Alex Ross' cover to Amazing Spider-Man #600Once again, it’s time to welcome Amazing Spider-Man editor Steve Wacker back to Newsarama to step in on our Weekly Webbing Spider-Man feature that occasionally even hits weekly.
Gripes about schedule aside for now, we caught up with Steve this week to talk about American Son, who’s dancing with who in issue #600, how the mojo of the unmasking works, and more.
And once again, because we always, for some reason think it’s a good idea, we’ll let Steve kick things off with an opening…
Hello, Newsarama. Right where I left you two months ago, I see. Dead-eyed, vacant staring eyes glazing ham-like at CB Cebulski’s Twitter feed and Brevoort’s blog hoping against hope they give you one seed of advice that will allow you to pole vault over the desperately like-minded and get your one, true Alpha Flight pitch approved.
I know you, Newsaramians. I am you.
Unlike you, however, I have Matt Brady breathing down my neck to answer 13 questions. (HA! That’s a joke, son! Just one glance at Newsarama tells me they now interview everyone even uses the word “comic” in a sentence. Hey, It’s Friday! Isn’t it time for an essay about whether or not digital comics are the FUTURE?!?! )
Ah, Newsarama, you’re like our own little Huffington Post for guys who are way too mad at Dan Didio..
Brady’s probably cutting all the above anyway, so let’s get to your questions.
Before we start though, take a second to copy this to your clipboard now so you don’t have to type it later:
“Spider-man has been garbage since OMD.“
Off we go
Matt again – okay – that might have been a mistake…
Newsarama: Steve, to start with, “American Son” is about midway through, and we spoke with Joe Kelly last week about it - but from the inside baseball angle that we get from you (and your weakness for any and all baseball metaphors) - how did Joe land this gig for this storyline? Was it something that he pitched, specifically, or was it a case where everyone else either stepped back a step when volunteers were called, others' schedules were busy, etc?
Steve Wacker: This was almost a year ago at this point, but my recollection is that it happened pretty naturally. We had gotten Pete to a point of real frustration at the new world order in Mark’s “24/7” arc and were trying to figure out what happened next and Joe really keyed in on the idea of Pete going after Osborn. Some specific beats fell in and out as Joe hashed it out with the rest of the gang, and then things morphed a bit more when he actually sat down to write it, but it was mostly just the details that changed. The bigger story of Pete, Norman, Harry and Lily was always at the center of things.
So, yes this was always Joe’s story to write.
NRAMA: For those who may have missed the seeds that were planted previously for this storyline - can you give the top moment that lead to “American Son?” This mostly traces back to “New Ways to Die” and then “Character Assassination,” right? What elements does “American Son” build off of?
SW: I guess “Character Assassination” is the main seed give the Lily revelation and Norman taking her in. Plus there’s bit with Harry and Pete at the end of the story as they talk about the Osborn “curse” that I think really sets the stage emotionally for this.
Truth is, though I think you can go back to the very first issue when this writing team took over and see pieces that have come together over the past 18 months. Hopefully it all feels of a piece.
(Yes, yes. except for that one time I allowed two stories in a row where Spidey’s web-shooter broke. That has obviously tainted everything since. BOOM! STUDIOS! ROOLZ!)
Amazing Spider-Man #598NRAMA: From the preview, and the solicitations for the future issues, this seems to be a darker story for Spider-Man, with infiltrating the Dark Avengers’ HQ, the return of Menace, and the ideas that the word "son" put in one's head when Norman Osborn is involved. In your mind, how does Spider-Man perform in these types of stories, where the stakes are very high, he's clearly on the wrong side of the law, and the choices that would end the battle are "bad" and "worse?"
SW: If you slightly rearrange the letters of “Harry Osborn” you get “Harry born. So?” Think about it.
SW: In general, I don’t think that Pete thinks too much about whether or not he’s going against the law. He cares about his responsibility to use his powers the right way.
