After "Spider-Island," Spider-Man's formerly villainous clone Kaine has lost his scars and gained something of a new outlook on life. Moving to Houston, he's trying to figure out his next step — though he can't quite ignore his heroic impulses, even though he'd like to.
The first issue of Kaine's new series, Scarlet Spider, debuted in January to positive reviews and the No. 21 spot on Diamond's direct sales chart. Series writer Christopher Yost (Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes) and Ryan Stegman (Fear Itself: Hulk vs. Dracula) traveled to Houston last month, signing books and granting multiple interviews to local news outlets excited to see their city in a Marvel comic.
With the second issue in stores this week (preview here, with pages presented throughout the article), we reached out to Yost and Stegman to discuss the reaction to the first issue, the book's new villain, making Kaine distinct from Spider-Man, and what's coming up next.
Newsarama: Chris, Ryan, the first issue of Scarlet Spider definitely got a pretty warm reaction from readers. How does it feel to not only win over folks who were skeptical due to being Clone Saga-averse, but also satisfy fans of that story, who have felt underserved for years?
Ryan Stegman: Personally, I couldn’t be more proud. I’ll be honest, I think most of the credit for this goes to Chris though. He made the story accessible and he made the character compelling and really gave the reader a great jumping-on point.
Chris Yost: I won't lie... I was worried. It's easier than ever for a book to just fail to launch. It's easy for people to hear a complicated backstory and just tune out. And I just wrote a book where the main character doesn't put on a costume in the first issue.
But "Spider-Island" teed us up pretty well... one of the best Spider-stories in a long time, which had a lot of eyes on it. Being included in the "Point One" book I think helped as well... but as complicated as it may all seem, Spider-Editor Stephen Wacker deserves most of the credit because he knew how important it was to boil it all down into something understandable... "All of the Power, None of the Responsibility." It's seriously the most exciting launch I've ever been involved with, and I couldn't be happier.
Nrama: Scarlet Spider has also gotten a unique amount of attention for a comic series launch, mainly from local press in Houston — even saw TV interviews with you guys. What was that experience like, dealing with the kind of attention that doesn't normally come with creating a comic? And was it difficult to explain the concept of "he's a clone of Spider-Man, who used to be a bad guy, but is now considerably less so" to mainstream media folks?
Stegman: For me it was crazy. I don’t think I’ve ever done a TV interview, much less several in the span of one day. We did so many interviews that by the time we did a Q and A to a large crowd at night, I felt like I had all the answers ready to go because I had said the same thing so many times. It was really a great day, made me feel all important and stuff. I’ll definitely remember that day for a long time.
I’ll let Chris answer the part about explaining the character to media because that’s exactly how I handled those questions...”Chris will take that one.”
Yost: I've done interviews and commentaries and press for a lot of the animation work I've been involved with... but never, never have I had a reaction like this to a gig. Houston went nuts for Scarlet Spider, and it was incredible to experience it. If anything, it made me more determined to do the city and its people justice.
And yeah, the first few times of explaining exactly who and what Kaine was, you learn pretty quick that you have to boil it down because otherwise people's heads explode. "Clone of Spider-Man who used to be a super-villain, getting a second chance and life and trying to make good" seemed to be the winner.
Nrama: Constructing Scarlet Spider, at least in the early issues, has to be challenge in terms of touching on an appropriate amount of history while also presenting something pretty much completely new for the character and Marvel. How tricky has that balance been to pull off?
Yost: Yes, and we're still in the early challenging issues. The "new" part isn't that much of a problem... new place, new people, and for the most part new villains. The trick is touching on his past without unloading all that baggage on new readers. Issues #3 and #4 deal with his past as a killer for hire, but we don't get into all the details for him in Clone Saga, we just establish that he did these things, and now because of that these other things are happening. New reader friendly. But if you know his history, you're going to have that much richer of an experience.
Nrama: Ryan, I'm curious to here more about your approach to rendering Kaine. Everyone has an idea of how Peter Parker looks, even though it varies by artist, and obviously Kaine is effectively the same dude, but he still has a look that makes him distinct even beyond the buzz cut and the stubble. So I guess it's another question of balance — how do you make Kaine his own guy, while also giving him a hint of familiarity?
Stegman: I think that the key to making them different is a couple things. First, Kaine should look a little older. Not because he necessarily is, but given some of the stuff that he’s gone through it seems that he’d have a lot more miles on him. It’s not like Peter hasn’t been through everything under the sun… But come on. Kaine has murdered people. And stewed in misery for so long.
#3 cover.Secondly, I think that Kaine should look a little bulkier than Peter. I mean, that was pretty much established in the clone saga that Kaine was larger. And that fits his character. He is big and imposing. At first, I thought that him being bulkier would make it more difficult to do those spider-like poses, but the more I do it the more I like the look.
Nrama: Chris, similar question — obviously Kaine has had a profoundly different life experience from Peter, but as seen in the first issue, he certainly appears to be inching towards heroism. How much Peter Parker is still inside Kaine at this point?
Yost: Peter Parker is the voice in the back of Kaine's head, pushing him into the light. But it's not natural, it's not easy. The life history and lessons and love that Peter had just isn't in Kaine. Where Peter goes one way, more often than not Kaine's going to go the other way. But he's got this nagging sensation, this new conscience that he's never really had before... and he doesn't like it.
Nrama: Scarlet Spider #1 introduced a new villain, The Salamander. Without giving away anything from #2, what can both of you share about the character's development?
Stegman: Chris gave me a lot of notes on the character and I just ran with it and tried to push everything further. My approach is always to take what the writer suggests and add to it. I do that with the storytelling and pretty much everything involved in this book. I just want to take it further, take Chris’s suggestions as a launching point. And Chris is a very visual thinker, so he provides great launching points.
#4 cover.Yost: Salamander is a bit of mystery that's going to be explored as the series progresses. Who he is, what he's doing in Houston, why he's after Aracely... it's part of a bigger story. He's a villain from Mexico that identifies with the Aztec fire serpent Xiuhcoatl. He's come to Houston specifically to kill this girl, and the ramifications of this will affect Scarlet Spider for a while to come. The whole look of him, and some pretty creative uses of his power... that's all Ryan.
Nrama: Looking into the near future, the Assassin's Guild from X-Men will be making an appearance. Chris, you used them recently in the X-Force: Sex and Violence miniseries, and things didn't necessarily go well for them there. Will we see a changed group in Scarlet Spider?
Yost: You'll see Belladonna, but a whole new group of Elite Assassins at her command. And without giving too much away, things go a lot better for the Assassins Guild this time around. It's not the last you're going to see of them, with any luck.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!