SPOILER WARNING: This interview contains major spoilers for the future of "Superior Spider-Man."
Remember Peter Parker? Brown hair, a little nerdy, internationally beloved pop culture icon?
Peter's been mostly absent from Marvel Comics as of late, since the dawn of the "Superior Spider-Man" era in January 2013. As you are very likely familiar with, a circa late 2012 Dan Slott-written storyline saw perennial nemesis Doctor Octopus switched brains with an unwilling Spider-Man, just before Doc Ock's ailing body met its seemingly permanent end. Things looked just about as bad as they could get for Spidey, but a shred of Peter Parker's consciousness stuck around in his body to try and keep Otto Octavius in check -- until Doc Ock discovered it and quickly had it expunged. Since then, Doc Ock has been fully steering the Spider-Man ship, doling out justice with a distinctly supervillain-esque approach. And despite some rather vocal outcry, "Superior Spider-Man" has been both a financial and critical hit for Marvel.
But -- as Slott freely admits -- Peter Parker was never going to stay away forever, especially with a major theatrical release -- "Amazing Spider-Man 2," out May 2 -- close on the horizon. As of April, he's returning in a new volume of "Amazing Spider-Man," the traditional flagship Spidey series, starting with a new #1 from Slott and long-time Spider-Man artist Humberto Ramos. The new book will launch shortly before the new film debuts, with a first arc featuring movie villain Electro.
CBR News spoke with Slott to learn slightly more about the new "Amazing Spider-Man" -- with several months of story left to be revealed, he's keeping the hows and whys of Peter's return a closely guarded secret -- and opine on the impact of "Superior Spider-Man," which wraps in April with the "Goblin Nation" arc. "All the way up to this new launch, every issue is a bullet in the gun," Slott said. "Every issue, some major domino is falling over."
CBR News: Dan, let's start with the timing of the "Amazing Spider-Man" relaunch, because obviously it was inevitable that Peter Parker will come back at some point --
Dan Slott: Wait, wait, are you telling me that for a 50-year old, half-century long icon, the greatest superhero of all time, Peter Parker, the Amazing Spider-Man, we weren't going to keep him dead? You've uncovered my master plan!
Was there a planned length of time for the "Superior Spider-Man" era? Did you maybe keep things going longer once it became clear it was a success?
We could have kept this going for ages, but we stuck with the plan that was always there. There were times we'd be talking about it at Marvel before there'd been any fan reaction, and they'd ask, "Can you keep this up all the way to the movie?" Remember, we're a double-shipping book. "Maybe you can keep this up for six months. Nine months. Ten months. A year." I'm like, no, no, no -- there are 30-plus issues of this. We can do this."
Once the reaction came in for the very first issue, and the thing went back to press three times, we were like, "OK, it's got legs. We're good." We knew back in January, after the first issue, that people were going to stay along for the ride.
It's been a success and not only in the main title, but spawning the "Superior" brand on several other titles at Marvel.
I think it's very neat, where you had other books where Spider-Man was going to appear, and other teams would ask "Do we have to use Superior Spider-Man? Can we set our stories before the switch?" Then after you had books like "Daredevil" and "Journey Into Mystery" using Superior, and everything worked out great, then it was all, "Can we use Superior?" It's weird to me, to watch this all happen, because it's a story I've wanted to tell since "Amazing Spider-Man" #600.
And suddenly you have Ryan Stegman launch it. And Humberto doing art, and Giuseppe Camuncoli. And it all comes to life. We have the best art team in comics. How do you screw that up? I could have switched his brain with a monkey, and we'd still be having this talk, because the book just looks so good.
And it's been consistent -- a lot of titles launch with big numbers, but "Superior Spider-Man" has sustained them, netting two spots in the top 10 most months of 2013.
I know. That's ludicrous! And we're all putting out an issue every other week. And that's a testament to the entire creative team. Every issue I look at it, and go, "I am really proud of this." Guys like my co-writer Chris Gage coming in to help out when I'm slowing down. Steve Wacker [former Marvel senior editor now moving to a job in Marvel Animation] making sure you get those two issues a month. It's crazy.
