Ever after the impending conclusion of “Spider-Verse,” Spider-Man’s problems are far from over – in fact, they’re just getting started. Newsarama has news that classic Spider-Man scribe Gerry Conway is returning to the franchise in a big way and will be writing a five-part storyline beginning in March that will run alongside Amazing Spider-Man as special “Point One” issues from #16.1 to #20.1 similar to the earlier “Learning to Crawl” story.
For this story - subtitled “Spiral, - Conway will be joined by artist Carlo Barberi in a story that finds the wall-crawler jump from the inter-dimensional battles of the “Spider-Verse” into the down and dirty, street level world of crime in New York City.
Conway, who co-created classic Spidey villains such as Tombstone and Hammerhead and pinned the climatic death of Gwen Stacy, is returning after an extended period writing for television shows such as Law & Order and tells Newsarama he’s excited to be back home in comics.
Newsarama: Gerry, what is this Amazing Spider-Man story you’re doing next year about?
Gerry Conway: On a large scale, it’s my big return to Spider-Man! On a smaller scale it’s a story about two people: A Spider-Man who’s returning from his huge “Spider-Verse” event and entering into a crime war, and the story of one of his supporting cast. What I pitched Nick [Lowe, editor of Spider-Man] was to take a character in Spider-Man’s orbit who is heroic and put them on a dark journey; to take them down a path that at every turn readers can empathize with but it keeps taking them to a darker and darker place. And to see what it does to Spidey. The character we picked is police captain Yuri Watanabe, the current Wraith. She’s been an interesting character since Dan Slott introduced her in Amazing Spider-Man #600 because she’s both a stickler for the law but also a vigilante; this story will tip her over a little bit.
Nrama: You’ve a veritable expert on Spider-Man having written his stories on several occasions, but Watanabe is relatively new. What’s your appraisal of her, both as a cop and as the Wraith?
Conway: I’m playing off the way she was written by Dan, and in my interpretation of that I see someone who isn’t entirely comfortable with the vigilante role but feels it’s required of her at various points for situations she sees as justifiable.
She’s not just a street cop, however; she’s a captain. That means she’s risen through the ranks and has been in the department for a long time, and one would think she’s accommodated herself to the realities of police work. At the same time, she’s committed to seeing justice done. She’s hit that wall which people sometimes do in an institution, where your ideals and the impetus that brought you to the job smack against the realities of the system. She’s at a turning point and isn’t entirely comfortable in her role as either a police captain or a vigilante, so that’s what makes her an attractive and interesting character.
Nrama: Was she someone Marvel brought up to you seeking a story, or is it something you hit upon on your own?
Conway: This was my pitch to them. I had an overall pitch, which was to take a heroic character and put them on a dark journey, and as I discussed it with Nick Lowe I suggested the Wraith because of Dan’s work with the character, particularly in Superior Spider-Man. I saw Yuri's Wraith as a character who visually was great, had appeal as a counterpart to Spider-Man, and would work well given the overall storyline I was pitching. Obviously there's give and take, back and forth with an editor and with Dan Slott as this all counts for Spidey moving forward, but Nick and I ended up on the same page fairly quickly.
Nrama: Sounds like you got a handle on Yuri, but Marvel hired you also for your great track record writing Spider-Man. How does Yuri’s methodology work with Spider-Man’s own?
Conway: Spider-Man’s story in this reflects that he’s someone who has recently been through a lot of crap. He’s been sort of a passenger on the voyage Doctor Octopus took from being a bad guy to being a good guy, and he’s also, at this point, been through the “Spider-Verse” event and seen many of the different paths that becoming a hero can take you on. Peter’s aware that being a hero is more complicated than he thought; he thought catching crooks and leaving them hanging from a streetpost with webfluid to be handled by the justice system was all he had to think about. Now, because of what Yuri Watanabe is going through, he’s asking himself – is that sufficient? If justice lets the bad guys go, how should Peter deal with that? How should Spider-Man deal with that?
Spider-Man has to accept the realities of the justice system, but it preys on his sense of responsibility. His need to see justice done combined with the journey Wraith is on combine to affect Spider-Man’s perception of what his responsibilities as a superhero are.
Nrama: And they come together to take on the New York underworld. When I hear about that, the first thing that comes to mind (for me at least) is Kingpin. Will Wilson Fisk be a part of this story?
Conway: No, actually this is a result of the Kingpin being kicked out of New York. We are in a free-for-all with various gangs vying for control after the events of Superior Spider-Man, and no one ultimate crime boss has been settled upon. As someone who created a couple gang characters before such as Tombstone and Hammerhead, I relished the chance to play with that toolbox.
Nrama: I remember the great “Lobo Brothers Gang War” storyline you did in a Spider-Man series.
Conway: Yes. It’s a lot of fun. Here in this new story we have a gang war rippling across Manhattan, but our focus is on Watanabe’s precinct as a microcosm of the larger war.
Speaking of this kind of thing, I think Spider-Man works well in a street level milieu. Spidey is great in stories where he faces off against powerful super beings, but he's also terrific fighting street crime, so doing a gang story lets us operate on that level. It’s a fun venue.
Nrama: You name-dropped Tombstone and Hammerhead there, and I can’t let that lie there – will they be in this story?
Conway: Yes! I’m getting to write them both, and it’s terrific. One of the reasons I pitched this story was so I could write them again.
Hammerhead was one of the first characters I created for Spider-Man, with John Romita. He was intended to be a Dick Tracy-esque villain, being a bit “over the top” visually speaking. Over the years, he’s developed into a more sophisticated, richer character than that, and it’s great that I get to play with Hammerhead as other writers have developed him.
Nrama: So how are guys like Tombstone, Hammerhead and other criminal gangs trying to settle this war?
Conway: They’ll be at each other’s throats. Readers will see what amounts to a series of parries and counter-parries, as different groups and individuals try to gain dominance over the gang structure of New York. There’s also another figure manipulating things who we’ll come to recognize by the end of the first issue: Mr. Negative. We also have Black Cat doing her part to gain control.
It’s free flowing and a lot of fun to bring back these iconic gang characters. Our plan is to re-introduce that kind of street-level crime story to Spider-Man in a way we haven’t seen in a little while.
Nrama: The subtitle of this is “Spiral” – what does that mean for the story?
Conway: In this context, “Spiral” implies descent and a series of turns that take you from a good place to a dark place. It’s a downward spiral.
Nrama: This is the second Spider story you’re tied to this month after your story in Spider-Verse Team-Up #2. What’s brought you back to Marvel after all these years?
Conway: It all started with a dinner I had with Marvel’s Joe Quesada last year when he was in Los Angeles. We were talking about comics, of course. [laughs]
Even though I haven’t worked in the field for a number of years, my heart is deeply attached to the field and to Marvel. I’ve always considered myself a comic book writer who’s doing other work. In some sense, I’ve never quite left the field emotionally, and while Joe and I were talking over dinner he suggested I get in touch with the editors at Marvel as he thought they’d be interested in me writing for them again.
When I did, naturally the character that came up immediately was Spider-Man, and it went from there to this. The Spider-Verse Team-Up story is actually the second project I became involved with, even though it’s coming out first. We’ve been working on this miniseries for several months, and while that was going forward Nick called me and asked if I’d be interested in writing for the Team-Up anthology.