One of the ickier moments of Peter Parker exploring the memories of Dr. Otto Octavius after being mind-swapped was him "experiencing" Otto's feelings for his own Aunt May, whom he once nearly married.
However, Otto has proven, in Peter Parker's body since Amazing Spider-Man #700 in December 2012, that he is a better - superior - nephew to Aunt May than Peter ever has been. He checks in on her more often, makes sure he's there when he says he will be, and generally just pays more attention to the dear, sweet woman who raised Peter as her own.
That relationship will be played upon much more in the Superior Spider-Man Annual #1, coming November 2013 from the team of writer Christos Gage and aritst Javier Rodriguez (and cover artist J.G. Jones, as seen above). Rodriguez has had experience with Spider-Man in the Amazing days, and Gage has co-written issues of Superior Spider-Man with Dan Slott, so both are well versed with the character, but Gage tells us that there is so much more to explore now that Otto is in the costume. In this first conversation with Gage, he tells us about what makes Superior such a compelling notion, who the dangerous villain in the story is, and why the Otto-Spidey and May relationship is a lot less creepy than it may seem at first.
Newsarama: Christos, you've already worked a bit with Dan Slott on Superior Spider-Man, so you're coming into this Annual with some sense of the character already. How much do you think Otto has evolved so far in his first half a year and change as Spider-Man? Or do you think he's been too stubborn to allow major change?
Christos N. Gage: Yeah, I’ve worked closely with Dan on the issues of Superior Spider-Man we’ve co-written, so I’ve been able to talk at length with him about Otto/Spidey. And the question of how he has evolved is an interesting one.
Having removed all traces of Peter Parker from his mind, you could say that Otto is finally coming into his own as Spider-Man…but there definitely seems to be a familiarity to his approach. At the end of issue #13 – spoiler alert – which Dan and I co-wrote, you see Superior Spider-Man recruiting minions and establishing a new island headquarters. Add that to his army of Spider-Bots that blanket the city watching everyone and everything, and there’s a distinctly Doc Ock feel to what he’s doing. Of course, he’s still on the side of the angels, directing his actions against criminals like the Spider-Slayer and the Kingpin, but Otto definitely seems to be going his own way here…and hey, he’s getting results!
Nrama: What makes Otto as Spider-Man compelling in your personal opinion?
Gage: We’ve seen anti-heroes like the Punisher before, and we’ve seen villains like Magneto change their ways, but we haven’t seen many, if any, situations like this, where a super-villain was essentially made to switch sides against his will. He was subjected to Peter Parker’s memories and experiences, and came out of it with a drive to fight on the side of good. But he’s doing so with a villain’s methodology. I think the brilliance of the Superior Spider-Man saga is that Dan is showing us that being the Spider-Man we knew and loved wasn’t just the costume, the powers, “power and responsibility,” or the life of Peter Parker – Otto has all those things, and he’s doing it differently. There is a fundamental difference between who Peter Parker is as a human being and who Otto Octavius is. And to me, the key in writing Superior Spider-Man is to show the ways Otto is right. You can’t have him drinking a toast “to evil” like Mr. Burns. You have to depict him as a guy who knows he’s smarter than everyone else, who knows that if everybody would just do what he says or get out of his way everything would work out great…and he’s not just blowing smoke, because so far, it has. He’s getting the kind of results Peter Parker never did, both in his personal and professional life.
Nrama: This particular subject, that of Aunt May, is a difficult one to approach, seeing as Otto (in his own body) was once in love with May Parker. How was that lasting feeling changed when Peter's memories of her as a mother figure came into play?
Gage: It’s funny, because I went back and read the Otto/Aunt May wedding story before writing this, and I didn’t get the impression he was in love with her. He started out romancing her as a scam to get hold of an inheritance she had come into. Along the way, he came to respect and care for her quite a bit, but I think it’s debatable whether it was love. Regardless, that’s all in the past now. Otto feels that May Parker is a classy, good-hearted person who deserves a lot more respect and caring than Peter Parker showed for her, so he is making a point of spending time with her and doting on her and trying to be the best nephew ever. To some degree, I think that’s to atone for deceiving her and playing with her emotions all those years ago. But I don’t think there is any lingering Otto-love.
