Many men (and a few women) have worn the mask and the mantle of Spider-Man , but there’s only one amazing Spider-Man: Peter Parker. And now Aunt May’s favorite nephew is coming back, and he’s got a lot to say.
This April, Peter Parker returns to comics – and the land of the living – in the relaunched Amazing Spider-Man . Long-time Spidey creators Dan Slott and Humberto Ramos, the duo who crafted Peter’s demise last year at the hands of Doctor Octopus, are reuniting to tell the story of his return – and boy what a return they have planned. Newsarama spoke to the two creators to delve into Parker’s impending return, asking the who’s, the how’s and the why’s, as well as talking about the big secret Slott kept for years about Parker’s death and ultimate return – and the two people who managed to break his resolve and spill the secrets early. Slott was open and engaging with us, and Ramos showed us how much of a fan of the wall-crawler he truly is, in this open and thorough chat that runs the gamut from SpideyOck to Stan Lee to Andrew Garfield and on through to, of course, Peter Benjamin Parker.
Newsarama: Dan, do my eyes deceive me – is Peter Parker returning from the dead in a new Amazing Spider-Manseries?
Dan Slott: Oh man… [laughs] That is the most open-ended non-spoiler-y question in the world. One word: “Yes.”
Everyone knew Peter was coming back eventually. Chris, did you think Peter Parker was dead?
Nrama: Definitely no. I’ve read a few comics before.
Slott: Exactly. He’s Peter Benjamin Parker – the only one, true, amazing Spider-Man. He’s been a cultural icon for over half a century; did you really think he’d be gone forever? I remember back when I heard about the Human Torch dying in Jonathan Hickman’s Fantastic Four series, and I had plans to write some Spider-Man stories where Johnny Storm would’ve shown up. They changed because of Johnny’s absence, and the scripts I was turning in had Spidey acting the way I felt: “Oh yeah, Johnny Storm is dead? Hey Reed! Did you see a body? He’s gotta be coming back.” I had Spidey in complete disbelief that Johnny was truly dead, but Tom Brevoort said I couldn’t do it that way. “What do you mean?” I asked him, and he explained that I had to be true to Johnathan Hickman’s plans; I had to play as if Peter believed he was dead, to be fair to the other guy’s story.
That’s very much how this worked as well. This has been in the works since Amazing Spider-Man #600 – the death of Peter in the Dying Wish storyline, the new Superior Spider-Man, all that. I’m kind of new at this secrecy thing, so I practiced the best poker face I could muster. At conventions and signings and public events when people asked if he was truly dead, I had to say “yes.” I had to bellow it while twirling a mustache and acting sinister. [laughs] I had to own it for a good solid year; it’s akin to what they call in wrestling a “heel turn.” As a writer I had to be evil and flat out lie to you. Of course, it was a lie.
Nrama: Did you ever come close to breaking down and spilling the beans? Maybe just once?
Slott: It happened at a signing in New Jersey. During the course of that day I hit that scenario about three times. And I had to do it with a straight face. There was one sad little moppet in a little league uniform with a quivering lip who asked if Peter was dead, and I told him “sometimes bad things happen to good people. Sometimes the hero doesn’t always win. I’m sorry.”
I went home feeling terrible, but I had to stick to my guns.
Nrama: So no one pried it out of you?
Slott: Outside of my personal think tank of people that I bounce ideas off of – and everyone at Marvel – I only broke twice. Marvel did a great job of keeping it all under wraps – especially the writers. But there were two times I cracked and told somebody.
The first was for Stan Lee. One of his people contacted me and said Stan wanted to know if Peter was coming back, and I fessed up. C’mon. For Stan? How couldn’t I? The other one was while I was on set of Amazing Spider-Man 2 for a day. I was hanging out with Andrew Garfield for a bit, and one of the first things he said to me is “So, you killed me?” So I told him about #700 and the twist at the end of Superior Spider-Man #1.
And he asked, “So I’m a ghost now?” And I said, “No, we killed the ghost last week.”
He was laughing, but I couldn’t leave it like that. I looked around and then said while pointing around to cameras and crew “I get the feeling something might be happening in April or May where Marvel might want Peter Parker to be back in comics. Y’know. Something.” C’mon. He’s the real-life Spider-Man – I had to tell him. [laughs]
Nrama: It was nice of them to schedule Amazing Spider-Man 2to coincide with the return of Peter Parker to comics, then. [laughs]
Slott: Yeah! [laughs] Actually, the first Amazing Spider-Man came out on my birthday and I told director Marc Webb it was great for him to do that. And he said it had nothing to do with it being July 4th weekend.
Seriously though, we very much knew the window of time we had between the launch of Marvel NOW! and when Amazing Spider-Man 2 was coming out; we had a wide range to tell a 30+ issue story. We’ve been very grateful for how excited everyone has been about Superior Spider-Man, the events leading up to it, and, hopefully, for this – the return of Peter.
