[SPOILER WARNING: THIS INTERVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR "Superior Spider-Man" #1, ON SALE NOW.]
When Doctor Octopus' (AKA Otto Octavius) swapped bodies with his hated foe, the Amazing Spider-Man, it gave the dying a villain a new lease on life -- it also made his new life infinitely more complicated. The process Octavius used to put his consciousness into Peter Parker's young, healthy body opened the villain up to the memories of one of the most driven heroes in the Marvel Universe. By experiencing all of Spider-Man's triumphs and tragedies, Doc Ock learned the same lesson that drove Peter Parker as Spider-Man: With great power must also come great responsibility. Before the real Peter Parker passed away, Ock vowed to follow in his footsteps as Spider-Man, and as a hero.
Readers experienced Octavius' initial outing as Spidey earlier this month in "Superior Spider-Man" #1 by writer Dan Slott and artist Ryan Stegman. Comic Book Resources spoke with Slott about the events of the issue, its surprise ending and his upcoming plans for the series including the recently announced "Fired" story line featuring the return of fan-favorite villain Cardiac.
CBR News: Dan, let's start with the big reveal from the final page of "Superior Spider-Man" #1 -- a ghostly Peter Parker is still, as he says, "in the fight." Why have this reveal in the first issue instead of further down the line? Why not make it a mystery instead of tackling it right away?
Dan Slott: We did it this way because no one was expecting it. Everyone out there assumed we'd have a big reveal later. People thought we'd bring Peter back in a year's time -- or right before the next Spider-Man movie. Everyone was so savvy with how this all works that I thought the best way to keep people off their game was to just put that card on the table right from the get go. You're all so sure it was coming -- Well? Here it is! But if you think that's all there is, get ready to be wrong.
Let's talk a little bit about the control Peter seems to have over his former body. It seemed like when Otto was going to use Pete's body to do something he found reprehensible Pete could step in and exert some control. Is Peter sort of a safety check on the Superior Spider-Man? Something else? Or is it too early to assume anything?
It's too early to assume anything.
Can you comment on when we'll be given answers about what Peter has become and how he became that way?
Yes. You will find that out sooner than later. Because remember, the last time we saw Peter -- even though he wasn't passing away in the best circumstances -- he was kind of at peace knowing he was leaving the world to an Otto Octavius who'd be a hero instead of a villain.
That was "Amazing Spider-Man" #700. Then cut to the end of "Superior Spider-Man" #1 -- and when Otto Octavius tries to kill someone, Peter is suddenly there to stop him. That's a big change. As for how and why that's happened? That's part of the story. You'll have to wait and see.
So is Peter a ghost, or some form of psychic entity? Or is that something you can't confirm or deny?
Again, you'll just have to read the story.
Fair enough. It felt like Peter exercised his influence over the Superior Spider-Man early in the issue during Spidey's fight with the new Sinister Six. It seemed as if Doc Ock abandoned the fight and then mysteriously came back to save a cop from Boomerang's nitrorang. Was this Peter forcing him back? Or again is it too early to speculate?
Even Doc Ock was wondering why he was doing that. We'll learn more as the book goes on.
That incident could be seen as a hint that Peter was still around, but this is an Otto Octavius that wants to be a hero. This is an Otto Octavius that realizes that he's thrown away most of his life on villainy He wants a second chance, but being a hero is great in theory... and something completely different when you actually have to do it.
When Otto ran was this a case of him saying, "Screw this. This is too hard," or was he thinking he would go regroup and come back at the Sinister Six later?
No, he was like, "This is too hard. I'm not doing this." C'mon, when you think about it, how close are we from our New Year's resolutions? We have all the best intentions in the world, but it's like, "Yeah, sure. I'm sticking to this diet. I'll keep eating nothing but salads." [Laughs]
There's a world of difference from that big, wonderful moment when we make our grand oaths -- and the day-to-day discipline of following through with them. If following your dreams and making major life changes were easy -- we'd be living in a world chock-full of Nobel Prize winning, altruistic triathletes. Good intentions only get you so far.
Let's talk a little bit about the composition of the new Sinister Six. Why use these characters?
I wanted a team that when they started running around calling themselves the Sinister Six -- and Otto heard -- he'd immediately think, "HOW DARE THEY TRY TO CARRY ON IN MY NAME?" And the sweetest part would be Otto's inability to see the irony of the "Superior" Spider-Man thinking that.
