Spider-Man vs. Venom is an iconic Marvel match-up, and one that fans have witnessed multiple times before. But not this Spider-Man versus this Venom.
The four-issue "Darkest Hours" storyline starting with November's Superior Spider-Man #22, announced Thursday afternoon at Comic-Con International in San Diego, will feature the first encounter between Superior Spider-Man (Doctor Octopus's mind controlling Peter Parker's body) and Agent Venom (the classic symbiotic, now mostly under the control of long-time Spidey supporting cast member Flash Thompson).
Co-written by regular series writer Dan Slott and his frequent collaborator Christos Gage and illustrated by Humberto Ramos (one of Superior Spider-Man's three main artists), it's said to be a meaningful conflict for both characters — with the added context that Flash Thompson grew up idolizing Spider-Man, albeit a very different Spidey than the one currently operating.
Newsarama talked with Slott about "Darkest Hours," plus the deliberate attempt to keep Spidey and Venom apart until now, Cardiac's role in the story and the ongoing debate around the very existence of Superior Spider-Man — which has attracted controversy and also, #1 issues aside, frequently been Marvel's top-selling ongoing series.
Newsarama: Dan, even though you wrote the story that introduced Flash Thompson as Venom back in 2011, you haven't really written the character much since — until this November, when he's coming to Superior Spider-Man with "Darkest Hours." What has you excited about returning to Agent Venom?
Dan Slott: We introduced him all the way back in Amazing Spider-Man #654, at the end of the first Spider-Slayer arc. And then he you saw his first full adventure in #654.1.
Since then, we've really kept Spider-Man and Venom apart. Early on in Venom, Spider-Man had a fight with Venom, but in his traditional Venom-look, so he knew Venom was still out there. But he's never really met Agent Venom. Even when they had Flash over in Secret Avengers, and Spidey over in New Avengers, even when the Avengers would all get together, we were very insistent the two of them would never end up in a room together.
Through all of "Spider-Island," even though they both had major parts to play in the story, they kept missing each other. You can go back and look at your "Spider-Island"s — they’re never together.
So the fun of it's been, we've kept them apart for so long, and now, finally, after all this time, bam! We're going to have the giant throwdown. And it's not even going to be with Peter. It's Doc Ock as Spidey! That does not bode well for Venom.
Nrama: You would probably know the answer to this better than I do — do Venom and Doc Ock have much of a history in their previous incarnations?
Slott: They've had some run-ins. The Eddie Brock-version. The person who really hasn't had a run-in with Doc Ock is Flash Thompson. There have been scenes where you have, like, "The Trial of Doc Ock," and Flash is there with a group of people. Or at the end of some fight where Doc Ock is being taken away, Flash is there with everybody from Midtown High. But there really is no Otto Octavius/Flash Thompson mix-up anywhere.
Nrama: Well, that seems like an interesting thing to explore in the story.
Slott: Like a possible plot point, right? [Laughs.]
Nrama: Things in the book seem to be escalating all the time, but what makes Venom an especially unique challenge for Superior Spider-Man?
Slott: When we hit the Superior Spider-Man/Venom throwdown, there are going be some major changes and developments in the life of Superior Spider-Man. The opening of this arc will have Otto (in Peter's body) in such a unique and new place. It's something we've never seen before in a Spider-Man comic.
Nrama: Well, there's a lot of distance between now and "Darkest Hours." — there's the Hobgoblin story, and something big teased in that, and then Spider-Man 2099 showing up, and then Black Cat.
Slott: It's trippy. You're going to see in the new arc that's starting up, where Spidey has the new costume, he has a whole new set-up. He has a whole new status quo of how he works. He has a whole new M.O.; a whole new way he operates that's something you really don't see in superhero comics a whole lot.
When the Spider-Man 2099 story wraps, something very major is going to happen in it which will drastically shake up the supporting cast. And it will have a lasting effect on both the Spider-Man world, and the Marvel Universe. When you go into the next story, the two-part story with Black Cat, beyond even picking up the pieces from the Spider-Man 2099 story, there are going to be so many seeds planted in that story, so many important things that will resonate for years — you can't miss any of it. It's going from one big thing to the next, and it keeps building off each other, and it keeps going in these strange turns. And just when you think you know where you're going — oh my god, Venom!
Nrama: You took to Twitter last week to warn retailers that issue #20 would be a big one.
Slott: Yeah. There are going to be stories that are going to happen in 2014, 2015, where people will go, "When's the first time that was mentioned, and where did that start?" A lot of those pieces are in Superior Spider-Man #20. There are things a-happenin' in that issue that will have major ramifications.
Nrama: Humberto Ramos is drawing the Venom arc – and he's a noted Venom artist, dating back to the storyline with Paul Jenkins many years ago in Spectacular Spider-Man, and he drew the first appearance of Agent Venom, too. Do you see this a definite case of the right artist on the right story?
Slott: Oh god yes. He loves Venom. We're going to kill on this. It's going to be great.
And for people who loved Humberto’s arc with Cardiac, Cardiac will be appearing in this story as well.
Nrama: That's a character that got some disdain for being "'90s," but his recent appearance seemed to win people over.
Slott: It's the exact same concept that [David] Michelinie was using, which is he's this medical Robin Hood. I'm just standing on the shoulders of giants with Cardiac and with Venom. The Michelinies of this world have put in way more time in making these characters great.
Nrama: Fan reaction has been an interesting experience for you since Amazing Spider-Man #700 — but now that it's been about seven months of this status quo, do you find that people have mostly calmed down?
Slott: The people who aren't happy now seem to have intimate knowledge of everything that's going on in the book, for people who are angry and "aren't reading it." [Laughs.] I think it's the Howard Stern effect; the people who love the book love the book, and the people who don't like the book want to read it more, to see what's going to happen next.
For the most part, when you meet people in person at cons or at stores, everyone's really excited about it. Even people who are like, "I miss Pete," they're like, "This is a weird ride." When I go to shows, there are two comments I hear all the time, more than anything else: "When is Peter coming back?" and then right after that, the next, most frequent comment is, "This is what brought me back to Spider-Man." Which, if you go by the Internet, it should be the exact opposite.
Nrama: So with "Darkest Hours" still about four months away, is there anything else you'd like to add at this time?
Slott: Hmm. Hmm. Hmm.
Nrama: Hey, glad you gave it some good thought.
Slott: We're giving way too much stuff away ahead of time. I think one of the things we've been good on are surprises, and not letting you know where we're going. So the more smoke I can throw up, the happier I'll be.