Dan Slott on Death, Venom and All Things AMAZING SPIDER-MAN
Dan Slott on All Things SPIDER-MAN
**Haven't read Amazing Spider-Man in a while? This article has huge spoilers on several recent developments — proceed with friendly neighborhood caution.**With two full story arcs of his reign as sole Amazing Spider-Man writer now out on shelves, Dan Slott has introduced a lot of new things to the Spider-Man mythos. In the first arc, illustrated by Humberto Ramos, it was (mostly) all positives for our hero: a new job at Horizon Labs, a new girlfriend in Carlie Cooper, and a new Hobgoblin in the form of Phil Urich, who's taken a new role as essentially an evil Peter Parker. The second arc (which featured Fred Van Lente co-writing two issues), illustrated by Stefano Caselli? Not so good for Peter, as he lost his Spider-Sense and failed to stop J. Jonah Jameson's wife, Marla, from being killed during the Spider Slayer attack.
Newsarama talked to Slott mere days before the always-busy writer headed to Australia for the Armageddon Expo, learning more about recent plot developments and Venom's starring role in the title's Point One issue, and talking about what's coming next — including "Spider-Island" and "Infested" — plus this week's Amazing Spider-Man #655, which Slott has dubbed his favorite comic that he's written in his career. [Newsarama note: Portions of this interview previously appeared on Newsarama in the article "Dan Slott: AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #655 'Is Now My Favorite'," published Feb. 23, 2011.]
Dan Slott: [Laughs.] It’s weird, because I read the online reviews, and the ones for #654.1 have been very silly. Everybody reviewing it would say, “I really liked this issue. But I’m giving it a poor grade, because it wasn’t a good Spider-Man Point One. I’m deducting ten points!”
It’s so weird to me, because every person who reviews it says how much they like it. Then they turn around and go, “Eh, but…” “I ordered a steak and you brought me pizza!” It’s like, “OK. I see where you’re coming from.”
I think the Point One thing was strange for us on the Amazing Spider-Man book, because one of the nice things we’ve been hearing about the book is even when we’re in the middle of a storyline, even when you’re coming in at chapter 2 or chapter 3, that we’ve been a very good jump-on point. That we’re very new reader friendly with each issue, even in the middle of arcs. I’m writing it the way I used to read them when I was a kid. Back in the day, you weren’t getting a six-part story that would work nice in a trade; every issue they thought might be somebody’s first. I think we’ve done a good job of that in Amazing. So when they said, “do an entry point issue,” it’s like, every issue on Amazing is an entry point issue.
It was tricky for us, because we work so far ahead, especially with our first three arcs. It was hard to come up with an issue that fit in between #654 and #654, because #654 — spoilers! — has the death of Jonah’s wife, and #655 immediately kicks off with her funeral. How do you weave something through that tiny spot and not take away from what Peter Parker should be feeling or where his story is going? To me, the solution really was Venom. Let’s give a good kickoff for Rick [Remender] and Tony [Moore]’s book. What Venom was going to be doing in the world of Amazing Spider-Man was something that was always in the cards. I had always wanted to take this approach with the character. When we decided to pull the trigger and introduce this all quicker into the books, then it became like, “Oh, dang it, I’m not going to get to be the one to write this.” It was fun for me, and Rick was really nice to let me do it, and jump in and go, “OK, here’s the set-up.” I have so much love for this, and two times a month Amazing Spider-Man is all I can handle. I’ve read the Rick scripts for upcoming Venoms and they’re insane, they’re wonderful. I think the Spider-Man universe is just going to kick everybody’s butt this year, because I look at all the stuff we’ve got planned and all the great books in the Spider-Man umbrella. The secret stuff we’ve got coming up — stuff I’m not going to be writing, because I’m over here doing Amazing twice a month. Rick’s Venom book is so frickin’ cool. I think it’s a murderer’s row of Spider-Man projects.
Slott: Spider-Girl’s been great, and Zeb [Wells] and Clayton [Crain]’s Carnage book is wonderful. We’ve got some really strong books in the Spider-unit, under the watchful eye of Stephen Wacker.
Nrama: So can we expect Amazing and Venom to work pretty closely together in the future?
