Weekly Webbing: Hizzonor and the Web-Head

Weekly Webbing: Hizzonor and the Webhead

Amazing Spider-Man #591

As this week’s issue of Amazing Spider-Man revealed, there’s someone new in New York City’s Gracie Mansion.

Spoilers ahead for this week’s Amazing Spider-Man #591…

Former Daily Bugle Publisher (and outspoken Spider-Man critic) J. Jonah Jameson was elected Mayor of New York in a special election while Spider-Man was off adventuring in the Macroverse.

It’s going to be a looong term for both Hizzoner and the Webhead (does anyone else hear the theme music to The Odd Couple after hearing the words “Hizzoner and the Webhead?” No? Okay).

We spoke with Dan Slott and Amazing Spider-Man editor Steve Wacker about the decision to put J. Jonah in the Mayor’s seat.

Newsarama: Let’s start with you Dan - was this always the plan from the start of Brand New Day's kickoff, when Jonah was booted from the Daily Bugle and the changes his character went through, or was this a later addition to the larger plan?

Dan Slott: Timing-wise, the original plan was for Hollister to win the election. That was ages ago. Before the first issue had hit the stands, we'd had a number of meetings, dozens of conference calls, and thousands of e-mails. Somewhere around the time of the roll out, we hit on the idea that we'd have wayyyy more fun with Mayor J. Jonah Jameson.

NRAMA: Marc Guggenheim mentioned a little bit about it a couple of weeks back, but just how much New York election law did you guys have to study to figure out the timing here? Is what we saw in the comics a pretty close representation of how things would work if that election scenario ever happened in the real world?

DS: I got on the phone and called the New York City Board of Elections. I told 'em I was working on Amazing Spider-Man, they thought that was kinda neat, and they put me in touch with Steven Richman, the general counsel. And Mr. Richman was nice enough to walk me through how a special election would work in New York City.

NRAMA: Steve - what about the story of Jonah moving from former Publisher to candidate to Mayor? Will that story be told say, in an Extra, or will it be put together along the way through the ongoing stories?

Steve Wacker: We’re probably not going to go back and do the campaign story. We considered it at one point, but we’ve been in campaign mode since last January and were ready to move on. You’ll see bits and pieces of this as we introduce Jonah’s staff, but I doubt you’ll see a “How did Jonah get elected” story. We know how people get elected. They get votes (insert your own jaundiced view of the electoral system here).

NRAMA: In that vein, what was the Jolly one's platform, and specifically, his plank in regards to Spider-Man?

SW: Boiled down Jonah’s basically hates Spider-Man and can get a quarter out of two nickels. In tough economic times, that’s an attribute. After the disasters of Election Day, New Yorkers can see in Jonah a man they trust and a man that can see them through some tough storms.

NRAMA: Yeah, but larger picture, we know that JJJ loves Cap, and tends to be okay with heroes who don't cover their faces, but where does he stand on heroes presently, in light of the Registration Act and Norman Osborn? It would almost sound plausible that Jonah believes heroes attract the villains to NYC, and orders them all out...

DS: Considering that Jonah had a hand in creating the Scorpion, The Fly, and most of the Spider-Slayers, hiring everyone from Mysterio to Electro to kill Spider-Man, and employing the Big Man and a potential Hobgoblin here and there at the Bugle... Something tells me that Jonah attracts more supervillains than any hero ever could!

NRAMA: Fair enough. Steve, as Dan alluded to last week, JJJ as mayor is something that will affect many heroes in NYC directly, and others in a tangential way, at the very least - how did this development get agreed upon? Given that it's a company-wide thing, were there bigger than normal meetings and more layers of approval needed?

SW: Here’s my advice for all you young, wannabe editors-in-training …invite your bosses to your retreats! That way, if you bring up anything in the room that catches fire, you walk out with their tacit approval and don’t have to go back to the office trying to convince anyone!

It’s something I learned after pushing after Joe turned down my idea for keeping Pete and Mary Jane married with 8 children for the next 400 years. Ah, well….I lost that battle, but live and learn.

NRAMA: Not asking you to start telling other folks' stories, but what have been some of the reactions you heard from other writers and editorial offices about JJJ being Mayor?

SW: Macchio hates it, but I suspect he’s just secretly jealous of my youth.

Beyond that, I think everyone has warmed up to the idea. I don’t know that it necessarily means you’ll start seeing Jonah in every issue of, say, Daredevil, but when you need to see the Mayor in action, JJJ is who you’re going to see.

NRAMA: You're moving in to “Spider-Man 24/7” next - with, as Mark described it, Peter deciding to be Spider-Man as much as possible to annoy Jonah.. How does that jibe with the guilt he felt over contributing to his heart attacks early on? He knows that JJJ's not at the pinnacle of health...

DS: Ah. But if you've been closely following your issues of Amazing, you'd see that Jonah's been picking up many stress-relieving techniques-- from taking Tai Chi courses in the park in Amazing Spider-Man #559 to learning all kinds of yoga therapy (including Joe Kelly's wonderful calming mantra, "I will not die before Spider-Man. I will not die before Spider-Man.") in Amazing Spider-Man #577. And during Amazing Spider-Man #584, we've seen that Jonah's in fit an fighting shape-- as he now regularly hits the gym and hits the punching bag-- with a picture of Spidey's face on it, of course.

NRAMA: Looking ahead, and combining that with what your studies about the mayor's office have told you, where could we see JJJ and Spidey intersect in future storylines? How much reach does the mayor have?

DS: In the past, the epicenter of Peter's world used to be the Daily Bugle. The Bugle provided constant jumping off points for Spidey adventures. As we head into this new era of Amazing, you'll probably see a lot of things spring out of City Hall and Gracie Mansion.

NRAMA: Most recently with the President Obama issue, Joe Quesada has always maintained said that the Marvel Universe is the world outside your window, and they don't have fictional characters in public offices, such as President. Two parts to that one - what happened to Mayor Bloomberg? And how did you get Joe to look the other way?

DS: The Marvel Universe has always had a mix of the world outside your window and fantasy elements that lead to great stories. Seriously, pull out your Rand McNally and try to find Wakanda, Latveria, or Madripoor on the map. In the past we've seen that guys like Blake Tower as District Attorney, Tony Stark as the Secretary of Defense... Heck, we even saw Dell Rusk, who was secretly the Red Skull, become the Secretary of Defense. And if the Red Skull can push Donald Rumsfeld out of the picture during the Bush administration, I think it's safe to say that Jameson can trump Bloomberg.

NRAMA: Fair enough – to wrap up, Steve - favorite Jonah as Mayor moment so far you've seen in a story?

SW: Spidey’s give JJJ a gift next issue that I thought was inspired. We also see some back and forth between Pete and JJJ is Guggenheim’s Annual that make me laugh just typing about it.

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