***Still haven't read Amazing Spider-Man #698 yet? Well, this article is full of spoilers for that issue. And also for the movies Psycho and Gremlins. (Really.)***Doctor Octopus is Spider-Man. Spider-Man is Doctor Octopus. We are through the looking glass here, people.
Last week's Amazing Spider-Man #698, written by Dan Slott and illustrated by Rich Elson, opened like a innocuous slice-of-life story featuring a better-than-average day for Peter Parker and Spider-Man, which quickly flipped upon the reveal that Otto Octavius — his battered body very near death — has somehow managed to switch minds with Peter Parker, meaning that Doc Ock has Spidey's powers (and memories), and the real-deal Spidey is trapped in a nearly dying body, with no one the wiser. A shocking development — if you managed to avoid the spoilers that leaked a few days before the issue's release.
As just the prelude of "Dying Wish," and with two more issues of Amazing Spider-Man left to go — including #700, billed as containing an even bigger development than that one — there are many questions to be asked, like what, if anything, this means for the January-debuting series Superior Spider-Man, which takes Amazing's place in the schedule and stars a Spider-Man said not to be Peter Parker (though there's certainly no guarantee at this point, with many twists left to go, that it's Doc Ock).We talked to Slott in-depth about Amazing Spider-Man #698, the science of shocking someone in 2012, his thoughts on the leak, and crafting the issue's big surprise.
Newsarama: Dan, obviously there's a lot to talk about with #698, but let's start a little broader — there was the twist in that issue, big things have been promised with #700, and then Superior Spider-Man debuts the following month. It's notable that since the "Brand New Day" era started in 2008 — following one of the most controversial developments in Spidey history — though a lot of things have happened for the character, they've mostly been victories, other than a couple of notable exceptions.
Dan Slott: He became a member of the Fantastic Four. Led the Avengers to save the world. He's had a really good run.
Nrama: Were these sweeping changes, then, motivated maybe because it just felt time to shake things up? Swing the Parker luck back in the opposite direction?Amazing Spider-Man
#700 cover by Olivier
Coipel.Slott: I can now let you know: We have been playing the long game. Amazing Spider-Man #698 is the magic trick. #699 is when we flip over all the cards. What you are going to see is, boy have we played a very long game. It's not a stunt. It's not a gimmick. It's not something we threw together slapdash at the last minute for Marvel NOW!. This has been something long in the making.
You will see that all of the puzzle pieces leading up to this story have started back as far as Amazing Spider-Man #600, and every time we've seen Doc Ock, we've gotten a little closer.
Nrama: That was some time before even your solo run on Amazing started in 2010.
Slott: #600 was my 18th ever issue of Amazing Spider-Man. Now we're into the 70s. And by #700, that's it, it's done! No more Amazing Spider-Man! Mwahaha.
Nrama: It's been evident on Twitter that you're having fun with some of the responses to the issue. Are you surprised at all that some people got angry over #698? Sure, Spider-Man fans are a passionate bunch, but it's been made pretty clear that it's only the first part of the story.
Slott: I have said over and over again that after #700 comes out, I'm going into the bunker. I'm doing a signing for Midtown Comics for #700, but they have promised me bodyguards and a Popemobile.
I've taken perverse pleasure in retweeting some of the more insane stuff, but to be honest, most of the stuff that's been coming in on my Twitter has been really positive. But it's kind of fun to take the most crazy-town-banana-pants stuff and put it up there.#698 is the end of the prelude, and the hero's been left in a very terrible predicament, with insurmountable odds. You know, I've never seen that happened in a cliffhanger before! I like all these people going, "Brain swap? Boo!" And you're like, "OK. The next time I see a bank heist in a comic, I'll be sure you attack that with equal vigor." Never seen that before. You can imagine after The Prince and the Pauper came out, someone in ye olden times was all, "Oh no! Mistaken identity? Switch? It's the worst thing ever! Didn't you know? Alexandre Dumas did this in Man in the Iron Mask?! That Mark Twain is a hack, I tells ya!"
