The Lizard returns next month as Zeb Wells brings a story he's calling "Shed" to the pages of Amazing Spider-Man.
The four-issue "Shed" story finishes up the villain-centric Gauntlet arc that has been running through the thrice-monthly comic over the last few months, leading into June's Kraven family showdown, the Grim Hunt.
Drawn by Chris Bachalo, the story begins on April 28th with Amazing Spider-Man #630 and continues throughout May.
Newsarama talked to Wells to get the scoop on his new take on the Lizard and why Curt Connors can't fight him off.
Newsarama: Zeb, where did the idea to revisit the Lizard come from? Was this a character you wanted to write?
Zeb Wells: This came out of one of our Spider-Man summit meetings. We’d been keeping a lot of Spider-Man's rogue gallery off the table, and we were discussing how to bring them back in an interesting way. And this came out of the group discussion about how to bring the Lizard back. We wanted to bring him back in a way that is true to his character, but at the same time show people something they haven't seen before.
Nrama: What’s going to be different about the Lizard?
Wells: What I wanted to address was how the Lizard was created. I like thinking that when Curt Connors took the Lizard serum he unlocked something in his brain, like the reptilian part that we share evolutionarily with our ancestors. So I kind of attacked it from that angle. Once he unlocks the Lizard he can’t get rid of it.
And that plays out in the character through his history. The Lizard always finds a way to come out.
So we start the story with the Lizard itching to come out again. And we're not quite sure if Curt Connors is being seduced by that or is he fighting that. But eventually, the Lizard comes back, and that's the starting point of the story.
Then I wanted to depart from that and explore the character of the Lizard a little bit more, leave behind Curt Connors and look at this creature who’s a relic from the Jurassic period, the primitive part of our brain. I was interested in how he might view the world.
Nrama: That's the first time someone has looked at the Lizard from that point of view, isn't it? As far as it being unlocked from our shared reptilian-like DNA?
Wells: I don't know. I wouldn't want to say that because there have been so many stories that I'd be shocked if everything hasn't been done. But I'm hoping parts of the story will be novel, yes.
I looked at how most of the Lizard stories end, and they usually end with Curt Connors' humanity winning out over his primitive side. And, you know, that's not a story that I thought needed to be told again.
I don't want to spoil anything, but we wanted to create a situation where Curt Connors fighting back for that type of ending wasn't possible.
So what we do by the end of the second issue, which I'm hoping will shock some people, is figure out a way to make it so that the Lizard is there and he is in complete control for awhile, and the story is not going to end with Curt Connors winning with the power of human determination, his heart being touched by the sight of his son or whatever.
Nrama: That just might be the biggest difference.
Wells: Yeah! I hope it's "different good," and not "different WTF?"
Nrama: Does this still tie in with the Gauntlet?
Wells: Definitely. Something really cool that Joe Kelly set up is that the Kraven family are using Madame Web to see into the future and mess with Spider-Man's adventures. And I thought that is the perfect way to make sure this Lizard story ends differently.
So basically, if Spider-Man was on this adventure unaffected by the Kraven family, who are putting him through this "gauntlet," the story would probably have ended with Spider-Man appealing to Connors’ humanity, which would triumph over his reptilian side and the day would be saved. But since the Kravens put their fingers into the adventure and mess things up, they knock Spider-man off just a little bit, giving him just a little nudge, and the story goes off in a different direction. So the story wouldn't exist without The Gauntlet. It's very tied into it.
Nrama: What other characters will we see in this story?
Wells: At the beginning, we're going to touch on Black Cat and Spider-Man's relationship and try to make it explicit how the Black Cat sees things. And then that may or may not lead to more romance in Peter Parker's life. You might see him actually decide who he wants to pursue 100 percent.
Aside from that, we're going to see Ana Kraven, who's great. And a few of the other Kravens. But the Lizard won’t be an agent of the Kravens or anything, they just help bring him about to mess with Spidey. Once the story gets going, it's solely about Spider-Man vs. a slightly tweaked version of the Lizard.
Nrama: Does he look a little different?
Wells: Yeah, this will be a very, very primal version of the Lizard, almost a little more bestial when we see him organically manifest himself out of Connors mind. And then there will be a different character design eventually that reflects a change the character experiences in the story.
And of course, with Chris Bachalo doing the art, you know the character designs are going to be top of the line.
Nrama: That must be exciting working with him again.
Wells: It’s unbelievable. He’s the reason people think I know how to write Spider-Man in the first place...I love working with artists who bring their own energy and ideas to the page. I try to put as much thought as possible into the scripts, and then Chris takes that and puts it through whatever his process is and it becomes something greater than anything I wrote. He’s an artist.
Nrama: It sounds like, with the Lizard, you're drawing on what's done before, but trying to give the story a twist that lets you explore a different element?
Wells: Exactly. It's just that the Jekyll/Hyde thing has been done with the Lizard. We just really wanted to find a way to keep what's cool about the character and keep the character the same, but find a way to push that character to the limit and do as much as we possibly can with him. And I think we found a way to do that.
Nrama: Does the title, Shed, play into that?
Wells: Yeah. Steve Wacker and I really responded to that title because it’s a very reptilian concept. Shedding your old skin so you can grow. I think that’s how the Lizard would see Connors. Dead skin that needs to be ripped from his body so he can grow.
Nrama: What else will we be seeing from you?
Wells: Steve Wacker and I have been talking about some more Spider-Man stuff that I really couldn’t be more exctied about. And I’ve seen the artwork that Ibraim Roberson has completed for the New Mutants chapters of Second Coming, and it is truly amazing stuff. I’m really happy with how the whole crossover is turning out.