Scarlet Spider is back. Precisely what that means, though, isn't quite as clear.
Marvel's Spider-Man panel Friday evening at New York Comic Con brought word that — as a recent teaser suggested — writer Christopher Yost and artist Ryan Stegman are teaming on a new Scarlet Spider ongoing series, to debut in January. The identity of this Scarlet Spider remains a mystery — as it spins out of the yet-to-wrap "Spider-Island" event — but since that story involves everyone in New York City getting spider-powers, there's no shortage of candidates.
Newsarama spoke with both Yost and Stegman (who, at the NYCC panel, said the character will be appearing without his trademark hoodie) to try and find more about the upcoming new series, the collaboration between the two creators, and their thoughts on the Clone Saga — the still-controversial '90s story arc that birthed the original Scarlet Spider, Ben Reilly. (Who Marvel isn't ruling out as the person behind the mask in Scarlet Spider, despite degenerating into goo about 15 years ago.)
Newsarama: Chris, we know that the new Scarlet Spider ties in closely with the end of "Spider-Island" — which hasn't been released yet — so at this point, is the identity of the new Scarlet Spider remaining a mystery, or can we talk about it?
Christopher Yost: No, it's a secret. We can talk around it, but that is something that I think even at the convention is not going to be put out there.
Nrama: The natural initial implication would be Ben Reilly somehow coming back, but apparently that's not a guarantee.
Yost: But we're not ruling it out!
Nrama: Fair enough! Looking more at the general concept of the Scarlet Spider itself, obviously the story where the character originally appeared, the Clone Saga, is greatly polarizing to this day. Were you a fan of the storyline?
Yost: I was there for the thick of it. It's one of the, as you say, polarizing Spider-Man stories, but it had a lot of amazing stuff in it. What I really loved about it is you got to see everything Spider-Man was through a different lens. Would Spider-Man be Spider-Man if he had a different life experience? Instead of family and friends around him, being on the run and hunted and in exile. But he's still a hero. Is heroism more than just your DNA? The whole Clone Saga was great for that, because you got to see it go every direction. You got to see Ben Reilly, you got to see Kaine, you got to see Spidercide, you got to see all these insane characters. It really got to the core of, "What is Spider-Man?" "Who is Spider-Man?" "What makes Spider-Man who he is?"
Nrama: Ryan, how about yourself?
Ryan Stegman: My take is that the story is interesting and fun. But my take on it is skewed because I only have recently read it. I wasn't reading comics until the tail end of the Clone Saga. So I didn't have that feeling of, "Oh my gosh, they're messing up my favorite character and it's never gonna be fixed." Because now it's been fixed.Nrama: So is the Scarlet Spider series going to be tying in closely with the rest of the Spider-Man books, or kind of doing its own thing for a while?
Yost: It's going to be kind of doing its own thing for a while. It does spin right out of Spider-Island. Obviously there's a lot of characters getting Spider-Man powers in Spider-Island; things are getting crazier. Characters are returning, characters start getting powers. Even old supporting characters — we just saw a preview of Mary Jane getting powers. It's great for me, because [Scarlet Spider] could be anybody.
I think what Dan Slott has done in Spider-Island is great, because much like the Clone Saga, if everyone has Spider-Powers, what makes Peter Parker special? And something does. He's more than just his powers.
Nrama: Setting-wise, it sounds like the story isn't going to be staying in one place for very long, correct?
Yost: I think after Spider-Island, Scarlet Spider's motivation is to generally get away from New York, to get out of all that insanity, and start heading south to get out of the country. It's kind of the journey of Scarlet Spider to get away from it all. But as is want to happen, life kind of gets in the way, and a large portion of the story is going to be set in Houston, Texas.
Nrama: Which is pretty unexplored territory within the Marvel Universe.
Yost: Steve Wacker kind of came up with the idea that the United States is a big place, and in the Marvel Universe, 99 percent of it takes place in New York. So let's get somebody out of there. And this character has large reason to not be in New York. It's kind of refreshing. You can get to give a great city kind of a Marvel Universe spin.
Nrama: And it keeps in the tradition of the original Scarlet Spider, who did his own fair share of wandering.
Yost: It certainly does, doesn't it?
Nrama: Are we going to see a lot of new characters coming into the series, then, since the location is a different one? New villains? New supporting cast?
Yost: You're going to see it all. You're going to see an entirely new supporting cast, you're going to get a new villain just to kick everything off. There's going to be some older heroes and older villains showing up. It's going to be stuff you don't see every day, for sure.
Nrama: So, Ryan, is it fair to say then that the locale and new characters gives you a high amount of visual creative freedom?
Stegman: Absolutely! Aside from getting to draw awesome webs all over the place, getting to create and design new characters is the most exciting thing I can imagine. Chris and I plan to create a lot of 'em too. We will still have plenty of Marvel characters in there, but creating new ones is very liberating.
