Guggenheim on Spider-Man and ...Flash Thompson?

Guggenheim on Spidey and ...Flash?

The "day" isn't exactly "brand new" anymore.

More than half a year and 22 issues after it first appeared, the name "Brand New Day" has dropped off the cover of Marvel's Amazing Spider-Man. Originally used in January to announce the new direction for the thrice-monthly title featuring a no-longer-married Spider-Man, "Brand New Day" enters a new era without that moniker, having evolved into an established status quo for the character and title.

With the "brand new" part behind us, Newsarama is talking to some of the people who create Amazing Spider-Man to get a status report – and find out what's coming up for the webslinger. We begin with Marc Guggenheim, who started on the title soon after signing a Marvel exclusive, just after finishing his much-talked-about arc on DC's Flash comic. Since then, Guggenheim's not only had his Eli Stone television show for ABC picked up for a second season, but he's among the writers working on a new Green Lantern movie. While all those Hollywood projects usually spell a departure from comics, Guggenheim appears committed to the Spider-Man team, as he's writing issue #574 and the Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1, both for release in October.

In this first of two discussions with the creator, Newsarama talked to Guggenheim about his work on Spider-Man, what he thinks of fan reaction to the new direction, and why he believes his "Whatever Happened to Flash Thompson?" issue in October is one of the best comics he's ever written.

Newsarama: Now that we're well into this run on Spider-Man, what do you think of the reaction by fans to Brand New Day?

Marc Guggenheim: When we initially went into this, we knew there would be a segment of the readership who wouldn't embrace what happened in One More Day and would be very cynical about it. But I have to admit, I'm a little surprised by some of it. I thought that, now that we're just about a year into working on it, I thought people would say, "OK, we're over One More Day. We've moved on." But I still read about it. People are still talking about it. And I know it's not quite a year. It's seven months. But I have to say the lingering after-affect of reactions to One More Day has surprised me on how long it's lasted.

But we always felt that quality would win out -- that eventually, quality would win over all the people who were upset. And I see that it's slowly happening. The letters and emails we get were 2-to-1 or 3-to-1 in favor of what we're doing. A lot of the emails begin or end with, "I was really angry after reading One More Day, and I sort of dropped the book, but I gave you guys a chance and I'm really glad I did." Or "you really won me over despite myself." So that's really gratifying. I would like to see the book get to the point where everyone's like, OK, we recognize that we're not going back, that this is the new status quo, and they'll embrace it like the writers have. Because we're really loving the work on this title. And I hope people will give it a chance and see what we see.

NRAMA: You have an issue coming up in October that's all about Flash Thompson. What can you tell us about the issue?

MG: That issue, I'm really, really proud of. Barry Kitson is drawing it. When I turned in the final draft of the script, Steve Wacker said that this is the best comic book script I've ever written. I was really flattered until I realized that was damning with faint praise. [laughs]

NRAMA: It's a story that just takes one issue to tell. There have been quite a few issues like that during the Brand New Day run. Are those difficult to pull off?

MG: I think there's a certain artform to doing a stand-alone issue -- one that sort of feels like you're getting a complete meal. They're really hard to pull off properly. But when you do pull them off, they become this very special thing. I was really glad that I got a chance to do this issue, because I feel that way about it.

NRAMA: So when you guys write these stand-alone issues, do you write them so that they can go anywhere?

MG: Not always. But in this case, it's a single, stand-alone issue that isn't required to come before or after another arc so it can be moved around like a chess piece. So it got moved around a couple times. I wrote it without regard to what it would be leading up to or what it would be following. I just wanted to write a really, really good Spider-Man story.

NRAMA: So tell us about the story.

MG: It's a Spider-Man story where Spider-Man does not appear.

NRAMA: Marc, that's not exactly a big selling point.

MG: [laughs] Well, when I pitched it, I knew it was a little crazy. But the idea behind it was that you can actually do a Spider-Man story and have it be about Spider-Man without actually having Spider-Man appear in it. And the second piece of it was that one of the things that we had decided way back in our first Spider-Man summit was not only the new characters we were introducing, but we thought through all the previous supporting characters. And of course, Flash's name came up. And someone threw out the idea that during the Vietnam War, it had been established that he was in the army. So what if we revealed that Flash has been spending time in Iraq now? That was something we laid in over the various Brand New Day issues -- the notion that Flash has been in Iraq. So basically, this issue catches us up with him. We show what he's been up to over there.

NRAMA: OK, but wait... you said the issue was still all about Spider-Man. What does Flash being in Iraq have to do with Spider-Man?

MG: Well, my original working title for the issue was, "What Would Spidey Do?" It sort of goes off the notion that Flash was the original Spider-Man fan. He was Spider-Man's first and biggest Spider-Man fan. And he remains a Spider-Man fan. So the idea is that when the going gets tough, Flash takes inspiration from what Spider-Man has done in the past. He tries to live up to him. In the moments when Flash is called upon to be a hero in times of war, he calls upon Spider-Man's inspiration to help him be the kind of hero he has to be. So the story is a very simple one insofar as Flash is in Iraq, in the middle of a firefight, and as he's fighting, we'll occasionally flash back to key moments in Spidey history that he's drawing inspiration from. So that's how we end up with a Spider-Man story that Spider-Man doesn't appear in.

NRAMA: And you said this issue was something you pitched?

MG: Yeah. I pitched it during one of our brain trust conference calls. It was one of those ideas that literally came full blown into my head, and I just threw it out there and thought, 'Oh, they're never going to go for this.' And everyone really embraced it.

When published, it will be the most provocative issue I've ever written. I don't know if I agree with Steve that it's the best issue I've ever written, but it's the most provocative.

Check back tomorrow when we talk with Guggenheim more about his work on Amazing Spider-Man, as well as his upcoming work on Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 and the new character Jackpot.

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