Was it a coincidence that three of new Sinister Six members -- Shocker, Boomerang and Speed Demon -- have experienced the phenomenon of villains trying to become heroes as members of the Thunderbolts?
There's way more coincidence that a number of those guys were in a team called the Sinister Syndicate. So now they've decided to be the Sinister Six.
Spider-Man's later fight with the Sinister Six at the end of the issue was a very different affair. It reminded me of when a villain catches a hero in a death trap. Does this mean when it comes to fighting Otto is more of a master planner than he is an improviser?
Totally. You're going to see as this goes on that he's going to do his best to be Spider-Man, but he's going to do it in a very Doc Ock way.
How fun was it to write that final scene with Doc Ock putting his plan in motion?
I'm having a blast writing Doc Ock as Spidey, because it's something we haven't seen before.
"Superior Spider-Man" #1 wasn't just about how Otto is handling being Spider-Man, it also gave us some glimpses of how Otto is handling Peter Parker's personal life. First we got to see him working in Horizon Labs. What's it like for Otto to be working at Horizon, an environment where he can create stuff for the betterment of humanity and get paid for it?
On some level it's great. Horizon Labs is an awesome place to work. On another level though, Otto isn't used to having a boss. He's not used to being the middle cog. Doc Ock usually runs the show, but now he has to report to people. That's very frustrating for him.
I imagine the other down side comes from the fact that all his accomplishments will be filed under the name Peter Parker instead of Otto Octavius?
He knew that was coming from the second he did the brain swap. He knew that would have to be the deal here. But again, there's knowing it in theory and actually experiencing it. So the first time he does something truly clever everybody goes, "Way to go! Here's yet another one in the win column for PETER PARKER!" And inside Otto is like, "AUUGGHHH!" In his mind, that's the biggest sacrifice of all.
Then we get some scenes with Otto and Mary Jane Watson. From these scenes it's clear that Otto is physically attracted to her, but does he feel anything besides that?
You'll have to read "Superior Spider-Man" #2. We go straight into that in our second issue.
We know Mary Jane is a perceptive person and it felt like in the dinner scene with her and Otto/Peter that she started to suspect something was amiss with him. Is that accurate?
Yes, but look at everything that's happened to Peter Parker in the last two years. There have been major life-changing things for him.
It's easy to pick up on the clues when we are in on the secret. We wonder why the characters don't see it. But it's going to take them a while to go to this crazy place. Because every day they're seeing someone who looks and sounds like Peter. All of the stuff they're used to is still there. So it's kind of a strange leap to go, "He's been mind swapped!" That's not the first place you go to. It might be easier to go -- "He's still rattled by Silver Sable's death." Or "That time he crossed a line and tried to kill the Lizard." Or "When his Aunt almost died in that plane crash." Or "When he was kidnapped and tied up by the Kingpin."
On the flipside, there's 50 years of Spider-Man stories. I can point you to specific moments where characters have shown tremendous insight into whether an impostor has taken someone's place. And I can also point to when Aunt May slept with Skrull-Jarvis. Or when no one in the Daily Bugle realized a creepy, lecherous, grape-eating J. Jonah Jameson with the world's largest and weirdest belt-buckle was actually the Chameleon. Or, despite his Spider-Sense, Peter Parker never realizing that his recently returned parents were killer-robots -- or that his beloved Aunt May was replaced with an actress. With 50 years of stories, anyone can point to outliers.
But in the here and now, I think any regular reader of fiction can accept that someone who looks, sounds, (and to Wolverine's senses) smells, like that guy you've known all your life -- down to his heartbeat -- down to every last atom in his body -- is who he says he is, even if he's gone through a bad turn or is acting funny.
We've talked about story and characters. Let's move onto art. How is it working with Ryan Stegman on a larger story?
It's FANTASTIC. People have seen Ryan's work on "Scarlet Spider" and "Fantastic Four," but this is him hitting a new level! This is Ryan Stegman's stepping up to the Spider-Man plate -- and wowing everybody. Every issue -- out of the park.
We've been joking because we're all so stunned by the pages we keep saying to him, "This is the book that's going to make you a rock star." The words rock star seem to get used every time he turns in a page. I can't wait for people to see more of his work. This is the book that's going to make people sit up and take notice of Ryan Stegman. This is a game changer for him and he's totally owned it. He's doing an amazing job.
So his energy, enthusiasm, and craft is what made him the right artist to launch this title?