As for Houston, I've been doing a lot of research on what exactly the city looks like. I'm also trying to book a trip down there next month to check it out and get a feel for it. Because I'm a nerd for accuracy on stuff like that. New York has a specific feel to it that I'm very aware of because I've been there a lot and I've also seen a lot of renditions of it in comics. But Houston is a bit more open. So hopefully I can convey the difference.
Nrama: Any chance that the new Scarlet Spider, whoever it may be, will retain some of the cool gimmicks used by the original — like impact webbing and stingers?
Yost: We have very exciting plans when it comes to Scarlet Spider, as far as costume and powers. There's fun to be had, and you're going to be seeing a bunch of exciting stuff. It's going to be new but feel kind of shockingly familiar.
Nrama: Ryan Stegman is on art for the series. How has working with him been thus far?
Yost: Ryan is amazing. I'm looking at pages from him now. They're blowing all of us away. We were lucky to get him — I think a few editors were fighting over him. He's knocking it out of the park. He did an issue of Amazing Spider-Man, he's done some covers. He's got a book out now — Fear Itself: Hulk vs. Dracula — which is so much fun. All of that is just getting even better on this book.
He's also just got a ton of ideas. Everything I put in the script, he makes better. He really brings a ton to it.
Nrama: Ryan, how has teaming with Chris been for you?
Stegman: Coming into working with Chris, I hadn't read his work! I suspected that he was good, because fans seemed to like him. But now that I've read a couple scripts by him, I realize that he's great. I absolutely love what he's done so far.
And working with him has also been awesome. Chris is from Michigan originally, which is where I live now. Apparently he grew up really close to where I grew up. So he came back to visit his family recently and we got to meet up. We hit it off immediately and we've been collaborating on ideas ever since. And he's been very open to changes in the storytelling etc. It's just awesome. I think I have a man-crush on him if you can't tell.
Nrama: So, Chris, correct me if I'm wrong, but this is your first ongoing series at Marvel that you're writing solo, right?
Yost: Yeah! It is. I'm really excited about it. I did Red Robin over at DC, and that was kind of my first ongoing solo thing, but for all the years I've been at Marvel, this is my first ongoing, solo book. I've done a ton of miniseries and one-shots and al that, but this is a big one.
Nrama: And though the identity of Scarlet Spider, can we perhaps establish if it's a new character or an established one?
Yost: It is definitely one of those things. He or she is, or possibly is not, a new character.Nrama: How long has the series been in the works?
Yost: Remembering when that burning hoodie teaser came out?
Nrama: Yeah, this year's Comic-Con in San Diego.
Yost: A little bit before that.
Nrama: Though there's clearly a lot that you still can't talk about, what else should fans know at this point about Scarlet Spider?
Yost: It's one of those things, like I'm working on Battle Scars right now with a mystery character, and it's one of those things that are just hard to talk about. The bottom line is, Scarlet Spider is a character with a lot of history and a lot of baggage. There's a lot of '90s revival, and before that was '80s revival, but some of these concepts are great. The lessons of Spider-Man, just seen from a different point of view. Having a character on the run, you get to do some of the things that you just can't do with Spider-Man. Scarlet Spider is more of an open playing field.
You're going to get a lot of the Spider-Man goodness, but you're going to see it from a different perspective, and you're going to be able to do a lot of things that you just can't do with Spider-Man.
The Point One story in November really kind of kicks it off. Spider-Island kind of sets up the concept, and then Point One really gets the journey going.
Nrama: So for fans of the original Scarlet Spider, no matter who this one might turn out to be, there's a lot of recognizable elements in there?
Yost: Yeah. A lot of people really liked the spider element, and a lot of people really liked the scarlet element of it — and we're going to bring both of those things to the table.
Nrama: Though based on the Point One teaser, the costume doesn't look quite as scarlet as it was before.
Yost: There's a special situation that comes up. That's basically a costume under civilian clothes. That is not the final version of the costume. Or is it? [Laughs.] No, it's not.
I've been working on X-Men stuff forever. I love the X-Men. Then at the same time, people know me for this kind of hyper-violent, people dying, kind of thing. At the same time, I've been able to work on Avengers animated, and that is a much more superhero thing. You're going to see the best of both worlds. For the three or four people that actually follow me, I think Red Robin is a good example of something different I can bring rather than just mutant angst or cartoons.
Nrama: And you've gone on record as being a huge Spider-Man fan.
Yost: Spider-Man is, in fact, my favorite character. To be able to play in that sandbox, it's pretty great.
It's funny, because when Craig and I worked on X-Men books, we always wrote it as if it were the flagship title. So I will be writing Scarlet Spider as if it is the flagship Spider-Man title at Marvel. No offense to Mr. Dan Slott.
Nrama: And the series starts in January, right?
Yost: Yeah. Point One comes out first week of November, and that's going to answer a lot of questions. And everybody should be following Spider-Island, because that's the genesis of the whole thing. You've got the Jackal, Mary Jane getting powers, Carlie getting powers, all manner of people in Peter Parker's world getting powers. It's going to be a fun ride.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!