He’s lived with the authorities coming after him since he was 16, so in that sense the world isn’t terribly different. That authority just has a face now, a face that he knows from first hand experience is downright evil. It’s beyond frustrating for him and makes him feel personally invested in putting a stop to it.
It’s like if I had to wake up everyday and work for Joe Quesada.
NRAMA: To quote Brando…”The horror…the horror…” Moving right along, we've spoken a lot about the progression of the title since the start of Brand New Day, but how would you define “American Son” in the scope of the year's worth of stories and the stories to date? Does it, say, break things into a "Before AS" and "After AS" periods?
SW: I certainly hope for some readers that it feels like the most important story we’ve done, but I feel that way about pretty much every issue we do (all right. I didn’t feel that way about the Spot issue in #589, but I sure liked it a lot). For some folks #600 is going to be a big before and after point.
Brevoort talks a lot (and I mean A LOT!) about making sure each of our stories have “thrust”, some element propelling each story not only to it’s ending, but into the next story, and the next. It’s a hard thing to define, like trying to describe Bob Gale’s eyes, but you know when you got it. Sometimes it’s a revelation, sometimes it’s a villain’s plot, but everything we do should try and illuminate Pete’s world a little more and say something about him.
I think all of the writers have been delivering on that front…especially the last few months. I hope the readers do, too.
Amazing Spider-Man #596NRAMA: We've seen parts one and two of “American Son,” so far, but can you hit us with some key moments that are coming up - the can't miss moments?
SW: Sure – how about:
-Who’s in the tube?
-A game-changing gunshot.
-A correctly colored Invisible Woman costume (it was wrong this week).
-Hulk vs. thing at PUNCH-OUT.
-“Do you love my son.”
NRAMA: We'd be remiss of course not to mention that this leads into Amazing Spider-Man #600 - the solicitation for that issue is one of the longest in recent history, but can you break it down a bit - hit us with who's paired up with who on the stories?
Slott, Romita, Jr, Janson and Dean White on the lead story. Now 61 pages long! It’s spectacular the work these guys have done. Giant fights, big drama, just one of those great experiences you can only get in a super-hero comic.
Then Marcos Martin draws a not-quite-in-continuity-but-almost-if-you-squint story by a new guy named Stan Lee. It’s both funny, but Stan is able to work in some poignancy too, like his best stories always do. In a normal month, this story alone would be an event in and of itself.
Plus several of the Web-Heads are contributing a 5-page story. With art by (in no particular order) Colleen Doran, Max Fiumara, Mario Alberto, and Mitch Breitweister.
Then it’s a six page Avengers #51 follow-up by Bendis and Quesada. This is payback since we were all sooooo mad about his Spidey unmasking scene.
And here’s the real scoop…Loeb, Brubaker, Fraction and Mike McKone are also contributing to this comic that I can’t believe I’m actually working on.
All of this is wrapped up by your choice of covers. There’s our two main covers: Alex Ross’ beautifully red Spidey vs. Doc Ock and Johnny’s wraparound Spidey piece. Then you have Joe Q’s amazing wraparound cover.
A teaser for Amazing Spider-Man #600But the one I think you should all get your hands on is by the crème ‘ala crème of Spidey artists: John Romita Sr. I think we’ll be debuting that at one of the cons in the net few weeks.
Look at that lineup! That’s like a ’27 Yankees if they had 4 Ruths, 4 Gehrigs, and Loeb.
NRAMA: As you’ve said, it’s got Stan. Something I’ve always wondered about when he comes back to write a story – as an editor, do you really edit Stan?
SW: You do, but it makes you very nervous and you practice in front of a mirror the night before. Stan actually seems to appreciate feedback though. The real good ones always do.
He pretty much knew the story he wanted to do, so I just had to pull some reference for him and make one real suggestion of any note. This was pretty easy to pull together.
NRAMA: You mentioned it back with issue #600, and we haven't had a chance to talk since the dueling identity reveals in New Avengers and Dan's issues with the FF. Explain it to us in simple words - once people see Peter under the mask, they remember everything? That they've always known who he was, and just had this burp where they forgot?
