Heroes Con '09: Spider-Man Readies to Run 'The Gauntlet'


1. a. A form of punishment in which people armed with sticks or other weapons arrange themselves in two lines facing each other and beat the person forced to run between them.

b. The lines of people so arranged.

2. An onslaught or attack from all sides.

3. A severe trial; an ordeal.

Amazing Spider-Man #611

Readers of Amazing Spider-Man have been waiting for the day that all those villains from Spider-Man's past would start showing up again.

And in November, it begins.

As announced this weekend, the writers of Amazing Spider-Man will start bringing back Spider-Man's deadliest foes in stand-alone story arcs that tie together under the label, "The Gauntlet."

While some of Spider-Man's well-known villains are already part of the thrice-monthly title -- including his nemesis Norman Osborn, who is front-and-center in current Dark Reign-related issues -- many of the hero's traditional rogues have been absent since Amazing Spider-Man began its new status quo in January 2008. Along with the new supporting cast that came with the "Brand New Day" changes, the group of writers who produce the comic also introduced readers to several new villains while more many more familiar baddies were noticeably absent.

Beginning with Amazing Spider-Man #611 by Mark Waid, which sees the return of Electro, a series of villainous returns will follow, all tying together under the "Gauntlet" banner and taking the title into 2010.

Newsarama talked to Marvel's Spider-Man editor, Steve Wacker, about what this means for the title and why so many of these villains haven't been seen until now.

Newsarama: Steve, what is "The Gauntlet"?

Steve Wacker: "The Gauntlet" is what we're calling the return of all the villains later in the year. It's kind of like what they did with Dark Reign, where there wasn't just one story called Dark Reign, but it's an over-arcing title that gives you the unifying theme of what's going on.

So while the issues in The Gauntlet aren't all one story -- Mark [Waid]'s still writing his own story, Joe [Kelly]'s still writing his own story -- the subplots going through will have hints of a mystery that's going to grow and grow. And it's going to come to a head in the spring of next year.

NRAMA: What is it that links all the stories together?

SW: On the surface, what you're going to see is that a bunch of the old villains are coming back. So you're going to see the Lizard. You're going to see Electro. You're going to see the Rhino. That's what the Gauntlet is about.

NRAMA: Will there be some unifying theme behind their appearances?

SW: I don't want to give too much away, but it has to do with the Sinister 666 stuff and a few other things.

NRAMA: So is there a link in the motivation for all these villains coming back?

SW: No, it's not like there's a secret bad-guy thing where they say, "alright Electro, you go out and then I'm going to send this guy." That would be the obvious thing to do, and that's not quite what we did.

What is unifying the stories in The Gauntlet is that these threats are building in Spider-Man's life and in Peter Parker's life, and it's going to ultimately end in a sort of personal Gauntlet for Pete.

NRAMA: When does the Gauntlet begin and end?

SW: It starts in November with Issue #611 and the books will be called The Gauntlet through about February or so. But you'll see seeds of it planted before that. Contrary to what people may think or say, our stories flow pretty well into one another, so it really is an ongoing soap opera. Dan [Slott]'s story in #600 leads right into Mark's story in #601, which runs into Fred [Van Lente]'s story in #602. Now, we're trying to be smart about it and give people everything they need to come in and read an individual issue, between either recap pages or the character's dialogue filling in the blanks if you haven't been reading until now. But all these subplots run through everything. Starting next week. Starting with any issue you pick up.

But you're going to really start seeing the seeds of The Gauntlet in Issue #600. There's a story in Issue #600 by Joe Kelly that's a Madame Web story. And you're going to start seeing some hints of what's to come. Starting in #600, there are a couple mysteries that are kind of simmering in the background throughout the year.

NRAMA: So pretty much all the writers will be working on The Gauntlet?

SW: Everybody's got something. The first story in The Gauntlet will be Mark Waid on Electro. And Marc Guggenheim is doing a Rhino story. Everybody's taking a slice of that pie -- all the writers. They've worked together on creating the whole spine of it, and then they've each taken their story. It's the same way we've done it since the beginning. We all worked out a path, but then they each take their chapter and go on their merry way to create it by themselves, but then make sure it's all part of this one path.

NRAMA: Why wait until now to bring back these villains?

SW: They "why" in storytelling is always hard to say, because it's a story choice. But the main reason you haven't seen the villains before this is that we didn't want to lean on the villains. Coming right out the drama of One More Day, it would have been the easy choice to make. We could have said, "Oh, a certain percentage of the readership is angry, so let's have Doc Ock come back right away." It was the easy choice, and it also seemed like the obvious choice. And we also wanted to make sure we really thought it through.

Most of those villains have been so used and abused over the years, just appearing as punching bags. It's like, if you have a new book and you want your hero to look cool, have him beat up on Electro. Or have a story where Rhino's a bumbling idiot and make jokes about him. It was harder to use these characters as any kind of threat anymore, because they'd become such jokes. So we decided to just get them off-stage for a year.

NRAMA: So now that they're back, have the villains been changed a lot?

SW: It's going to be similar to what you saw with Hammerhead. Rhino's going to be the classic Rhino, but we wanted to sit down and think through each of these villains and find out what their aspirations and goals were beyond just beating up Spider-Man and appearing in a two-part story in a comic book. We wanted to give them a motivation and a life. It's basic stuff, but these comic stories we tell are so cyclical that you inevitably get lost in thinking, "Oh my gosh, it'd be so much fun to have Rhino hit our character" and not think through the reasons he's there and the story behind it. You don't have to go through the hard stuff because it's so easy to just have him there.

So we wanted to take the time to kind of let them rest for a little bit. And what we were doing in the background is brainstorming the things that make these characters special, coming up with new motivations for them if we needed it. Some characters were more in need of some love than others were. So it's not like we're just putting blades on the Sandman now. These things make sense with the characters, and they also make sense within the story. And it's all part of the bigger story we're doing with Spider-Man through next year.

For even more on The Gauntlet with Marc Guggenheim and Mark Waid.

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