Marvel's Superior Spider-Man — which stars Doctor Octopus's mind controlling Peter Parker's body, dishing out brutally effective vigilante justice — has been maybe the most controversial mainstream comic book series of 2013, but also one of the most successful.
The next stop for the book is Comic-Con International in San Diego, with a panel on Thursday afternoon featuring Superior Foes of Spider-Man writer Nick Spencer, Daredevil artist Chris Samnee, Marvel senior editor Stephen Wacker, and, yep, some news.
Things are scheduled to get started at around 4:30 p.m. Pacific time, and we're here in person, so keep refreshing this page for the latest details.
Panel is starting out with a couple of promotional videos: One for Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. (the same pilot trailer that's been around for a while), one for the Avengers Assemble animated series and an Infinity teaser.
On the panel: Samnee, Spencer, Wacker, Superior Carnage writer Kevin Shinick, frequent Spidey writer Christos Gage, Scarlet Spider and Superior Spider-Man Team-Up writer Chris Yost, Superior Spider-Man artist Humberto Ramos, and Spider-Man: Family Business co-writer James Robinson.
Marvel director of communications Arune Singh asks Gage what it's like writing Doc Ock as a hero. "It's awesome," Gage says. "It's so easy to get in his head, because one time or another, I think we've all felt that it would be awesome if people just listen to us and do what we say. On paper, he's doing some things a lot better than Peter Parker used to do. Dan [Slott] is really turning it up."
Wacker on Spider-Man 2099's imminent arrival to Superior Spider-Man: "This story sets up a lot of stuff that Dan's going to be paying off for the next 18, 24 issues. It's a pretty big story." The editor then compares the impact of Superior Spider-Man #20, with Black Cat on the cover, to Amazing Spider-Man #698 — the initial Doc Ock/Peter Parker body-switching issue.
Spencer talks Superior Foes of Spider-Man a bit, saying he enjoys getting in villains' heads. "This all came from [Spencer]," Wacker says. "I think Nick has made the characterization important."
Yost says Superior Spider-Man Team-Up is a "fun book," and will pay off Superior Spider-Man collecting the Sinister Six. "They've all been collected by Spider-Man, which is a very un-Spider-Man like thing to do. We're finally going to pay that off in Superior Spider-Man Team-Up." Specifically, Yost says, it's going to be Ock reacting to being put on probation by the Avengers by forming his own team.
Shinick on Superior Carnage: "I really want to be able to say 'Carnage like you've never seen before' and truly mean it," the writer says. "He's bringing a lot of the Marvel Universe into it," Wacker adds.
Wacker, who also edits Daredevil, says that book's current Foggy Nelson storyline was conceived "as a way of showing how people actually live with [cancer], not just show someone that's defeated by it. The fact that Foggy's dealing with this gives us a chance to show Matt and Foggy as two great friends, who have really been through hell together."
Kraven the Hunter is coming to Scarlet Spider in October, looking for something "very specific" from the title character, according to Yost. The writer says he's enjoyed "watching [Kaine] very uneasily grow into a hero. We've moved him to Houston. He's got this second chance at life, and things are actually getting pretty good. So of course, this is where it all kind of goes bad."
Wacker briefly talks the arrival of sidekick Mania to Venom, which leads to an announcement — Venom and Superior Spider-Man are facing off in "Darkest Hours," starting with November's Superior Spider-Man #22. It's co-written by Slott and Gage, and illustrated by Ramos. (The cover to #22 is seen at the start of the story.)
It's the first meeting between Superior Spider-Man and the Flash Thompson Venom, Wacker points out. "There's going to be a certain amount of friction, and this is leading to something pretty massive in the book that Chris and Dan are going to do over four-issues, that's going to leave Venom in a very different state at the end of it — and Spider-Man," Wacker says.
Slott has joined the panel via speakerphone. "We've worked really hard to keep these characters apart, even when they were both on Avengers team."
