Tuesday Q&A

Friday Q&A: Michael Costa

The writer of Arms of the Octopus brings together Spider-Man, the X-Men and the Hulk for mystery and adventure!

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All-New X-Men Special #1 cover by Alexander Lozano

By Jim Beard

Writer Michael Costa gets wrapped up in the “Arms of the Octopus” this October in a sprawling saga that stretches over three extra-sized one-shot specials: ALL-NEW X-MEN SPECIAL #1, INDESRTRUCTIBLE HULK SPECIAL #1 and SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN TEAM-UP SPECIAL #1.

Costa may be new to the hallowed halls of Marvel, but he’s been given the keys to the kingdom to juggle beloved Marvel characters and a mystery—the return of Doctor Octopus—that demands the attention of the Superior Spider-Man and other favorites. We asked the writer about the over-arching story as well as the chance to work with such iconic figures and a team of up and coming artists.

All-New X-Men Special #1 preview art by Kris Anka

Marvel.com: Michael, what do you consider the heart of the “Arms of the Octopus” story?

Michael Costa: I think that characters should be the heart of any story, so what I've tried to do here is make sure that the mystery of Ock and the Abomination's return is hopefully interesting not just as an abstract puzzle, but also in how it affects our characters. Spidey, the X-Men and the Hulk all bring different baggage both to what this mystery could mean and then, finally, to its solution. So, if I do my job right, the important thing isn't just that all the pieces fit together, but how that final shape affects to the characters.

Marvel.com: What does this supposed Doctor Octopus want with the X-Men? How will they serve his scheme?

All-New X-Men Special #1 preview inks by Kris Anka

Michael Costa: Well now we're traveling into spoiler territory. But I can say there is a very clear—if maybe not obvious—connection between Doc Ock's appearance and the All New X-Men. As for what he specifically wants from them, well, that's what they have to figure out.

Marvel.com: The original X-Men are most likely unfamiliar with Ock; do they play catch-up with his history or do they simply leap into the fray?

Michael Costa: One of the major challenges with this story is that a bunch of the key characters have some rather complicated back-stories. One guy is an icon who's been secretly brain-swapped with a villain—who's now a hero—and a bunch of the others are past-versions of contemporary characters stranded in the present. What these characters do and don't know about each other was a really difficult knot to untangle throughout the narrative, but it also was the inspiration for most of the best scenes between the characters, because my job as a writer was to find ways they could play catch-up while leaping into the fray.

Indestructible Hulk Special #1 cover by Alexander Lozano

Marvel.com: How does Superior Spidey come into the story? What's his initial reaction to Ock and what does he immediately want to do about it?

Michael Costa: Spider-Man's appearance in the story is pretty much a foregone conclusion because Spidey is Ock. So if Doctor Octopus, back in his gut-enhancing leotard, starts rampaging through midtown, Spider-Man has a vested interest in figuring out just what the heck is going on and determining why "he" is doing this. His initial reaction to Ock's appearance, as you can imagine, is not positive.

Marvel.com: What sorts of feelings will Bruce Banner and the Hulk have to the news of the Abomination's return? How will they react?

Indestructible Hulk Special #1 preview inks by Jacob Wyatt

Michael Costa: To be honest, Banner doesn't have much time to react, other than to turn into the Hulk. And the Hulk tends to only have one reaction to giant monsters that want to kill him: Hulk smash.

Marvel.com: Likewise, what about the Hulk and Superior Spidey and the X-Men? Is it easy enough for them to all work together or, if not, what will form the basis for a prickly partnership?

Michael Costa: Oh, the partnership is definitely "prickly." But one of the interesting things about this collection of heroes is their intellect. Banner, Hank McCoy and the Superior Spider-Man are all geniuses, and they have a mutual respect. One of the great things about this story is watching three geniuses put their brains together to solve a problem, which is just as crucial to the plot—and just as exciting—as the large-scale fisticuffs.

Indestructible Hulk Special #1 preview inks by Jacob Wyatt

Marvel.com: As a writer, what's the very most fun for you to write a multi-part story like “Arms of the Octopus”? Conversely, what is the biggest challenge for you here?

Michael Costa: Hands-down the most fun is just getting to write these characters. I mean I'm a relatively new writer at Marvel and I'm writing Spider-Man! The X-Men! The Hulk! It's like I was the waterboy for the '85 Bears and I was just called up to quarterback.

The most difficult part was being worthy of the pedigree. Like I said earlier, my job was to write a story that has all these characters coming together in an organic way, and not allowing the plot to grind to a halt from reams of exposition explaining who everyone is and why they're there. Keep it simple and keep it moving; two of the hardest things to do.

Superior Spider-Man Team-Up Special #1 cover by Alexander Lozano

Marvel.com: Of your entire cast of characters, which one do you feel you sympathize with or gravitate more toward, and why?

Michael Costa: I think the thing that makes these characters iconic is that it's so easy to sympathize with all of them. They're all manifestations of universal human struggles. But the one I probably enjoyed writing the most—which is ironic because he's the one I expected, at first, to be the most difficult—was the Superior Spidey. His constant struggle to check his own arrogance and his desire to be a hero and not a jerk is just so much fun. I could write a Marvel Team-Up book with him and young Bobby Drake forever.

Marvel.com: You've got a team of relatively new artists working with you on the project; what's the coolest thing about that for you?

Superior Spider-Man Team-Up Special #1 preview inks by Michael Dialynas

Michael Costa: Oh man, where do I begin? First off, all the guys are stylistically so different from one another that it's really a treat to see the three of them working together and interpreting each-others' designs. Kris Anka's lines are so smooth and confident that if they went to a club they'd be going home with a supermodel. Jacob Wyatt feels Manga-inspired but his figures have weight that only the top-end guys can reproduce. And Michael Dialynas's work has a real indie-vibe, but his compositions have an amazing sense of depth that is really unique in that style. I really did my best on this script, but it’s these three guys who are going to bring attention to this book.

I have a long, tragic history of working with artists who blow up so huge I'll never be able to work with them again—Fiona Staples, Ramon Perez—and all I can say to these three is: bye guys. Don't forget me.

Follow “Arms of the Octopus” through ALL-NEW X-MEN SPECIAL #1 on October 2, INDESTRUCTIBLE HULK SPECIAL #1 on October 16 and SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN TEAM-UP SPECIAL #1 on October 30

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