Otto Octavius is well acquainted with the layout and inmates of the premier Marvel Universe super prison known as the Raft, having spent plenty of time there when he was known as the villainous Doctor Octopus. These days he spends his time sending his former criminal comrades back to the prison because Otto abandoned the identity of Doctor Octopus after he implanted his consciousness in the body of Peter Parker. The aftermath of that body swap compelled Otto to continue the heroic legacy of Spider-Man, but in his own violent and vainglorious way.
Writer Dan Slott kicked off Otto's new heroic career with the debut issue of the Marvel NOW! series "Superior Spider-Man" and since then the former Doctor Octopus has been a busy man, sending countless villains to the Raft. In today's "Superior Spider-Man" #11, Slott teams with co-writer Christos Gage and artist Giuseppe Camuncoli to kick off a new arc titled "No Escape," which finds Spider-Man trapped inside the Raft alongside all the criminals he sent there. CBR News spoke with Slott and Gage about the dangerous new arc.
CBR News: Dan and Christos, while you guys have collaborated on Spider-Man stories before, you don't collaborate on a regular basis. I imagine readers are curious about how your collaborations come about. Do they happen at a certain time? Or for certain stories?
Christos Gage: We've collaborated on comics in general going back years ago to "Avengers: The Initiative."
Dan Slott: We also did "Mighty Avengers" and several issues of "Amazing Spider-Man."
Gage: Yeah, we just work really well together and have similar sensibilities. Dan finds plotting easier than scripting. I find scripting easier than plotting.
Slott: It's crazy how fast Chris does scripts and I agonize over them, and it's vice versa for him over plot. For me, plotting is the candy part of the job.
So the way it usually works for Chris and I is we'll talk over the whole story arc. Then I'll plot it and give it to Chris. He'll change anything he thinks isn't really working in the plot. Then the same thing happens with the script. Chris will hand it off to me and I'll look it over.
So are there specific stories or times where you reach out to Christos and ask him to come help you out?
Slott: Putting out a book like "Superior Spider-Man" is tricky because we do it twice a month.
Gage: Plus you'll have multiple artists working simultaneously on different stories.
Slott: Yeah, sometimes we'll have months where it becomes three times a month to make sure that every artist is drawing. When that happens it can often become more than my work threshold.
When we see that coming far enough in advance though I'll talk with my editor, Steve Wacker, and ask him if I can bring Chris on board. We look at good spots in the schedule. For instance, we've got a big Venom arc coming up in the fall. That's something Chris and I are going to start working on soon.
Christos, you got a taste of Otto Octavius as the Superior Spider-Man with your recent "Age of Ultron" tie-in issue, "Superior Spider-Man" #6 AU. What's it like coming back to the character to tell a larger story?
Gage: It's great. I love writing the voice of the character. Haven't we all thought at one time or another, "If you people would all just do as I say everything would work out perfectly"?
Slott: I NEVER FEEL THAT WAY CHRISTOS! NEVER! [Laughs]
Gage: [Laughs] Well, fine. But I feel that way constantly. And that's kind of how he is. He's experienced Peter Parker's life and he's got this sense of power and responsibility, but I think what Dan has done so brilliantly with "Superior Spider-Man" is showing that Spider-Man is more than just powers, a costume, and responsibility. It's who Peter Parker is as a person, not just these events that have happened to him.
So a different person, i.e. Otto Octavius, will interpret things in a different way. So he's like, "Okay imbeciles and miscreants! I know how to do this better than all of you." And he does, which means people are often going to have to do things his way.
That also gives you a brand new perspective on traditional Peter Parker stuff like juggling school and being Spider-Man. Whereas Peter would agonize over it, Otto is like, "This is a waste of my time. I'm out of here. I'll just come back and ace the test." So I've had a tremendous amount of fun with this character.
Slott: For me, a lot of the fun of "Superior Spider-Man" is taking all of the things we've grown up with in Spider-Man and finding a sort of the jazz riff on them. It's taking all the familiar pieces of this puzzle and forcing them into a different shape.
Gage: Yeah, that's the fun part.
Let's move into the plot and themes of "No Escape." What can you tell us about the inciting incident that gets the story moving? And what kind of situation does that thrust Otto into?
Slott: "No Escape" is a story that's been bubbling since the second arc of the "Big Time" era of "Amazing Spider-Man," where we brought back Alistair Smythe, the son of the original Spider-Slayer. In that story one of the seminal moments in Spider-Man history is that J. Jonah Jameson loses his wife.
We've come back every now and then to see the Spider-Slayer, like during "Spider-Island." So we know that Alistair Smythe's day of execution has been rapidly approaching, and in "No Escape" it's finally here.
Gage: And J. Jonah Jameson knows that these villains usually have a plan to try and get out of what's coming to them. So he says to the Superior Spider-Man, "Hey, we've had our differences in the past, but lately it seems like you've come around. So it feels like you're my guy now, and I want you there to make sure this guy does not get away and gets the punishment he deserves."
Slott: If you're J. Jonah Jameson and you've spent all this time in Spider-Man's world you know how things work by now. And this is the one time you don't want the villain escaping. You want to make sure he sees justice.
One of the neat things about a lot of classic Spider-Man villains is that so many of them are super scientists. Over the years there's been a lot of crazy mad cap inventors; even guys like the Vulture. So a lot of times good Spidey stories are battles of wits, and it's fun to see Doc Ock have to do this now with someone who is a mad scientist as well, the Spider-Slayer.
