Spider-Man: Welcome to the Webheads

Writer Fred Van Lente talks about making his official debut as a Webhead in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #602 and wrapping up the origin story of one of Spidey's newest villains in DARK REIGN: MISTER NEGATIVE #3!

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AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #602 cover by Adi Granov

By Marc Strom

Fred Van Lente better not have a fear of spiders.

The writer swings into his first story arc as an official Webhead with AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #602 on August 12, followed a week later by DARK REIGN: MISTER NEGATIVE #3 on August 19, which wraps up the origin story of one of Spidey's newest menaces.

As Van Lente makes his presence known in Peter Parker's life, he'll also bring back a familiar face for the "Red-Headed Stranger" storyline: The Chameleon.

"One of the more important aspects of the Chameleon, I think, is that no one should know very much about him-that's the key to his success," the writer says of the classic Spider-Man foe. "I will say that Chameleon has gone back to his roots as a freelance operative, is working for some 'Very Bad People' who want to cripple and/or harm New York City. And now that now J. Jonah Jameson is the mayor of Big Apple, anything [involving] city politics and the security of NYC is very much the concern of the AMAZING cast, and Spidey in particular."

In recent months, Van Lente has brought back a number of older Spider-foes, such as the Spot, frequently giving them an update or two along the way. However, he doesn't see his approach to the Chameleon in quite the same way.

The Chameleon
"I don't know that I've updated him so much as gone back to basics with him," Van Lente clarifies. "As most Spidey fans know, Chameleon was the very first villain in the strip, appearing in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1. In the intervening 601 issues he has been interpreted in a number of different ways. Only fitting, I think, for a man with infinite faces. However, I always liked the idea of a super spy; a master of disguise, who uses his own uncanny abilities at impersonation to bedevil a super-powered person like Spidey. I never liked the fact he got powers; I never liked the idea he was a guy with severe mental problems who just wanted to do in Spider-Man.

"In my SUPER VILLAIN TEAM-UP: M.O.D.O.K.'S 11 limited series, we heavily implied that the insanity was just a ruse so he could fade into the background again. And as for the shape-shifting, didn't we do a whole event with shape-shifting aliens? Who wants to see more of that? If Chameleon still has his shape-shifting powers, he doesn't use them in this story-it's back to using masks again, which makes him, believe it or not, even more terrifying."

"Red-Headed Stranger" will also help to bring Mary Jane Watson back into Peter Parker's supporting cast, a task that, for Van Lente, has proven quite fruitful thus far.

Mary Jane Watson
"Marvel has been very hands-off [with] our treatment of Mary Jane," says the writer. "Once the decision was made to bring her back, [Spider-Man editor] Steve Wacker solicited we Webheads for ideas, and, being the new guy, I saw an opportunity to make a good first impression-or at least try to-so I zapped over my thoughts on what Mary Jane has been up to since we saw her last and what might make her return to New York City and the cast of AMAZING. That wound up being a 'prequel' to the 'Red-Headed Stranger' arc, which will be the lead story in the super-sized 'all-dating' issue, AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #605, in September.

"I came up with that tale-or at least the bare bones of it-prior to developing this Chameleon story, so everything from that informed this one, so it's all rather fortuitously seamless, in a kind of completely accidental way. Have I now thoroughly confused you? Let's just say Mary Jane has her own encounter with the Chameleon, which is extremely significant for the direction of the book and sets up serious shenanigans later on."

Over in DARK REIGN: MISTER NEGATIVE #3, Van Lente has had the opportunity to switch things up a little bit, with the titular villain taking possession of Spider-Man and using him in his war against the Hood's super-powered thugs. This role-reversal afforded Van Lente the chance to play with Spider-Man in ways fans don't often see.

DARK REIGN:
MISTER NEGATIVE
#3 cover by
Jae Lee

"It's always fun to take familiar characters and put them in strange and interesting situations, and it's been no different here," the writer relates. "To take such a fundamentally decent and good person like Peter Parker and twist him into a vengeance-driven, hate-obsessed maniac-well, it gives me a reason to get up in the morning, that's all I've got to say."

And though Mister Negative has pulled Spidey out of his sleeve as his trump card, the circumstances which led to such a situation were anything but premeditated on the villain's part.

"One of the new villains in the Hood's costumed army is the Spot, and he teleported Mister Negative's usual assortment of minions, the Inner Demons, to Staten Island at the opening of the series," recounts Van Lente. "So really, simply to survive, Negative had to drum up some new recruits, and Spider-Man unwittingly blundered into his grasp."

So far, Van Lente tells us that he's enjoyed his time as a Webhead quite a bit.

"Most definitely," proclaims the writer. "The first things I remember actually reading on my own when I was a young squirt were the Pocket Books paperback reprints of the [Stan] Lee/[Steve] Ditko Spidey run. So really working on the title where I got my start in consciousness is literally a dream come true."

Mister Negative
Beyond "Red-Headed Stranger" and DARK REIGN: MISTER NEGATIVE, fans can also expect to see Van Lente pen a number of other Spider-Man tales in the coming months.

"I'll be collaborating on part of the upcoming mega-arc 'The Gauntlet' in AMAZING with the mega-talented Paolo Rivera," he shares. "A series-within-a-series with my 'Red-Headed' collaborator Mr. Barry Kitson that we were just talking about on the phone about how we're both really excited for it."

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Comments

2 comments
GundamAce
GundamAce

mj in the first pic looks like morgan webb.

SPNWareZ
SPNWareZ

Kewl. Nice to c spidey will have old/new things come his way. But MJ is now getting too much, move on Spidey.