***This article contains spoilers for this week's Amazing Spider-Man #700 and Avenging Spider-Man #15.1, both out now.***In case you're in denial or emerging from a holiday haze, Marvel's editor-in-chief is making it clear: Peter Parker is dead (as much as a superhero can ever be).
This week's Amazing Spider-Man #700, by the book's long-term team of writer Dan Slott and artist Humberto Ramos (review here), showed the outcome of the body-switching storyline revealed last month in issue #698: Doctor Octopus's body, with Peter Parker's consciousness stuck inside, died. But Peter Parker's body — now controlled by Otto Octavius's devious mind — lives on, and no one else knows the truth.
Yet, things may not be quite as bleak as they appear. Thanks to some memory melding, Doc Ock is now determined to be an even better hero than Peter was — a Superior Spider-Man, the title of the new series debuting Jan. 9 from Slott and Ryan Stegman. (Ramos and Giuseppe Camuncoli will join the book — which, as of now, occupies Amazing Spider-Man's place on Marvel's publishing slate — on later arcs.)Spider-Man fans are a notably opinionated group — please refer to "One More Day" and "Clone Saga, The" for further evidence — and many of the more vocal readers haven't been shy about their take on this latest twist. Since issue #700 spoilers leaked two weeks ago, there have been reports that some have taken the disturbing stance of threatening Slott over the fictional developments.
We talked about all of it with Marvel editor-in-chief Axel Alonso, including the effect of piracy, the company's reaction to threats, the lack of Peter Parker in both the Ultimate Universe and the classic Marvel Universe, the origins of the story and his message to skeptical Spidey fans.Newsarama: Axel, with the Amazing Spider-Man era closing this week, let's go back a bit, to the beginning of the end. It's been stated that when the story was first pitched to you, you were somewhat skeptical — what can you say about the early process, and what sold you on the idea?
Axel Alonso: When a writer pitches a story that involves the death of a character, minor or major, my antenna immediately go up. Questions emerge: Why are you doing it? Where will the story take you? And in this case, because we had killed Ultimate Peter Parker only a couple of years back, there an extra-high burden of proof for me to be sold on the idea of taking Peter Parker off the playing field.
When Dan laid out the architecture of the story that would result in the death of Peter Parker in Amazing Spider-Man #700, and what that would mean for Spider-Man in the future — both the new guy in the red and blue tights, and for the rest of the cast — I was sold.
It was inevitable that this story would be controversial, but as the story unfolds, I have no doubt that fans will be running to stores to see what happens next.
Nrama: It does seem like something that hasn't been done before, which can't be easy for a character like Spider-Man, who just turned 50. How appealing is that to you as editor-in-chief? How much is pushing characters in a new different part of the goal? Alonso: Hey, no guts, no glory. To move forward, you have to be willing to take chances. The fact that this story unfolds against the backdrop of Marvel NOW! — a huge initiative to reintroduce our characters to current, lapsed and new fans — is just serendipity. Perfect timing.
Marvel is all about keeping readers on their toes. Fans are anxious, angry, curious — and there's no way they can anticipate where this is headed.
Nrama: There definitely has been a vocal reaction to this story. From your position, do you find that hardcore comic book fans — at least a section of them — are hard to please? There's long been an element of readers saying that they want change, and then complaining bitterly when it happens. Alonso: With all due respect, I don't know if the Internet is really the ultimate indicator of what fans desire, want or need. You don’t predict your next president by only polling red states, know what I mean? Most of our most successful stories and initiatives have been met by Internet cynicism. Our job is to create buzz and excitement, and then deliver a quality story to back it up.
The sales of Amazing Spider-Man #700 — a triple-sized issue that’s on track to sell more than 250,000 copies in print alone — speak volumes about the popularity of the character, the deep love people have for Peter Parker. We completely understand fans’ grief, rage, anger, angst and curiosity when you do something like this a day before Stan Lee's birthday. [Laughs.] How they stay tuned in months and years to come will be the ultimate test of whether or not this story was successful.
