It worked well and was well-received, so why not do it again? Thus Spider-Man/Fantastic, announced Friday at Chicago's C2E2 Mondo Marvel panel. Starting in July, it features, you guessed it, four new Spider-Man and FF encounters, scattered across four distinct timelines in Marvel history. The first issue finds Dr. Doom speaking at an Empire State University peace conference when Namor shows up, looking for revenge, and, of course, Spidey and the FF get involved. And like X-Men/Spider-Man, there's a “mysterious common thread” linking all four issues.
We caught up with Gage via e-mail to discuss what to expect from the series, what other eras will be revisited, and the unifying power of a well-timed “Imperius Rex!”
Newsarama: The first Spider-Man/Fantastic Four issue takes place in the Silver Age―for the hardcore completists out there, can you give us an indication of around what original issues this takes place?
Christos Gage: As best I can recall, I set it soon after FF #40 and Spidey #33. Reed and Sue have recently gotten engaged, and Peter Parker is in his freshman year at college. He's met Gwen Stacy, but things are not going well…she thinks he's stuck up because he has ignored her due to worrying about Aunt May's health problems. It was fun to play with a dynamic between Pete and Gwen that is VERY different from what most fans think of when they recall their relationship!
Nrama: If you can reveal it at this point, in what time period do the other three issues take place―and will we see any other incarnations of the Fantastic Four besides the classic Reed/Sue/Johnny/Ben lineup? Crystal? Luke Cage? Sharon Ventura?
Gage: #2 occurs during the John Byrne era, #3 during the Walt Simonson/Art Adams “New FF” period, and #4 in the present day. In issue #2 the FF's lineup has replaced the Thing with She-Hulk, but other than that it's all the classic roster, in part because each issue will spotlight Spidey's relationship with a different member of the FF.
Nrama: Of those, then, which was your favorite time period to revisit?
Gage: Tough call…I always love revisiting the Silver Age, especially because Mario draws Gwen Stacy so beautifully, but the New FF era was fun too…I'm a sucker for Monster Island.
Nrama: When people think Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four, they think the classic Spider-Man/Human Torch dynamic―how much will that be explored in the mini?
Gage: It will be examined in our first issue, but subsequent issues will focus on Reed, Sue and Ben. I think Dan Slott's Spider-Man/Human Torch miniseries from a few years back did a fantastic job of looking at the Spidey/Torch dynamic in depth…it seemed better to give equal time to the other members of the FF, whose relationships with Spidey have received less attention over the years.
Nrama: What kind of research did you do preparing for this story? Was it any different than how you approached Spider-Man/X-Men?
Gage: No, about the same…I reread a lot of great comics! Ah, the drudgery of my job…
Nrama: Namor plays a role in the first issue, taking on Dr. Doom. What was your take on him? Seems like a fun character to get to work with, especially the Silver Age version.
Gage: He is great fun…”Imperius Rex!” fits perfectly into so many social situations, don't you think? I really got a kick out of writing Namor…and Mario's depiction of him blew me away. He looks regal, powerful, exotic and just a bit alien. As with most things Mario does, it was perfect.Nrama: Same with Dr. Doom―it seems that there's a temptation for anybody, especially for writing the Silver Age incarnation, to write him possibly little over-the-top or goofy. What was your handle on him?
Gage: I hope he doesn't come across as goofy, but the Silver Age Doom to me is a character who's still very confident…heck, let's say arrogant…about his power and his place in the world. He has never been deposed; he is, and for his entire adult life has been, the absolute ruler of his kingdom. Not that he's not confident today, but he's more on guard…he's been deposed, arrested…he's literally been to Hell. He's been laid low and had to claw his way back. In many ways that makes him more dangerous. But the Silver Age Dr. Doom is a man who fully expects that when he says “jump,” the world should ask “how high?” That said, I think I can promise fans a look at Doom that's a bit different from anything they've seen before.
Nrama: What, if anything, can you say about the "common thread" binding the four issues together-is it a plot element, or more thematic?
Gage: It's a character. And that's all I can say. I think savvy fans will realize pretty soon who it is, but I don't want to spoil the surprise for those who don't.
Nrama: Re-teaming with Mario Alberti, how did your chemistry as a writer/artist and rapport as creators develop between the two projects?
Gage: It was great last time…but this time there's probably more of a level of trust, since we have the Spidey/X-Men mini under our belts, and we've had the chance to meet in person. We're comfortable with each other. I know what he's capable of-which is pretty much everything-so if anything, I'm throwing more and more at him! By the end of it he may want to kill me, after all the Atlantean soldiers and sea monsters and whatnot, but it sure comes out looking beautiful.
Nrama: In revisiting past eras, is close attention being paid to staying faithful to the styles and overall feel of the original material's era, or are things mostly modernized?
Gage: I always try to walk the line between preserving the feel of the original era and appealing to the sensibilities of the modern reader. For instance, I avoid things like the expository captions that were common back then, but I try to stay true to the spirit of the stories. The premise of issue #1 is probably a situation that wouldn't work in any other era, but that I think fits with a time when the Sub-Mariner would buy a movie studio just to humiliate the FF (that's FF #9, true believer!). Art wise, Mario is brilliant at capturing the essence of the characters, the timelessness of them, so I think there's no need for him to, say, emulate Jack Kirby's style. Mario's own style is one of the major draws of this book, in my opinion, so I'm glad he's sticking with it!