Programming Alert: Before we get to this week's regularly scheduled column, we want to quickly invite you to next week's very special edition of Weekly Webbing. In a Newsarama first, using texts, tweets, and all manner of communication tools, Stephen Wacker will personally take you inside a day in his life, documenting the daily trials, tribulations, and triumphs of Marvel's Spider-Man editor in real-time, from midnight to midnight.
Be there inside Stephen's head when new Spider-Man scripts are received, art must be tracked down, editorial meetings are called, and he has to choose between a sandwich and salad for lunch…
Stephen Wacker: Tweetumentary begins 12am EST Tuesday, October 20th, right here and exclusively on Newsarama...
KaineBeginning this week, the Web of Spider-Man series kicks off with a collection of tales that includes a story by J.M. DeMatteis about Kaine, the villain he helped define over a decade ago.
First introduced in Web of Spider-Man #119 in 1994, Kaine was the first unsuccessful attempt by the Jackal at creating a clone of Peter Parker. Because he was rejected as a failure by his "creator," the character became a villain and played a role during the Clone Saga.
Last week, Kaine resurfaced in the first issue of "Who Was Ben Reilly?," the current storyline in Amazing Spider-Man. The return of the character is just one of the recent references being made in the storyline to the formerly ignored Clone Saga.
For this installment of the Weekly Webbing, Newsarama talked to Spider-Man Editor Steve Wacker and the story's writer, J.M. DeMatteis, about the return of Kaine and what else readers can expect from Web of Spider-Man.
Nrama: How did the idea for Web of Spider-Man come about? You didn't have enough to do that you thought adding more creators to work with would do you some good?
Wacker: Couple things aligned. We had two series out called Amazing Spider-Man Family and Amazing Spider-Man Extra! that were filling in some blanks around the regular Amazing book. Sales had grown soft on those as readers I think thought the books were more miss-able than important to the ongoing story storylines. Meanwhile, we all sort of felt really good work was being done in the books by both long-timers and some new talent.Credit to Marvel Marketing Chief David Gabriel for coming up with the idea to rebrand what we were doing under a new umbrella and my ever-recycling assistant Tom Brennan came up with the idea to bring back the “Web of..” title (which officially means I came up with it, since I am responsible for all his successes.)
Nrama: Is the intent with Web of Spider-Man to always have more than one story in it?
Wacker: Generally, we’ll have 3-4 features. For the first few months, the lead story will focus on some of Spidey’s villains as they come back on stage in Amazing. Plus we have a monthly dose of the long running serial "Spectacular Spider-Girl" by [Tom] DeFalco, [Ron] Frenz and Sal Buscema. And a letter column from Brennan.
Nrama: How did Marc DeMatteis get involved with the first issue? And how did it become about Kaine?Wacker: Kaine was coming back in Amazing and I think 15 years later, there’s a generation of readers who don’t know who this guy is. JMD was already working for me regularly on some Spidey stories and he was the guy who wrote the best Kaine stories, so I did the math and he got the gig. I’m a real genius!
DeMatteis: I’d done three stories for Amazing Spider-Man Family and Steve and I were talking about what to do next. I tossed the idea of Kaine on the table (I didn’t really think Steve would go for it) and, to my surprise, he said yes. By that time, Amazing Spider-Man Family was history and Web was launching and... well, here we are.
Nrama: Marc, how does this story fit with what you wrote about Kaine before?
DeMatteis: During the Clone Era, I did two mini-series — The Lost Years and Redemption — that focused on Ben Reilly and Kaine and their relationship. At the end of Redemption, Ben convinced Kaine that the right thing to do was to give himself up to the police and try to atone for the sins of the past. Kaine did just that and was taken off to prison. This story takes place not long after that, so really, it’s a direct sequel to Redemption. That said, if I’ve done my job right, you don’t have to know anything about Kaine to jump into this new adventure. It stands alone, and any character history you need is presented within the context of the story.
