Last week saw the release of Amazing Spider-Man #648, the official beginning of Dan Slott’s run as the sole writer of the title and the start of the new “Big Time” direction of the Spidey books.
It’s a comic you can safely put in the “auspicious debut” category — in the 39-page main story, readers saw Spider-Man leading the Avengers against a Dr. Octopus plot, watched Peter Parker get a new job in the Horizon Labs think tank, met the new Sinister Six, witnessed Mayor J. Jonah Jameson gift Front Line with the Daily Bugle name, learned more about Peter Parker’s relationship with Carlie Cooper, discovered Betty Brant and Flash Thompson have rekindled their romance, found out that Kingpin is working with the Hobgoblin and checked-in with supporting cast members including Mary Jane, Randy Robertson, Phil Urich, Aunt May, John Jameson, Black Cat, and even Venom. And yeah, that’s not even it.
The issue’s been reviewed all over the place, with each panel discussed and dissected, but now it’s time to hear from writer Dan Slott, and get his insight on all these developments. In the first part of our interview, we talk to Slott about the identity of the Hobgoblin, Peter’s new job and new girlfriend, and working "Marvel Method" with artist Humberto Ramos.
Newsarama: Dan, Amazing Spider-Man #648 has been out for a week now, and the reaction to it has been almost uniformly positive. Must feel pretty good, right?
Dan Slott: People seem to be digging it. I’m very happy with all the response.
One of the narratives I’m seeing a lot, is from people who dropped Spidey — due to the controversy of the past three years — but now see “Big Time” as a jumping on point. A way to dip their toe back into the Spider-Man pool. And the guys who are saying that they read this new issue, are saying that Spidey “feels right” and that they’re happy to be back.
Nrama: And those people who might have strayed got a good refresher of everyone who’s important in the Spidey mythos, given the staggering amount of supporting cast members and villains who appeared in the issue.
Slott: Guys who like my writing say the one thing I don’t do is “decompress.” I’m really happy with how many who’ve read the book and said, “I really got my money’s worth.”
I saw a comment from someone who said, “I had to take a break. I read half of it, put it down, than read the other half, and it was all good.” We tricked everybody with our preview pages, by showing three of our four splashes, ‘cause normally we cram as much as much story as we possibly can onto every page.
There are too many books out there that you can blast through in under five minutes. That is not the case with Amazing Spider-Man. You’re paying good money, we’re gonna put on a show!Nrama: Getting to the specifics of the issue, based on the dialogue in the final scene, it looks like Hobgoblin is still Roderick Kingsley …
Slott: I am sticking to what I have said — I’ve been very judicious with my words — “In our first issue that focuses on Hobgoblin, you will know who’s under the mask.”
Nrama: So there’s still a chance that it’s not Roderick Kingsley, as it appears to be.
Slott: “In our first issue that focuses on Hobgoblin, you will know who’s under the mask.” [Laughs.] I’m just going to keep repeating that line. You’re not squeezing one more ounce out of me on that one.
Nrama: It’s tempting to press further, but fair enough. Another big #648 development, for Peter, was his new job at Horizon Labs. For how long have you wanted to put him in that type of environment, and back to working in science?
Slott: This is something that I’m sure the other Spidey guys are sick of, because it’s something I was pitching all the time. I’ve got a whole bunch of ideas for Horizon, and how Peter’s life changes now that he’s in this new place. I’m really excited about that.
Did you ever watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer? The show was the best when she was in high school; when the idea of it was “High School is Hell.” When they tried to get back to that, at one point they made her a teacher — a high school guidance counselor. It was a way of getting her back in that setting that worked so well. But what it did was, it made her old. It kind of felt like, “you’re that creepy person who won’t leave campus even after you graduated.”
Even though I thought there was a really good run of Peter Parker as a teacher, teaching science, it just really made him feel so old. Because now you’ve surrounded him with all these young kids, looking up to him as an adult. Kids who were his age when the book started. To me, even though I thought there were some really good stories in there, it really aged him.
When you put him in a place like Horizon, where even though he’s in charge of his lab, hopefully it’ll be this fun atmosphere with people that are like Peter. It’s not him in college again. It’s not him perennially stuck in school. It’s not him in a classroom setting, and yet it still gets him back to his science roots. That’s the guy we know and love. The guy who really wants to go see that radiation experiment in Amazing Fantasy #15. The guy who thinks that’s cooler than going to a dance.
You think of all those classic shots of Peter with a beaker, pouring chemicals into test tubes in all the early stories, he’s just so happy. That’s his happy place. When he was a photographer for the Daily Bugle, that was him making his Spider-Man life work for him. “Wow, if I’m in action as Spider-Man, I can take pictures of myself, and pay rent! And buy web fluid!” This is very similar, but it allows Peter to be in his happy place. “Hey, I have an adventure as Spider-Man, and solving this problem gave me a great idea for a new invention! I’ll patent it!” He’s in the best of both worlds.
Nrama: Even though the circumstances and the dynamic are quite different, the idea of a workplace ensemble being part of the comic reminded me of your run on She-Hulk, with that character working at Goodman, Lieber, Kurtzberg & Holliway.
Slott: I don’t think you’re going to see anything as bizarre as Awesome Andy walking around, at Horizon. I think you’re going to get fun sequences, because we’re not abandoning Peter’s supporting cast. We’re not abandoning Flash, and Betty, and Randy, and Norah, and all these guys. But I think it’s going to be fun when you see the worlds collide. When suddenly Pete and all his Bugle friends are all hanging out with his nerdy friends at the Coffee Bean. That’s gonna be weird. But it’ll be fun to mesh this together.
