Amazing Spider-Man #598Last week, it was Marc Guggenheim’s turn to take over the Weekly Webbing and talk about the recently-concluded “Character Assassination” arc and what it means moving forward.
Since then, the main creative and editorial staff on Amazing Spider-Man has gathered for a Spider-Summit – the meeting of the minds where plots are plotted, plans are planned, and storylines are…er…storylined.
With apologies for missing last Friday, we spoke with Amazing Spider-Man editor Steve Wacker to hear what he could say about the Summit and how one wrangles the particular herd of cats that make up the writers and artists of Spider-Man.
(Click here for a preview of this week's Amazing Spider-Man #590)
Newsarama: Steve, first off, how often do you have Spider-Man editorial retreats?
Steve Wacker: Twice a year or so. Our first was waaay back in pre-Amy Winehouse days of 2006.
NRAMA: I think readers are familiar with the idea of Marvel editorial retreats from the publicized Avengers retreats, but just to clarify - is this an actual "retreat" to somewhere outside of the office, or is it just a chance to bring everyone into town and take over a meeting room for three days?
SW: Yeah, we head up to an office space uptown away from the office. CB Cebulski spends about three weeks obsessing about what food we’re going to eat and Brennan hauls all the materials up to the building and we shoot the shift about Spider-Man for two days while Joe Twitters.
Then I get to come back to 375 e-mails from people who need immediate help.
NRAMA: Well, thanks for answering our #373. Who's responsible for setting the agenda at the retreat? Can you break it down and tell us how long it was, and how it got started?
SW: I put it together, though it’s pretty loose. As you can imagine with so many people involved topics are bound to bounce around a bit one things get rolling.
Here’s a censored look at what we did.
-Steve briefly explains the goals of this retreat.
-Post-mortem on year one
-Anything editorial can do to improve the day-to-day of how info is organized and disseminated. Too much info? Too little?
-Go over artists and their capacity
-Recap the status of where we are in the book right now up to American Son and #600.
-Make funny drawings of Matt Fraction kissing Brian Bendis.
Amazing Spider-Man #596-Giggle.
-Discuss “Dead Headed Stranger” and Spidey’s Rogue’s gallery character-by-character
-Tom lays out any of the greater Marvel Universe backdrop we need to discuss. Tie into Blackest Night?
-Compliment Joe Q.’s tenure.
-Brainstorm different places to take the book over the next year.
-Breakdown rest of ’09 week-by-week
5 months/ 5 writers?
-Discuss the OMD follow up with Joe Q.
-Sinister 666 discussion
-Nap while Waid talks about how great Superman is
-Deeper into 2010 depending on time
NRAMA: That in mind, what was the goal of this retreat? Was it looking to block out a set chunk of issues and storylines, or was it held to refocus, or...what?
SW: Pretty much all of that. Slott and Johnny are treating #600’s lead story as a mini event, so there’s the opportunity to use it and #601 as a launching pad for the next year.
The overall theme of the retreat was treating everything coming out of #600 as if we’d just been handed the books and then writing every succeeding week as if it was our last.
NRAMA: I think it was actually Dan who once told a story about "if an idea could survive the criticism of an (Avengers) retreat, you knew it was a good one" - is that the same kind of tone at the Spidey retreat, that is, pitch an idea for a story, and then everyone dig into it and try to find its pluses and minuses?
SW: Yes. And it’s crappy work if it’s your idea getting picked apart. At this particular meeting we left day one with a pretty solid few months…that we completely scrapped the next morning.
NRAMA: How does an idea survive? What kind of "tests" must it pass among the writers?
SW: Same as any idea. It just has to spark something or someone in the room. Having Fred and Zeb there this time certainly helped things bounce around the headspace in new ways, but no one tends to really dig their heels in. They wouldn’t be able to survive if they did. Not every writer is built for this kind of give and take,
NRAMA: Likewise, how does one fail?
SW: Three ways your idea can fail:
1) It involves Hydro-Man
2) It involves the Spider-buggy
3) You don’t credit it to me and my editorial guidance.
NRAMA: Let’s make sure we didn’t miss anyone earlier - who all came to this retreat? Name names, man...name names!
SW: From Marvel you had Tom Brevoort; Tom Brennan; Joe Quesada and CB Cebulski.
Creator-wise you had (in order that I remember): Joe Kelly; Dan Slott, Marc Guggenheim, Bob Gale, Mark Waid, Fred van Lente and Zeb Wells.
Then Barack Obama showed up to give a speech about the economy. That guy is EVERYWHERE!!
NRAMA: Well that leads to agendas and projects - does anyone come to these things with pet projects? Does Slott want the Spider-Buggy back? Guggenheim the six arms?
SW: Slott’s been pitching the same Hydro-Man story since the first retreat, but I’m afraid to let him do it until I’m ready for him to leave the book. Once he climbs that mountain, that’s it!
Beyond that, I knew guys had affections for particular villains, but no one really comes in with an agenda.
NRAMA: What’s the creative ebb and flow of a retreat like? Are they always “go-go-go!”?
SW: One thing I’ve learned after running so many of these is that there’s bound to be a time when the room’s energy dies down and I generally don’t fight it. We had about an hour on the second day when the ideas just weren’t hitting right and we reached a bit of a dead zone. However, if you don’t fret about it, keep asking questions, or even just move onto discussing a movie or something, the room will re-energize once again.
I don’t have a lot of hard and fast rules, but one I do tend to work by is that you don’t need to stir conflict between your creators for good work to come out of it.
NRAMA: What do you want the writers to come away with from a Spidey retreat? Do you want for them, say, to head home with specific story ideas down to scene and dialog, or does that work better as they come up with it?
SW: I wanted everyone to be armed with the stories they’re working on the next few months. And that’s exactly what happened. The next step will be for everyone to get back home and think this stuff through and work up outlines we can all bounce back and forth between each other.
NRAMA: Oh, and you know this one is coming...ya gotta tease your way out here...names? Places? Events? What can you vaguely hint about that was discussed at the summit?
SW: -Bring Back the Bad Guys
-Love Don’t Live Here Anymore
-Mysterio(us) Marcos Martin
-Wells and Bachalo – Together again
-Beantown or bust!