Since Dan Slott became solo writer of Marvel’s Amazing Spider-Man at the dawn of the “Big Time” era that started this past November, he’s thrown a lot at Peter Parker. As is customary for the character, some good things — a new job, a new girlfriend — have come along with copious amounts of bad things, like the loss of his Spider-Sense, a re-energized Sinister Six, and the death of Marla Jameson.
“Big Time” is about to get even bigger when the much-hyped “Spider-Island” starts with August’s Amazing Spider-Man #667 (following a prelude later this month in Amazing Spider-Man #666). The concept is simple: Manhattan becomes victim to a Spider-Powered epidemic, with civilians and superheroes alike gaining abilities similar to the wallcrawler.
Beyond the core story, “Spider-Island” also sees several tie-in miniseries and one-shots supporting the event. At the center of it all is Slott, who told us all about the story in a recent interview — including the origins of the story, bringing back Clone Saga villain The Jackal, the art of Humberto Ramos, Spidey’s kung fu lessons from Shang-Chi, and making his hometown of New York City a major character in the story. Plus, check out tons of new art courtesy of Marvel, including October's Amazing Spider-Man #671 cover!
#671 cover.Newsarama: Dan, obviously a lot of subplots have been building since you took over the book in November, and "Spider-Island" seems like a culmination of at least some of that. Was "Spider-Island" part of the plan since the beginning of the "Big Time" direction, or did it develop later?
Dan Slott: It came later. The idea for "Spider-Island" came over a lunch with editor Steve Wacker, and then-assistant editor Tom Brennan, and [Marvel senior vice president of publishing] Tom Brevoort. The idea was, we worked out all the early issues of "Big Time," and we knew where everything was building to, and there was this whole feeling of keeping the foot on the accelerator: "Spider-Man gets this new job! But he loses his Spider-Sense! Jonah’s wife dies! Spidey's building new tech! The Sinister Six are back! New Hobgoblin!" Everything kept building and building and building.
There's always something big coming. "Now he knows kung fu! Now he's on two superhero teams!" It just didn't stop, and the feeling was, "What's the big thing for the summer? We have to top it! We need a real blockbuster!" A whole city of Spider-Men! Because it's always about, how do we go to the nth degree one more time?
Nrama: This is also the first time you're sort of the main writer of a Marvel event, with several tie-in books surrounding it.
Slott: I am working on so much stuff right now. [Laughs.] And reading all these other scripts, and outlines, and trying to keep a handle on the big picture.Amazing Spider-Man
#668 interior art.This is the biggest thing I've ever worked on. I've worked on six-part stories in the past, on Avengers, Arkham Asylum, and, on the Spidey side, "New Ways to Die." But this is a six-issue story with a prologue, a fallout issue; I'm doing a Hobgoblin story with [Christos] Gage in one of the one-shots. I've never done anything like this before. It's big. It's very intimidating. But at the same time, whenever I'm feeling really scared, when I'm looking at the size of it all, I get pumped up about it, because a new page of art shows up from Humberto Ramos! And it is always awesome!
This isn't just a prelude, six issues, and an epilogue, this is the "Big Time" version of that. We have the prologue with Stefano Caselli in July, and the epilogue with Stefano again in November, but from August, September and October, it's concentrated — twice a month! This is how we do it "Big Time!" You're going to get your Spider-Man event, and it's going to come at you really fast! That's kind of exciting!
Nrama: And Humberto is on art for all six issues, right?
Slott: Yep. I am so impressed. The scope of this is big. It's all of Manhattan. At times we see all the New York superheroes, and different people of all shapes and sizes with spider-powers. It's crazy. There's a page we got in not too long ago where for any OTHER book it’d be a splash page — one character addressing a horde of different superheroes. You look at it and go, "That's crazy!" And that's panel FOUR! And that's Humberto! He will just go in, not take any shortcuts, and he'll get that page done, and it'll be gorgeous!
Nrama: It's pretty unheard these days of to get six issues from one artist in a span of three months.Amazing Spider-Man
#668 interior art.Slott: We started way ahead of time. Lots of energy and focus have been directed just at this. I am in the Spider-Island zone. I used to wake up, sleep, eat and breathe just Spider-Man, and now it's Spider-Island!
Nrama: It seems that the core concept is a real universal one. You can tell whomever, even if they're not normal comic book readers: "There's a Spider-Man story where everyone in Manhattan gets Spider-Powers." It appeals to your inner-third grader.
Slott: The last Spider-Island plot I turned in, I'm like, "8-year-old me would be all over this!" This is just fun! These are guilty-pleasure-comics!
You hear it, you get it. There's no waffling. You get exactly what it is, and what’s the hook! As much as the city is going to be quarantined by Mayor J. Jonah Jameson, who wouldn't want to go to Manhattan if everybody is getting Spider-Powers? And we'll see that, too.
Nrama: One interesting thing about "Spider-Island" is the choice to have Jackal play a major role, since the character is so heavily associated with the Clone Saga, which is still seen as kind of radioactive — no pun intended — among some fans. Is the choice to use him here inspired in part to give him another major storyline to be associated with?
