Amazing Spider-Man #584This week, we once again turn to Marvel’s Spider-Man Editor Steve Wacker for some words of wisdom about the Wall-Crawler. But fear not fans who may find Wacker’s approach a little…grating. He’s only providing an introduction this week, and then, we chat with Spidey Brain Trust member Marc Guggenheim to talk about his tenure on the book to date, and his upcoming arc, “Character Assassination” which begins in next week’s Amazing Spider-Man #584, also known as “the one after the issue with the Obama cover.”
Click here for last week's yuk-fest.
And now – over to Steve…
DAMAGE CONTROL! BEGIN! NOW!
Like a safely landed jet that I hope it's not too soon to talk about, we're softly crashing your internet party with another week of whatever Brady is calling this collection of interminable interviews.
This week out, it's Guggenheim talking about a story he's been through hell and back on...”Character Assassination.” It runs through the next five issues of Spidey and we're all pretty proud of it.
It's been a big week around the office and I want to take moment to say thanks to all the great fans and retailers around the nation for supporting (whether happily or not) this week's Obama variant on #583. I've never been a part of anything like this before and it was a blast seeing all the coverage and getting reports of the sell-outs.
Given the interest we're received in political figures, you can look forward next year to great new Marvel books like Captain Obama, Ms. Clinton, Rod: Agent of B.L.A.G.O.J.E.V.I.C.H and of course ROM: Emmanuel (as soon as we get the rights back).
And finally before I turn it over to Vaneta and Mark, I've been politely asked by message board zeitgeist to mention that President-elect Obama is appearing in Image Comics' Savage Dragon. In stores now!
Amazing Spider-Man #584, page 1And now – over to Marc Guggenheim, interviewed by Vaneta Rogers.
Newsarama: It seems like Spider-Man is all over the news lately, but you've been living and breathing Spider-Man for awhile, haven't you?
Marc Guggenheim: Lately, yes. Especially with “Character Assassination.” It's been easily the most ambitious, complex, difficult comic book project I've had thus far.
NRAMA: You said in an earlier interview with Newsarama that you had several rewrites on this story. Why was this particularly challenging for you? Or do you always have that many rewrites?
MG: No, this has been challenging. I think it's because of the nature of this particular story. First of all, the whole point of this story -- the whole mission statement of the story -- is to take several different plot lines and bring them in for a satisfying conclusion. So the complexity of doing that, especially since they're not even all storylines that I'm 100 percent responsible for, and getting them to all work together was a challenge. Even though I knew the answers to all the questions, because every mystery that we're solving in the series, I've known the answer to for two years now, it still was an open question of how exactly you're going to dole out all those reveals. It was a question of how you're going to craft a story that contains those reveals. So that was one factor.
Another factor was simply dealing with artist availability issues that ended up condensing the storyline from five issues to four issues, and then adding a fifth interlude issue. There were a lot of on-the-fly structural changes that had to get made. It's sort of part and parcel of doing something of this ambition and this complexity on the kind of timetable that the Spidey books are released on. So it was just a function of a great number of things.
NRAMA: So this something you've been working on for awhile?
MG: I started writing this arc back in April! I mean, I've been working on this for a very long time. I haven't been doing a lot of other Spidey stuff. So there's been a lot of refining and honing. And I have to say that it actually has produced a much better script overall for the entire arc. Typically, you're doing comics on such a pace that you get to do one or two rewrites if you're lucky. And you don't get a chance to do those extra passes that add the extra layer or the extra moment of drama. And just as an example, I'm still in the process of rewriting the fourth and final part of the arc -- the fifth issue of the arc -- and the time that I was taking with it, Steve Wacker was suggesting going deeper with a couple scenes, and I think it's actually produced some of my favorite moments that I've been responsible for since our run on Amazing Spider-Man started.
So yeah, it's been tough. It's been very, very, very challenging. But I think the payoff is extreme, so it's all worth it.
Amazing Spider-Man #584, page 2NRAMA: OK, we've been hearing that there are going to be all these mysteries resolved, but what's the focus of the story? Is there a beginning, middle, and end kind of story that wraps all this up? Is this something that a new reader can pick up and understand?
MG: You can pick up this story and understand it. You can get the whole story out of this storyline. In fact, one of the things I did, I introduced in this arc the device of two newscasters sort of offering running commentary on the events of this arc. And that's really designed to make it new reader accessible. So you can come in, and these talking head newscasters will give you the information you need to understand what's going on.
Apart from that, the device that ties everything together is the ticking clock of Election Day. Election Day is coming, it's less than 36 hours out at the start of the arc, and it almost plays like an episode of 24 in the sense that you're constantly aware of time and you're constantly aware of this ticking clock that is coming down for the entire city and is affecting all of the characters. So everything comes to a head with the election of the mayor of New York, which is a storyline we've been building up to for over a year now. It's all centered around that big event.
NRAMA: The mayoral election is one of the "mysteries" that is supposed to be wrapped up in this storyline. Can you tell us some of the others?
Amazing Spider-Man #584, page 3MG: Well, like you said, first of all, we'll learn the outcome of the election. Second, we'll learn who Menace is. Three, we will learn who is responsible for the Spider-Tracer killings. We will get answers to those three. And there are more than one surprise. And the advantage of going from five to four issues and an interlude, it means that all those issues are packed with reveals and surprises and jaw-dropping moments. The one thing I would encourage all of the readers not to do -- don't flip to the end of each issue. You'll be depriving yourself of a fun little 22-page ride up to that.
NRAMA: We've talked about the election how it's what the whole arc hinges upon. But let's talk about the identity of Menace. Have there been a lot of clues to the character's identity during the run?