SW: I started a long-winded explanation here that obfuscated more than explained, so instead of that mess, here’s Spidey-Scribe Dan Slott to explain:
Dan Slott: It works the way these things have worked in the Marvel Universe for over the past ten years. Like here.
Once someone sees Peter unmasked, all their memories from before the mindwipe come back to them. They're still aware that their mind had been tampered with though. So the way this works for Peter is the same way it worked for Tony Stark back in 1998. Hope that helps.
Steve - do I get paid for this?
SW: HA! You are adorable!
NRAMA: Alright – we’ll let people chew on that one, but was this always part of the plan, even when you came on, to have him be a "mystery man" for a year or so, and then, kind of go back to being known to his friends?
SW: Getting the ID out to a select few characters was always part of what we wanted to do. The only thing we didn’t plan on was the New Avengers issue coming out a couple weeks before ours. Once we realized that it was coming out first, it was too late to do anything about, so we went with it. Luckily no one on-line over-reacted.
NRAMA: Sure. But all of that said, the trick here, seems to still be the marriage - Wolverine, and many others knew that Peter and MJ were married. Logan used to hit on MJ just to taunt Peter. Do people remember that they knew who Peter was, but still have a blind spot when it comes to the marriage and MJ?
SW: You can ask this question 15,000 ways (and you have!), but the answer is the same: The wedding was erased. It never happened. There’s no marriage for anyone to remember.
Wolverine would still remember MJ, but the specifics are going to play out in the pages of Spidey when the story calls for it. Answering these things in an interview --rather than in a story-- is a crappy thing to do to your creators.
No you can ask me about fellow editors who don’t tell you where everyone’s meeting for lunch, leaving you once again alone walking around the perimeter of Bryant Park listening to old Danny Wilson albums from 1988 while realizing you’ve never really felt like you’ve been an integral “part” of any group you’ve been a part of. You want to believe it’s them, but you know deep down…it’s you.
That’s a question I can answer.
NRAMA: Who knew the life of the Amazing Spider-Man editor was so lonely. And filled with Danny Wilson albums.
Finally on this thread - speaking of the marriage - as you know by now, the Spider-Man newspaper strip put the marriage back in place, after - reportedly - letters from angry readers, though it seems that putting it back was the plan all along. Does the "reversal" of the marriage disappearance over there affect anything you're doing in the series?
SW: Are you kidding? When have events in the newspaper strip ever dictated events in the comic?
Hold on. Brevoort’s whispering something to me through that shag carpet beard he wears like a gopher stapled itself to his face.
Shea Stadium? Get outta here--?
So, what do I tell…?
Okay. Back. No, no plans to follow the strip. I suspect Stan just had a story to tell and did it.
NRAMA: So what are your thoughts on the strip's bringing the marriage back? Should there be a "unified front" when it comes to Spider-Man, Peter and MJ, or is the strip just another "flavor" of Spider-Man?
SW: I’ve mentioned here before that one of the brilliant things about Spidey (much like Batman) is that here’s just and endless amount of things you can do with him as a character. I’m not one who thinks, the movies must match the comic, must match the strip must match the Ultimate Comic, must match the MMORPG.
There’s room for all sorts of interpretations and as much of a fan I am of the years when Spidey and MJ were married, I don’t think the marriage defined the character (and yes, I’m aware some people reading this disagree with that. You can find that someone stating that opinion on…well…every website on the internet ever).
Amazing Spider-Man #601So no I don’t usually believe in “unified fronts”. I believe in using the stuff that works. Whatever that may be.
NRAMA: So what is the flavor of Spider-Man?
SW: Circus Peanut.
You can tell almost any kind of Spidey tale you want from street-level grimness to outer space, time travel zany, but he’ll always bounce back.
What all the iterations have in common is giving Peter Parker a sense of decency and making him a guy you’re rooting for even when you know he’s making a bad decision.
It’s the same way many of you feel about me.