We did something truly insane. You look at the Internet outrage over #700, there were so many people saying, "I'm going to boycott this book. This book is going to tank. I refuse to buy this. How dare you?!" All the people who talk on your boards here- - on all the comic message boards -- you think we'd get this by now; they don't represent the people who are actually walking in the store and saying, "I want that."
For Bendis' entire run of "Avengers," the flagship book of Marvel Comics, you could not keep it on the rack. And yet if you looked on message boards there would be people going, "You disrespected the Avengers! Wolverine and Spider-Man on the team? Why?" This is the world we live in now. It's my New Year's Resolution to stop reading the comments. It so doesn't reflect what's actually happening in the stores, at the shows and at the signings. Even now, you would think this is the most hated book in the world. But when you're meeting fans in person, they're all asking a million detailed questions about what's going on in the book.
People were obviously upset a year ago with #700 and Superior Spider-Man happening, do you think things have flipped to the point where people going to be upset now about Peter Parker coming back?
Absolutely! Everyone who was enjoying it and being quiet is going to jump in. What's fun for me is over the year, I get more and more people every month going, "I badmouthed this book, but now that I've actually read it for myself, I can't stop." Or, "This arc turned me around." It's bizarre. I get these sincere apology messages from people I've never met. I'm like, "OK, that's cool."
So… Spoiler. Might want to stop the interview here….
You're going to see this week, in "Superior Spider-Man" #25 – super spoiler! -- that the ghost of Peter Parker is very much alive, and functioning, and trying to fight his way back.
That seems key! To get back to the timing of it -- you mentioned the movie, and obviously it seems like a natural time to launch a new "Amazing Spider-Man" series while a film is hitting theaters -- was that always the plan, to tie it to "Amazing Spider-Man 2"?
Yes. You're going to have a major motion picture coming out. There's going to be ads everywhere, there's going to be toys in toy stores, and Spider-Man on t-shirts. There's going to be a general awareness of, "Hey, look, Spider-Man!" So how could you not ride that wave? It would be negligent not to. This is a massive franchise that's been around for half a century, and you always want to bring in new readers, and try bringing people into comics.
Here's the thing. You love comics. I love comics. Our readers clearly love comics. But for the industry to thrive, we need new readers coming into the mix. A big summer blockbuster is going to be a whole new generation's introduction to this character and this world. So it's great that, potentially, there's going to be an all-new Amazing #1 there for them.
Meanwhile, for the hardcore, we've got the mega finale of the entire "Superior Spider-Man" saga. And it's going to have massive repercussions for Spider-Man's world, and bringing back Peter Parker to deal with the fallout -- that's fun. There are going to be so many ramifications. All the way up to this new launch, every issue is a bullet in the gun. Every issue, some major domino is falling over. Don't dare look away. When I was pitching the book, one of the things that we knew was going to have readers coming back, no matter how much we protested, no matter how much we screamed "Spider-Man is dead, dead, dead," we knew that part of the appeal of this series was, "How is he coming back? How are they going to pull that off?" And now we're heading into that zone. So? What is the trick? Is the rabbit already under the hat? [Laughs]
Also, watching Doc Ock in Peter's life, doing all these crazy things -- whether it's alienating this person, or setting up a new relationship with that person, or starting his own company, or getting his doctorate --- Peter Parker's going to wake up, and he's going to be "Dr. Peter Parker." And he never went to a single class! He has a diploma on the wall. "Hey, thanks, Otto! You did that." What's he going to do, walk into Empire State University and say, "Take back your doctorate?" There are all these strange pluses and minuses in his life. When Peter Parker comes back, he's going to Rip Van Winkle into this strange new world.
There's definitely a lot of stuff set up for him to untangle once he comes back.
Untangle? It's Peter Parker. It might get tanglier! You don't know. It's fun, because I see people guessing this and that and the other thing, and they're wrong. People haven't nailed it yet. There are surprises coming, and that's going to be the fun of it. It's that old Chinese curse – "may you live in interesting times." That's what you want from your character. Is it going to be all bad? Is it going to be all good? What's it going to be? What's going to be this world that he wakes up into? And how is he going to deal with it? And how is he going to be changed from having been dead for a year? What kind of Peter Parker are we going to meet?
