Our talk with Peter David looking back at Spider-Man 2099 concludes today, with David exploring how he’d do the 2099 universe today, the non-menace of Bloodaxe, and how, pun intended, his work is sometimes ahead of its time.
Newsarama: Peter, we were just talking about how if you’d continued with the books, Miguel O’Hara would have been head of Alchemax, which is consistent with where the book was headed at the time of your departure. Now, you seemed to be having a good time with the corporate satire. Did you enjoy doing that more than the superhero stuff?
Peter David: I didn’t enjoy it more than that. I enjoyed playing in the new environment. The great thing about science fiction is that you can make comments about the modern world in a science-fiction setting.
NRAMA: Well, that ties into where the 2099-verse is now – you’ve got Brian Reed doing a revival in this newuniversal style…
PAD: So I hear.
NRAMA: If you had to develop 2099 today yourself, what would you do differently?
PAD: I don’t know how much I’d be doing differently, because I still like a lot of what we were doing then. I liked the corporate structure, I liked Alchemax, I liked Stark-Fujikawa… I might take the Futurama approach. What would be interesting to me is to take a current character in the Marvel Universe, and take him out of the Marvel Universe into 2099, so he has a first-person view of this world as it develops. And it would have to be some decently high-profile character.
So it might be interesting to do something like that – to give the modern-day reader more of an anchor in the 2099 universe. The problem you encounter when you’re dealing with this kind of alternate world or alternate universe is that you have to make the reader feel like he or she has a stake in it. It’s why 2099 wasn’t able to sustain itself, why the New Universe wasn’t able to sustain itself, why pretty much every cosmic-themed book isn’t able to sustain itself. The premise makes it difficult for the reader to get invested into that kind of world, at least in my opinion.
NRAMA: You mentioned early in this interview that you felt the corporations were a way that 2099 accurately predicted the future. Where are some other areas that you feel 2099 got right, and some where it might have missed the mark?
PAD: Well, I have no idea where it missed the mark, because we’re not in 2099; I have no idea where we went off the rails! (laughs) How would I know?
The increasing importance of the Internet, we got that right…we had people going around with little communication devices on their ears, years before Bluetooth showed up…I think we were certainly ahead of the curve in terms of communications and the Internet; we haven’t been able to project people into those worlds, though God knows what we’ll come up with in the next few decades. What I’m curious about is whether we’ll wind up building on top of New York, whether we’ll wind up building upwards instead of sideways.
What else…we had magnetic-powered cars, and it wouldn’t surprise me if that still develops, because it’s becoming increasingly obvious that, pun intended, fossil fuels are going to have to go the way of the dinosaur someday. We didn’t have hybrid cars, but by 2099 we should be way beyond hybrid cars.
But not only do I not know where we missed the mark, I will never know where we missed the mark, because I think the odds of me suckin’ oxygen in 2099 are pretty slim. Although, you know, you never know. I could wind up as a head in a jar like on Futurama.
NRAMA: Well, cross your fingers.
PAD: Yeah. I won’t have any, but…
NRAMA: Okay, we’re running down on time, so let’s go into a lightning round. First, one of my favorite characters, Bloodaxe/Bloodsword/Bloodmace…
PAD: (laughs) Yeah! Bloodhammer…
NRAMA: What was the skinny on him?
PAD: (still laughing) I just love the idea of a C-level villain. This guy was the worst villain ever, who thought he was the greatest villain ever. Someone who was completely out of his depth, who had no clue, but thought he was on top of everything. I always liked him. I particularly liked when Miguel just cold-cocked him while everyone was looking the other way, and Miguel was shouting, “Bloodclot has fainted!” That kind of thing. Of all the things that Rick drew, that was my favorite issue, especially because Miguel wasn’t in costume for the vast majority of it. I just always loved that.
NRAMA: Poor Blood…whatever got Venom’d, but someone new could always take up the mantle…
Also regarding Venom, I was curious about the use of Kron Stone. Was that something you thought of early on, or was that a case where you needed someone to be Venom, and you decided it would be best to have him as an established character everyone thinks is dead?
PAD: Yes. That’s exactly right. Sometimes you just want to embrace the cliché?
NRAMA: That was why I was dissatisfied with the Gabe/Goblin thing – both his brothers are evil?
PAD: No. That was bullshit. If nothing else, that was one of the reasons I went ballistic when they said “it’s going to be Gabe,” because I went, “NO! We already did that!” So, no, it was always supposed to be Father Jennifer. She had a really good reason! I just can’t remember what it was. If I recall correctly, I think she had actually created the Goblin to be a positive figure, but it went awry, as these things often do.
NRAMA: Another group of characters I always liked were the Spiderites, and how the Marvel heroes were treated with this mythological resonance.
