Burying Spider-Man? Mark Waid on Spidey
Talking Spider-Man With Mark Waid
With experience as an editor and writer on some of the most recognizable characters in comics, Mark Waid's got a resume of work in the comic book industry that's cast a pretty wide net.But one character he never really got to sink his teeth into is Spider-Man. As Waid told us back in April, he really only got to touch the character during alternate universe stories or special circumstances and team-ups. So although he's got a "day job" nowadays as Editor-in-Chief at Boom! Studios, he couldn't resist the chance to become part of the Amazing Spider-Man "brain trust" when his former 52 editor at DC, now-Spider-Man-Editor Steve Wacker, asked him to give it a try. Readers got their first look at his work on the series in a back-up story about former Venom host Eddie Brock in issue #568, and as November solicitations have announced, his first full story hits in Amazing Spider-Man #578 with pencils by Marcos Martin.
As part of our ongoing look at Spider-Man – now that we're past the half-year mark for the Brand New Day era of the character – we talked to Amazing Spider-Man newcomer Mark Waid about his work on the title so far, what he thinks of the Brand New Day direction, and a mysterious "new character" back-up story he's got coming up in October. Newsarama: Readers got their first peek at your work on Amazing Spider-Man last week in a story about Eddie Brock with art by Adi Granov. How did that story come about? Mark Waid: It was a lucky circumstance, first off, to find a window in Adi's schedule where he could do it. It was something where Marvel knew they wanted to make some sort of a splash with that issue because it was the relaunch of the Venom concept and the whole "New Ways to Die" and John Romita Jr. coming back. So we talked about me doing some sort of back-up story, but we didn't really know what that would be. And then when I read the plot to that issue and the next issue, which comes out this week, there's a little bit of a gap in there where I started to focus on Eddie Brock and realized there's room to get in that character's head and make him a little more sympathetic because he's going to be a big player in the Spider-Man universe in the months to come, not as Venom but as Eddie Brock. NRAMA: It brought us up to speed with him and his status, right? MW: Yeah. I mean, we could have done a one-page text piece that said, "Here's where Eddie Brock is now. He's got cancer and here's what's happening with him." But that's not what comics do; that's what Wikipedia does. Our job was trying to give you a little bit more of what's going on in this character's head. And the level of despair to which he'd sunk, and then this sort of seeming miracle cure out of nowhere that cured the most heinous disease known to the human race. And what happens next to Eddie because of it. NRAMA: Hearing you talk about catching up with Eddie Brock and having talked Monday with Marc Guggenheim about catching up with Flash Thompson – both of them stories where Spider-Man doesn't appear – is the new post-Brand New Day status of the Spider-Man universe providing an opportunity for more up-close, even intimate stories about side characters because of the fact that we need to catch up with people? MW: Well, I think it's less a case of that and more to do with the fact that Spider-Man has, arguably, the best supporting cast in all of comics, and he has forever -- from Jonah to Mary Jane to Harry to the Daily Bugle crew to any number of people who have appeared in Spider-Man's life over the years, not to mention the private lives of the people like Eddie Brock and Flash Thompson and characters like that. There's just so much rich material there, and they're all such great characters that, while I don't think anyone's clambering to buy a spin-off book just about those guys, I think there are certainly stories to be told about those people. NRAMA: Let's talk about what you have coming up in November. We've talked to you before about how you were participating in Spider-Man "brain trust" meetings and you immediately latched onto the character of J. Jonah Jameson. Your story in November leads to us seeing that character, right? MW: Yeah. And J. Jonah Jameson's personal stake in this underground disaster that Spider-Man has to deal with. The basic set-up, without giving away too much, is that Peter is on a subway train out of Brooklyn, and there's a disaster that collapses the tunnel around the train, but it's not natural. Earthquakes don't happen in New York; there must be something more to it. And if so, who's behind it? And more importantly, why would you hit this specific subway train? So Spidey basically has to lead a group of survivors to safety somehow from underneath the East River, and doing so, he comes across a character who will be important to the Spider-Man mythos in the months to come. NRAMA: So.... what does this have to do with J. Jonah Jameson? MW: Well... [laughs] that's what you have to read the story for! NRAMA: I was waiting for you to get to him! MW: I know! But I realized as I got into it that I couldn't say more without giving it all away. NRAMA: But for people who may not have read our conversation last time because of all the news from New York Comic Con, you're hoping to play with the J. Jonah Jameson character in upcoming stories, right? MW: Yeah. Some within this story, but also I would love to after this story. Jonah's just my favorite character in all of comics. He's just so angry all the time. And like I've said before, I think he's best when he's played almost exclusively for comedy. J.K. Simmons got him dead-bang perfect in the Spider-Man movies. It's that constant, seething, angry but funny skinflint of a guy who's making Spider-Man's life miserable. And the delight of watching that Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd relationship between them as Spidey enjoys needling Jonah is just a joy to write. NRAMA: We've seen you writing Eddie Brock and next you'll be exploring J. Jonah's character a little. Is there anyone else that we'll see Mark Waid taking a closer look at in future stories? MW: There's nobody I specifically have my crosshairs set on, but I've always had a soft spot in my heart for Betty Brant, so we will see. As things look right now, if the stars stay in alignment, there will also be a short eight-pager in issue #573 by me which guest stars one of the newer heroes in the Marvel Universe, in that person's first team-up with Spider-Man. NRAMA: With your day job as Editor-in-Chief at Boom!, how difficult has it been for you to participate in the Spider-Man team, or does this comic and its rotating teams turn out to be fairly ideal because of your schedule? MW: Exactly. This comic is very ideal because of my schedule; I don't have to be there every week producing stories. I'm part of the email chain, and I'm flattered by that. And that's where my nights and weekends go. But I can just about balance that time. If the workload were any larger, it would start to cascade down and everything would crumble. But for the time being, having that ability to visit Spidey's world as part of the rotation is the perfect set-up. NRAMA: As you saw in Marc's interview, we're asking how various Spider-Man creators feel about the reaction to Brand New Day. You're new to the scene, but do you have an opinion on it that you want to share, since you've been talking to these guys for a few months and participating in what they're trying to do? Do you think it's a good direction for Spider-Man? MW: I actually think it's really a good, solid direction. It does exactly what they set out to do, which was re-establish the books as being about Peter Parker, perennial loser, who is not married. They're very careful and very respectful, whether the hardcore fans believe it or not; the team that I've seen on the Spider-Man books is very respectful toward them in terms of not going out of their way to thumb their nose at the readership, or try to make fun of them or mock their concern. Everybody who works on these books understands that it was a gamble to take this direction. Everybody on these books understands why there's that slowly diminishing minority of fans who believe that Spider-Man comics are no good anymore because we got rid of the marriage. Everybody gets that and understands why they're so attached to it. But we've set the course now, so the only thing we can do is tell the best stories we possibly can. NRAMA: And are you going to be a part of the Spider-Man team for awhile, Mark, or is this just a temporary thing where you'll move on to something else soon? MW: I'll stay as long as the door's open. It's always a delight to work with Steve Wacker. While working with Marcos Martin has been a dream of mine ever since I first saw his artwork in Spain years and years ago when he was trying to break in, there are so many other guys in the rotation that I would love to work with – Barry Kitson and J.R.Jr. and guys like that. So hopefully, if I stick around long enough, I'll be able to work my way through the ranks.