Back to 1602: The Friendly 17th Century SPIDER-MAN Returns

Jeff Parker on SPIDER-MAN 1602

Spider-Man may be a little short of skyscrapers in 1602, but he's still got plenty of good ol' Spidey heroics.

In Spider-Man 1602, the five-issue mini-series starting in October, writer Jeff Parker and penciler Ramon Rosanas will tell what Marvel is calling the "final story" of the 1602 saga. Based on a universe created by writer Neil Gaiman in his Marvel 1602 mini-series with artist Andy Kubert, Spider-Man 1602 picks up the story of Peter Parquagh, a young heroic lad who lives in "The New World" of America just after its settlement by Europeans.

The last time Peter Parquagh's character was seen, in 1602: New World, he had been bitten by a strange spider, giving him unusual powers and leading him to don a mask, calling himself "The Spider."

"We're coming in a few years later, though we're not calling this 1606 or anything like that," Parker told Newsarama of the new series. "Peter is still in The New World, which has been harmonious enough that The Spider hasn't been needed much. But every garden has a snake, and Norman Osborne just can't let things prosper. His ambition upsets the peace and puts Peter on a course back to Europe."

Readers of stories based in the 1602 universe have met a lot of familiar faces, from "Lord Iron," a Spanish weaponeer who builds himself an iron suit, to Sir Stephen Strange, once the court magician for Queen Elizabeth I. In fact, circumstances have put young Peter next to characters that Spider-Man readers will recognize in particular, including a grumpy newspaper publisher named Jonah Jameson and the aforementioned gentleman named Norman Osborne.

Parker said he'll be introducing a few Marvel characters of his own during Spider-Man 1602, giving their circumstances the same sort of historic twist that fans of Gaiman's story enjoyed.

"We'll be seeing the brilliant Henri Pym working on some foul, forbidden science back in France, serving at the behest of an Italian royal named Octavius. Peter's path will be intersecting with these men soon," the writer said. "Wilson Fisk here is 'The King's Pin, scourge of the seas.' Yes, I am hoping we'll finally kick off the ultimate Marvel side event, 'Marvel Pirates.'"

The mini-series will also see young Peter's own character evolve in ways that echo the story of modern Spider-Man.

"Up until now his tremendous sense of obligation hasn't been a part of his character, but with this series, it does become a defining trait," Parker said. "He loses someone important to him. As with the original 1602, even in completely different eras and circumstances, these characters start bending developments into patterns we're familiar with."

Peter Parquagh had previously been close to the young blond shape-shifter named Virginia Dare, who was based on a real-life girl born in America in the 1600's. But Parker said a different girl might attract Peter's attention during this story.

"He'll be running into the equivalent of a red-haired young lady we know from his regular timeline," the writer coyly stated.

One of the other twists on Marvel's continuity that shows up in the 1602 timeline is that the characters speak in the language of the times, something Parker is making sure to honor in his story.

"I've had to read a lot of older material to bring Peter's voice into an archaic but recognizable form of speaking. He's still irreverent and a wiseass, in any period of history," he said. "I had to crack open a lot of older texts that I hadn't read since I was lit' major in college. And you can't go full bore and be completely accurate with it – there just isn't the physical space in a 22-page issue to accommodate all of that phrasing. So I have to arrive at an informed compromise."

The historic tone of Parker's story is also supported by the art, which has a realistic tone established by a single artist doing both pencils and colors. "That is handled by someone everyone will soon become more familiar with, artist Ramon Rosanas," Parker said. "He is nothing short of incredible with the level of craft and skills he brings. I'm happy that it's worked out so he can color the book as well, because he really shines when doing all art chores. He makes these characters live! I'm so happy that he's doing this. There's nothing I describe that he can't draw better."

Parker admitted part of his attraction to the world of 1602 was that he likes historical fiction, naming the Master and Commander books by Patrick O'Brian as a favorite. "And of course, I also like Spider-Man. Can they go together? Of course!" he said.

When he was asked how he would approach the task of doing a final story that connected to the original Gaiman/Kubert 1602 book, Parker said he tried to steer things back to the tone of the original story.

"The subtitle of this story is 'The Web Complete,' and you'll see right away that we pick up on things directly established in 1602," he said. "I feel the level of heightened reality in that series was the exact right pitch."

But with a name like Parker, the writer said he couldn't resist changing one element of the original 1602 story. "The only place I noticeably differ with what Gaiman established comes later in our series, when we address Peter's last name," he said. "Come on, you have to give me that one – it's not like there weren't Parkers in the 1600's!"

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