When we were pitching it, we knew that people would be reading Superior Spider-Man for different reasons; some only to see how Peter would come back, some to see how we’re going to do it, and some interested in the idea of SpideyOck. During the planning stages we talked about this point where we’re at now, where people would know that he’s coming back and the speculation of how. I’m kind of glad that so far, no one’s figured it out. There are certain people I’ve had to let in on what’s happening so they can write their comics, and in every case they’ve said it works pretty well. But so far online, no one has pegged it. How he comes back is a story unto itself. To find out, you’ll have to keep reading.
What we’ve been doing with the Spider-Man stories is making it so something big is always happening. Doctor Octopus replaces Spider-Man?! Spider-Man is building a giant headquarters?! There are giant Spider-robots?! Henchmen?! He’s blackmailing the mayor?!? Huh?! We’re always hitting you with something where you have to come back to see what happens next. We’re not taking our foot off the accelerator, and there’s a lot more twists and turns coming – leading up to Peter’s return – and what happens after. And then you’re going to hit an even bigger moment that’ll make you go “Oh my god” and Spidey’s world changes forever.
Nrama: Humberto, you’ve had a long relationship with Spider-Man – going on longer than virtually any other comic artist in modern times. What’s it been like going through Superior Spider-Man and the absence of Peter Parker?
Humberto Ramos: When I was told about the Superior Spider-Man story, honestly I was worried about how people would react. [laughs] Even when Dan explained it all to me, I didn’t know if fans would accept someone besides Peter. But in the end it’s out-performed everyone’s expectations, and it’s been cool how much people liked it – including myself. I’ve read nothing but good reviews, so in the ends it’s all cool.
But honestly, it’s nice to have Peter back and be able to be the one drawing the story of him coming back here in Amazing Spider-Man.
Nrama: So tell me what’s it like doing that now?
Ramos: Well, I grew up reading Spider-Man. He’s the character that brought me into comics in the first place, and I’m excited to see him back. It’s a big honor and a responsibility to be in this position drawing his return because everybody cares about Peter Parker a lot. I can’t do anything but be respectful and serious about this story and the characters I’m drawing. Not just for his return, but every time I’m about to start a new page.
Nrama: In Peter’s mind, where has he been all this time?
Slott: That’s part of the story we’re going to tell. For the first nine issues of Superior Spider-Man you had ghost Peter watching in horror at all the things Otto was doing to his life. After #9 though, ghost Peter hasn’t seen a thing. So when Peter does come back, he’s very much in a “Rip Van Winkle” scenario waking up to all these massive changes. Otto’s been very busy. SpideyOck blew up Horizon Labs? What?! For 50-something issues, working at Horizon Labs had been Peter’s dream job, and it’s gone! Kablooey.
Nrama: How has the whole death experienced changed Peter?
Slott: You’re going to have to keep reading. That’s going to be a major part of the all-new Amazing Spider-Man. There’s an aspect that’s going to surprise people, especially those who think they’ve got it pegged. If all that’s there waiting for him is the worst-case scenario – that’s way too predictable.
But how can things possibly go back to normal for Peter after this? They can’t, and they’re not. You’re going to see new twists to everything including Peter Parker himself. You can’t go through this kind of ordeal and not be changed.
Nrama: Peter’s got a lot to catch up on, but crime waits for no hero – who first in line to get a face full of web fluid?
Slott: Electro. The one thing I would tell fans though is that it’s not the thing you’re worried about. We’re not going to snap Electro to be in line with the movie; this is Max Dillon, the character you’ve been reading about for years.
Nrama: That being said, Electro isn’t the only villain appearing in Amazing Spider-Man 2. With such synchronicity at work between the Marvel movies and the comics themselves, is there a chance we could see some other villains from the movie return here in Amazing Spider-Man?
Slott: Possibly. I’m a fan of the movies. You guys saw it when the first movie came out; Lizard was featured in the movie, and we had a Lizard story in the comics. My take is that there are so many potential new readers out there. And after they see a movie, if they see a Spider-Man comic on the shelves it could be the first Spider-Man comic they ever read. So if they like the movie Electro from Amazing Spider-Man 2, then we’re going to have a Marvel U. Electro story in the comics waiting for them.
Nrama: Are you going to be experimenting with anything new – in design or in storytelling for Amazing Spider-Man #1?
Ramos: Every page I draw I attempt to do something different. If you go back and look at my work this past year, I’ve been changing my work a lot. It’s because I know I have to be as fresh as I can. There’s always a new artist I have to compete with on comic book shelves; just for that I know I always need to improve.
In terms of costume design, I think after Superior Spider-Man and the new costumes he’s had, people want to see the classic red and blue Spider-Man and that’s what we’re doing.
Nrama: Dan, how does it feel to be the writer that killed Peter Parker <i>and</i> the one who brought him back?
Slott: Awesome! I’m having a great time. Spider-Man is my favorite fictional character of all time – not just in the superhero genre or just in comics, but all of fiction. I love having the opportunity to do this; it’s my dream job. What’s been fun and different is that for the past year I had to make a heel turn and drive home the idea Peter is dead, but now it’s going to be fun to get back to Peter and get back to the wise-cracking, friendly neighborhood hero we all know and love.
