Tuesday Q&A

Tuesday Q&A: Dan Slott

The writer of Amazing Spider-Man talks Alpha, Hobgoblins and counting down to issue #700!



By Jim Beard

Dan Slott’s been swinging with Spider-Man for more than six years now, from 2005’s SPIDER-MAN/HUMAN TORCH to Peter Parker’s recent dust-up with The Lizard in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, and he still loves every minute of it.

Being the Spider-Man writer rates as his proverbial “dream job” and with projects like the web-slinger’s 50th anniversary, his recently-revealed sidekick Alpha and AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #700 occupying the Slott’s time, he’s always got plenty to talk about.

Marvel.com: Dan, at 50, Spider-Man’s older than you, right?

Dan Slott: Yes. If you’re going by dog years. When I started writing Spidey twice a month, I did not have this much gray hair. I was so much better. This job ages you! It ages you with awesomeness! I get to work on Spider-Man. It’s great.

Marvel.com: How does it feel to be the Spider-Man writer for the fiftieth anniversary?

Dan Slott: Honestly, it’s too big to wrap my head around. If I stared directly at it, I would freeze. For the longest time while working on the Big Time run, if there was ever a point where I felt I was losing steam, I would just tell myself that, “If I make it to #692, I was the guy who wrote the fiftieth. If I make it to December, 2012, I’m the guy that wrote #700. You can do this, you can do this. Get off the mat!” [Laughs] It has been my carrot. I’ve come so close!

Marvel.com: What makes it the carrot for you?

Dan Slott: He’s the greatest super hero ever!

Marvel.com: We agree with you, but what makes him the greatest super hero ever? What do you tell people when they ask, “Why Spider-Man?”

Dan Slott: Not to put too much hyperbole behind it, which I think goes against everything Stan [Lee] teaches us, but he’s my favorite character in all of fiction. It’s crazy when you think about it. I think about all the characters I love in the whole world of fiction. Indiana Jones. Hamlet. You know, somewhere in that wide spectrum, it’s Spider-Man! The thing about Spider-Man is that super heroes are such paragons and larger than life. They’re mythic. Spider-Man was really the first one to come along and screw up all the ways that you screw up. If you had those powers, if you had superpowers beyond those of mortal men, you’d screw up all the time. You’d pick that bus up from the wrong point and the bumper would rip off. Everyone would look at you and call you a jerk. That’s the beauty of Spidey. He could stop a purse snatching and go over and say, “Well, miss, glad to be of service,” and she would start hitting him with the purse. She’s the one going, “I read those things Jameson said about you!”

That’s us. Things just don’t go our way. He’s the Charlie Brown of super heroes. There’s something magical about that. There’s something that adds a whole layer of verisimilitude to that. It makes us feel empathy and sympathy towards him that we don’t feel towards other characters.

Marvel.com: It sounds like it’s your dream job—is it?

Dan Slott: It is a dream job. This is the dream job. Someday, probably four months from now when I’m on my death bed, I’ll look back at all of this and think, “Those were the salad days. That was time that you got to write AMAZING SPIDER-MAN.” We just did FanExpo in Canada and I pointed to [AMAZING SPIDER-MAN editor] Steve [Wacker] and got everyone to cheer him because as of the next issue of that comes out, he will have edited 150 issues of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. We’re not even at 700 yet! Thanks to the three times a month during Brand New Day and the twice a month during the Big Time run. He’s been the mayfly.

It’s weird; because of Brand New Day, my name is in there as a consultant. Even on the issues I wasn’t writing, I was there with the other “web-heads.” It would say, “Slott, Gale, Guggenheim, Wells,” and then later “Slott, Waid, Van Lente, Kelly,” and because of that I’d look at this and think, “My name is in one out of every seven Spider-Man comics.” There’s something weird about that that I cannot wrap my brain around. Steve’s name is there even more. That’s crazy. He was telling me that I’m at number three right now [of Spider-Man writers]. If you’re not counting ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN, because [Brian Michael] Bendis is well over 150 issues, and if you’re looking at AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, there’s Stan [Lee], J. Michael Straczynski, and now there’s me coming up. It’s all about working in this hyper-accelerated rate and not doing anything else. There’s like a little side project here and there but for the most part I’ve been working Spidey solid.

Marvel.com: Eventually you’re going to be writing something else. How are you going to move past that?

Dan Slott: I don’t know. [Laughs] I really don’t know. Just recently, I did a 10-page story for A+X for [editor] Nick Lowe. You guys haven’t read it yet but it’s going to be gorgeous. Ron Garney is going to draw it. It’s Captain America, Bucky, and Cable fighting evil Nazi robots in World War II. I’m writing that and I was just so freaking happy to write that. I was like, “This is great! What do you know; there are other characters besides Spider-Man.” But I can’t complain. When you look at it, Spider-Man is my fifth shot at doing an ongoing super hero book. I’ve had SHE-HULK, AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE, THE THING, MIGHTY AVENGERS, and now AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. I really haven’t had that many at-bats doing a monthly super hero book.

