Updated July 30, 2019: Now that Marvel is gearing up to bring back its 2099 setting in comic books, we're also digging up some past treasure as we look ten years into the past at this classic interview with writer Peter David about his co-creation, Spider-Man 2099.
Yesterday we took a look back at part one , and now without further ado, here's part two, from all the way back in 2009.
Original story published March 4, 2009: Our three-part talk with Peter David about Spider-Man 2099 continues today. In this installment, David explains how several of the series’ loose ends were supposed to resolve, dealing with critics, teaming Spider-Man 2099 up with his modern-day counterpart, an action sequence that repeated itself, and what would have happened next.
Click here for part one.
Newsarama: Now, I’d like to touch on something I’d heard bandied about – apparently, Spider-Man 2099 #1 was the best-selling book of your career at that time…
Peter David: A little over one million copies, yeah.
NRAMA: (long pause) So…that record’s not going to be broken any time soon.
PAD: Nope. (laughs)
NRAMA: What was it like, having a launch like that?
PAD: Well, it was extremely gratifying, but I didn’t think for a minute it was because I was writing the book. No one was saying, “We must buy a million copies of this Peter David book!” It was an event! If anyone had written that book, it would have sold over a million copies!
And on the one hand, it was gratifying to get that kind of attention, and to have that kind of support, and on the other, it was quite daunting, because there was no way those numbers were gonna last! There was nowhere to go but down! It’s not like we were going to sell a million-five of issue #2. I certainly sign more copies of that book than anything else, though.
NRAMA: You talked about designing the costume with Rick earlier. What was the experience of working with him on the book like?
PAD: Again, it was very stimulating, very exciting. Rick is a phenomenally talented artist, and he has strong ideas of his own. Every so often, he would come up with ideas that he felt would be better than what I had, and I didn’t mind more often than not, but there was one time where it was kind of catastrophic.
There was one issue where Spider-Man was fighting Venture. And Rick came up with this entire sequence to resolve the fight that he liked better than what I had. And it involved Spider-Man using an oncoming train to wipe out Venture. Visually, it was all very exciting. Here’s the problem – Rick hadn’t run it by me. Had he done so, I would have told him that in the issue of X-Factor coming out that exact same month, a villain got taken out by an oncoming train.
If both issues had come out that same month, the fan reaction would have been, “Wow, Peter David was out of ideas that month!” They were the exact same thing! So I went to Joey and said, “We can’t have this!” And Joey went to Rick and said, “Redraw it!” And Joey stood by the writer, which was nice, and Rick had to go back and redraw those three pages to reflect what I wrote.
But I made it up to him. A year and a half later, when I brought back Venture, we got to the climax of the story, and since we now had a year and a half since the previous issue, I thought it was okay. So I said in the script, “For pages 19 to 21, we now use Rick’s pages from a year and a half ago. So congratulations, Rick – the time you lost from a year and a half ago because you had to redraw it…you just got it back.” (laughs)
NRAMA: It pays to recycle!
PAD: It certainly did! But Rick had good ideas, and from that point on, when he had an idea that was different from what I wanted to do, he came to me, and that was fine. That’s all I ever ask!
But he was an incredible artist. And as much as people might have liked the character or the ideas that I came up with, it certainly owes its popularity to Rick’s work, and the proof is that it just wasn’t as popular after Rick left. Same writer was there!
There was a lot of energy that came out of the collaboration between myself and Rick. And I just have to say that he did a terrific job.
NRAMA: I agree, I loved his work on the book. My favorite issue was the one-shot that crossed over with modern-day Spidey…
PAD: Oh yeah. God, that was fun! We had wrangled together the idea that we were going to do a Spider-Man meets Spider-Man 2099 crossover. And what happened was, again, I tried to run contrary to expectations.
One of the ways of doing that was not having them actually meet until the end of the book. And then they go, “Eh, I’m not sure if we should fight or not.” “Oh, let’s just not and say we did.” And then we move right on. That came because I couldn’t come up with any convincing reason why the two of them should fight.
It just seemed preposterous and ridiculous and stupid. But what I found interesting was that at the time, we were told we could use either of the Spider-Men that were running around. We could either use Peter Parker, or we were told we could use Ben Reilly.
NRAMA: ….annnnd you knew who you were going to use.