Slott: The same way Paul [Tobin] has gone off and made his own flavor in Spider-Girl, you’re going to see Rick go off and set his own rules in Venom. But Rick and I have talked about some stuff that you’ll be seeing building between the two books.
Nrama: And Venom was in one of the teasers at the end of the Point One issue.
Slott: Yes, he was. You saw Venom and Black Cat fighting off the Sinister Six. And we’ve announced these “Infested” stories that are shorts that are going to run in Amazing pretty soon. It says on the teaser, it’s the “Path to Spider-Island.” So there’s something called Spider-Island coming, and there’s only so much I can spill.
Slott: Maybe. [Laughs.] I have been taught very well about what can and what can’t be spilled, and when it can be spilled. The only reason I can jump up and down and say “Spider-Island!” is because it is on that teaser.
Nrama: “Infested,” that’s three stories?
Slott: You’re going to start seeing some shorts. Once you read the first one, you’ll see where things are going. I think it’s fair to say that in May the Free Comic Book Day comic will also have some important ties to Spider-Island.
Our Free Comic Book Day issue, with art by Humberto [Ramos] and Carlos [Cuevas] and Edgar [Delgado]; they’re one of our key regular teams on Amazing. It is an honest-to-gosh free issue of Amazing Spider-Man, so better get in line. You’re gonna want it.
Nrama: It’ll fit in closely with everything else going on?
Slott: It’s a done-in-one adventure, but you will see important things.
Slott: Yes. I think I’ve been very fair about this. The language I have used from day one when talking about what was coming up in the second arc is that there would be a “change to the roster of Spider-Man’s superpowers.” And so many people took the bait and went running around going, “What new powers is he gonna get?” Suckas! We were taking one away.
With Spider-Man’s Spider-Sense gone, the world is a dangerous place for him. Someone would come up behind him with a wrench, and he would turn around at the last second and pop him one. People would shoot guns at him, and he’d know exactly where to dodge. We’ve seen him lose his powers all together, and we’ve seen, like, “Green Goblin throws a special bomb that temporarily knocks out his Spider-Sense.” But him just losing his Spider-Sense, just all together, I don’t think we’ve seen that, and it’s very much as if one of us lost our sense of hearing, or smell, or sight. It’s a sense. In some ways, he’s kind of Spider-Sense blind, or Spider-Sense deaf. And he hasn’t had to operate that way since he was 15. This is something he’s lived with for a long time, that’s probably affected him in little ways you don’t realize, on top of the big things. But on the whole, it means that Spider-Man’s world is suddenly way more dangerous.
He’s still Spider-Man; he’s got the proportionate strength, speed of a spider. He can still precariously balance on webs, and websling, and wallcrawl, and all the things we known and love. But suddenly, “Oh no!” Some fan immediately said to me, “You’ve taken away the phrase ‘Spider-Sense is tingling’! That’s important to the character!” It’s really fun, because people are always like, “Oh, this is the same old Spider-Man. Nothing ever changes. They should do something to change it.” Then you do something to change it, and they’re like “Not that! Something else! I meant get him a dog!”
Nrama: Well, Ms. Lion…
Slott: Ms. Lion? That was Aunt May’s dog. There’s no way that was Peter’s dog.
Nrama: So what was the thought process in taking away Spider-Sense? The sake of doing something different, or maybe a notion that the character had become too reliant on that power?
Slott: I think karmically, we’ve had things go really well for Peter recently. Suddenly rolling in the big bucks, and he’s got a great job, and he’s living up to his Peter Parker potential. It wouldn’t be Spider-Man unless the other shoe dropped, unless something was going wrong somewhere else. Suddenly in this latest arc, his Spider-Sense is gone, and he’s had a great failure. Yes, he saved John Jameson. And he brought in the Avengers, and they kept Jonah’s family, friends, Aunt May, everybody safe. But when the story was over and done, he screwed up. When Jonah needed him, he wasn’t able to pull out that one last save, and Marla died.