Absolutely! But that's true across the board. We have a killer art team on "Superior Spider-Man!" I mean, DAMN! Giuseppe Camuncoli? AWESOME! Humberto Ramos? He KILLS on this book! We have the strongest art team in comics! Bar none! My guys can beat up your guys.
I know you want to let the story unfold for readers, but what can you tell us about your upcoming story lines? First we have these three issues with Stegman and then you're doing a Massacre drawn by Camuncoli, right?
We're not going for six-issue arcs right off that bat in this book. Yes, there are long term story lines brewing, and we'll meet new characters and supporting cast members, but our first three issues of "Superior" are done-in-ones. Anybody can pick these issues up, give the book a shot, and experience a full unit of entertainment! Each one provides a building block to the bigger picture, sure. But they're also complete stories unto themselves.
With Giuseppe's first story, we hit our first two-parter. The Massacre story is our first larger story. So that will be exciting. That's when we start opening things up for bigger adventures.
How was it revisiting Massacre, a character you created with artist Marcos Martin for 2011's "Amazing Spider-Man" #655?
I always knew I would tell this one for the second Massacre story. The weird thing for me was between the time I plotted it -- and when Giuseppe started drawing it -- what's happened in the real world since then. This is probably something we should revisit when "Superior Spider-Man" #4 comes out...
It's a very dark story. And Giuseppe Camuncoli is getting that across on each and every page! His rendition of Massacre -- his expressions -- his body language -- it's just downright creepy. He's doing an exceptional job on this arc!
Do things get a little bit lighter when you get to the story that follows it with Screwball and Jester?
It's "Superior Spider-Man!" Things never get light! Things are going to get very dark and very weird.
Will humor and fun still be part of the Spider-Man equation?
Of course! We had the Living Brain in our first issue. [Laughs] There are things that happen in issue #2 and #3 that have some very odd humor. There's always going to be weirdness in this book, and some of that will be oddly funny. Doc is not prone to... silliness or wackiness. He does have a sense of humor, though. It's just a very mean and petty sense of humor.
The Jester and Screwball story is the first time where Doc faces somebody who's more Spider-Man-like than... well... he is. He's up against two witty, wacky characters. Usually if Spidey was up against these guys he'd be cracking jokes and being funnier than them. That's not the case this time. Otto just doesn't have that gear in his gearshift.
It seems like if anything that would just incense him more, correct?
Finally we have the recently announced "Fired" story line. From the teaser, can we infer this story is about the Superior Spider-Man's relationship with the Avengers?
Yes, for the most part the way the new Superior Spider-Man interacts with the Marvel Universe is something that will be dealt with in Chris Yost's "Avenging Spider-Man" series. So this is a pretty major development. For the past 10 years we've been used to Spider-Man being on the Avengers. For a lot of the readership Spider-Man is an Avenger now. It's who he is. That's how they've grown up with him.
So Doc Ock's behavior as Spider-Man has angered the Avengers and they're going to boot him off. Or will they? Think about all the people they have on the Avengers. Wolverine is on the Avengers. He kills like 12 people a week. You've got Thor on the Avengers. How long can he go without smiting somebody? And you're going to kick the Superior Spider-Man off the team because he's a jerk?
That's kind of a weird double standard. We have killers, but not jerks [Laughs].
How many issues will "Fired" run?
The story with the "Fired" cover is part of a two-parter that will heavily feature both the Avengers and Cardiac.
I know Cardiac has a small but very vocal group of fans. What's it like brining that character back?
It's fun. He's got that great Erik Larsen design and his big energy staff. And he wields the beta energy from his chest! I just look at that character and go, "That's fun!" Who doesn't love Cardiac?
He's got a very interesting white collar Punisher-style modus operandi.
I think of him more as a Robin Hood. He's out there fighting for the little guy and, very specifically, for people who have been screwed over by the medical system. Whether it's the insurance companies screwing someone over -- or the FDA for not approving a certain drug -- Cardiac is the guy who thinks he's the answer.
Humberto Ramos is drawing the Screwball-Jester story and "Fired." How does it feel to be working with Humberto again for this new "Superior" age of "Spider-Man?"
Humberto is one of the quintessential Spider-Man artists of our generation. Since working with him on the "Big Time" run, I can't even an imagine working on Spider-Man without him. I love working with Humberto!
"Superior Spider-Man" #2 is on sale now, and #3 arrives February 6 from Marvel Comics.