Nrama: How would you describe Kaine as a character now?
DeMatteis: Kaine is a man who’s made a huge moral decision—he’s accepted imprisonment as the first step on the road to personal redemption. But it’s one thing to say that and another to actually live it. And when we find him at the start of this story, well, let’s just say he’s not happy. He feels trapped, confused, angry. On top of that, the cellular degeneration that was causing him so much pain in the Clone Era has been accelerating. He’s dying. Which makes him all the more desperate. And dangerous.
Nrama: How will Jackal be involved in the story?
DeMatteis: I don’t want to give that away. Let’s just say that all the important people from Kaine’s past — Peter Parker, Ben Reilly and others — make appearances in the story. That said, I think the Jackal — as he evolved during the Clone Saga — was a terrific villain. One of my favorites. It was a blast bringing the character back, if only for this one story.
Nrama: Marc, having been involved with Marvel at the time of the original Clone Saga, what do you think of all the "returns" to that era that are going on now?
DeMatteis: For all its controversy, or maybe because of it, the Clone Saga is a story that people have never forgotten. I think it was a terrific story that eventually went way off the rails. But, for all the Clone Saga’s flaws, there were wonderful elements in the story. And the two greatest elements were Ben Reilly and Kaine. I think Kaine is one of the most interesting, multi-layered antagonists Spider-Man has ever faced. And Ben? An amazing character. He’s Peter Parker — but not. He has all of Peter’s qualities and yet has many other fascinating dimensions as well. I loved writing him. Redemption and, especially, Lost Years are two of my favorites out of the many Spidey stories I’ve written.
When the Clone Saga ended, the editorial regime at the time decided to bury the whole thing, pretty much pretending it never happened. My feeling is, you want to ignore the nonsense, the ridiculous elements of the story? Great. But why bury great characters with such incredible potential?
So now here we are all these years later and I think a certain nostalgia has set in. People — many of whom, I suspect, became Spider-Man readers during that era — are looking back fondly at the Clone Era. I think if Marvel chooses to bring back the core elements of the Saga and ignore the overblown nonsense, there’s the potential for some terrific new stories.
Nrama: Was it difficult for you to decide to return to that era? Or was this something that felt good to get back to?
DeMatteis: I was amazed at how easy it was to tap into Kaine’s psyche again. I pulled out Lost Years and Redemption to refresh my memory, and then I just started writing and there he was. There are other elements of the Clone Saga that I’d never want to touch, but this was great fun.
Nrama: Steve, is the intent of this story to show how Kaine got to Issue #608? Will readers of Amazing Spider-Man see that background information?
Wacker: The intent is to show readers who Kaine is. While it doesn’t directly tie into the current storyline in Amazing, it will certainly shed some light.
Nrama: Is there a possibility we'll see Kaine as an ongoing villain? Or a villain in the Gauntlet?
Wacker: Yes. Unlike some editors who say nothing in an effort to just keep you reading and filling their money pants with coinage, I am the prince of information.
Nrama: Marc, will we see you writing more Spider-Man?
DeMatteis: I just finished a very sweet little story about Aunt May’s honeymoon that I really enjoyed writing. (Considering I killed her off 15 years ago, she seems to be doing just fine.) As for the future...we’ll see how my schedule and Steve’s editorial needs intersect!
Nrama: Steve, what can you tell us about the other stories in this week's Web of Spider-Man?
Wacker: Spider-Girl gets off to a strong start in a story that showcases the brutal reemergence of the Cult of the Goblin. It’s a great jumping point. Finally in our third feature: Sean McKeever. Stephanie Buscema. Frog-Man. What more do you want?
Nrama: Steve, will the mix of the stories in each issue be similar in future issues? (Anything you want to highlight in those?)
Wacker: Next issue is the origin of Electro by Van Lente and Kitson… beyond that you can tell by looking at the covers what we have in store. I also just got the script for JMD’s new story in issue #3 and it was just wonderful.