Over the years, we’ve seen Peter Parker fail as Spider-Man. We’ve seen him fail to save Gwen from the bridge, or Captain Stacy get covered under all the rubble in the Doc Ock fight. There are times when he screws up as Spider-Man, or times when he’s just not there, and people like Jean DeWolff, or Nathan Lubensky, different characters die. Ned Leeds, in his hotel room in Germany. People die, because Spider-Man isn’t Superman. Spider-Man isn’t this all-powerful being that never screws up. The same way Peter has risen the challenge to be the best Peter Parker he can, you’re going to see this hopefully spur on Spider-Man, to be the best Spider-Man he can be. To take his Spider-Man game up a notch. And it’s so much more interesting for him to struggle to be the best hero he can if you set him back a notch. So now he’s trying to be the best Spider-Man he can, and his Spider-Sense is gone.
Nrama: So Marla dying was part of the initial “Big Time” plan?
Slott: We had most of the stories mapped out, for all the way through this year. Things change, because of the publishing schedule, and you find out what other people are doing. Like when I found out Jonathan [Hickman] was killing off Johnny, I was like, “Do you want to use Spider-Man in the FF? Because that could be cool!” There are changes, and things do move around, but the first three arcs were pretty much well and locked.
We hadn’t seen Marla in a while, or prominently.
Nrama: Just when she started being in the book a lot…
Slott: I’ve used her a lot. I had her appear in my opening arc in “Brand New Day,” I had her show up again during the “Face Front” storyline. I’ve used her here and there, even going all the way back to She-Hulk storylines with John Jameson. I think she’s a great character. But it was really important for me, in these first six issues, to really make her more integral into the book. That she’s the one that gets the Jameson boys together. That she’s the one that helps get Peter his job. That she’s the one who gets the Bugle back and makes sure Jonah gives it to Robbie. That she becomes this catalyst for all these positive and good things in Big Time, and then, oh no, she’s gone.
Slott: Yeah. More than any comic I’ve done in my entire career, this one is now my favorite.
You don’t often get to pull out this card, I think you only get to do it once, and I’m going to say it: If you only buy one Dan Slott comic ever, buy this one. This is my favorite. Marcos Martin, I think turned out the work of his career on this one. It’s gorgeous.
Nrama: The preview pages look great.
Slott: That’s just the beginning. As we get pages in from artists — pencils, inks, colors — we’re all so pumped to be doing this. And when you get art coming in the caliber of Humberto Ramos and Stefano Caselli and Marcos Martin, you can’t help but quickly write off an e-mail going, “Oh my god, that looks awesome. Way to go. Love that page.” We’re constantly pumping each other up because we’re all so happy to be doing this. There is a double-page spread in #655 that when I saw it for the first time, words failed me. I did not have enough adjectives, adverbs — I was gobsmacked. Total jaw on the floor. When I finally typed it up, I just thought, “Oh my god, this sounds like complete hyperbole, but I mean this, I honestly mean this, I think this is the most beautiful double-page spread in the 48-year history of Amazing Spider-Man.” I don’t want to make it feel like I’m going to the Mark Millar well — “It’s the greatest thing in the history of mankind!” — but I honestly mean this. It is just gorgeous. Fans will know it when they see it. Steve Wacker really likes teasing fans with art on his Twitter page, showing sneak peeks of things coming up, and I was living in fear that he was going to show this page. Because it’s a double-page spread, and it means that no matter what happens, if you’re a fan, you’re reading the story, it’s a page-turn. There’s no way you’re going to be reading a facing page and have some of it spoiled. It’s a double-page spread. You’re going to open it, and I guarantee you, no one’s going to read the page when they open it. They’re just going to stop and look at the art. And they’re going to pore over the page, and they’re just going to look at everything, and they’re going to ignore all the words for a couple of minutes. And then read the page. Because it’s so pretty. It’s just so well done.
I’m so happy with how #655 has come together. Everybody killed on this book. Everyone on editorial, the coloring by Muntsa [Vicente] is gorgeous, Joe Caramagna’s lettering. This is a perfect book. I’m so happy with this book.
Nrama: One thing that seems noteworthy — the preview pages released last week are all silent.
Slott: There is an extended silent sequence in #655, where it’s all being told purely by the storytelling magic of Marcos Martin. The coloring is just gorgeous — just that shot of Jonah in bed. Joe Caramanga when he was lettering it, at one point said to me, “You’re not nice,” because of something that happened in the issue. “You made me feel bad.” There’s some heartbreaking stuff in there.
