"Spider-Island" just finished with an epilogue issue last month, and Amazing Spider-Man writer Dan Slott is already working on his next multi-part story.
It's called "Ends of the Earth," and it's a six-issue global strike from the Sinister Six — Chameleon, Sandman, Rhino, Mysterio and Electro, led by the terminally ill Doctor Octopus. Before that, though, the Sinister Six are starring in next week's Amazing Spider-Man #676, an issue with no Spider-Man to speak of that Slott describes as "fried butter on a stick." (An exclusive preview is here.)
"Ends of the Earth" starts in March, and Spider-Man will be plenty busy until then, including a two-part time travel story, a two-part space adventure teaming up with the recently revived Human Torch, and a Point One issue in February featuring Morbius the Living Vampire, who was revealed during "Spider-Island" to be the mysterious "Number Six" at Horizon Labs.
Newsarama talked with Slott about all things Amazing Spider-Man, the changing roles of Mary Jane and Carlie Cooper, the recent two-part Vulture story and some general reflection on what the past year-plus has been like for him as "the" Spider-Man writer at Marvel.
[Newsarama note: The interview was conducted before Tuesday's "Ends of the Earth" press call with Slott.]
Newsarama: Dan, Amazing Spider-Man just wrapped a two-part story with the (original) Vulture, who, other than a couple of cameos here and there, really hasn't been used much in the past few years. Was he on your list of classic Spider-Man villains you wanted to re-introduce and revamp a bit?
Dan Slott: He was actually on my list of guys I never wanted to write. [Laughs.]
I used to do running bits about why I would never write a Vulture story — I called him the "worst supervillain of all time." Peter Parker was fighting him, and he was an old man when Peter Parker was a sophomore in high school. Peter Parker has graduated high school, graduated college and graduated grad school, and had a number of jobs since then. He's got to be pushing 90! My running bit was, "It's like you're beating up Orville Redenbacher." And I've had that joke for so long, Orville Redenbacher has died.
Tom Brevoort issued me a challenge. It was like, "I dare you to write a good Vulture story. You've been hammering away at the Vulture for years." He threw down the gauntlet. I was thinking, "[Vulture]'s got the gravity powers." He could totally turn around and pick up a bus and throw it at Spider-Man. I'm like, "OK, that's great!" Here we did it with the water tower.
Nrama: And I suppose his advanced age might be mitigated somewhat by that period in the '90s that he was de-aged.
Slott: Boo! He's a vulture! He's an old, creepy bird.
Youth vs. age is one of his underpinnings. So the idea of him having a young flock played into that — him being a Fagin to a band of artful dodgers and Oliver Twists. There's something neat about that.
Nrama: So now that we've seen Vulture very recently and extensive use of the Sinister Six, is there still a long list of old-school Spidey villains that you're looking to use?
Slott: …yes. [Laughs.] I'm not giving anything away.
I was just talking a few days ago to [Amazing Spider-Man editor] Steve Wacker on how to revamp Hypno-Hustler. How to pick him up where he's been left off, and how to play him, and Steve went, "That's brilliant." I'm like, "We'll wait for that."
Nrama: "Spider-Island" finished a couple of months ago, and I won't get too deep into it, but I do know that it was the longest story you've written in your career. So following that, were you happy to get back to shorter stories like the Vulture two-parter, or did you kind of develop a taste for longer arcs?
Slott: I am knee-deep in the next epic length story, which is "Spider-Man/Doctor Octopus: Ends of the Earth." The way it's going to be structured is going to be very different than "Spider-Island." I'm much more comfortable working in smaller chunks.
Besides "Spider-Island," the longest stories I ever did were "New Ways to Die" and Arkham Asylum: Living Hell. So that's about it. I'm usually not one for the big, epic stories. I like to cram in as much stuff as I can, and that usually means a lot of two-parters, three-parters and done-in-ones. You just get to tell more stories.
Nrama: And "Ends of the Earth" is getting a preview, of sorts, in this month's Amazing Spider-Man #676.
Slott: Yes! No Spider-Man, all Sinister Six.
Nrama: What prompted you to put the spotlight on them like that for an entire issue?
