Bringing Back Hammerhead - Talking Spider-Man with Joe Kelly

Talking Spider-Man with Joe Kelly

As part of Newsarama's ongoing series of interviews this week with the creative team behind Amazing Spider-Man, we talk today to a newcomer to the team, writer Joe Kelly.

Now that the thrice-monthly, marriage-free direction of Amazing Spider-Man has rounded the half-year corner and dropped the "Brand New Day" title it wore since its debut in January, we started with Newsarama editorials both for the new direction and opposed to the changes to the title.

Just like our multi-part Legion of Super-Heroes series two weeks back explored the past and future of the DC team, we're doing a similar series on Amazing Spider-Man by talking to editor Steve Wacker, upcoming Annual writer and series mainstay Marc Guggenheim, newcomer Mark Waid, and now the latest new team member, Joe Kelly.

Although he contributed to July's Spider-Man: Brand New Day -- Extra! #1, Kelly's run on Amazing Spider-Man begins with October's issue #575, a two-part story focusing on the villain Hammerhead. We talked to the writer about his upcoming Spidey story, what he thinks of the title's new direction, and why the upcoming Spider-Man summit has him keeping mum about the future.

Newsarama: Joe, let's start with your first story in the ongoing title. What can you tell us about it?

Joe Kelly: It's a story with Chris Bachalo, who I'm totally psyched to be working with again. We worked together a long time ago on a book called Steampunk. And it's a Hammerhead story that follows up on what we did on the Brand New Day special that just came out last month. And part of my goal was to have a leaner, meaner Hammerhead, 'cause he's just one of these characters I really liked. Even though he's kind of corny, something about him always scared me as a kid. So now he's really scary. And some elements that are pulled from the headlines, or at least my local headlines about gangs and the types of recruiting that gangs are doing locally, are taken into a superhero context. And Spider-Man gets yanked into this seedy world.

I'm really pumped about it. It's only two issues, but it's a ton of action. There's a lot of humor despite the really dark parts. And it's my first crack at Spider-Man.

NRAMA: The collaboration on Amazing Spider-Man as it's released three times a month is pretty unique, with quite a few writers participating in plans for the series. Since you're the new writer here, how's it been working with the "Spider-Man Brain Trust?"

JK: They've all been so awesome. They're really cool guys. We've only chatted on the phone a couple times. But everyone's really generous with their ideas and really supportive. So it's been very easy to step into that groove.

NRAMA: You're telling a story about a "leaner, meaner" Hammerhead. Do you think this new Brand New Day format provides opportunity to update readers on where these characters are and maybe even freshen them up for a modern audience?

JK: I think so. I mean, it's nice to have a sort of banner to have these stories fall under where, just from the plot itself, because things have changed, history has changed in very subtle ways. So you have some really cool plot opportunities to try something new.

I think it's a great time for me personally to come on, especially since I didn't have to do any of that stuff, so nobody can be mad at me if they didn't like it. [laughs] I get to step in just for the happy part. And it's a good time for people to sort of check in and catch up. And the pace of the books and the fact that they come out almost every week -- it's a really fun time.

NRAMA: One of the things we're asking various creators as part of this ongoing series on Spider-Man is what they think of the reaction to Brand New Day and what they think of the direction so far. Do you think it's working well so far, and going forward, do you it's a good direction to go in?

JK: Well, I can only really comment on what I know is coming down the pike. For me personally, I would have liked to have seen that marriage broken up a long time ago, as a Spidey fan from way back. I might have done it differently. But the fact that it's done now, you can move forward.

There's a lot of neat stuff happening. Being able to see Peter date again, and all the problems that come with that, having to keep the identity a secret -- all that stuff makes it exciting and fresh again to me. That stuff was sort of gone from the character, and it was important to what made him endearing to me as a fan. So from that standpoint, as they go forward, that's what is going to work out really well. I definitely understand the fan reaction. Something that heavy -- and that heavy-handed a way of changing everything -- I can understand why people would have a violent reaction to that. But sometimes you have to stir the pot, and, well, they got a really big spoon. [laughs] And that's OK. I get excited by that. Change is not always bad.

NRAMA: You mentioned "what's coming down the pike." So, what's coming up next for you? Can you give us any indication of what stories you're going to do about Spider-Man?

JK: We're actually about to head into a Spider-Man summit in September. So any of this stuff that I have percolating is going to be thrown to the dogs, as it were, and we'll see if it survives. So at the moment, I don't have anything I can talk about because they're all about to be vetted by the gang. So we'll see what comes. But I've heard some of their ideas, and some of the stuff that I would be playing into is going to be really exciting. We'll see the building up of villains who had been written off before as they really get a big punch that I'm excited about. The guys are so smart -- I mean there are just some really, really clever stories coming down the pike. The concepts are nice and simple, but they can be expanded upon in Spider-Man's life. But I can't give you any specifics yet. I might be, like, "Clearly, Mysterio is going to be Peter's father," and then that's not the case. [laughs]

NRAMA: We'll be looking for that one.

JK: Yeah. It'll leak immediately on the web. "Kelly says! Mysterio's his father!" [laughs]

NRAMA: As one of the new guys on the Spider-Man team, are you looking to stick around for awhile on the title?

JK: I would really like to. I was really honored that they asked me to participate at all. I've been really busy with a lot of other stuff, like animation specifically, and a lot of creator-owned comics and Man of Action, which take up a lot of time. I'm not sure what kind of output I'm going to generate, but because it's such a big group of guys and because we work so far ahead, I don't think that'll be an issue. I can still sort of chime in and bark at everyone else's stories while I'm pecking away at mine. But Spider-Man really is my favorite. He lives in my heart. I actually cared about him so much as a character that I was intimidated about writing him at first. So to have this opportunity now and say, "Let's have some fun here"... I couldn't be happier. So I plan to be on for the long haul.

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