PAD: It was actually suggested to us that we use Ben Reilly. We were told that “Ben Reilly is the Spider-Man of the future,” that Peter Parker was pretty much done, and Ben Reilly was the face of Spider-Man from now on.
Well, I didn’t believe it, and Joey didn’t believe it, and we looked at each other and said, “That’s nonsense. Peter Parker’s going to go back to being Spider-Man, I don’t buy this Ben Reilly.” Understand, we were not under any pressure from editorial; this was simply the opinion of an editor at Marvel Comics who was convinced that was going to be the case. And we’re going, “Yeah, right. We don’t buy that for a microsecond.”
For me, this was my one opportunity to have the two Spider-Men meet, so I wasn’t going to waste it on Ben Reilly. So, with all deference to the Ben Reilly fans, forget it! Because it would be too bad if Miguel O’Hara never had a chance to meet Peter Parker.
What was more interesting to me was having the two characters in each others’ worlds. Because the two worlds and the two sets of supporting casts were so fleshed-out, I thought it would be more entertaining than having them encounter each other and have the standard cliché of “let’s have a fight” and then teaming up than to just have them in each other’s worlds and interact with each other’s supporting casts. Which is why I had Miguel waking up in bed next to Mary Jane.
NRAMA: Not a bad way to wake up.
PAD: Yeah, there’s worse ways.
NRAMA: I always loved that scene where Miguel tells off Jameson, because that’s something every Spider-fan’s always wanted to do.
PAD: Where he pulls off his mask and says that in the future no one will remember him?
PAD: There’s no worse thing you can tell a writer. There’s no worse thing. The concept that no one remember you, that you will be forgotten. If you tell any creative person that…you ever see Amadeus?
NRAMA: Yeah, Salieri.
PAD: At the beginning, when he’s playing all these compositions of his to the priest, and the priest doesn’t recognize any of them, and then he plays nine notes of a Mozart piece and the priest knows it instantly…
(a brief, over-the-phone reenactment of that scene follows between PAD and interviewer. Best not to transcribe)
…the concept that you will be forgotten. Of course, that film caused a bit of a renaissance centuries later for Salieri, but the idea that he knows he’ll be forgotten just a few generations after he was in prime…that’s just the worst thing that a creative person has to deal with, the idea that future generations will have no idea who you were or what you did.
Writing, the creative art, is a bid for immortality. I always loved Woody Allen’s quote, “I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work – I want to achieve immortality by not dying.” But failing that, the second-best is achieving immortality through your writing. And Miguel saying to Jameson, “In the future, everyone will revere Spider-Man, and no one will have any idea who you are; you will be completely forgotten,” it is Spider-Man’s final triumph. Because in that moment, Jameson knows that he will never win, that the game’s over, the game’s been played, and the game’s been lost.
And I think that’s why fans love that scene. It gets that idea in your face – a hundred years from now, everyone will remember Spider-Man, and no one will remember who you are. Just think, when Les Miserables came out, when it was first published, critics hated it! They said Victor Hugo didn’t know chuck-all about the French Revolution, and it was a terrible book! But who remembers the names of the critics?
NRAMA: Fans of Siskel and Ebert?
PAD: Yeah, maybe. A hundred years from now, though, who’s going to remember Siskel and Ebert? Are there some great critics whose works are still remembered to this day? Yes. But that’s in part because their work transcends the idea of criticism. Their critiques reached a state of art unto themselves. By and large, though, the people who just sit there and bitch about stuff are forgotten.
NRAMA: You’re reminding me of that speech about critics in Ratatouille….
PAD: Yes! I feel like that one came from the heart. Boy, that was just…I don’t think that any critic would ever write that. That was written by a creative individual. That was written by someone who was firing back at critics.
NRAMA: It perturbed me a little, because it’s Brad Bird! It’s Pixar! They get the best reviews of anybody on the planet!
PAD: Yeah, but on the other hand, there’s always going to be critics, and I’m sure that Brad Bird’s endured some shots during his life.
NRAMA: Point taken. Well, this is a fun tangent and something we could debate for a while, but let’s get back to Spidey.
You had 2099 versions of at least three Spider-foes – the Vulture, the Goblin and Venom. Obviously, fans probably demanded you get more of them in there . Would you have done this if you had stayed with the series?
PAD: Probably, when it seemed appropriate, and if I could come up with a good concept for it. I mean, the Vulture was a natural. If nothing else, I liked the idea of introducing the Vulture, because he was a genuine carrion eater.
