It’s a strange new world with Doctor Octopus living inside Peter Parker’s body as Superior Spider-Man, but in all that change there is one constant: don’t mess with his friends. But in the November one-shot Superior Spider-Man Annual #1, the villain Blackout doesn’t follow that as he kidnaps Doc Ock’s one-time fiancée Aunt May in an attempt to get at Peter Parker. If he only knew.
This annual, a first for Superior Spider-Man, frequent Spidey scribe Christos Gage is teaming with Javier Rodriguez to tell this story set in Marvel’s classic annual formula. Rodriguez, a long-time colorist for Marvel, just recently showed off his penciling skills in a guest issue of Daredevil last month, and comes into this extra-sized issue with Gage to tell a story that Marvel says will have lasting ramifications on Superior Spider-Man.
Newsarama: Christos, in November you are going to be joining with Javier Rodriguez on the first annual for Superior Spider-man, featuring the return of Blackout. What can you tell us about this special issue?
Christos Gage: Well, first of all, Javier Rodriguez is part of the award-winning art team on Daredevil, serving both as that book’s colorist and also drawing a storyline when Chris Samnee needed a break to welcome a new baby. (Mazel Tov, buddy!) So Daredevil readers are already familiar with how awesome he is. But now Spidey readers are about to find out. He is killing it, bringing in all that Eisner-esque storytelling fans of DD and Hawkeye will love.
Nrama: What about the story of the issue?
Gage: In terms of the storyline, editor Steve Wacker challenged me to come up with a story that highlighted how Otto handles things differently from Peter Parker. So I thought of a scenario we’ve seen before – Aunt May threatened by a villain, and Spidey has to save her. But Otto is approaching the situation in a much different way than Pete would. He might say a superior way.
Nrama: We’ve seen two Blackouts in the Marvel U before – which one are we talking about here, and what’s he out to prove?
Gage: This is the half-demon Ghost Rider foe, who killed Danny Ketch’s sister…so we’ve seen him strike at heroes through their families before, and know he means it when he threatens a love one’s life. He was a top assassin, then joined the Hood’s gang of criminals. Now that that’s collapsed, he wants to re-establish himself as the preeminent killer in town…and you do that by taking out the toughest guy in town, who currently is the Superior Spider-Man.
In a nod back to a story I co-wrote with Dan Slott in Amazing Spider-Man #695-697, Blackout learns that Spidey’s weapons are made by Peter Parker. So he plans to force Pete to sabotage Spidey’s weapons and lead him into a trap, and for leverage, he kidnaps Pete’s Aunt May.
Nrama: Fans have missed Aunt May, and she has a complicated history with Doc Ock. What role does she play in this?
Gage: She’s kidnapped by Blackout. And Otto does not take kindly to that. Not one bit.
Nrama: In the solicitations for this one-shot, it promises that the world won’t look at Superior Spider-Man the same after this. Is this hyperbole, or is something big happening?
Gage: It’s the truth. There will be a paradigm shift in how people see him. I’ve consulted pretty closely with Dan on this. It’s going to have lasting repercussions.
Nrama: I know you’re a serious Marvel fanboy, so talk to me about Annuals – what makes them different than a standalone one-off issue of the regular series, and what are some of the previous annuals you think most hits that point home?
Gage: The cool thing about annuals is that you can structure them like a movie, which you can’t do in a single normal size issue, even if it’s just one chapter of a larger story…you have to be cognizant of the length of that 20 to 22 page issue and structure it accordingly. The longer annuals allow you to be a more cinematic. So this is more like, say, Taken – even though it’s part of, and informs, the longer, Breaking Bad-style narrative going on in the monthly book. I think the best annuals of the past take advantage of this by either telling a big, large-scale epic story, like Sub-Mariner invading the surface world in Fantastic Four Annual #1, or present a significant event in the character’s life, Amazing Spider-Man Annual #15, a personal favorite, which takes a great look at the motivations of Spider-Man, the Punisher, Doc Ock and J. Jonah Jameson.
Nrama: Last question – this comes out the same month you join Dan Slott to co-write the “Darkest Hour” arc of Superior Spider-Man. Any ties between this and that?
Gage: There are wheatcakes in both. That’s a joke (but true). The two stories stand alone and separate – Superior Spider-Man Annual #1 takes place first – but inform each other, and both are key moments leading inexorably to a huge point in the Superior Spider-Man saga. The last page of the Annual will point to that. Dan and I stayed in close touch while I was plotting and writing this story. We both wanted to make sure it “counts” – that is, it’s not a side story the main book won’t ever refer to, it’s a significant part of the ongoing title’s storyline. And Javier Rodriguez art and a J.G. Jones cover! What more can you ask for?