READING LIST: The Dan Slott You Might Not Know

Wed, April 30th, 2014 at 11:58am PDT | Updated: April 30th, 2014 at 11:58am

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Marc Buxton, Contributing Writer
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He has become one of the most popular and polarizing voices in modern comics. He is the man who has been writing "Amazing Spider-Man" since early 2008, first as part of a team of writers during the "Brand New Day" era, and later as the book's solo scribe. Some fans love him, others hate him, but all can agree that where Dan Slott goes, excitement soon follows.

Between his work with Spider-Man and the All-New Marvel NOW! relaunch of "Silver Surfer," Slott may be at the peak of his career, a powerhouse writer who is not afraid to shatter expectations for the sake of story. He dared to remove Peter Parker from the pages of "Amazing Spider-Man" and replace him with Doctor Octopus, the "Superior Spider-Man." Slott has introduced a whole new supporting cast to Parker's world while pushing familiar friends, allies and villains in surprising new directions. While most readers know Slott from his lengthy Spidey run, there are plenty of gems in his back catalog just waiting to be discovered for those who only know his more recent works.

RELATED: Peter Parker's Greatest Moments as Spider-Man

CBR presents a look at a time before Spider-Man, showcasing the growth of one of the bravest voices in mainstream comics, you friendly neighborhood Dan Slott! While by no means a complete history of Slott's work, the following books showcase the writer's diversity and risk-taking across many different types of comics.

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Arkham Asylum (DC Comics)
"Arkham Asylum: Living Hell" #1-6 (2003)
with Ryan Sook

Forget the subject matter, the publisher alone probably surprised most of Dan Slott's fans here. It's true, the writer once worked his mojo in the DC Universe. In "Arkham Asylum: Living Hell" Slott weaved a tale in one of comics' most fearsome settings, Gotham City's de facto prison for the criminally insane. The story centers on Warren White, a white-collar criminal who thought he could beat the federal rap by pleading insanity as his defense. Unfortunately for him, the courts believed him -- but it didn't quite work out the way White planned as this corporate shark became the new fish in the world's deadliest pond. "Living Hell" marked Slott's lone effort in Batman's world and the DC Universe proper, and while most would associate Slott with comedy, the book allowed him to stretch his dark and bleak side. Slott seemed very comfortable in the pitch black world of Gotham, creating memorable portrayals of some of the city's most famous madmen including the Joker, Riddler, Poison Ivy and Killer Croc, while adding to the ranks of Arkham inmates with the horrifying Doodlebug and Jane Doe. Slott also created Humpty Dumpty, a corpulent, childlike madman who is obsessed with putting things back together again. Marvel has a stranglehold on Slott's talents, but "Arkham Asylum: Living Hell" was a disturbing little appetizer to what delightful havoc Slott could bring to the DC Universe. Slott did what any good writer playing in a shared universe should: utilized the toys that exist in that universe to the fullest, didn't break them, and added some of his own.

"Avengers: The Initiative" (Marvel)
"Avengers: The Initiative" #1-12, #14-20, Annual #1, Special #1 (2007–2009)
with Stefano Caselli, Steve Uy and Harvey Tolibao

