UPDATED: Checking in With Steve Wacker on Amazing Spider-Man
Steve Wacker on Amazing Spider-Man
Updated: Click on the arrow to the right to check out exlcusive preview art.
Over a year ago, Marvel announced that Amazing Spider-Man would come out three times a month with editor Steve Wacker at the helm. By the time the thrice-monthly title started in January, fans found out that it wouldn't include the character's long-time marriage, but would instead take Spider-Man in a direction called "Brand New Day."Before the title started down its "brand new" path with Amazing Spider-Man #546, Newsarama talked to Wacker about what readers could expect from the comic. Now that the editor has overseen more than half a year and over 22 issues of Amazing Spider-Man – and as the title drops the "Brand New Day" moniker – we're checking back with Wacker again as part of our ongoing look at the people behind the title's creation.
With his Spider-Man title two issues into a high-profile story by Dan Slott and John Romita Jr. called "New Ways to Die," and with this week beginning a spin-off series called Secret Invasion: Spider-Man, Wacker took time to look back at what Brand New Day has accomplished for the title and what's to come in the webslinger's future. And as he often does in Newsarama interviews, Wacker starts with his own introduction. Here's Steve.... WAIT, DON’T TYPE ANGRILY YET!! – Look, I don’t know why they asked me to do this interview. I’m sick of hearing from me too. I got enough work to do and I ain’t looking to add to it. So before you start with the “they’re in damage control!!” stuff blame Vaneta for e-mailing me in the middle of flipping between Project Runway and Biden’s speech. If even seeing the word SPIDER makes your blood boil, this probably ain’t the interview for you. Go check out the Best Shots or the latest Star Wars on the Wii article or something. And if you’re mad because they’ve already run a couple other Spidey articles in the last couple days, don’t come complainin’ to me because I’m as surprised as you are. They send these things to me and I respond because like Matt Brady I’m a swell, relatively clean guy who types one letter at a time just like most of you. Truth is, you’re probably better off reading Waid’s again. I’m still trying to figure out why this interview couldn’t be done with a married Spidey! (hey - how do I do that eye-roll thing here?) Okay, let’s get to it… Newsarama: Right. Earlier this year, you'd told Newsarama that the changes brought on by One More Day were challenging everyone that even got near them. Has it been a challenge for the creative team behind Amazing Spider-Man? Steve Wacker: There were challenges for everyone, I think, particularly when it came to figuring out any continuity snags. I can’t speak for all the creators involved, but I’d suspect that we all had some things that challenged our own sensibilities that didn’t bother someone else on the crew. I’ve said many times now that people take this character very personally and internalize him a lot, so everyone involved as a creator or a reader has those touchstones that seem like the most primal element of the character, but that someone else might look at as totally unimportant. Overall, though, I’d say the thing we all shared was the vision for the tone of Amazing, making sure that it felt like a comic book, a chummy atmosphere thick with the those kinds of twists and payoffs that comics really do best. NRAMA: The tone and direction of the comic changed when you took over as editor. As sort of a status report, did that work the way you'd hoped, and what parts of that direction do you think worked best? SW: This is pretty much the comic I envisioned in my head in terms of the way we’re presenting it. It’s got an array of covers that I think have some meat on the bones and feel important to the story that you’re reading, it’s got a recap page that‘s more than just a block of text (thanks to assistant editor Tom Brennan), we’ve opened up the vault to bring back editorial boxes and thought balloons when appropriate, and we’ve had a letters page in every issue. As for what’s worked best, I’m partial to my letter column since it’s now the home to some of the most passionate and nigh-reasonable fans around as well as a haven for thinly-veiled insults about my editor in chief and my barely-paid assistant. However, I think the broader mission of allowing the writers and creators to open up their comic book toolbox a bit and use some devices that have become sort of verboten since 1986 is really what I think has worked well for us. NRAMA: Is the removal of Brand New Day from the cover indicative of any change to the title? SW: No. It just felt like long enough. We kept it longer than originally planned due to the request of several retailers who felt like they could still use the branding to drive people towards the book, but it was never the intent that Brand New Day was a set 18 part story or anything like that. NRAMA: How much has the publishing schedule of three times a month driven the structure and pacing of the stories in Amazing Spider-Man? Is that working? SW: That’s really a writing question, and this schedule mostly affects what artists I put on a story. The stories themselves take as long as they take and I trust my writers to know what they need. The two exceptions that I can think of offhand where I set down any sort of rule are: 1) The first four months where I asked specifically that the guys all craft three-issue stories. 