Nrama: Right now is an unusual time for Marvel, as you alluded to earlier — there's no Peter Parker in either the Ultimate or classic Marvel Universe. There's inevitably going to be a degree of "this can't last very long." How would you respond to that notion? Alonso: Hey, don’t forget that we did a little story called "One More Day" a few years ago that had a lasting effect on the Spider-Man universe. And remember how long Bucky wore Captain America’s red, white and blue tights? We seriously considered never bringing Steve Rogers back.
Looks, when people read Amazing Spider-Man #700 and see how the story unfolds — how Peter's memories embed themselves in the consciousness of the next guy to wear the tights — big questions will emerge. I'll leave it at that.
Nrama: At the start of the new year, other than the Marvel Universe: Ultimate Spider-Man comic book series based on the Disney XD cartoon, there's not really a place at Marvel for new stories starring Peter Parker for readers, especially new or lapsed ones, who might be looking for that. Was that a concern in taking the character off the board?Alonso: Oh, it's a concern. Absolutely. It’s inevitable that the shadow of Peter Parker will hover over the proceedings. The challenge in front of us is to make a Peter Parker-less Spider-Man a book a must-read. This is a big creative chance, but it’s one that’s completely in line with the guiding philosophy of Marvel NOW!. And when people see how the story unfolds over the next few months, they're going to be rushing into the comic store to know what happens next.
Nrama: And there definitely is a lot of palpable interest out there. So within Marvel, what goes into the decision to kill off, for however long, an iconic character like Peter Parker? What kind of discussion and consideration happens before that move can be made? Obviously it has an effect throughout the company.Alonso: Without a doubt. This was the subject of heated discussion involving many of the people who attend our editorial summits. And ultimately, I had to have the support of my boss, Dan Buckley. We don't make a move like this rashly. Dan and [editor] Steve [Wacker] survived the gauntlet. You could scour the planet and not find a bigger fan of Peter Parker than Dan Slott. If he wanted to do this, he had good reasons to do it. No one has more love for Peter Parker than Dan Slott — the guy who killed him. [Laughs.]
Nrama: To touch a little more on fan reaction, there has been a notably high level of vitriol over this story, including death threats to the creative team, and Dan Slott in particular. Alonso: This isn't the first time a creator has received a death threat here at Marvel, and we take all threats of physical violence — to a Marvel staffer or freelancer — very seriously. If you threaten one of us, even if it’s just as a joke, we will do a thorough investigation to determine who you are. Count on it.
Nrama: Have you seen this type of reaction more for this story than others?Alonso: This announcement was met with perhaps a little more vitriol than others. Perhaps that speaks to the passion people have for this character.
Nrama: The other unfortunate side of the story is that both #698 and #700 leaked ahead of time, the latter nearly two weeks before its on-sale date. How much of a concern is that for you? It doesn't look like it's going to hurt sales, but it at least contributes to ruining the reading experience for a lot of people — it can be genuinely difficult to avoid spoilers online, once they are out there.Alonso: There's always going to be people who want to get attention for spreading a rumor or leaking confidential information. What people need to remember about piracy is that it is not a victimless crime. If a few less people come from this store because they can get it [illegally] online, then the victims include retailers that are counting on sales to pay their bills, and creators, whose royalties are affected by lower sales. If I were a retailer, I would consider pirates my enemy. Ditto if I were a creator on or a fan of a lower-circing title that needed every reader if can to stay alive.
That said, I’m pretty sure that the buzz around Amazing Spider-Man #700 offset any damage done by the leaks.
Nrama: So with Superior Spider-Man #1 out in a couple of weeks, what would you say to readers who may still be skeptical?Alonso: I'd say, read Amazing Spider-Man #700 before you make up your mind. What transpires in the closing scene sets the stage for Spider-Man’s future. The big question will be, "Can the new Spider-Man live up the mantra, 'With great power there must also come great responsibility''?" There's a reason we're calling it Superior Spider-Man. More from Newsarama:
- Behind The Mask: 10 AMAZING, Ultimate SPIDER-MAN Secret IDs
- Spoiler Sport: Dan Slott Talks AMAZING SPIDER-MAN Finale!
- Marvel NOW! Takes Place When? Continuity Takes Beating