After "Civil War," the Marvel Universe was a very different place. The government was now in charge of training young superheroes and every state would have its own super team to protect it. It would take one hell of a writer, one well versed enough to know enough minute details of the Marvel U to fill 50 states worth of super teams while being able to make the book relatable and human enough so it was not just a celebration of esoteric Marvel history. Enter Dan Slott, who for over twenty issues utilized the rich history of the Marvel Universe to create a team of gripping new characters while presenting a celebration of Marvel Comics' past, present and future. "Avengers: The Initiative" acted as a way station for many beloved characters that, at the time, did not have a place to call their own. Yellowjacket, She-Hulk, the Beast, Black Widow, the Thing, Justice, Triathlon, Hellcat and Taskmaster all served as instructors for the young heroes of the Marvel Universe and Slott found new and interesting ways to exploit their history and abilities throughout his run on the title. As he has a tendency to do, Slott also added many great, young characters to the pantheon of Marvel heroes. Characters like Cloud 9, Komodo, Hardball, Thor Girl, Ultra Girl, Bengal, MVP and the Scarlet Spiders were either created for or added to Slott's Avengers roster. Every character he touched became something unique and could have had a life after their time in the Initiative, if they survived Slott's creative machinations that is. Slott guided the book through "Secret Invasion" and later switched gears, making the series a villain-centric title after Norman Osborn became the head honcho of S.H.I.E.L.D. When Christos Gage took over the book after Slott departed, he inherited a foundation that survived well into Gage's long run on "Avengers Academy," the "Initiative's" follow-up title. The history and resonance of Slott's young heroes can still be felt in the pages of "Avengers Undercover," as Slott crafted a veritable legion of fully realized heroes that Marvel can exploit in any media for decades to come.

Mighty Avengers (Marvel)
"Mighty Avengers" #21-36 (2009–2010)
with Khoi Pham, Rafa Sandoval, Stephen Segovia and Neil Edwards

After his time with the youngest Avengers in "Initiative," Slott got to play with some established vets in the pages of "Mighty Avengers." Following Brian Michael Bendis, Slott got to assemble his own team consisting of Hank Pym, who had taken up the identity of the Wasp, Hercules, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, Amadeus Cho, U.S. Agent, Stature and the Vision -- and did Slott ever have fun with these old standbys. Instantly, Slott threw one of his signature wrenches in the works by dropping the bomb that Scarlet Witch was secretly Loki who wished to manipulate the team in order to make Norman Osborn look bad, a wrinkle that informed his entire run and creating plenty of chaos and conflict. Slott's work with Hank Pym was one of the most compelling treatments of the character in recent memory. Through Pym, Slott introduced the concept of the Scientist Supreme, a title granted to the former Ant-Man by Eternity. The new title made Pym to science what Doctor Strange is to magic, a concept that gave the often rudderless Pym a concrete purpose in the Marvel Universe. Jocasta and Quicksilver leaped off the page and the writer's trademark humor was in full effect with Hercules and Cho. While many may have overlooked this era of Avengers, it deserves its rightful place alongside the works that have made Earth's Mightiest Heroes one of the most popular teams in all of comics.

Great Lakes Avengers (Marvel)
"Great Lakes Avengers" #1-4, "GLX-Mas Special" (2005)
with Paul Pelletier, Matt Haley, Georges Jeanty, Ty Tempelton, Paul Grist and Mike Kazaleh

From the classic Avengers in "Mighty" to the youngest Avengers in "Initiative," Slott has written his fair share of memorable Avengers stories. And then there's the "Great Lakes Avengers." On the surface, the book may seem like a light superhero satire in the same vein as Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis' "Justice League International." But those who read it know that "GLA" is one dark comic book. Slott's made the series more a superhero "South Park" than anything resembling a mainstream comic. It featured Mr. Immortal in the role of Kenny, a hero whose only power is not dying no matter what atrocity he endures; Big Bertha, a super-model who can expand her weight and girth to an astounding level (and of course she has an eating disorder); Dinah Soar, a bravely innocent half dinosaur girl who dies horrifically in Slott's first issue; Flatman and Doorman. Joining the team in Slott's first mini was Squirrel Girl, a hero whose unexpected revival and inclusion in "GLA" led her to play a major role in Bendis' later "Avengers" titles. "GLA" was Slott at his cheeky best, a sick joke or unexpected bodily catastrophe happening on almost every page (usually to poor Mr. Immortal). "GLA" was superhero satire at its finest, but the mayhem was firmly entrenched in the Marvel Universe making everything seem that much more visceral. "GLA" is filled with sick humor filtered through the twisted mind of a master and solidified Slott as one of modern comic's most innovative funnymen.