2) ASM #568 featuring the return of Freak. This was originally all wrapped up in Bob’s first three-parter, but at my request he went back in and made the final fight a separate issue because it all felt like it was going to be too cramped with so much action. As for whether or not it’s working: I’m fine with the schedule on Mondays and hate it on Fridays. NRAMA: Since this is a unique schedule in the industry, do you think this thrice-monthly schedule could be used with other comics? Should it? SW: It’s relatively unique at the moment, but as I’ve pointed out on many occasions, Mike Carlin and his Superman crew really pioneered this stuff in the '80s and '90s, starting at three times a month and then moving to 4 times and finally to 52 times a year. Their method was different than ours with one team of creators picking up where a different team had left off in the previous issue sort of like a baton pass, but essentially it was the same sort of set-up that Mike and his crew handled beautifully. I don’t know why anyone else would want to subject themselves to this, but I suppose it can work on any of the bigger characters or teams who are already headlining several books. It’d be interesting to see it done with a team book and I nominate X-Men, so go bother Axel. NRAMA: Looking back at the creative team that was in place when this run began, there have been a few changes. Why? Was that the plan all along, and are there more changes coming? SW: Art wise, it’s been pretty much as planned. We knew very early on that McNiven and Salvador were moving onto other big projects, but those guys gave us a really strong launch. We got Kitson earlier than expected after The Order, so that was a pleasant surprise. And Johnny was always in place to come on for New Ways to Die to give us a nice summer bang. As for the writers, I wouldn’t say it was the plan, but we sort of knew we were renting Bob and Zeb’s scriptwriting time and that at some point, we’d be bringing some other voices in. We had the guys in place for a year though, so it’ not as if there were any rash moves. And yes, there will always be some new creators coming in as schedules either open or close. Throughout any changes though, we have the Brain Trust set up ground rules and help keep an eye on the larger story since I will sometimes get lost in the details of getting the book out. NRAMA: What goals did you set out to achieve as a team during the first half-year of Brand New Day, and have you achieved those? Are there any particular achievements of which you're most proud? SW: I’m most proud that the book has been met with universal acclaim from Spider-Fans everywhere and I couldn’t be happier! Truthfully, I think if Marvel Comics can ship a three-times-a-month book on time for a year that’s enough accomplishment and a testament to the hard work the creators at every level have been doing on this comic. NRAMA: Is the tone/make-up of the comic we saw during the first half-year of Brand New Day going to continue to be the direction going forward? Or will we see the comic evolve somewhat as Peter and his life evolves? SW: Damn, that question is smarter than me. We are going in a direction that, as of my calendar, now takes us to about November of next year and I don’t really foresee the tone changing to any set direction. The individual stories will dictate the tone. NRAMA: Interaction with the Marvel Universe as a whole has been kept to a minimum in this title. Why? Are there plans for that to change within the title? SW: We needed a bubble to have some room to introduce a lot of new elements. When you look back over the last several years, the book has gone from one crossover event to another and become very much the book you went to to get the story of the Marvel Universe (and there’s nothing at all wrong with that). The marching orders I received and agreed with were to make his book fly on its own for awhile. We were asking people to dedicate 9 bucks a month right out of the gate for this hare-brained scheme, so telling them they also had to buy some other books on top of that to keep up with our story didn’t appeal to anyone, though having it tie directly into Marvel’s big events would have definitely stacked the sales deck So we got a lot of flack from some quarters who thought our stories were taking place in a bubble because they were, in a sense, but the book just needed some time to itself. The bubble’s starting to disappear though. We’ve got an exciting three-part Secret Invasion mini by Brian Reed and new penciling sensation Marco Santucci that started this week and obviously Norman and the Thunderbolts are appearing in the main book right now. Plus there’s more coming once the Skrulls take over the Fantastic Fo—oops. NRAMA: Are there any plans in place to address the Peter/MJ relationship further in Amazing Spider-Man? SW: Yes. She’s not gone, just different Summer 2009 – Meet Barry Jane. “Face it tiger, you just hit the hot tranny mess!” NRAMA: Are there plans to address the changes that occurred after One More Day and before Brand New Day? SW: YES. MY GOD, YES!!! How many times do we have to answer this!?!?! Doesn’t anyone read the interviews on this redesigned website or does everyone just jump straight to the HOT DEBATES section?! Ahem…anyway, the answer is “yes”. NRAMA: Will the fall-out from Secret Invasion affect the title? SW: In a big, big way. The seeds are being set in the current story actually and in several of our subplots. NRAMA: What can you tell us is coming up in Amazing Spider-Man through the end of this year and into the next? SW: The mayoral election is simmering in the background as well as Mr. Negative’s claiming of the underworld, so against that back drop we’re going to see some classic enemies return to Spidey’s life, including Hammerhead and a couple other surprise villains. We’re going to see Peter Parker’s driving test, more on Anti-Venom and fallout from New Ways to Die, the identity of Jackpot revealed, The Punisher, Molten Man and, yes, Peter Parker on a date.