Slott: They're going to be our bad guys going into 2012, with the "Ends of the Earth" arc. I just wanted to bring them up on the radar again. If you've been reading all of your Marvel books, they've never really gone away. They've faced off against Iron Man in [Matt] Fraction's book, they gave Avengers Academy the smackdown with Chris Gage, and then with me and Fred [Van Lente] they took over the Baxter Building! So Doc Ock's been on a victory tour. He's taken on Tony Stark, he's bested Hank Pym's team, and he even cuckolded Reed Richards a little. So he's on a roll. And you're like, "OK, what bigger brains are out there? Who's next"? Doc has set his sights on the Intelligencia. The smartest supervillains to ever walk the planet will now face the brain of Otto Octavius!
It's the story I've been calling "fried butter on a stick." It's just a good, solid, full issue of the Sinister Six beating the heck out of people. It is just all sand, and tentacles, and hallucinogenic gas, and monkey-powered doomsday devices.
Nrama: It's interesting how the slow-burn of the Sinister Six's plot has played out — it almost feels like a Saturday morning cartoon; how you'd see Doctor Claw plotting in the shadows during Inspector Gadget.
Slott: They showed up in the first issue of "Big Time," #648, and they've been percolating in the background. They've been doing stuff. We've seen them here and there. They poke up from time to time.
Nrama: There's still a few months before "Ends of the Earth," so there's plenty of ground to cover in the mean time — including a Point One issue focused on Morbius the Living Vampire?
Slott: We revealed that he was Number Six during "Spider-Island," but now that people know he's Number Six, we're not going to leave you waiting.
Nrama: And there's a time travel story coming up, too, correct? The one teased at New York Comic Con with the "New York Destroyed!" image.
Slott: Yes! In January, after Mark Waid's Spider-Man/Daredevil/Black Cat two-parter, which will start in Amazing Spider-Man and finish in Daredevil, to promote that wonderful title, with art from the recently off of her Cloak & Dagger mini, Emma Rios. That's going to be a sweet one.
Right after that, we go into a two-part story called "I Killed Tomorrow." It's a twist on time travel, with something that happens because of an experiment at Horizon Labs. A lot of times we build these stories, and we build spines for the year, and we'll go, "Oh, we need a big event. What do you got?" "Here's this thing called 'Spider-Island,' what do you think of that?" And things build and progress, but then there are these stories that you always want to tell. Early on in "Brand New Day," I wanted to do the "Peter Parker: Paparazzi"story [which ran in Amazing Spider-Man #559-#561.] I just always wanted to do that story. "I Killed Tomorrow" is in that same vein. It's like, "Man, I've always wanted to do this." I've very much been looking forward to this one for some time.
Nrama: It's not really surprising to hear about you doing a time travel story, given your past work and your well-known affinity for Doctor Who.
Slott: Oh, yeah. I can't help but do time travel stories every now and then. I just love the whole gag of it. I do 'em like crazy. Every one eventually gets one. We had one around She-Hulk #100; Thing #7 went back in time to Ancient Greece. You give me enough time, I will do a time travel story. But the fun of it is, how do you do it with Spider-Man? In the world of Marvel Team-Up, you can have one of Doc Doom's time platforms land, and he zips all over the place. But in the world of Amazing Spider-Man, time travel would seem out of place. It just wouldn't feel like a Spider-Man adventure. So there's a twist to it. I don't want to give it away yet, but once the ball's rolling, you go, "Oh man, that's what you're doing. That's weird."
Nrama: One recent development I wanted to talk about is the renewed focus on Mary Jane. She's been back for a while now, but in recent issues she's gotten much more of a spotlight.
Slott: She's been around. She'd been doing stuff. We've been using her.
I got her right in my second story, in "Peter Parker: Paparazzi." And then we kept her off-screen all the way up until the end of #600. But since Amazing Spider-Man #600 — and we're now up to Amazing Spider-Man #676. She's been in the book for 76 issues. So it's not like we've been hiding her under a rock.
Nrama: Sure, but she's taken a more active role — in "Spider-Island," she was pretty much the second lead after Spidey.
Slott: Yes. There was a point where we just knew if MJ was on screen, anybody who was a love interest was going to come in second best. People are so invested in Mary Jane, and she's such a part of the legacy.
We also knew, going in — I think it might have even been Tom Brevoort, who said, "Whoever we bring in to be the girl after Mary Jane, everyone will hate her. There's no way you're going to make everyone like this character. She is the replacement. She is the next girl."
