Though Peter Parker returns to the Manhattan skyline with April’s AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1, his very near erasure at the hands of Otto Octavius means those first few “Thwipt’s” might prove tentative. Whatever yanked Peter back through the jaws of death into the land of the living, didn’t handle his memories with quite so much care.
In a new Infinite Comic by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Juan Bobillo under the watchful eye of Dan Slott debuting in April, Pete wakes up in the midst of a bank robbery, only this time, he’s the one making off with the loot. While he soon learns he’s the masked menace known as Spider-Man, Peter needs more time to come to grips with the hero—or villain—he’s meant to be.
We spoke to Fialkov about weaving this tangled web.
Marvel.com: Peter Parker robbing banks? Was the Bugle right all along? Walk us through it.
The story starts with Peter Parker having lost all of his memory. He doesn’t know who he is. He’s in the process of robbing a bank, and doing so wearing a full body stocking. He finds out, in the process of the first installment, that he’s Spider-Man. According to the Daily Bugle, of course, Spider-Man is reportedly a menace, a bad guy. At this point he has no choice but to continue along with the scheme. If you remove identity and get to the core of who Peter Parker really is, is he a hero? Does his heroism go beyond Uncle Ben dying, beyond Gwen and Captain Stacy dying? All the people and things he’s lost. All those sacrifices. At his heart—as a blob of tissue, removed from all personality and experience—would he act as a hero, when presented with the opportunities of a villain?
Marvel.com: That’s a big story.
Joshua Hale Fialkov: Well, it’s 13 parts!
Marvel.com: Does Peter retain anything at all from his past life, or is this a total clean slate?
Joshua Hale Fialkov: The first and only thing he remembers is opening his eyes and robbing a bank. Being in the middle of robbing a bank. That’s the thing about Peter Parker. He’s such a great, gray, character. Everything done by [Stan] Lee and [Steve] Ditko, everyone in the early Marvel days, established Pete as a character that speaks to every single person on Earth. There’s not a single person who doesn’t feel like that, who hasn’t had that moment of opportunity. In a way, we’re erasing everything past that moment when the wrestling promoter got robbed. This is Spider-Man with all the great power, before he learned the whole great responsibility part. He hasn’t learned that yet. So, is that something that’s already inside him? Is that something that makes him who he is? That’s the focus, but there’s also the mystery of how he ended up there in that bank. Who’s pulling the strings? And because this is the sum of his understanding—“I’m a bank robber.”—he’s forced to go along with that. That’s who he thinks he is. The balance becomes, “If I’m robbing banks, how do I rob banks responsibly?” [Laughs] “How do I be as good a guy as possible while being a bad guy?” Having those two things rubbing up against each other is so much fun to play with. It’s funny; my work at Marvel is sort of divided in two, between the Spider office stuff that’s light and fun, just a whirlwind of good times, and then my Ultimate Comics stuff, which sees lots of people in horrible, dire situations. So, it’s a lot of fun to get to play in the Spidey office, mostly for my own psychological well-being.
Joshua Hale Fialkov: It is and it isn’t. That’s what’s great about Peter. You can put him in horrific situations, but it’s inherent in him to deal with things with a light touch. I think you see it in what Dan [Slott] did in that first chunk of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. He went through horrible times and managed to keep that can-do spirit going. Having that—what’s the word?— invincible personality, he can’t be stopped. He’s gonna keep working; keep grinding, no matter what. Yeah, it’s a drag. Yeah, it’s a bummer. But he knows that the only way to cope with it is to be Spider-Man.
Marvel.com: Let’s talk about the process of writing a story in the Infinite format. Do you approach it differently than a traditional comic script?
Joshua Hale Fialkov: The process of writing them is unique. It’s closer to writing a screenplay, because there’s this other step. One of the things that I focus on with my comics is always pacing, figuring out where the page-turns are. I have experience with a lot of different types of digital comics. This is a little different, because while I’m still controlling those beats, there are now units to those beats. Think about it in terms of music. You have a measure, and within that measure you have notes. The panels would be the notes, and the measure is a page. Put all those measures together, and you have a song, a little twenty-page song. Here, you do away with those measures, and you’re left with beats. The team then defines the rhythm, and there’s a learning curve to that. It’s a fascinating challenge that I’ve gotten better with along the way. I’m really impressed with Mark Waid and Brian Michael Bendis. When you read their Infinite Comics, they work so well. It’s a whole new medium to work in, and that’s pretty exciting. I can sit down with my daughter and read this form of comics, and it’s less overwhelming for her in that guided view. It’s a great educational tool and a great way to tell story.
Marvel.com: If this story is about Peter Parker getting his groove back, how do you define that quality at the core of Spider-Man? Or at the core of Peter Parker, unless they’re the same thing?
Joshua Hale Fialkov: I think they’re the same thing. All Spider-Man stories, at their heart, are about a guy who always takes the hard way, because the hard way is usually the right way. If you look at it, it’s been that way for over 700 issues. Choosing, 700 times, to do it the easy way only to be punished for it, horrifically, over and over and over again. Ultimately he finds and accepts the right way, the harder path, and that’s how he wins. That’s something you can learn from. Doing things the easy way might save time, but it will never net the same rewards as doing it the right way.
The Amazing Spider-Man swings into Infinite Comics with Joshua Hale Fialkov and Juan Bobillo in April