it and thought, "That's kind of cool. How does Doc Ock get to that place?"
Then we just started talking about things -- and as we were talking I thought about all these boxers who by the end of their career are practically brain dead and you feel terrible. Then I thought, "Once you take away the arms, Doctor Octopus is just a normal guy. And we've seen the Hulk hit him. We've seen Spider-Man hit him a million times, and guys like Daredevil kick him in the head." Plus over the years he's been attacked by villains too. He's been pounded on by Hammerhead, zapped by Ultron, and Sandman covered him in sand and asphyxiated him.
So this guy should be dead. [Laughs] Some fans know that Doc Ock died before and the Hand brought him back, and those fans are wondering why that didn't fix all his problems? He still needed glasses though, and he still probably had an appendix scar and whatnot. The Hand didn't give him a reboot. They basically went, "That thing that killed you? No it didn't. Now you're alive." So he's still carrying the damage of everything else that's happened to him ever since the first time Spider-Man punched him in the head. And he's been doing this since Spidey was a sophomore in high school.
So the idea was, "What if all that finally caught up to him? What if he became so messed up from years of abuse that everything started failing and he had massive brain damage?" Plus the radiation from the initial explosion that transformed him into Doc Ock probably hasn't helped over the years. So even a doctor like House couldn't diagnose all the things that have messed this guy up.
We know that "Dying Wish" begins with Doctor Octopus uncovering Peter Parker's identity and that is, of course, something to make the readers squirm, but does it allow you to have some fun with continuity as well and make some callbacks to some interesting stories?
By the time we hit issue #700 you are going to see so much Spider-Man continuity in play it's not even funny. If you're a new reader it will be a lot of fun, and If you you're a long time Spider-Man fan it will be a treasure trove. There's so much of "ASM's" rich history in here, but in a loving way. Fans will be like, "WOW! I remember all of that. Look how that plays into #700!"
Peter's identity has been a pretty big theme of this book since the "Brand New Day" era. Do you feel that the secret identity is a key ingredient of the Spider-Man character regardless of who's under the mask?
That is a very good question. [Laughs] We've been very clear that when we get to "Superior Spider-Man," which launches in January, the title character will not be Peter Parker. The world of Spider-Man is still going to be the world that we know and love. Spoiler! The cover of "Superior" #2 shows that Mary Jane makes it though "Amazing" #700. So you're going to have Mary Jane and lots of other Spider-Man characters and survivors of issue #700 -- whoever makes it through.
So you'll very much have Spider-Man's world; the Daily Bugle and all these set pieces that make Spider-Man who he is, but it's not going to be Peter Parker. It's going to be a whole new take on Spider-Man.
So can you do a Spider-Man book without Peter Parker? That's a very interesting question. Then you have to ask where is Peter Parker? Is he retired? Is he off somewhere? Is he DEAD? [evil laugh]
A recent story in USA Today about the upcoming "Alpha" miniseries seemed to suggest Peter Parker was very much alive and well and still working for Horizon Labs post-#700. Is that correct?
There's a very good chance that Horizon Labs will still be around. No spoilers. I think there was a little bit of miscommunication in that interview, though. I think the scenes that writer Joshua Hale Fialkov was talking about, if they go down the way he says, would clearly have to be before "Amazing Spider-Man" #700 or told in flashback. That's all I can say right now.
Okay. Let's circle back and talk a little bit more about the last half of "Dying Wish." The solicits for Issue #698 suggests that Doc Ock uses his discovery of Peter Parker's identity to try and mobilize an army of Spider-Man's foes. So can you talk about, hint, or tease some of the villains we'll see in "Dying Wish?"
If you go back to the Madame Web flash forward in #695, that double page spread that teased a lot of the Marvel NOW! stuff as well, you will see that Scorpion is one of the villains in there. It looks like we'll be seeing the Lizard again, and Hydro-Man will be in the story. Plus there may be a surprise or two as well.
Let's move onto the final installment of "Dying Wish," and the final issue of this series, December's "Amazing Spider-Man" #700. What do you want readers to know about the issue? What will they be getting for the $8 cover price?
On top of many extra features, you'll be getting a letter column with answers by the one and only STAN LEE! So get your letters into the Spider-Office now! There's a chance your letter might get answered by Stan The Man himself!
Along with that, there's a fantastic all new story by Spider-Man legend, J.M Dematteis, that really gets to the heart of the Spider-Man legacy. Plus you'll get a 52-page lead story by Humberto Ramos and myself. This is some of my favorite art that Humberto has ever done. The art in this story is simply gorgeous, especially the closer you get to the climax. When you get to that point, I think you're going to see some of the best art you'll ever see in a Marvel comic. It's truly stunning!
We can't talk about what happens in "Amazing" #700...
[Laughs] No we can't!
But you did say that there will be a new Spider-Man in "Superior Spider-Man."
Correct you will see a new Spider-Man in "Superior Spider-Man" #1.
I assume you'll also see this character in any other title that reflects Spider-Man's world like "Avenging Spider-Man" and any guest appearances in other books?
"Avenging Spider-Man" will feature the same Spider-Man that we're using in "Superior." You'll also see the Superior Spider-Man appearing in "Journey Into Mystery." He'll also appear in Mark Waid's "Daredevil," and anywhere else in the Marvel Universe that you'll see Spider-Man after "Superior Spider-Man" #1 -- that is the Spider-Man you'll be getting.