"Humberto's the best," Slott adds, enthusiastically. "He's the hardest working guy in comics."
"[Slott] knows everything about the Spider-Man universe," Ramos says, adding that the upcoming plans are "pretty awesome."
Singh turns to Robinson for insight on the Family Business graphic novel, which Robinson is co-writing with Mark Waid. "Mark invited me to be a part of this project, I have to thank him for that," Robinson says. "It has a lot of the things we love about Spider-Man, that energetic excitement, but because he suddenly finds out that he has a sister, he's yanked into this world of international spies." The story will see Spider-Man in unfamiliar situations — including wearing a tuxedo.
Now, audience Q&A time — and Slott's still on the line.
First question — was Superior Spider-Man's new costume influenced by Ben Reilly? No, Ramos says. "The influence in how I approached the costume was Alex Ross's design, something he did for the movie that never came out."
What inspired making The Shocker the "coward" of Superior Foes? Spencer says it's based on the character's pre-existing characterization, but that he sees Shocker as more pragmatic than cowardly.
The next question involves if Kaine will interact with Superior Spider-Man — Yost tells the fan about the August crossover between Scarlet Spider and Superior Spider-Man Team-Up, and points out that Kaine killed Doc Ock once, "Which may come up."
A fan says he sees Superior Spider-Man as "jerk Spider-Man," but Wacker responds by saying that Peter Parker was sometimes a very unreliable character. "Doc Ock is very relatable in that he's an underdog, when you think about it," Slott adds. "We see the villain losing all the time."
Gage says the Superior Spider-Man Annual will show that Doc Ock handles Aunt May being kidnapped like Sean Connery in The Untouchables — "He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue."
Why Doctor Octopus for this story? Wacker says that Doc Ock is a "messed-up version of Peter Parker. He's sort of Peter Parker if his life had gone in a different direction."
Slott adds that if it wasn't for Peter Parker learning the lesson of power and responsibility, that "he could have totally turned out like Otto Octavius."
"The Green Goblin return story is a huge part for the rest of the year," Wacker tells a young fan dressed as Deadpool. "I don't think we've seen [the Green Goblin that's surfaced in Superior Spider-Man] with the mask off, have we?" Slott says over the phone.
Are there any plans to give Miguel O'Hara his own book? "It's sort of a wait and see," Wacker says. "I'm not even sure we're going to be able to do a Spidey 2099 book at the end of this. It's still a little early to tell."
Will Green Goblin "ruin" Superior Spider-Man's life? Slott says the fan has to read the book. "We generally don't bring in villains to make the hero's life better," Wacker says. "How awesome would it be if Green Goblin showed up with a basket of muffins?" Slott asks.
Which villain would the panel put in a hero's body? Gage says Stegron in Thor's body. Ramos: Lizard in Reed Richard's body. Robinson: Dormammu in Doctor Strange's body. Samnee: Sabretooth in Kitty Pryde's body. Spencer: Thor/Loki switch. Yost: "The Hulk in Katie Power's body?" Singh: Emma Frost in Aunt May's body. Wacker: "I'm so sorry you asked that question."
Slott tells a young fan that a huge part of the "Darkest Hours" story will be Flash Thompson's well-documented idolization of Spider-Man.
Robinson tells another young fan that the purported Parker sister in Family Business will "definitely be warnting to know" about the extended Parker family.
Plans for the Lizard? Slott: "You'll have to wait and see!"
Why did Phil Urich become a bad guy? "You can see Phil starting to take a dark turn in the Loners miniseries."
Will we see the return of Peter Parker's ghost? Wacker: "No! There's no more Peter Parker! How clear can we make it!" Someone in the audience exclaims, "There's always a twist!" "No more twists," Wacker says. "I'm tired of twists."
Will we see Betty Brant? Slott: "Yes!"
That's it for now, but the Vertigo panel is starting in about 15 minutes!