Cover to 'Dark Reign: Sinister Spider-Man #1'
Look up the name MacDonald "Mac" Gargan on Wikipedia, and he's listed as the third Spider-Man.
As much as that makes any Spider-Man fan's skin crawl, in the Marvel Universe, it's true: Mac Gargan – complete with his Venom symbiote – isSpider-Man.
While he's not going to star in Amazing Spider-Man anytime soon, Gargan does get his own comic in June with Dark Reign: The Sinister Spider-Man, a four-issue mini-series by Ms. Marvel writer Brian Reed.
"As far as the Marvel Universe is concerned, the Spider-Man in Avengers Tower is Spider-Man," Reed said. "They don't know about Peter Parker and Mac Gargan and all of that. And this book is focusing on Mac Gargan as Spider-Man."
But before any fans get the idea that Venom will suddenly become heroic as he takes on the role of Spider-Man, Reed said nothing could be further from the truth.
"The villain is the star of the book. And we're not screwing around. It's not like the '90s where Venom had his own book and all of the sudden he's a superhero. It's the villain. Chris Bachalo, who's doing the art, read the script, and his first reply was, 'There's absolutely nothing redeeming about this character,'" Reed said with a laugh. "He was like, 'You don't even have him saving a puppy or anything.'"
Gargan, formerly known as Scorpion, was introduced as Venom in 2005 in Marvel Knights: Spider-Man, becoming part of Norman Osborn's Sinister Twelve after taking on the evil alien symbiote. He later served Osborn as part of the Thunderbolts, where the Venom symbiote was somewhat controlled by electrical implants. And in Dark Avengers #1, Gargan is given a special chemical by Osborn that allows him to appear as a black-suited Spider-Man, now part of the Avengers and living in Avengers Tower.
"Despite the fact that he's been given this label of Spider-Man, he's as much of a villainous sociopath as ever, and now he's got this thing on his skin that wants to be fed constantly," Reed pointed out. "Now he's a hungry sociopath."
Mac Gargan as Spider-Man is all part of 'Dark Reign', the aftermath of Secret Invasion that allowed Norman Osborn to become a government-sanctioned leader and bring his own twisted group of super-powered servants into Avengers Tower.
"The world has gone to a dark place, and Norman's in charge of it now. But there's a lot of comedy -- a lot of dark comedy, I admit -- but there's a lot of comedy in Sinister Spider-Man. And when [Marvel editor] Tom Brennan, who's handling the editing chores, called me up about the script, he said, 'Well this in an interesting peek into your mind,'" Reed said with a laugh. "I said, 'But it was funny, right?' And he said, 'Oh, yeah, it was funny!'"
The idea of humor in a Spider-Man book makes sense, and Reed said Gargan's integration into Peter Parker's world won't stop there as some of the key players from Spidey's world play a role in the story of Sinister Spider-Man.
"We're really seeing the world from Mac's point of view. So we're going to see some of the Dark Avengers. We're going to see just exactly how much Norman does not like what Mac's doing," Reed said. "But then we'll also see the staff of The DB, and they're going to be part of it. And J. Jonah Jameson. By the time book comes out, something very interesting is happening with J. Jonah's life. And Mac Gargan gets involved."
This isn't the first time Reed has dabbled in the Spider-Man Universe, not only incorporating Peter Parker into his last Ms. Marvel storyline, but also writing the recent three-issue mini-series Secret Invasion: Spider-Man.
"I feel like I'm the utility player. I'm the guy on the bench until they need someone in Center Field," Reed laughed.
While his Secret Invasion story was a light-hearted close-up on the then-mysterious Jackpot character, this Spider-Man story is obviously a lot darker. And with Reed's Ms. Marvel title taking a decidedly dark turn last week, the writer admitted that he's been creating a lot of darkness lately.
"Part of it is just where the Marvel Universe has gone since Secret Invasion. But my story with Jackpot was kind of wanting to not be dark for three months," he laughed. "But it's always great to hang out with the bad guys. You don't have to wrap it up at the end of the day and have there be a moral. It's all about, 'We're here to eat people and move on.'"
Yet while there's a new, Osborn-approved Ms. Marvel taking over Reed's title next month, the writer said that book doesn't necessarily compare to what happens in Sinister Spider-Man. Different villains have different reactions to the label of being a hero, he said.
"Writing the Ms. Marvel stuff, I've written it very straight; it's Karla's point of view as she's taking over, but it's not out-and-out villainy. She's here, she's in the Avengers Tower, and she's weird enough that she sees something special in that. She really thinks she's Ms. Marvel now," Reed explained.
"But with Mac, it's just much more about, 'Hey. Look at me. I'm unstoppable.' And he's really unhinged," he said. "His years where he was screwed up as Scorpion were enough, but now he's got this alien symbiote on him and he's even more screwed up. And this thing is loose in New York. And nobody's stopping it. In fact, he's a celebrity. And that's what makes this such an interesting story."