PAD: That was a logical direction. The concept of worshippers of Thor – I did not establish that. That was one of the things that was conceived when 2099 was put together, the idea of these worshippers of the vanished god. So I thought it was a logical thing to have these worshippers of Spider-Man, because Thor was there at the same time as Spider-Man, so they’d transfer their worship.
NRAMA: I loved that cover introducing them, with the big guy and the skinny guy, all in the costumes…
PAD: …and what happened years and years later? They did that in The Dark Knight.
NRAMA: You were ahead of your time.
PAD: What can I say? This is was what broke me up – when people would go batshit about the introduction of organic webshooters in the first Spider-Man film, and people were devoting whole websites to what a horrible idea this was, and I was sitting at home going, “Excuse me? Spider-Man 2099, did this a decade ago? How is this new? Why are you going nuts about this now? We did this ten years ago!”
And the other thing – someone congratulated me on being the first to come up with Spider-Man claws. Because Miguel had talons – I wanted to establish he had a way to crawl up walls, some actual, natural way. So I gave him talons. And you remember the scene in the Spider-Man film where they have this close-up…
NRAMA: …he’s got hairs coming out of his fingers…
PAD: Exactly! We could have drawn multiple hairs on the fingers, multiple talons…in fact, Rick actually did that. If you recall, there was a four-page preview of Spider-Man 2099 in Amazing Spider-Man. Remember that?
NRAMA: Yeah! It had the hologram on the cover…
PAD: Right, and if you re-read that, you’ll see Miguel has two talons on his thumb. His fingers each have one talon, but his thumbs have two talons. And then Rick decided that would just be too much of a pain in the ass to remember. So if you compare that artwork to the actual issue #1, you’ll see he loses a talon on each thumb.
NRAMA: Conspiracy theorists, take note…
Now, they had a couple action figures of Miguel…
PAD: I know! I have them! They didn’t send them to me, but I bought them. There was a resin model kit, too…
NRAMA: What’d you make of that flaming axe they gave the first figure? That was one of the weirdest accessories of all time.
PAD: They gave him a flaming axe?!
NRAMA: You never saw that one?
PAD: No! What was it?
NRAMA: It was the first one – it was this large battleaxe, about as big as the figure itself, and it was shaped like the death’s head logo on Spider-Man’s chest, and there were plastic flames on one end, and the box said it, “flaming axe accessory.”
PAD: A flaming axe? I’m sorry, if you’ve got a flaming axe, you’d better be playing for KISS. It might be that I saw it and blanked it out because it was too stupid.
NRAMA: Last question: Why do you feel this book is still so fondly remembered?
PAD: I don’t know! Ask the fans – I’m the last person who would know. I’ve written stuff that I thought was much, much better, and it’s disappeared into the woodwork. But people love Spider-Man 2099! You never know what’s going to excite the fans, you never know what’s going to catch their interest, you never know what people are going to remember!
I’ve written stuff that I thought was absolutely brilliant, but has gone to dust as far as most people are concerned…but they remember Spider-Man 2099. There’s obviously something about it that has resonance.
What totally broke me up was when I did the stuff in Captain Marvel that brought back 2099, fans criticized it by saying I was recycling my ideas! When they did the same damn thing in Exiles, it was lauded as being a Marvel nostalgia trip, and what a fun idea! And I’m going, “Uh, what?” Which is not to say they didn’t do it well in Exiles, they did a terrific job on it! But I did it first, and I got slammed for it!
NRAMA: You’re still ahead of your time.
PAD: What can I say?
NRAMA: You’re like the guy who’s five minutes out of synch with the timestream, or somesuch science-fiction problem.
PAD: Yeah…that would explain why I’m always late paying my bills.
NRAMA: You’re a comics Cassandra – you tell the future, and no one listens to you, and then someone knocks you off.
PAD: Well, I don’t know if they knock me off, or we have the same idea. Though I am tired of pointing out that Bill Mumy and I cast Jewel Staite as an engineering genius on a spaceship back in 1995, then Joss Whedon did it in 2003. So I like to tell people Bill and I ripped off Joss Whedon ten years in advance.
NRAMA: That’s right, it’s the 15th anniversary of Space Cases next year! We should totally talk again then.
PAD: Sure, absolutely! We’ll bring in Bill.
NRAMA: If you could go back to Miguel O’Hara, though, to do a Spider-Man 2099 series again, would you?
PAD: Definitely. I quit at the time because Joey Cavalieri had been fired, and my attitude was that Joey was the heart and soul of the 2099 universe, and I did not want to participate in that any more with Joey gone. It was an act of protest.
But it’s been a long time, and it’s a new regime, and the people who fired Joey Cavalieri are long gone. So if Marvel’s ever interested in continuing or rebooting Spider-Man 2099, yeah, I’d love to! But they’re redoing 2099 now, so I’m figuring they wouldn’t.
NRAMA: You never know…
PAD: You don’t. If there’s one thing my career has taught me, you never know.