There are characters and properties at Marvel and our distinguished competition that I would love to write. I’m a huge FANTASTIC FOUR fan. I have an insane love, almost to the point of obsession, with Moon Knight. There are so many great characters at Marvel. I mean, who doesn’t love Cap, Iron Man, and Hulk? There are so many great characters and properties in the Marvel stable.

Marvel.com: So, in terms of the wants and needs of putting together stories for the Spider-Man universe, where did the idea of Alpha come from?

Dan Slott: I’ve wanted to do the Alpha story since the start of the Big Time run. The second we made Peter Parker a scientist, you know, a full-time Marvel scientist. Not a boring, normal scientist. This is Marvel! The minute we made him a scientist working in a Marvel Universe lab, I knew we had to do this story where he proudly takes a Midtown High class for a field trip and one of his inventions accidentally gives them powers. I knew we had to hit that. When we started talking about what we were going to do for the fiftieth, I knew that it just felt right to hit the full circle peak there.

Marvel.com: What’s in Peter’s psyche that fits well with this storyline of a sidekick?

Dan Slott: There’s the glimpse of, “For the grace of God, there go I.” It’s a situation that’s slightly different. It’s a shade different. It plays into Peter Parker’s fears and fantasies. When Peter got his powers in the lab accident, no one saw it. When Alpha did, everyone saw it. So Alpha gets to be the kid who goes to school and has superpowers. Peter, for the longest time in all the Stan and Steve [Ditko] stories, was always “Oh, if only I can lift Flash Thompson over my head and throw him into the East River. If I could do this, every girl in school would be all over me. But instead, I have to hide behind my test tubes, beakers, and glasses. Curses!”

Marvel.com: Is there the parenting gene in Peter?

Dan Slott: It’s not so much that. Peter’s always been a loner as a super hero. One of the things about the past 10 years of comics, with Peter being in the Avengers, is the fun that he’s the guy that really shouldn’t be there. He’s the guy that doesn’t fit in that paradigm. That’s been the fun of watching that. When I approached Jonathan Hickman about Johnny Storm being dead, I asked him if he wanted Spidey in the FF. To me, that’s more about Spidey gaining an extended family. The Avengers are the people he works with. The FF, since day one and AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1, have been this kind of bizarre surrogate family with Johnny being the bratty brother that Peter never had. We’ve seen him in that kind of zone. There was a time in the 1990’s where Scarlet Spider was coaching, mentoring, and leading the NEW WARRIORS. Recently, Christos Gage did a story where Spidey guest-taught in AVENGERS ACADEMY. JMS did an arc of Peter Parker being a teacher. We have seen him have these kinds of bonds with teens and with other super powered characters. But never like this before; he’s never had to be the Captain America to someone else’s Bucky.

Marvel.com: Is the story of Alpha an open-ended one or is it a finite one?

Dan Slott: Keep reading!

Marvel.com: How far out did you start thinking of and planning AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #700?

Dan Slott: Quite some time. You are going to see there is some end game going on here. This is the story that wraps up the Big Time run. It just ends it. Oh, there’s so much I can’t say without spoiling Marvel’s big secrets. #700 will pass the baton off to what will happen with Spider-Man in the world of Marvel NOW!

Marvel.com: So we’ve got “Danger Zone” coming up next in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #695—what is that story about?

Dan Slott: I’m co-writing “Danger Zone” with Christos Gage. We’ve pulled the wool over your eyes since issue #649 to let you think that Roderick Kingsley was dead. We let you think that Phil Urich, the current Hobgoblin, killed Roderick Kingsley. Because he chopped off the head of a man wearing a mask. Oh, the hate mail! Oh, the angry YouTube videos! We did that in November and there was a point where some fans were so bitter and so angry, they kept complaining and kept harping on it. There was a point last year in April where I just kinda snapped on Twitter and no one knew what it was about. I just went, “There are some days I believe none of you have ever read a comic book.” We cut off the head of a guy wearing a mask!

There was one person who went off on this long rant that went like this: “Dan Slott’s an idiot! Doesn’t he know that the Hobgoblin has a machine called the Winkler Device that can hypnotize people into thinking they’re the Hobgoblin? Doesn’t he know that the Hobgoblin has an identical twin brother, Daniel Kingsley? How can he do that!” And I’m just reading this going, “You’ve got all the pieces right there! Why are you yelling at me? How can you not see this?”

In “Danger Zone,” Roderick Kingsley is very upset that his brother Daniel got his head chopped off. So he’s heading back to the states to deal with this. So you’re going to get new Hobgoblin versus original Hobgoblin in a Hobgoblin war. And if you’re going to have a Hobgoblin war, chances are Spider-Man will be right in the middle of it.

Marvel.com: Could you have ever imagined such an outpouring of emotion over Hobgoblin?

Dan Slott: Yes.

Marvel.com: Doesn’t it say something about the love for the Spider-Man universe that even a fairly non-iconic Spider-Man villain can invoke such a reaction?

Dan Slott: What?! What?! Hobgoblin is the most important character ever created! How dare you say that! You don’t understand, man. You just don’t get it. Boo! Boo! I’m getting on the forums right now [Laughs].