MG: Yes, there have. The writers have always known who Menace was. There was never a question of who it was behind the mask. And we actually have planted a lot of seeds. I was able to flash back in this story to one of the key moments where we had revealed it without revealing it. And I wish I had the real estate, in terms of pages, to flash back to all the pages and take you to every single little solitary instance where we hinted about it.
NRAMA: I bet one of our readers will post it somewhere.
MG: Yeah! It will be fun to see people go back and reconstruct it from all the breadcrumbs that we've dropped. And we've dropped a fair number of breadcrumbs. But it was nice to at least take one moment and re-show it to you with this other perspective and seeing how the moment plays now knowing who Menace is.
Amazing Spider-Man #584, page 4NRAMA: There have been a lot of guesses online. That's the case with anything like this, isn't it?
MG: Yeah, and I'm of the belief that, you know, if there are five candidates for who it could be, then one in five people are going to guess right. So I kind of went into this knowing that it's a fool's errand to think you can fool absolutely everyone, unless you want to be a dick and introduce someone by saying, "Oh yeah! It was that guy who was standing in the crowd who didn't have a name back in Issue #33 of Amazing Spider-Man." That would be unfair. It's someone who's on the chess board.
NRAMA: And this would apply to the Spider-Tracer Killer as well, right?
MG: Um... that's interesting.
MG: For all you know, it's the same person.
NRAMA: That's true. And there have been indications that all this is linked even more than we know.
Amazing Spider-Man #584, page 5MG: I think the thing to keep in mind is that I can't always surprise everyone, so what I've tried to figure out is, what's the most interesting and surprising way to reveal this information? And that goes back to what I was saying at the beginning, which is, we've always known the answer to these questions. The challenge for me as a writer is how to make those reveals as surprising and entertaining and dramatic as possible, so that at the very least, even if you're not surprised, you're still entertained.
NRAMA: Where did the title of this arc come from?
MG: You know, that's a great question. [laughs] It's funny. I'm not exactly enamored with the title, if for no other reason than I just feel like I'm making it so easy for all those Brand New Day haters. It's like, "Oh! The whole Brand New Day has been 'character assassination.' Heh heh heh." Gee, how clever!
You know, my actual plan was to name the arc something different, and each chapter would be a different title based upon an election term -- something to do with campaigning or some political thing, and character assassination is a typical political weapon. And I titled the first issue "Character Assassination." And Steve Wacker said, "That's a great title!" And Steve's enthusiasm for the title -- and yes, I just threw Steve under the bus -- combined with my realization that, holy crap, I didn't know any political terms that worked for the remaining chapters, made me just throw my hands up and said, "Ok! It's Character Assassination!" Even though I knew I would be running into a buzz saw as far as the Brand New Day haters are concerned. I mean, what are you going to do?
NRAMA: Yeah, but it's not like they wouldn't be running that saw anyway.
MG: That saw has certainly be running. And I'm not writing for them, and I'm not writing to run away from them. At the end of the day, all I can do is write what I write and hope people come into it with an open mind.
NRAMA: I know it's been a bumpy road over the last year, and Steve Wacker just told me last week that the last script he got from you was fabulous.
MG: Oh, that's wonderful to hear.
NRAMA: I'm just making you feel guilty for the bus. But it made me think about you hitting that one-year mark, doing all these rewrites, and having gone through that bumpy road. And you've finished with this storyline just as the Green Lantern film you wrote seems to be moving forward and you're looking at new opportunities in TV. So point blank, Marc, are you going to stick around on Spider-Man for awhile?
Amazing Spider-Man #584, page 6MG: Oh, that's a good question. Because you know, it's funny, there were definitely points while writing this arc where I found myself thinking, "I don't know how much longer I'm going to do this." Then you get to the other end of it, and you're like, "It's Spider-Man! How could I possibly consider leaving?" So I have no plans to leave. The way the schedule works out, I've got a nice breather coming, which after this arc, I feel like I've definitely earned. So I'm kind of happy right now. If I was staring at the business end of having to do another six-issue arc next month, I might rethink things. But I'm not. I have the chance to kind of take a breather and catch my breath and rest.
But I am never going to make a decision about continuing on the book or leaving the book based upon the controversy. First of all, I don't pay a lot of attention to the controversy. And secondly, I knew it was going to be controversial from the get-go. Marvel was very honest with everybody about how bumpy the road was going to be. We all went into this with our eyes wide open. So it would be kind of silly for me to go, "Oh, I didn't see this coming! I can't handle it!" It's all well and good. And putting it all in perspective: In terms of "controversy," there are other things going on. I wish that Spider-Man's marriage was the biggest concern that America was facing.
NRAMA: There's always a concern among comics fans when a TV/movie guy is doing a comic about whether or not you'll have time for it.
MG: Oh, I'll have time to write Spider-Man. If anything, I've got more time as Eli looks like it's winding down. My New Year's resolution for 2009 was to sort of go into this period post-Eli and try to really, really get ahead on all my comics work. It's not that I'm behind on things -- I'm not -- but I'm also not ahead. And I really want to get ahead in all the projects that I'm working on. With Spidey, it's easy. You've got other writers, and you're writing stuff that's very far out ahead of the publishing schedule. I'm sure Steve doesn't feel quite that good about it. [laughs] But I always feel like I'm well ahead of the artists. But I want to get further ahead on everything else. I also want to get some short-term, limited series projects off my plate.
And then once I've gotten ahead and have gotten my desk clear, I can look at the landscape and figure out what the next phase of my comics career is. But that's going to include Spidey for as long as they'll have me.