Slott: He's going to be very true to character. He's one of the wonderful mad scientists of Spider-Man's world, and we're going to play him for all he's worth. If you're not a fan of the Clone Saga, there have been other controversial Spider-Man stories over the years with many villains, and they've come back, and they’ve had fan favorite stories.Interior art from
Deadly Foes of
one-shot.Personally, I like the Clone Saga era. I think it's fun — Ben Reilly, impact webbing, and all that stuff.
Nrama: Kaine has been in several stories recently, after all.
Slott: Yeah. He was! [Laughs knowingly.]
Nrama: There's some degree of confusion as to the Jackal's status — there have been a lot of clones, and the original was thought to be dead. Is that going to be addressed during Spider-Island?
Slott: You'll have to read the book.
The Deadly Foes one-shot will have, along with the feature-length story by me and Chris with the Hobgoblin — which will have a major change for the Hobgoblin in the course of that story — a cool Fred Van Lente feature-length story as well, showing you what the Jackal's been up to, and how he got to the point where we saw him in the "Infested" shorts. So there will be some secrets revealed there.
Nrama: Sounds good, though surely some old-school fans are disappointed that there's a book titled "Deadly Foes" without Boomerang, the Beetle, and Shocker.
Slott: You're going to see Shocker in Spider-Island! I’ll tell you that much.Interior art from
Avengers one-shot.Nrama: Since they've been such a huge part of the book recently, will Doc Ock and the Sinister Six be part of "Spider-Island" at all?
Slott: They are working towards their evil, giant master plan. It's building! It's coming! Just wait!
Nrama: There are three "Spider-Island" tie-in miniseries, and one of them stars Shang-Chi, who was established as of the Free Comic Book Day issue as part of Spider-Man's world, at least for now. What inspired you to bring him into the mix?
Slott: Spider-Man has lost his Spider-Sense, he needs an edge! He needs kung fu. Spider kung fu! Way of the spider! [Laughs.] There are certain things when you were a kid you always wanted to see. "Wow, Spider-Man's this good, imagine if he knew kung-fu!" And not just any kung fu, a special kung fu all his own, that works when you're wallcrawling and webslinging. It's awesome.
Without his Spider-Sense, he needs it. He's always been an intuitive fighter that relied on his Spider-Sense. So now he needs to develop some serious skills. Once he's learned these, the idea is, this is the way you draw the way Spider-Man fighting from now on — you’ll get these very spider-y martial arts-type moves. Over all the years of Spider-Man, he's had very iconic ways of crawling up a wall, or webslinging — certain things that we just know by sight. When we think of Spidey, we think of certain John Romita Sr. poses, and Todd McFarlane poses, and iconic things like the two-finger web thwip. Now we can add to that lexicon.
Nrama: Right. Spider-Man's fighting style was never too clearly defined.
Slott: It's always just been a punch, or a kick, or a jump over somebody. Now he can have a whole roster of moves. He can have a whole new, iconic way of fighting that adds to the Spider-Man legacy.
Nrama: Also, thematically, it seems like an interesting counter-balance to have Spider-Man work on his physical skills, because a lot of the recent storylines have involved Peter Parker's intellect, and having an article published in a science journal…
Slott: Wasn't that fun? Most of the fame and acclaim that Peter Parker has gotten over the years has been, "He's the guy that glues a camera to a wall." "Oh, you're Peter Parker, the photographer." He's not a photographer! He's a camera-gluer! He glues a camera to a wall, he has a device in the camera that tracks him, and he turns in those photos as if he took them. And people pat him on the head, and give him little awards, and let him sell a book like "Webs." How would you like it if that was your source of pride? "I'm the guy who stuck some gum on this camera and left it on a wall. I can go to sleep tonight knowing I've done good as Peter Parker."Interior art from
one-shot.Most of his sense of accomplishment has really come from the victories he's had as Spider-Man. And that's because he got bit by a spider. He didn't earn that. So kudos to Pete! He got published in a magazine!
He came up with a new polymer. It's that thing he used to build a very cheap, resistant form of armor for the bulletproof suit. It's like they say, you make the greatest advancements in science during wartime. That's what he does — he has adventures, he has problems, he comes up with scientific solutions, then he turns around, and they’re like the photos he used to sell to the Bugle. That's how he's using his Spider-Man life to inspire him to make scientific breakthroughs, and then he gets to sell ‘em to Max Modell and Horizon Labs. For example, in issue #666, we’ll see a new gizmo Pete’s cooked up.
For him, that's the greatest achievement: "Look what I did as Peter." Now on the flipside, when you look at everything he's done as Spider-Man, that's been swinging around, finding this thing, fighting this guy — he hasn't really had a plan. He goes out and does it, because he has this responsibility, but most of the adventures are things he stumbles into, or across, in his personal life, or whatnot. Or, "This old villain of mine is out there, I better hunt him down." But he hasn't really put a lot of skill, a lot of training, into being Spider-Man, and that's one of the things we're seeing now, with him taking martial arts lessons from Shang-Chi, and some other things that are coming up. The Fantastic Four says, "We want you to be in the Future Foundation," and he goes, "Yes." He's been asked to be on two Avengers teams, and he says, "Yes." The same way he's trying to be the best Peter Parker he can be, he's also stepping up, especially in the wake of Marla Jameson's death. He has said "No more just getting by," he’s going to be the best Spider-Man he can be, too.
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