Every character is someone’s favorite. Hobgoblin has had so many brilliant stories written about him by Roger Stern, Tom DeFalco, Peter David, and some of the Spidey legends who really fleshed this character out and really raised the stakes of his mystery. For so many fans, if you hit the sweet spot of that’s when they discovered Spider-Man, Hobgoblin, and I’m being deadly serious here, is the coolest character of all time. For those fans, Hobgoblin is cooler than Green Goblin. When we go to cons, there are certain fans that just freak out and obsess over Ben Reilly. For as many fans that hear Clone Saga and start making gagging noises, there are an equal number of fans that started reading Spider-Man then.

Marvel.com: That’s their golden age.

Dan Slott: Yeah, and for them, Ben Reilly is the cool Spider-Man. They want to know why we can’t bring Ben Reilly back. Everybody’s got a different sweet spot. This is a character that has been around for 50 years and has had a lot of seminal runs. Everyone has a different favorite. If I did a story tomorrow where someone kills the Puma, there’d be people out to kill me. To them, Puma’s awesome. “He owned the Daily Bugle for a while! He has Puma powers. He can beat The Punisher. He can beat the Beyonder!” [Laughs]

Marvel.com: The cover for AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #697 shows Spider-Man on the Spider-Glider…

Dan Slott: Spider-Glider! First seen in Ends of the Earth! SPIDER-GLIDER!

Marvel.com: Is that the modern equivalent of the Spider-Mobile from the 1970’s for you?

Dan Slott: No, man, Spider-Glider is awesome. Spider-Glider is Spidey using a Goblin Glider shaped as a spider. Steve McNiven kills that on the cover. It’s gorgeous. And Spidey’s hurling Spider-Bombs. It’s great.

Marvel.com: You can’t go into details, of course, but how might AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #700 really change things for our hero?

Dan Slott: Drastic changes. Tear-inducing changes. Heart-crushing, soul-stomping, bellowing-at-the-sky changes.

Marvel.com: Then the “Dying Wish” story preludes in #698. Is “Dying Wish” the story that takes us into #700?

Dan Slott: #698, #699, and #700 just keeps building and building. We are having such a hard time promoting this because we don’t want to go, “You are going to love this comic. It’s awesome, and it’s about Bruce Willis and he’s a ghost. You’ll love this comic.” There’s stuff that’s coming up that makes it so hard to promote this. “It’s great! Rosebud is the sled! Read our comic!”

Marvel.com: What’s it like to be putting out a comic that people aren’t going to hate, but at the same time it’s not going to be a joyous celebration of fun super hero-ness? This is going be full of pathos, yes?

Dan Slott: Is it? It’s also going to be a thrilling tale of heroism! This is gonna be one that I know full-well, when people close that comic, there’s going to be a large portion of the fans out there whose next action will be to soak their torches in the gasoline, reach for the matches, sharpen their pitchforks, put on their night-vision goggles and go looking for me. “Why, why have you done this!” [Laughs]

Marvel.com: You’re really enjoying this job, aren’t you? Maybe a bit too much!

Dan Slott: Very much. Very much so. Sometimes if you love the character too much, you protect them with the Hand of God. Everything seems to fall right at the end of the story and everything’s okay. There’s a feeling of not wanting to put the character through too much pain or too much upheaval. But on some level, that’s at the heart of Spider-Man. Who can forget the night Gwen Stacy died? There are these stories that just resonate and make us go, “Wow. That was a pivotal moment in Spider-Man’s life.” And there are equally small moments where our blood goes cold. When you have that moment of Peter walking into the back yard at Ingram Street, and there’s Eddie Brock helping Aunt May fold the laundry. You go, “Oh my god! No! No!”

There are all kinds of different Spidey moments that really grab us. When Jean DeWolff dies, when Captain Stacy gives his dying speech to Spider-Man, we’re just in tears, we’re melting. We feel terrible. It’s all part of the process of being Spider-Man. It’s all part of the mythos. Sometimes bad things happen. Sometimes change happens.

Marvel.com: Let’s try to wrap this on a cheerier note, Dan. There is life past AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #700, correct?

Dan Slott: Whose life? Keep reading.

Marvel.com: That’s going be our headline: “DAN SLOTT SAYS ‘KEEP READING.’”

Dan Slott: Is there hope? Is there a light at the end of the tunnel?

Marvel.com: Could it be that the interpretation here is “no hope”?

Dan Slott: When you think about it, sometimes people say they see the light at the end of the tunnel. Oh no. Oh no!

Marvel.com: Let’s wrap it up right there. Don’t think we could ask for any better of a wrap-up...

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I think I have read every interview related to ASM 700 from Slott and the more I read the more scared slott gets me. I dont know what hes doing for Spidey but its obviously going to be big , I dont think Ive ever been so excited and nervous at the same time for any comic but no matter what IN SLOTT WE TRUST, I really hope he keeps writing for ASM after 700. Hes too good and has too much love for the character to not keep writing