Nrama: Plus, this is handled a little differently, as Doc Ock has all of Peter Parker's memories — thus eliminating the need for the standard body-switching convention of someone struggling to convince their friends and family that they're the real deal.
Slott: This guy can go right into Avengers Tower and punch in every single secret code. You always have that scene where someone's pretending to be something they're not, and then their friend goes, "That reminds me of our adventures in Budapest." The person goes, "Ah, yes, Budapest," and the other person turns around and goes — "We were never in Budapest!" Forget that. That's out the window.
He has access to all of Peter Parker and Spider-Man's memories, so there will be none of that.Nrama: But it is pretty cruel to ruin everyone's childhoods the day before Thanksgiving.
Slott: It's going to be even better when Amazing Spider-Man #700 comes out the day after Christmas! That's going to be great. "Here I was, celebrating the birth of Christ, opening up my new Xbox — we were wassailing, we were caroling, we were all so happy — and then you did this!" [Laughs.] It's going to be like that scene in Gremlins where Phoebe Cates gives the story about her dead father in the Santa Claus suit.
Nrama: At least it's the day after Christmas.
Slott: Oh, if we could have, we would have done it on Christmas day. We're also going to find out when your birthday is, then we'll put out another one.
Nrama: That's going to be tough.Slott: Oh, we'll do it. We'll do a specialty cover for each one. Each one will come with a punch to the face. "But I like Spider-Man." Pow!
Nrama: Like a Force Works #1 pop-up cover.
Slott: You will hold up the issue of the comic in court. "Where did the Spider-Man comic touch you?" "Page six!"
I love how in #698 we even have a shot of the first time Peter's in his lab where he's in a lab coat and goggles and big gloves. "What? Why does Peter look like a mad scientist?" "I wonder why."
Nrama: Right, how important was that aspect in crafting the story? That you can read it one way and not see the ending coming, and then re-read it and pick up on all the clues that were left.
Slott: My favorite thing is, we have a line in there, when we're talking about the "bluffers" — guys who pretend to be supervillains, the same way how some people rob a store with a toy gun. These guys dress up in a costume and are like, "I'll melt you with my X-ray vision, put everything in the bag!" They have no powers. But there's a bit where he's saying every single cliché in the book, and Spider-Man calls him on it, and the next line is a cop saying, "There's a reason he was talking that way." I wanted that line, so it resonated when you're reading it the second time, just having that line hanging in the air.Nrama: Seeing Peter call Aunt May "that dear sweet woman" was definitely a line that stood out.
Slott: We actually hemmed and hawed over lines — how much were we going to tip our hands? At what point do we give it away? The original line for that page was, "Peter, come visit your aunt in the hospital," and when he was putting on the tie, he was going to go, "When is that woman not in the hospital?" Then you looked at it, and you went, "Wow, that's too harsh." We thought about it again — we thought about that story where they were going to get married, and he has feelings for Aunt May, so why not "That dear sweet woman." That hit it right. It's just weird enough that you kind of go, "Man, they're not getting Peter's voice right this issue," but not weird enough that all the alarm bells go off. That was kind of tricky.
Nrama: You made it clear on Twitter that you didn't want the issue spoiled — how disappointed were you that the book leaked a couple days before release?
Slott: It was frustrating. It's not about how much the book sells, because if anything, that's going to help move more copies. If you're looking at it from a greedy point of view, that's going to get the word out there faster on the Internet that, "Oh my god, this issue is important, you better go out and buy it."On the bigger level, you don't care about that. We're guys trying to tell a story. That's all we are. When you have a big secret or a big twist, especially one you've been building up to, all the pieces, for a hundred issues — you really hope that someone's going to get the chance to read it on the page, and have that shock, on the page. And when someone uploads the issue ahead of time, there's that one set of people who are like, "Everything should be free, man. It's all information!" And then there are the other kinds of people who are like, "First! I want to put this out there! Love me! Do you like me know?" You just kind of go, "Dude, it's OK. Everybody likes you. They'll like you just as much tomorrow. Honest. Let us tell our story."