We all have different cliques of friends, and we play different roles when we’re with those different cliques. You’re the coolest kid in band camp, but now you get to come back to school and it’s different. Here’s Peter Parker, big man on campus at Horizon Labs, but then here’s Pete, that guy who we usually think of as a schlub, with Flash and Betty and that group.Nrama: Another element that was teased in early “Big Time” interviews was Peter Parker having a new girlfriend, who we now know is Carlie Cooper. Fred Van Lente wrote the story that brought them together in Amazing Spider-Man #647, but since you’re the one running with it, did you have a lot of input in bringing them together?
Slott: We looked at, as a team, where characters’ stories started, and where they ended. What was the thrust of Brand New Day? What were the things that were constantly building, and things we wanted to put a nice capper on? So much of the arc of Brand New Day is where Harry Osborn starts as a character, to where he ends. That felt like a good overarch: “Look at all the growth he’s gone though, and here’s Harry in this new place.” And now he leaves, and for him that’s the end of Brand New Day.
Even characters who came in at a midpoint, like Michelle — Michelle comes to New York to deal with the problems with her brother, and then the problems get solved, so it’s a good place for her to leave too. With Michelle, it’s strange, because the whole reason she’s with Peter is because he’s the roommate. And the minute Pete gets his own place, it’d be very hard to keep contriving reasons for her to keep interacting in his life. How many pages of material are you going to use to get Michelle to meet up with Peter? I’d rather use those pages for Spider-Man punching Electro in the face.
When we looked at Carlie, the very first issue starts off where she’s pining for Peter, and Peter has this kiss with someone he doesn’t even know. So here’s single Pete, and this strange woman is kissing him. Someone he has no connection with. So it kind of felt like a very nice journey, that at the end, Peter’s found a girl. And it’s that girl who’s been there all along. That felt like a very nice story beat for the overarching arc of Brand New Day. That was something all the Web-Heads came up with together and agreed on as a team.
That said, I think one of the problems with Carlie, as a character, is that I think more than any other character in the Brand New Day, in her case there were too many cooks. There wasn’t one strong voice guiding Carlie. If you look at the best characters of the new ones that came out of Brand New Day, I think they all came about because one person would come in and champion them. Mark Waid came in and went, “I have this idea to bring in J. Jonah Jameson’s father, and here’s what I’d like to do with him.” Joe Kelly came to the table and said, “I want to introduce this Front Line reporter, Norah. Here’s how she works.” In my case, I said, “Here’s Mr. Negative. I want Martin Li to do this, and be here, yadda yadda.” Even though we moved from writer to writer in Brand New Day, and we tried to keep a consistent tone, you can see that a lot of us had favorite characters. Like I think Marc Guggenheim did the best work on Lily. But Carlie was this one character that I think a lot of us tried to play with. When you picked up the baton and ran, you kind of wanted to leave the character in the same spot for the next guy to pick up, so it kind of felt, a lot of the times, that she floated in amber.
If readers have had a problem with Carlie, I think that might go away now that there’s one writer guiding her. I think we can find a footing for that. There’s nothing about this character that’s wrong. There’s nothing about this character that she can’t go on to do interesting things and have interesting developments. I think it’s that case with many, many, many characters in all of serialized fiction. I think it’s very rare that there’s some character out there that’s completely flawed and irredeemable. Hey, you’re talking to the guy who picked up and ran with Squirrel Girl.
Nrama: And look at her now! So how’d you come up with the idea of Carlie doing roller derby?
Slott: I wanted people to look at her in a new way. The most important person to look at her in that new way was Peter. In that first issue, even though there is a narrative thread, and there are things that are happening and moving forward, on some level, it’s also a travelogue. “We’re going to travel around the entire world of Spider-Man and Peter Parker.” We saw Spider-Man’s life, Peter Parker’s personal life, and Peter Parker’s new professional life, in that order. As we’re meeting all these characters, readers who haven’t checked out the book for a while, are meeting some of them for the first time. I wanted that moment where Peter opens the door — and there’s Carlie — for us to see Carlie in a completely different way.Nrama: And, seemingly for both the reader and Peter, it worked.
Slott: And the reason it worked is Humberto Ramos. Her standing there in those wonky clothes, with the skates over her shoulder and the helmet—it’s adorable! And that’s all Humberto. That’s fantastic.
Every now and then I’ll have a scene where I write something very evil for my poor artists, whether it’s Humberto or Marcos or Stefano — I’ll write, “This is the panel where you HAVE to make me LOVE this character. Have fun with that!” They’re like, “Man, that writer’s a jerk!” [Laughs.] But every time I ask for something like that, all three of these guys rise to the challenge. The Best Art Team in comics!
I work Marvel style [first writing a plot, then scripting over finished pencils], so I’m starting to script Stefano’s upcoming arc. I get to look at all these Marcos pages that are coming in. I honestly think that every time we hit a new arc, we’re going to blow the doors off! Again!
Nrama: I didn’t know you wrote that way — seems to be a lost art.
Slott: I think me and Tom DeFalco on Thunderstrike are the only guys still doing it. People are like, “why do you do it that way?” I think there’s a greater synergy between you and the artist when you leave them some more freedom at the top and you get to react to the gifts they’ve given you them on the other side.
But on the flipside, it kind of means you’re writing every issue twice. When you’re scripting it, it really can be like writing the issue all over again. That’s probably why these books are such thick reads. ‘Cause there really are two issues worth of time and thought in each one. It sounds silly, but it’s true. The important thing is Marvel only pays me once. [Laughs.] The other time, it’s purely for love. Or fear. ‘Cause you look at the art — and it’s so gorgeous — and you think, my God, this guy’s bringing his all — I better step up too!
Keep an eye out tomorrow for Part 2 of our interview, with Slott discussing the new Sinister Six, the role of supporting characters in Amazing Spider-Man, Front Line becoming the Daily Bugle and some hints towards the future.What's your take on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #648's revelations?