NRAMA: That scared the hell of me when I read it.
PAD: Yeah – left to my own devices, who knows what I would have done with the Vulture? Because that was so monumentally fucked-up that is just suited the world.
I did Venom 2099 largely under editorial pressure…
NRAMA: I figured. It was the ‘90s – Venom was everywhere.
PAD: Yeah. There was a great deal of internal – it was not like they said, “do this, or you’re fired off the book.” It was nothing like that. Not remotely. But let’s just say I was told there was a great deal of editorial interest, and the concept of doing Venom 2099 would be very greatly appreciated. That was something editorial really wanted to see.
You know, I gave it my best shot, and I don’t particularly think it’s my best work, but I certainly think I did the best I could with the idea. Let’s see, did I do any others…
NRAMA: There was the Goblin…
PAD: Right, the Goblin! Which I keep mentally erasing, because that got totally fucked up.
NRAMA: That was something I wanted to get into. Obviously, the Goblin being Gabe was…what it was. But at least you had 2099: Manifest Destiny to write over that.
PAD: Yeah, what basically happened was the guys who were doing Manifest Destiny – for some reason, I think it was Tom Brevoort. Was it Tom?
NRAMA: Let me check….
Newsarama Note: We were unable to find a copy of the issue, and the online credits did not list the editor. So, Tom, if you’re reading this, feel free to take or deny credit...
PAD: If it was Tom, drop him into this. I think he was the guy who contacted me. I was contacted by at least someone in editorial, who said, “We’re doing this thing to kind of wrap up the 2099 universe. Was there anything that was done that you hated in Spider-Man 2099 after your departure?”
And I said, “The Goblin was never supposed to be Gabe, and I was furious that they killed off Conchata.” So the Goblin was revealed to be a shape-shifter or something like that who had impersonated Gabe, and Conchata was miraculously brought back to life. I was okay with that!
NRAMA: I read somewhere that the Goblin was supposed to be Jennifer…?
PAD: Father Jennifer was supposed to be the Goblin, yes.
NRAMA: What would have driven her to become the Goblin?
PAD: I honest to God don’t remember. I would have to go back and reread those issues, and recreate what my thinking was.
NRAMA: I remember being really relieved when you got to wrap up a few loose ends in Captain Marvel – “Ohhhh, Rick Jones was Thanatos…”
PAD: Yeah, I sure pulled that one out of my ass, didn’t I? (laughs)
PAD: I had several ideas as to who Thanatos could be. And so – I couldn’t believe it, but years after the book ended, people would ask me about Thanatos! Years after! And I had various ideas about who it could be! But when I was bringing him back in Captain Marvel, Rick Jones seemed like the logical choice. So lo and behold, Rick Jones became Thanatos.
NRAMA: Aaannnd the Net Prophet was Justice from the New Universe, correct?
PAD: Yes. It was always intended to be Tensen, yeah.
NRAMA: What would have happened if he’d stuck around?
PAD: At the time, we were actually going to jump the 2099 series ahead several years –
NRAMA: 2101, correct?
PAD: Right. We were basically going to jump all the series ahead to 2101, and there was all kinds of stuff we were just starting to come up with the ideas for. We had brought the series to a natural break point, and we were just starting to come up with the new ideas for various things we would be doing when the entire line was basically shut down, plus the fact that I quit.
So it was kind of like the ideas I was developing got shut down early on. I don’t spend a lot of time musing on stuff that I would have done that wind up getting shut down. I only have so many gray cells to devote to this stuff!
NRAMA: You gotta move forward!
PAD: I was going to be moving forward, and I was developing ideas, and then I wound up leaving the series, so I stopped thinking about it. (laughs) I don’t generally think in two-to-three-year arcs for my series, so I didn’t think much about where Tensen was, or where I left him. That’s why after I quit the series, because Joey Cavalieri got fired, that I stopped thinking about Tensen and the other 2099 characters.
If I’m recalling correctly, I was going to start three years later where Tyler Stone had disappeared, and Miguel was now the head of Alchemax. And I’m pulling up my vague recollection of that…that’s right, Miguel was going to be the head of Alchemax, Spider-Man had not been seen for like two years, and then all of the sudden there were reports of Spider-Man back in action. And Miguel has to figure out what’s going on.
Next: How would David create Spider-Man 2099 today? Part Three is right here.