Are you able to talk about why you wanted to bring Peter Parker's time as Spider-Man to an end?
You're going to have to wait and read "Dying Wish." We're really swamped for time over here, but I wanted to make time for this interview because I think "Amazing Spider-Man" #698-700 are some of the strongest issues of the "Big Time" run. I am REALLY proud of this story.
I've joked on the internet that when issue #700 comes out that I'm going to have to go into hiding. I know there's going to be a lot of people screaming when they read it, but it's all done for the sake of telling the best possible Spider-Man story. There's a lot riding on this, and I don't take it lightly -- that this is a centennial issue of Spider-Man -- and that this is the FINAL issue of "Amazing Spider-Man." There are days when you have to bring your A-game. For something like this though, it's once in a lifetime, and you know you have to bring your AAA-game!
It's worth any all-nighter. It's worth every bit of sweat and tears. You bring it all for this. I hope that when people look back at the "Big Time" run, which started in #648, that they go, "This is somebody who earnestly loves writing Spider-Man and is trying to tell the best stories that he can." #700 really is the pinnacle of that. This three-parter of #698-700 is us taking every lock off the door and going at things full force. So this is the Spider-Man story we've been dying to tell -- and I'm so damn happy that I get to do it with Humberto Ramos and Richard Elson on art, Victor [Olazaba] on inks, Edgar [Delgado] on colors, Chris Eliopoulous on lettering, and Ellie Pyle and Steve Wacker on editorial.
Every one of them is totally giving their all. Even acts of nature like 1,000 mile wide super storms can not break us! We will bring this to you! That's how epic this is! ACTS OF GOD CANNOT STOP THIS COMIC! [Laughs]
With "Superior Spider-Man," a title that features a new character under Spidey's mask, some longtime fans might be thinking back to the days when Ben Reilly became Spider-Man. Is that a valid comparison?
We are doing something new. I know so many people who have grown up on Ben Reilly as Spider-Man. To them that's the coolest thing in the world, and I'm earnestly hoping that when we hit this new generation of readers, ones that might be starting with Marvel NOW!, that if this is their first Spider-Man, they might find it cool in a Ben-Reilly-kind-of-way. It's like, "Here's your Spider-Man. Let's see what you think."
It's very exciting and very daunting. Marvel has put a lot of faith in us on this one. Here we have this great big Marvel NOW! initiative and out of all the flagship books -- I was the writer who was allowed to stay. Everyone else played musical chairs and they asked me, "Dan, what book would you like to work on?" And I was like "SPIDER-MAN!" Then they said, "No, no. We're all changing. We're all moving around. So if there's any book you could work on at Marvel what would it be?" And I said, "SPIDER-MAN!"
The thing that really helped me staying was that you can see all the puzzle pieces. There are many bread crumbs and clues leading you down this path. This is not something where someone RECENTLY asked, "Okay we're going to change everything up for Marvel NOW!, what change up are you doing?" No, this has ALWAYS been building to this. And the nice thing is-- that it's such a sea change. I've always been building towards it, and it's as drastic as anything that we're doing in Marvel NOW!
So my take on this is: You are getting a new writer on "Superior Spider-Man." You're getting a completely different Dan Slott. You're getting that guy who wrote "Arkham Asylum: Living Hell" and "GLA." You're not getting the guy who was writing "Amazing Spider-Man" during the "Big Time" run.
So how different in terms of tone and feel will "Superior Spider-Man" be from your "Amazing Spider-Man" run?
This is going to be everything you know and love about Spider-Man turned on its head. This is us using all the Spider-Man notes, but wildly mixing them up to play a completely different song.
So you're going to get Spider-Man villains, his supporting cast, and his world, but things are going to get twisted. From day one I said, "Dark and weird." People have misinterpreted that as "Dark and gritty." This isn't a dark and gritty book though. This is a dark and weird book. This is a twisted book and there's fun in that.
So you're getting everything you know and love about Spider-Man, but you're also getting something new. I don't think any comic book fan wants to get the same recycled story over and over again. People don't want "Mad Libs." They don't want their stories to go through a flow chart. They want new -- and this is new.
If you're a fan who's scared of not getting what they love about the Spider-Man experience, please read Issue #1 first before jumping to conclusions. I think a lot of people who have these fears of what the book might be are coming up with worst case scenarios in their minds -- and things that we just aren't doing. If you walk into Issue #1 and give it a fair read, I can pretty much guarantee by the time you hit the end you'll be like, "OHHHH! I see what we're in for now. That's kinda cool." We've got some surprises coming up.
There have always been strange elements to Spider-Man's world. And there has been darkness. There have been stories like the death of Jean DeWolff. There have been moments like Kraven shoving Spider-Man into a coffin and burying him. That's pretty dark. Then there have bee characters like White Rabbit and Walrus and the Carpenter. So there's been some weirdness too.
For people who think we're going to be dark and gritty, we've already released some of Ryan Stegman's awesome art from the first issue, and some of the characters you can see in there are the Living Brain (from "Amazing Spider-Man" #8) and the Big Wheel! If we have a book with the Big Wheel and the Living Brain I don't think you have to worry about dark and gritty. [Laughs] You just have to know that you're about to go on a very messed up trip.
"Amazing Spider-Man" #698 hits stores November 21 and "Superior Spider-Man" begins in January.