Nrama: Tell us a bit about this particular story you'll be telling, and how it fits into the overall Superior Spider-Man tale.
Gage: Basically, the assassin Blackout is seeking to re-establish his reputation after the Hood’s criminal organization, which he was a part of, fell. To do this, he plans to kill Spider-Man using a bit of inside info he’s discovered: that Spidey’s tech is made by a guy named Peter Parker. Blackout kidnaps Aunt May as leverage to force Peter to sabotage Spidey’s weapons and lead him into a trap. Now, you may think you’ve seen the “Aunt May kidnapped by a bad guy” story before…but trust me, you’ve never seen it with the SUPERIOR Spider-Man.
Nrama: Blackout isn't exactly a "Spider-Man villain," and in fact has been off the table for a while, with brain damage. Is this Marcus Daniels, the same villain
Gage: No, this is the Ghost Rider villain, the half-demon Blackout. He was arguably one of the Danny Ketch Ghost Rider’s arch-enemies, and killed Danny’s sister. That’s what made him right for this story…we know, and Superior Spider-Man knows, that Blackout means it when he says he will kill Aunt May to get what he wants. This is not Shocker or the Ringer kidnapping May. It’s a flat-out evil killer.
Nrama: Ah, okay. Still someone not exactly known as a Spider-villain. Why is it important, then, for Otto's Spider-Man to face villains outside those Peter faced regularly? How does that help with his character development in ways that facing the regular Spidey rogues gallery can't?
Gage: Otto has, at one time or another, met a great many of the “classic” Spidey rogues gallery. He’s familiar with them and their weaknesses; he is confident that he can manipulate them and crush them when he is done with them. He knows little to nothing of Blackout. That puts him further outside his comfort zone and raises the stakes quite a bit, in my view.
Nrama: It seems like Aunt May should be one of the first to notice that Peter has changed. How can that be touched upon without her just completely figuring things out, and is that something you'll be exploring at all in this annual?
Gage: Not really. As I mentioned, Otto/Pete is doting on Aunt May…telling her how wonderful she is, spending time with her, doing all the things Peter Parker never had time to. And it’s not like they live in the same house any more, so she doesn’t see him in unguarded moments. I think human beings are naturally inclined not to ask a lot of questions when we are being told how great we are. I mean, if my editor stops giving me notes and just tells me all my scripts are perfect, I’m not gonna say, “Who are you and what have you done with Steve Wacker?” I’m gonna say, “That Steve Wacker is one hell of a guy, and he has great taste.” Combine that with the fact that Otto had full access to Peter’s memories for quite a while and, even though that’s no longer the case, he still knows enough to be convincing, and I think May just feels Peter is turning over a new leaf…changing for the better.
Nrama: After co-writing some, and doing this annual in November, do you feel you might have a larger story of the Superior Spider-Man up your sleeves to tell someday?
Gage: Honestly, I think the Superior Spider-Man saga is Dan Slott’s magnum opus, and while I am thrilled to contribute whenever he is kind enough to ask – I love writing Spidey-Ock – I think he should drive the bus. But sure, I’d be thrilled to take the wheel any time he feels like a break.
Nrama: Anything else you'd like to tease about this annual and its ramifications for the main series?
Gage: Dan and I have worked closely to make sure this story is a significant part of the overall Superior Spider-Man saga. I’m picking up on threads Dan has laid out in the ongoing series, and he will be exploring the fallout from what happens in the Annual. So if you’re following Superior Spider-Man, you do not want to miss this…and if you’ve seen what Javier Rodriguez, the brilliant colorist of Daredevil can do as a penciler in that book, you don’t want to miss him cut loose on the Superior Spidey as well!