Just as Peter Parker returns to the pages of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN with a new lease on life, writer Dan Slott harkens back to Peter’s first 60 days.
Chronicled in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1.1-1.5 beginning in May, “Learning to Crawl” bridges the gap from the character’s first appearance in 1962’s AMAZING FANTASY #15 to his full, web-slinging stride in his own ongoing series. With art by Ramón Perez and covers by Alex Ross, this all-new adventure provides new insights to one of Marvel Comics’ most iconic origin stories.
“The end of AMAZING FANTASY is Peter walking into the distance, his head bowed, having learned that with great power must also come great responsibility,” recalls Slott. “Our story starts with Peter walking towards you with his head bowed. It’s one thing to know that with great power comes great responsibility, but what do you do with it?
“Between AMAZING FANTASY #15 and AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1, [Peter] is still a nation-wide celebrity. J. Jonah Jameson has yet to start his campaign to try and get Spidey off the air. He’s like—I want to say something that’s not Justin Bieber [Laughs]. He’s Bieber. Maybe not Bieber as he is right now, but that’s the threat.”
“If Justin Bieber learned at the right moment that with great power…” but he descends into laughter.
“He is the talk of the nation,” continues Slott, returning to the subject of the newly-bitten Spider-Man. “This is a world where, at that moment in time, they have the Fantastic Four, who are space explorers. They have this ‘god of thunder,’ [but] no masked crime fighter. There’s talk of that guy who can shrink down into anthills, but nobody’s seen anything like Spider-Man. He’s an acrobat, a performer, a TV star, a stupid human trick and a wrestler. He’s this hot new thing. And maybe if you have great power and great responsibility, what you’re supposed to look after is family. What is responsibility?”
“If you read the early issues [of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN], he doesn’t start patrolling for crime until issue #3 or #4,” Slott notes. “What’s he doing? Every adventure, he either stumbles across it, or he’s looking for money. ‘Oh! If only I could get pictures of the Vulture!’ He doesn’t wake up one morning and go, ‘I need to catch the Vulture.’ He sees a thing in the Daily Bugle requesting some photos for good money. ‘That’ll pay the rent! Maybe Aunt May won’t have to hock her jewelry.’ That path that he’s on will eventually lead him to being a hero. That’s the story. It’s his path to becoming the Spider-Man that we know. There’s a story that you haven’t heard.”
The decision to focus on this previously untapped avenue arose during talks for Spider-Man’s 50th anniversary year. Slott initially balked at the idea of another account of the character’s first year given how the mythology has been reexamined. Still, the creative challenge of mining new insight from such familiar terrain stuck with him, even steering the writer toward those earliest issues of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s iconic collaboration.
“What kind of story could you tell where you might show new things,” questions Slott. “Then one day I saw it. There’s the story. This is a movie. This is this part of Spider-Man that we didn’t know about. There’s this one issue where he’s gelled and Stan and Steve have their voice. You get this Spider-Man that’s carried on to this day. I started looking at those issues leading up to it, going, ‘What was happening to Peter? Is there a story there?’ And I think there’s an exciting one, one with a lot of heart. It’s not just about the writer and artist finding a voice. It’s about the character.”
“Usually when you’re reading this kind of story where you’re being shown a new angle on the past, they tend to bring out this super Big Bad, this character like Mr. Sinister who’s secretly behind everything,” he says. “This is not that. Everything you know happened. What you’re going to see is that there was another villain running around, very much in the same vein as Mysterio and Electro and Sandman.”
Slott took inspiration from AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1 to differentiate this new villain from those other foes:
“When Jameson first goes on the attack against Spider-Man, he says ‘We shouldn’t look up to this celebrity, this flash-in-the-pan Spider-Man as some kind of hero. You want a hero? You look at my son the astronaut. You know why we shouldn’t follow this kid? Because he’s dangerous. Other kids are going to watch and see what he does. They’re gonna try and emulate him, and they’re gonna get hurt.’ That’s what Jameson says in that first issue. It’s the cornerstone of his campaign.
“Along comes this new adversary. It’s the poster boy for everything J. Jonah Jameson was talking about. He’s a kid. He’s Peter’s age. He has made himself into a Spidey villain, because he thinks Spidey’s awesome. So instead of fighting authority figures and old men, it’s all this stuff that Peter deals with at school. It’s the school yard on a super level.”
“It’s the big bulbous spider [symbol] on the chest, the smaller eyes, the big ol’ webbing under the arms. He nails it. His classic Spidey is fantastic. You’re looking at Pete in the glasses and tie, the V-neck vest.
“This is very much a love letter to that era of Spider-Man.”
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN returns this April, followed by “Learning to Crawl” in May!