It's funky, because all the people who read it ahead of time, liked it. But then the problem is, you put it out there, and what people were doing is taking the one page of the reveal, and throwing it around the Internet, and putting it on their blogs, and putting it on their Tumblrs, and even going as far as taking the one panel and tweeting it, and you're like, "Why are you doing that?" I can take any story with a twist — The Sixth Sense, or Citizen Kane; and I'm not comparing what I'm doing to extreme quality of those stories, I’m just making a point about twists — if you just show the exact moment of that reveal, without any of the context, without any of the craft, without any of the execution before it, someone will read it, and go, "Meh." "Seen it. Done it. Lame!" Read the story! We're not trying to show you a clip, we're trying to tell you a tale. It was kind of weird to see people talk about the story as if they knew the actual experience of it, from one panel.
People complain, "Marvel's just going to put up a news story on the day." "Marvel's going to spoil it, so why can't we?" And we didn't! We worked so hard. I drove people at Marvel nuts, saying, "Let's really try to get this out there, and have people experience it on the page." And everybody at Marvel worked so hard at that. We did everything we could to have it be a surprise for the readers.
Some time ago, I had a talk with one of Marvel's biggest writers. And we were talking about the age of the big reveal, or the big twist, and this writer was of the opinion that you can't do it anymore. You just can't, because with solicits going up three months ahead, and covers going out three months ahead, and so many other people who know the idea, and loose lips, it'll get out. It'll get out well before. So you're better off having surprises, but not twists. There's a difference. I can see their point, but it's something we were building to for some time, and I just wanted to go for it.It's tough. We haven't really told people what Superior Spider-Man's about. At one convention, [Marvel senior editor Steve Wacker] congratulated me, saying, "I want to thank Slott for doing the most unmarketable launch for Marvel NOW!.
Nrama: And this leak has to be especially disappointing, since with so many people knowing the twist ahead of time, it completely changes the reading experience.
Slott: You never get the first read.
We live in a day and age where the generation I'm from, and everyone following, we never get to watch the movie Psycho for the first time. We grow up, knowing through osmosis, that Norman Bates dresses up as his mother. We never get to witness that or experience it for the first time the way audiences did back in the day. It's just a given. So we're really all watching it for the second time.
The running thing you keep seeing from people who earnestly read it for the first time is "mind blown," and it's like, "Love that, thank you for writing that." That's why we did that. That's awesome. Thank you for writing in with that response.
Nrama: And thank you for the Psycho spoiler, Dan.
Slott: Do you want to know the secret of Rosebud in Citizen Kane?
Nrama: Back to Spider-Man — will we see more of Doc Ock-as-Spider-Man in issue #699?
Slott: You'll have to wait and see.Nrama: Here's something else you'll probably need to no comment: There is definitely a theory out there that it's been something of a gradual transition with Doc Ock taking over Peter's body, as evidenced by some of Spidey's seemingly uncharacteristically harsh reactions to Morbius and Alpha recently. Is that part of the story you're telling?
Slott: You'll have to wait until #699. I'm not going to reveal stuff until you read #699.
Nrama: OK, I'll try one more: Speaking of Alpha, it was conspicuous that he left the book so quickly after entering it, given how high-profile his debut was — though he is getting his own miniseries early next year, written by Josh Fialkov.
Slott: Isn't he a jerk? Not Josh, Alpha. Josh is a lovely human being. But that Alpha is a complete and utter jerk. What a little pisher.
Nrama: But will Alpha — or at least the energy that gave him his powers — play a role in what you've got coming up?
Slott: I'm not revealing a thing! You can ask me, "Is Rocket Raccoon in it?" I'm not telling you!
Check back with Newsarama later this week for the second half of our interview with Slott!More from Newsarama:
- SPIDER-MAN's 10 Biggest Status Quo Changes
- The Implications of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #698 [SPOILERS]
- Random Thoughts on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #698′s Big Moment