She-Hulk (Marvel)
"She-Hulk" (volume 1) #1-12, (volume 2) #1-21 (2004–2007)
with Juan Bobillo, Paul Pelletier and Scott Kolins

"She-Hulk" proved to be a game changing book for Slott. The series showed readers that the writer knew his way around every aspect of the Marvel Universe, that he could write strong and dynamic characters and he could tell long form stories while being funny and engaging. In other words, without "She-Hulk," there would never have been a "Superior Spider-Man." In "She-Hulk," Slott crafted a perfect modern day super sitcom -- "Ally McBeal," but with more punching. Whether it was the Mad Thinker's Awesome Android serving as an office worker in Jen's law firm, or the firm's research library consisting of long boxes filled with Marvel Comics, Slott always filled She-Hulk's world with fun gags while developing the character of Jen Walters into something truly special. Some of the more memorable stories in Slott's run included Jen Walters' engagement to J. Jonah Jameson's son and suing Spider-Man on behalf of her future father-in-law (a story that would go a long way in proving that Slott could write the heck out of Spidey's supporting cast). In another memorable tale, Jen became the legal guardian of a troubled super powered girl named Southpaw; she battles with a cadre of shrunken super villains and serves as a lawyer for a number of alien races who have a legal beef with Earth. Through it all, it was Jen's story, and it's hard to find a more perfect example of creator/character synergy than Dan Slott and She-Hulk. Like many of his other works, Slott took inspiration from the deep history and thousands of characters that make up the Marvel Universe and used them in often surprising ways to fit his funny and exciting world of "She-Hulk" without changing their fundamental natures. It's been hard to find an appearance by She-Hulk that doesn't draw on Slott's run for inspiration and Marvel Studios would do well to look at the magic Slott wielded with "She-Hulk" to find their next TV show, because "She-Hulk: Super Lawyer" on ABC does have a certain rig to it.

Spider-Man/Human Torch (Marvel)
"Spider-Man/Human Torch" #1-5, (2005)
with Ty Templeton

As one of the funniest and most heartfelt Spidr-Man books in years, "Spider-Man/Human Torch" also displayed Slott's deft touch with Spidey and Peter Parker. Slott not only nailed the long standing relationship between Peter and Johnny Storm, he also wrote their supporting cast to perfection. Don't take our word for it -- go read the conversation between Peter and Franklin Richards about the merits of listening to one's Uncle Ben (after all, they both have one) and try not to tear up. The series sees Spidey and the Torch go up against Kraven the Hunter, the Red Ghost and the Super Apes and compete for the affections of the Black Cat. "Spider Man/Human Torch" was a harbinger to Slott's run on "Amazing" and "Superior" and from the very first hilarious panel of this beloved miniseries, Slott proved he was the right man to guide Peter Parker.

The Thing (Marvel)
"The Thing" #1-8 (2005–2006)
with Andrea Di Vito and Kieron Dwyer

Following "She-Hulk," Slott had the opportunity to play with another iconic Marvel character, the ever lovin', blue-eyed Thing. Ben Grimm was clearly in the hands of a writer who loved him, and for a very brief time in the mid-'90s, Slott created a perfect title for old school fans that greatly missed the Thing's appearance in "Marvel Two-In-One." Slott displayed his ability to handle one of Marvel's original heroes and delivered lighthearted adventures starring Aunt Petunia's favorite nephew for eight brief but outstanding issues. The final issue of the series was particularly memorable, featuring Ben Grimm as the host of a super world series of poker. The series' premise was a simple one. Thanks to stock options given to him by Reed Richards, Ben was now a millionaire and Slott was Ben's guide through this often hilarious journey of the nouveau riche Thing. Ben revisited Yancy Street (and found that he was even more of a target now that he was loaded), dated a movie star and even took the Inhuman canine Lockjaw as a pet. It's a shame the book only lasted eight issues, because during its run Slott's "Thing" was one of the most refreshing and enjoyable comic books on the market.