Part of the deal was, I knew the break-up [between Peter Parker and Carlie Cooper] was coming at the end of "Spider-Island." So the second that was on the radar, it was like, "OK. What's next?" So, yeah. There's more stuff coming with Mary Jane.
Nrama: Even the most recent issue, Amazing Spider-Man #675, ends with a conversation between MJ and Carlie.
Slott: I like where Carlie's character has gone now. Because when you think about these great urban vigilante characters, you always get this fun relationship with, "How do they interact with the police?" There's Batman and Commissioner Gordon. We've seen Spider-Man and Captain Stacy, and we've seen Spider-Man and Jean DeWolff. And now we've seen Spidey and Yuri Watanabe, but she's written out for a while. I like this new chemistry, which is, the person you know on the force is your ex-girlfriend. You're not going to see that with Batman and Gordon.
"Every time I need to deal with a cop, it's going to be my… ex-girlfriend. Wonderful." Which gives this really nice flavor to it.
Man #680 cover.Nrama: You know, I'm still thinking about it, and it's really pretty crazy that there have been 76 issues since Amazing Spider-Man #600, which just came out two-and-a-half years ago.
Slott: And Amazing Spider-Man #700 will be end of . You'd almost think that we're building something to it! [Laughs.] I'm pretty sure people will freak at what we're doing.
And before you even get to #700, Spider-Man's 50th anniversary will be out well before. And we've got this gigantic Doc Ock "Ends of the Earth" arc, and we've already announced it for the summer when the new Spider-Man movie comes out, we've got a Spider-Man/Lizard arc that's going to be pretty cool. So we've got a lot of things, and there are certain characters that I'm not going to mention that we've been progressing their stories, and there might be some big things happening.
Nrama: Speaking of benchmarks, "Big Time" started in November, so although it's obviously been longer for you, it's been a little more than a year that the books have been coming out with you as the main Spider-Man writer.
Slott: It's crazy. This year, I think I've put out more full-length comics than I've ever done before, in one year. Fred Van Lente helped out with the FF arc, and he helped out with the Spider-Slayer arc. And there were two issues where Chris Gage helped out, and Chris Gage and I co-wrote the Hobgoblin done-in-one for "Spider-Island."Amazing
#681 cover.On top of that, there was also the Free Comic Book Day issue, and the Point One, little things here and there. And for a long stretch of "Big Time," there was a lot of it where I was doing eight-page back-ups, or full 30-page stories. There was a lot of oversized stuff in there — the sheer amount of pages I've written this year is more than any point in my career.
Nrama: So it's the good kind of crazy.
Slott: There's feast and famine, never complain about feast. This has been a wonderful time. This has been one of the best times of my career, getting a chance to work on my dream book, to get to work with guys like Humberto Ramos, and Giuseppe Camuncoli, and Stefano Caselli. It's all win.
Nrama: But since you are so busy writing Amazing Spider-Man, do you ever wish you had time to work on something else?
Slott: Do I ever wish I was working on something other than Spider-Man? [Laughs.] Is there something other than Spider-Man, Albert? Is there?
When this first happened — for years, I worked with Brevoort on lots of different things, and he was saying, "You might just go crazy, just working on the one thing." And it's like, "Bring it." It's Spider-Man! When else in your life is someone going to say to you, "Would you like to write Spider-Man?" It's pretty damn cool.
Nrama: Right, plus since Spider-Man is in the FF and the Avengers, that means pretty much anyone in the Marvel Universe can guest star at a given point.
Slott: We have so many guys pop in and pop out. When I pitched it to Jonathan [Hickman], "Would you like Spidey to join the FF?" He was like, "Yeah!" He's thinking, "Wow, Slott's being so generous," and I'm thinking, "Great, whenever I want the FF to be in the supporting cast…"
We get that a lot from people, going, "Can you stop having all of the guest stars?" I'm like, "No! I'm having fun. Why would I stop?" But for example, "I Killed Tomorrow" and the Vulture story is just pure Spidey. But when we do some big, rock 'em-sock'em, go around the world, giant event — the way we did "Spider-Island," now the way we're doing "Ends of the Earth" — you can expect some guest stars, because this has effects across the Marvel Universe.
Spidey can mix it up. He can have a really wacky issue, he can have a very Avenger-y issue, a very FF issue, he can have serious street crime — Spider-Man can do everything. He's very versatile. Let's see if he can actually stand up to a time travel story. [Laughs.]Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!