And next up, I’m bringing back Uncle Ben.
Nrama: Do you think the year-long absence of Peter Parker from comics has reinvigorated him in the eyes of fans?
Ramos: I was a guest at 14 comic conventions last year, and at everyone one people asked me if Peter was ever coming back. I get that question on Twitter, Facebook, and everyone. I knew at the time he was because Marvel plans things ahead, but to keep the secret I had to tell everyone no. It was kind of fun playing at this; I would sometimes tell people I didn’t think Marvel had any wish to bring Peter back at all, which would shock people. Of course people expected Peter to come back, but how and when we did it was important. The when is Amazing Spider-Man #1, but you won’t know how until you read the issue.
Nrama: Humberto, when I interview Dan here I’m startled by just how invested and excited he is in Spider-Man, and the series – more so than any other comics creator I’ve ever interviewed about any project, creator-owned or work-for-hire. Working with him for so many years, how do those intangibles Slott brings to this affect what you do with the comics pages themselves?
Ramos: Dan’s enthusiasm affects the work every time, every day. I used to try to please everybody when I was drawing, but I realized it was impossible to pleas everyone who reads comics. Suddenly I realized that there are a few people I should really aim to please: my editors and my writer. If I can accomplish that, then I’m pretty sure most of the other people at comic book stores will be happy as well.
But it’s always a challenge to thrill Dan Slott because he knows Spider-Man inside and out; he knows the Spidey universe like no one else. Every time I finish a page I email it to him and the editors because that’s the way I work. It can be late at night – 2 or 3am his time – and I’ll get a quick email back from him commenting on the page. Fortunately they’re complimentary – “How cool is this?” or “This is why I’m in comics!” He’s always really encouraging of how I interpret his scripts, and his messages really help a lot.
Nrama: Getting back into the books, does Peter Parker returning mean we have to say goodbye to SpideyOck? Say it ain’t so!
Slott: What will happen to Otto Octavius? What will happen to Superior Spider-Man? Nope. Not telling. If you look at it, he’s had a 24 issue run so far of Superior Spider-Man, plus three of the “Dying Wish” arc of Amazing Spider-Man; that’s quite a feat. Otto has been Spider-Man and he’s been going on a unique journey. Just as we’ve been building to the return of Peter Parker, we’ve been building to an epic moment for Otto Octavius. But what happens after? Is there an after? You’re gonna have to wait and see.
Nrama: Humberto – is there anything you’ll miss about not drawing Superior Spider-Man anymore, but instead Peter and Amazing Spider-Man?
Ramos: Honestly, no? Every day when I wake up and start a new page, I’m starting fresh. So I don’t miss anything because everything is new. There’s always a new idea and a new storyline to draw, and sometimes there’s an opportunity to create a new character or design a new outfit. Every day offers me the opportunity to draw new things, and it doesn’t get any better than that.
Nrama: What are some final words you have to say for fans of Peter and fans of SpideyOck as they prepare for these tumultuous next few months?
Slott: I’ve got out my childhood repair kit, Marvelites. We’re gonna make it through this! Honest! [laughs]
It’s been a fun journey, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned in this whole run is that people like being surprised. I know. Who saw that coming? [laughs] With Superior Spider-Man we’ve been able to do things that have shocked the reader and threw them for a loop. We’ve seen “Spidey” doing things that Peter never would, and that’s been very off-putting for people. I remember hearing from our letterer, Chris Eliopoulos, when he was lettering the issue where Superior Spider-Man killed Massacre; he had that page up on his computer and his son walked by and freaked out. “Spidey doesn’t do that!” he cried, and Chris had to calm him down. In a few weeks later, the issue comes out, and everyone online was acting like Chris’ son. That’s what’s fun about Superior Spider-Man. That people could get that invested. Isn’t it great when comics surprise you, even when it’s because we’re putting a beloved character through the wringer?
My favorite comments from readers have been those who went from hating it to loving it, or went from loving it to hating it. But either way, they had to keep reading and had to keep up. For some it’s been torture, but for me, that’s what every episode of Breaking Badfelt like, but I couldn’t miss an episode. It’s that way with Game of Thrones and killing off favorite characters. I binge-watch entire seasons because I have to know what happens next, and it’s fun to go that route with Spider-Man. But the one advantage I’ve had with everyone else is I knew Peter was coming back. I could do whatever I want, have fun, and I always knew that with Stegman, Ramos, and Cammuncoli, it was going to look stunning, that our colorists Edgar and Antonio were gonna do gorgeous work, that everyone on the whole art team, Victor, John, and Livesay on inks, Chris on letters, these guys are the best in the business. I’ve been very lucky. Especially with editorial, this comes out twice a month, and our editor Steve Wacker and associate editor, Ellie Pyle, never let this thing go off the rails.
And it’s going to be fun to keep that momentum going even once Peter comes back. Fans want comics to surprise them, and we’re gonna keep bringing that.