The solicits for "Superior Spider-Man" #12-13 seem to suggest that things escalate and get out of hand during this battle.
Slott: Damn those solicits! [Laughs] Our original intent was to have everything go smoothly.
Gage: [Laughs] Of course Smythe has a plan, but the interesting part is the Raft is this contained setting where all this is going on. J. Jonah Jameson has ordered that the Raft be decommissioned because, let's face it, having an island of super villains just off the coast of Manhattan isn't that great for public safety.
Slott: Stupidest idea ever! [Laughs] It makes life really easy for us Marvel writers. It's like, "Hey, Paste Pot Pete breaks out and now he's back in Manhattan!"
So it's really easy to jump start a story, but when you take the time to think about it you're like why do you have this giant island of super villains right off the tip of New York?
And one of the things I really like about this arc is that it's a movie! It's this thriller with all our characters, all taking place on the Raft. The minute it starts it's almost like boom! It's an action-thriller movie where you're stuck on this island super prison. And you're not there alone. You're there with all the bad guys that Doc Ock has been pummeling and beating almost to death throughout the run of "Superior Spider-Man."
Every one said, "He was so horrible. He killed Massacre." If he was smart though he would have killed the other guys too so he wouldn't end up with the headache he's about to get [Laughs].
So it's "Die Hard" in a super prison?
Slott: No, no, no. "Die Hard" is "No Escape" in a building! [Laughs]
Gage: [Laughs] There you go.
It sounds like this could be one of those classic Spider-Man stories where he's outgunned, taken a lot of punishment, but can't quit. Have we seen the Superior Spider-Man in that type of situation before?
Slott: I don't think that's exactly what you're going to get. Because I think Otto Octavius never feels that he's outgunned.
Gage: Yeah, that's just it. Stories like "Amazing Spider-Man" #33, for example, are tales where Pete has to overcome this sense of despair and defeat and I don't think Otto ever feels that.
Slott: Right, and if Doc Ock was forced to find a way to lift something off of him he would find a way to put it on somebody else [Laughs]. This is not Peter Parker. I think people are going to be surprised at the choices Doc makes because he's Doc.
A second ago you were comparing this to "Die Hard," but this is like what the story would be like if it was Hans Gruber trapped in the building.
Slott: That's the fun of Doc Ock. It's suddenly everything you know is wrong. Everything is happening differently and by the end of this story line the choices he makes and the decisions he takes are going to radically change this series. This is an important arc.
You mention Spider-Man might have to make some difficult choices and it's the looming execution of the Spider-Slayer that gets the story moving. Thematically and in terms of the plot, just how important is death in "No Escape?"
Gage: It's interesting because it explores the whole question of killing in the Marvel Universe. Heroes obviously don't kill, but this is a state sanctioned execution. So it's perfectly legal.
Slott: Wait a minute. Wolverine kills someone every week.
Gage: You're right, but Spider-Man is not supposed to.
Slott: Punisher kills!
Gage: That's true...
Slott: Spider-Man's got hands! They can go around a throat [Laughs]!
Gage: [Laughs] In this story though J. Jonah Jameson is there to watch the man who killed his wife die. So it is a pretty important thing.
Slott: Right. We're looking at a federally sanctioned execution. We're looking at something that that's supposed to happen.
It's interesting that you say federally. Because earlier I was left wondering if New York even had the death penalty?
Slott: For the sake of the Marvel Universe, this is the Raft. And who's to say that the Raft is part of the state of New York?
We've talked about story let's start to wrap things up by chatting about art. Because of the nature of the character, every artist on "Superior Spider-Man" is incredibly versatile. What do you feel Giuseppe Camuncoli brings to this story specifically?
Slott: The thing that I love most about Camo is he really thinks his way through every page on a level of no other artist I've ever worked with. He'll call you up and go, "Are you sure you need that gun in the shot? Because he doesn't have a gun later in the story." And you're like, "Oh, yeah. That gun should get destroyed here. That's what we meant Camo." [Laughs]
He's so good at that. He works his way through every page to tell the story in the most cinematic way. You really feel that he's in that world and knows exactly how it works every time he lays out a page.
Gage: Yeah, absolutely.
What else can you share about the scope and scale of "No Escape?"
Slott: It's huge and it will have massive repercussions that will change the landscape of Spider-Man's corner of the Marvel Universe.
Your Spider-Man stories are always new-reader friendly and this story in particular sounds like it will offer a little something extra to fans who have been with you since the beginning of your Spider-Man run, as well as fans who jumped aboard with the beginning of "Superior Spider-Man." Is that correct?
Slott: Yes. There are payoffs here to things that have been brewing since "Big Time," and there are a lot of payoffs for people who have been reading since "Superior" #1. And at the same time it's a movie. It's this thriller that anyone can jump on to, even if it's their first issue of "Superior Spider-Man."
Gage: I had a great time working on this story. And what's especially cool is that it feels like there's so much tension writing this character in any situation because I think as writers and readers you have a certain comfort level with Peter Parker as Spider-Man. And that just goes out the window with Otto as Spider-Man.
Slott: You really don't know what he's going to do. It's like someone else is driving the car, and there's something that's both exciting and scary about that.
I had a retailer tell me that he recently read an issue of "Superior Spider-Man" and it was his favorite comic about Peter Parker that Peter Parker wasn't in. Everything that Doc does really tells you more about Peter Parker's world. And you'll really get to see that in a trapped and confined space in "No Escape." We bottle it up in this story. It's a pressure cooker, and that's when you learn the most about characters.
"Superior Spider-Man" #11 is on sale now.