DAN SLOTT: YEAR ONE: LEARNING TO CRAWL Isn't a 'Retelling' of SPIDER-MAN's Origin
Spider-Man sketch by Ramon Perez
CREDIT: Marvel Comics
This April a new chapter begins in the long-running saga of Spider-Man when Peter Parker once again assumes the mantle in Amazing Spider-Man #1, but in May longtime Spidey scribe is exploring another chapter – the original chapter – in a five-part flashback companion series subtitled Year One: Learning To Crawl. Announced earlier Friday, this series tells what Slott calls “the story you never knew about the story you know by heart,” exploring the first 60 days of the fledgling Spider-Man and answering questions that have lingered since Stan Lee and Steve Ditko first put them down on paper in 1962. Joining Slott on this Year One story is Eisner-winning Tale of Sand artist Ramón Pérez, fresh off a stint on Wolverine & The X-Men and committed to his first stint drawing Spider-Man and working with Slott.
Newsarama spoke with Slott about this flashback story into the early days of Marvel’s flagship character, discussing how this new comic will fit in with the original stories by Lee and Ditko, as well as discussing the unique partnership those two creators had and how he and Pérez are adapting for it.
Newsarama: What can you tell us about this five-part story, “Learning to Crawl”?
Dan Slott: “Learning To Crawl” is the story you never knew about the story you know by heart. It’s a five-part miniseries which looks into Spider-Man’s first 60 days of being a superhero.
Nrama: I know you do very thorough research writing comics, so where does this 5-part story fall in between those early Peter Parker stories?
Slott: It goes from the second Amazing Fantasy #15 is over and over the course of Amazing Spider-Man #1 through #3. Those stories are acknowledged, but this isn’t about retelling those comics we’ve already read. In “Learning TO Crawl,” you’ll be able to tell where these stories takes place but you’ll get new insight why certain things happened and it’ll really allow us to explore the journey of how Peter learned to become Spider-Man. He knows the lesson of “with great power comes great responsibility,” but he doesn’t know what to do with it. In essence we’re trying to tell a “Year One” style Spider-Man story.
Nrama: You’ve written characters big and small at Marvel and DC, so what’s it like doing these kind of flashback stories to a character who’s so well known and his history so explored? More so than lesser-known characters, like Rocket Raccoon or something.
Slott: What’s fun is that when you look at the earliest issues of Amazing Spider-Man, you can see Stan Lee and Steve Ditko are kind of finding their voice for the story. Around the time you get to Amazing Spider-Man #4, he coalesces into the Spider-Man you know and love. “Learning To Crawl” is looking at those early moments to discover “Oh, that’s why Spider-Man does that!” It’s not just telling a story while dancing between the raindrops so to speak, but telling a story that has a lot of heart and needs to be told.
Nrama: So Spider-Man’s learning to become a superhero – I take it there are villains involved? And if so, are they those from those first three issues or perhaps someone surprising?
Slott: Readers will meet an all-new villain, but unlike other stories like this where the new villain is planned as this giant, earth-shattering force like Mr. Sinister who’s the secret villain behind everything, in this case it’s not. This is actually going down a trickier path, to try to create a villain who will feel like a Spider-Man villain of old. It’ll feel like you could have read about this guy at the same time you saw the first appearances of Mysterio, Electro or Sandman. But while we’re aiming for that zone, this villain will have an interesting twist that makes him have much more in common with Peter than the others.
When you look at all of Spider-Man’s earliest villains, they’re all adults. Peter is 15 years old, dressing up as a superhero, and fighting full-grown, mature adults – some guys even as old as the Vulture. What you’ll see with this new villain is Peter fighting someone his own age for the first time. With all the high school drama he goes through during the day, this brings all those problems he has in the school yard and puts it on the super villain.
Nrama: In addition to all the popular parts of Peter’s early days that people remember, there are also some underrated elements that are sometimes lost in the shuffle. Are there any bits or pieces from those original Lee and Ditko stories you might look to elaborate more on here with this story?
Slott: It’s more like those moments where you say “Wait a minute, how did he get that?” “How does Peter know this?” This is going to be faithful to those original stories while answering some questions that can be raised from reading those original stories. It provides some fun moments of revelation.
Nrama: Working with you on this is Ramón Pérez, whom I believe you haven’t worked with before and he’s never done Spider-Man before either. How’d you connect with him, and what made him the right person for such a high-profile comic series?
Slott: It is indeed our first time working together, but anyone who’s read Tale of Sand can see how great Ramón is and how perfect he would be for this story.
Ramón was a name that editorial brought up in the early stages of planning this. Once his name dropped, everything clicked and I said “We have to go for Ramón Pérez.” When people see his Spider-Man, they’ll all be believers.
One of the fun things about this miniseries is that it takes place in a very specific era; this is Spidey with that big bulbous spider logo on his chest, the small eyes and the webbing under his arms. This is old school Ditko Spider-Man with a new modern day look.
Nrama: Given how involved Stan Lee and Steve Ditko were in combination creating these original stories, how would you describe the formulation of this story?
Slott: It’s daunting, because we’re really trying to create stuff that takes place in the zone where Spider-Man’s daddies, essentially, worked. That’s a scary thought.
I had a note in a recent email to Ramón, saying “No pressure or anything, but could you design this character like Steve Ditko would?” [laughs] That’s a horrible thing to say to an artist; it’s like asking for it to be in the style of Michelangelo or Rembrandt. Can you draw it like they would? Who’d want to have to deal with that?
That being said, this is proving to be a very fun project. This is something I’ve wanted to do for some time, and for anyone who read my Spider-Man & The Human Torch miniseries with Ty Templeton, this is something in that vein. It’s very much a love letter to those comics.