What If...? (Marvel)
"What If...?" (Volume 2) #52, #63, (1993-1994)
with Manny Galan

One of the best places to tell if a writer has the chops to hang in the Marvel Universe is in the pages of "What If...?" Very early in his career, Slott cut his teeth on two pretty cool "What If?" stories: "What if Dr. Doom Became Sorcerer Supreme?" and a topic that has plagued civilization since the dawn of time, "What If War Machine Had Not Destroyed the Living Laser?" Both speculative tales are fascinating looks at Slott's early writing as he first dipped his toes into the Marvel waters and served as a portent of things to come for the man who would later be the most important "Spider-Man" writer of the 21st Century.

The Cartoons
"Sonic the Hedgehog Super Special" #8, #12 (1999-2000); "Scooby Doo" #5 and #50; "The Ren and Stimpy Show" #1-13, #15, #17-19 (1992–1995); "Powdered Toast Man Special" #1-2 (1994-1995); "The Powerpuff Girls" #34 (2003); "Mighty Mouse" #10 (1991); "Looney Tunes" #13, #20, #25, #26, #44, #47, #49-52, #57, #59, #62, #65, #70, #75, #89, #93, #100, #104, #129, #171, #182 (1995–2010); "Earthworm Jim" #1-3 (1995); "Disney's Aladdin" #2, #11 (1994–1995); "Dexter's Laboratory" #4, #14 (1999-2000); "Cartoon Network Starring Cow and Chicken" #3, #7, #13 (1999–2000), "Animaniacs" #15-16, #18, DC (1996) "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures: Year of the Turtle #1-3 (1996)
with various artists

Slott is so much more than a writer of superheroes, and he's proven it over the years by writing some of the most famous and wackiest cartoon characters ever created. Slott's 'toon resume is pretty eclectic, ranging from icons like "Scooby Doo" and "Mighty Mouse" to more eclectic fair like "Earthworm Jim" and "Powdered Toast Man." In fact, Slott's first published work was on Marvel's "Ren & Stimpy Show" comic. It's hard to imagine that a writer who changed the very foundations of Spider-Man's world started in such an unexpected and zany place, but one read of any of these 'toon comics, particularly those early "Ren & Stimpy" issues, shows Slott knew how to construct a story in addition to pacing and comedic timing. These skills would inform Slott's superhero work and allow him to establish his cred as a skilled comedy writer, a trait that made him stand out from the superhero writer pack in the days of "She-Hulk" and "The Thing." For those wondering where Slott honed his craft, seek out any of the above cartoon titles and watch out for falling anvils.

DC Animated
"Batman Adventures" #1-8, #10-14, (2003–2004); "Batman: Gotham Adventures" #58 (2003); "Justice League Adventures" #4, #6, #11, #13 (2002–2003); "Superman Adventures" #40, #57 (1999 & 2001)
with Ty Templeton, James Fry, Neil Vokes and Cameron Stewart

Speaking of 'toons, Slott also ably brought the Paul Dini/Bruce Timm DC Animated Universe to printed life in a number of fine standalone issues in the late '90s and early 2000s. While his recent work shows him as a master of the long game, these issues also establish Slott as one of the best "one and done" writers in comics. His issue of "Gotham Adventures" co-starring the Creeper is classic Slott: heartfelt and insane. In these comics, Slott does more in 22 action-filled pages than most writers do in an entire trade collection. Slott work with DC has been rare, so these issues provide a fascinating look at what he does with DC's icons, and each issue also provides a pure and classical take on superheroes which was a hallmark of DC's animated efforts.

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TAGS:  reading list, dan slott, arkham asylum: living hell, avengers initiative, mighty avengers, great lakes avengers, she-hulk, spider-man human torch, the thing, what if?

 
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