One of the things people know me for is that I love continuity. My take on continuity, it’s the bedrock that we stand. Stories should not be wallowing in continuity. Stories shouldn’t be obsessing about continuity, and the story should never be about continuity. But continuity should be there for you and to help you tell the best story you can. We have decades and decades and decades of brilliant storytelling from the masters. And if we want, it’s there for us to stand on the shoulders of giants, to reach different heights. It’s all building blocks. If you’re a Spider-Man fan from any generation, there is something in #655 for you. It is just a complete celebration of the 48-year history of Spider-Man. It’s all in this comic. Thirty pages of just one big ol’ sloppy wet kiss; a big love letter to Spider-Man.
Slott: Yes. Aww.
Nrama: That issue has multiple artists on it, right?
Slott: We’re going to see at this private family wake, they’re sharing stories about Johnny. And not just any stories, they’re sharing Spidey/Torch stories. One of the artists who comes by to help tell one of these stories is my Spider-Man/Human Torch pal Ty Templeton, so we get to have a reunion and do a Spidey/Torch story, which is just a blast.
I love that issue. #657 is great.
Slott: Yep! Spidey officially in the FF, with Javier Pulido doing a guest issue.
There are story beats and things and moments you always want to do, like you have your perfect Hulk bit, or whatever. I have so many things I’ve wanted to do with the Fantastic Four for years, and with Jonathan on FF, he’s killing on that book. And if you know Jonathan, you know he meticulously plans things for the future, and everything he’s building and building and building. Part of me knows I don’t stand a chance in hell of getting to write FF in the next how many years, because I’m pretty sure Jonathan has it planned out for like issue #700. That’s how his brain works! It’s amazing. Knowing that full well, I took one of my prized things I’ve always wanted to do in FF, and it’s in #658. I get to take one of my best shots from my holster, and to see Javier Pulido draw it, what a joy.
We’ve got some great stuff coming up in Spidey. Great art, big ideas. Spidey joining the FF, and building up to Spider-Island. We’ve got some cool surprises and things coming up.
Slott: I think it makes things harder on Spider-Man. [Laughs.] Poor guy!
Nrama: That too! Readers always wonder how these characters can handle so much, will that be addressed at all in the book?
Slott: You will see something like that in issue #665. [Laughs.] That’s how far we have to work. Well, we’re doing two a month.
Nrama: And then there’s three in May, not counting Free Comic Book Day.
Slott: Just now in February, we put out one a week. I’m doing two issues in May, where one issue is the Free Comic Book Day. And Chris Gage is coming in and doing two additional issues with [Avengers] Academy.
Slott: Yeah, we’re pals. The stuff that’s happening in his story is seeded in some of mine, and plays off stuff, and we will touch on stuff that he’s doing in his issues. It’ll all flow together.
Academy’s great. I love Finesse, she’s my favorite.
Nrama: That’s probably all you’re willing and/or able to talk regarding the future at this point, but there’s a couple of more things I wanted to ask about — you’ve mentioned in the past a new vigilante character showing up in Spider-Man’s world sometime in the first year of “Big Time.” Is that still the plan?
Slott: You will see that character in the not-too distant future.
Nrama: One of the most notable elements of “Big Time” is the development of Phil Urich as not only Hobgoblin but kind of an anti-Peter Parker. Can we expect to keep seeing him in the near future as well?
Slott: We shall see.
Slott: You will… [Pause.] It’s stuff coming up. [Laughs.]
Nrama: It didn’t look good for Anti-Venom in that one panel.
Slott: No, it didn’t. We better sell a lot of Anti-Venom action figures quickly, that’s all I’m saying.
Nrama: And Peter discovering the person in the mystery lab at Horizon…
Slott: [Gasps.] The mystery lab! Who’s Number Six? Who’s Number Six?
Nrama: He didn’t necessarily look upset in that panel — surprised, sure, but maybe not like it was something horrible. But that could just be my own interpretation.
Slott: Eh? Eh? Hmm? You’re not getting anything out of me!