When Mark Waid first became one of the writers who produce the thrice-a-month Amazing Spider-Man series, he declared right away what Spider-Man character would be the focus of his upcoming stories: the Spidey-hating J. Jonah Jameson.
We just didn't know that by the time Waid was writing him, the guy would be the mayor of New York.
"My love for J. Jonah Jameson knows no bounds," Waid <a href="/11578-exclusive-amazing-spider-man-592-spider-man-24-7.html>Amazing Spider-Man #592</a>, where the writer will finally get to explore Jameson's character in the first issue of his "24/7" storyline. In last week's <a href="http://www.newsarama.com/comics/040917-Weekly-Webbing.html">pivotal Issue #591</a>, Jameson was elected mayor of New York during a special election, giving him the official power to now make Spider-Man's life even more difficult.
Newsarama talked to Waid about J. Jonah Jameson and found out more about the meaning of this storyline's "24/7" title and why the writer decided to introduce a new Vulture to Amazing Spider-Man.
Newsarama: When you first started with the Spider-Man team of writers, you had said the one character you were interested in exploring was J. Jonah Jameson. So this is your chance?
Mark Waid: It's my chance. I wish I could take credit for the mayoral term being my idea. But still, I was thrilled when that idea hit the page because it was a chance to really put Jonah back in the position where he works best, which is as a thorn in Spider-Man's side.
NRAMA: What will readers see from him as mayor?
MW:: Our original instinct was to make him the worst mayor in New York history, but the reality of the economic crunch made us rethink that and realize that, at this moment, there's probably nobody better suited to that office than somebody who can pinch a nickel and get two quarters out of it.
NRAMA: That's interesting that you are basing this on the real economic situation. With all the shared universes you've worked in, Mark, do you think Marvel is the most reflective of what's going on in our world?
MW:: I think that's absolutely true. I think that's what makes Marvel Marvel, is that they're very reflective of what goes on in the real world. It really should be, to a large extent, the world outside your window. And so, while we're not going to have entire stories hang on the AIG crisis and stuff like that -- that's a little too on-the-nose -- it would be foolish for us to ignore what is questionably the most prominent news story of this year, which is the idea that the economy is in a weird sort of a shake-down. Without building entire stories around it, it's a nice background element to have in the Marvel Universe.
NRAMA: Before we talk about the 24/7 storyline in particular, why are you so attracted to J. Jonah as a character? What makes him such a great character to write for someone like Mark Waid, who has written so many great characters over the years?
MW:: That he has a hair-trigger temper, that just everything out of his mouth is funny, whether he means it to be or not. That voice is so unmistakable in comics as the things that only J. Jonah would say. And it's just so much fun to write somebody who is very good at a lot of things, and without Spider-Man in his life would be, maybe, a well-adjusted human being that you wouldn't mind hanging out with. But every time somebody mentions the word Spider-Man, everything takes a left turn and that sort of gleam of obsessiveness comes up in his eyes. And he just turns into a mad-man, but in a funny way. It's great.
NRAMA: And that will continue while he's mayor, right?
MW:: Oh yeah. He's in the position now that he's wanted to be in forever. He can legally, you know, drive Spider-Man into the grave if he wanted. It's one thing to keep hiring spider-slayers and keep making secret pacts with inventors and stuff, but now he's got the power to persecute Spider-Man to the ends of the Burroughs. He will appoint a special Swat team out of the mayor's office whose job it is to do nothing but around-the-clock hunt Spider-Man.
NRAMA: Is that where the title comes from? 24/7? That he's going to be hunting him all the time?
MW:: That's part of it, that he is on the run 24/7. But at the same time, Spidey has also decided that, well, on the face of it, he's decided that being Spider-Man 24/7 is a great way to rub Jonah's face in his presence. Basically, he tries to make a truce with Jonah, and Jonah blows him off. And Spider-Man says, OK, if you're going to be that way, I too will overreact and I will be Spidey 24/7. And there are consequences to that, and there's also the notion that, as you get into parts two and three of the story, there's more to Peter's decision than just trying to make an old man angry. There's actually more hidden motivation there that is sort of peeled away as the story progresses.
NRAMA: What other characters will we see during this story?
MW:: We get to see a big return of J. Jonah Jameson's dad. We get to see a new Vulture. We also get to see the old Vulture for a minute, but as much as I like the old Vulture, it's really hard for me to envision writing a story where Spider-Man keeps punching a man who is 102 years old. So we came up with an idea for a new Vulture, which doesn't necessarily preclude the old Vulture's existence. It's just a new vision. It's a new method of operating. It's a little darker and grimmer. And the new Vulture is more of a problem for the underworld than he is for the cops, because he's sort of an urban legend among criminals as a dark and mysterious guy who preys specifically on the weak and injured of the underworld. If you're running away from a job and somebody's wounded, rather than take the risk of getting him to a hospital on time and taking him with you, odds are these days in New York, you will just tie him up to a lamp post and let the Vulture come find him because it will at least take the Vulture away from the rest of your group.
NRAMA: Now that we've covered your storyline, what do you think of the most previous storyline where Spidey was unmasked?
MW:: I think it's okay that a few people know who Spider-Man is. Growing up, I never had a problem with, say, Daredevil or the Human Torch knowing his identity. But I still see the wisdom in not wanting the entire world to know.
NRAMA: Do you think superheroes should have secret identities as much as possible?
MW:: I still think the secret identity is a valuable tool. And as we've learned, if you expose it, it's really hard to put that genie back in the bottle. It's also a difference of universe, as Marvel is a universe that can be built on conflict more, just in general, even among its stars. So it's a little more fun for them to not know every little secret about each other. Whereas in the DC universe, the universe tends to be built on trust and friendship, so it makes more natural sense to me that the heroes there are a little more ready to share their identities.
NRAMA: OK, then, getting back to 24/7, is there anything else you want to tell fans about this story?
MW:: Just that there's a fair amount of comedy. There's some darkness in the story, but there are also a lot of scenes that just made us laugh out loud.
NRAMA: With J. Jonah Jameson? Comedy?
MW:: [laughs] I know! But just the way Spidey needles Jonah, there are some really funny moments that I think people will get off on.