One imagines you wouldn't go through all of this just to go back to telling the same type of Peter Parker stories.
If we woke up in a world where J. Jonah Jameson was in the Bugle, and Peter Parker was taking pictures for a living, and Aunt May was in the hospital, I would shoot myself. It's the ongoing story of Peter Parker, Spider-Man. His life moves forward.
When I got to start the "Big Time" run, we took the giant leap of, "What if Peter Parker got his dream job?" What if he wasn't running around hand-to-mouth, or taking photos -- which is something he wasn't even earning. It was him just webbing a camera to a wall. How does that make you feel when you wake up in the morning? This is the sum and total of who you are, Peter Parker; you're the guy who webs a camera to the wall. All this other stuff you're doing is because you got bit by a radioactive spider. You're worthless.
Suddenly with "Big Time," he gets to use all of Peter Parker's gifts and talents, and he gets this great new job. And during "Superior," we literally blew it up. Horizon Labs exploded! Everybody who works with him thinks, "You're responsible, and Spider-Man's a jerk." He had such a good job! It was there for like 50 issues of comics.
And there's another overt tie-in to the movie -- Electro is going to be playing a part in the first arc of the new "Amazing Spider-Man," right?
Much in the same way that when we used The Lizard we didn't tell the story they were telling in the movie -- we found an all-new Lizard story to tell that fit into Spider-Man's world at the time. Like we were saying earlier -- you have the public's awareness. People who have never bought a comic book before, they're going to know who Electro is. Why not take advantage of that? No one at Marvel has pointed a gun to my head and said, "Use Electro!" This is me jumping up and down going, "We should use Electro!" It's just the way I'm wired.
Electro was seen recently in "Superior Spider-Man Team-Up," and you wrote him in "Amazing" with the Sinister Six stuff. But I'm guessing if you're bringing him back in a big way here, you've got a new angle to the character, a new take on him?
You'll have to wait and see, but the one thing I can promise our die-hard 616 fans: We are not turning him into an Ultimate version of Electro. He's not going to magically look like he does in "Amazing Spider-Man 2." This is the Electro that you've been reading about for some time, but in a new story.
He won't look like he does in the movie, but will the new arc see something of a visual refresh to Electro?
Page 1 has not yet been drawn yet. I'm sure we'll talk about it, but if I had my druthers, he would be in that big, ol' yellow, lightning bolt hat. [Laughs] Because that's how I met him, and that's how I like him. It's silly, and it's wonderful. I don't think Humberto has done any Electro designs yet, and Humberto's designs are awesome.
Since you're also writing the soon-to-launch new "Silver Surfer" series, is "Amazing Spider-Man" also going to be twice monthly?
When I unintentionally pitched "Silver Surfer" -- that was just me and Tom Brevoort talking about, "How would you do a Silver Surfer book?" and then after talking about it for a couple of hours, he went, "Write it up," and I went, "Wha? How am I going to do this, I'm doing Spider-Man twice a month?" "We'll find a way." So far that way has meant not sleeping, but it's all worth it, because I get to work on "Amazing Spider-Man" #1 with Humberto Ramos, and I get to work on "Silver Surfer" with Mike Allred. It's all pretty awesome. And we've got some extra spider-y surprises. So while I'm saying it's Spider-Man twice a month, you're going to have to wait and see how, because there's a wrinkle. We have not turned over all the cards yet.
So you're now only the, I think, third writer to write an "Amazing Spider-Man" #1?
I don't think of it that way. [Laughs] I think of it as, "Hey, I get to do Amazing Spider-Man" #1. In all honesty, when you're working on "Amazing Spider-Man," you are on the shoulders of giants, and I'm very aware of that. The cool thing is, I get to write the Spider-Man that Stan Lee and Steve Ditko created, that John Romita Sr. worked on, Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway, Marv Wolfman, Len Wein, Roger Stern -- everybody adds to the tapestry, and it's kind of fun to be the current guy in the line.
"What's going to happen to Otto Octavius?" is a very good question that people should be asking. What's going to happen to him? Now that we've let the cat out of the bag, now that we've told everybody Peter Parker is coming back, what happens to Otto? I'm not saying a word!