By Tim Stevens
Since early in 2008, AMAZING SPIDER-MAN has been hitting the shelves at a breakneck three times a month pace. In 2009, there will be no rest for the Webcrawler…Or the team that brings fans his adventures.
"There was never really an option to not keep it going, so the team and I have just been pressing ahead like normal," says editor Steve Wacker. "My fear about this book's schedule is ongoing though. I barely sleep."
Exhausted or not, Wacker and the talented writers and artists that have been molding Spidey stories since the start of "Brand New Day" and continue to now will be redoubling their efforts in the new year. However, just because the pace or their dedication has not changed does not mean everything is going to be the same old, same old.
Co-writer Joe Kelly explains, "Last year was about rebuilding and establishing Spidey's status quo. To me, this year is about discovery."
"It's about Peter really charting his future--making plans for his life so the readers will get a better sense of where Peter Parker sees himself going as a character and as a grown man," elaborates co-writer Mark Waid.
Another large part of this second year is the revitalization of Spider-Man classic villains who have been largely absent since the beginning of "Brand New Day." The man at the center of this revitalization is artist extraordinaire Phil Jimenez.
"I've had the good fortune to play with almost all of Spidey's big villains in one way or another -- Doctor Octopus, the Vulture, Elektro, Kraven," the artist states. "I've been toying around in my off time—ha!— with other characters like Sandman, the Lizard and Hydro Man."
For him, many of the redesigns came out of the summer's "Spidey Summit" and the inspiration provided by his teammates.
"I was sitting with the writing crew of the book and just sketching as they tossed out ideas. The Vulture was a direct result of drawing and listening; spitballing visually as the writers tried to come up with new takes on the characters," Jimenez recalls.
There were other redesigns that the artist has no one to thank for but himself.
"Some of the design ideas for Doc Ock came from my own questions about the character -- questions maybe only an outsider would ask, but which spawned further discussion about the villain's evolution as a character and, ultimately, the new designs!" he admits.
Jimenez never took the assignment lightly, regardless of how quickly he embraced the challenge.
"It's always intimidating -- to me, at least -- to tackle iconic characters etched so indelibly in the minds of readers. I didn't change anything just to change it, and I certainly didn't attempt to 'fix' anything that didn't need fixing. I just tried to find things in the characters' pasts, futures, or powers that might allow me some play room to augment their designs -- if they needed augmenting at all."
With many of the redesigns done and already scheduled to appear, Jimenez can look back and play favorites a bit.
"I obviously love the Kraven family expansion—Kraven's wife, their psycho daughter—but I'm also really keen on some of the Doc Ock and Elektro stuff," the artist acknowledges. "And one day, I really hope to play with Hydro-Man."
"I love the work Phil did with the new Kraven. I might be biased, having wrote the arc, but I think Phil really knocked that out of the park," agrees co-writer Marc Guggenheim.
Steve Wacker and Mark Waid, on the other hand, side with a certain multiple tentacled threat as their favorite.
Wacker promises, "The ideas he concocted for the New Doctor Octopus are going to really get people's attention."
Joe Kelly, meanwhile takes the diplomatic way out and simply says, "All of them. Phil is the nicest evil genius I've ever met."
Coming up in "Brand New Day" Year Two
-On April 15 in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #592, Mark Waid, with artist Mike McKone, starts a three-part storyline entitled "24/7."
"A certain top-secret reveal in #591 pushes Spidey into believing that maybe he's not spending enough time web-slinging and making his presence felt in NYC, so it's all-Spidey, all the time--complicated by the attack of the new Vulture!" Waid reveals.
-Joe Kelly picks up with issue #595 and the highly anticipated "American Son" arc.
"It's got a ton of good badness to slobber over," the writer says, describing the story. "It centers around one of the most influential families in the Marvel U., the Osborns, and just how far Spidey's willing to go to keep them in their place. Since Normie is hanging out in some sweet new digs these days, it's fair to expect appearances from the new Avengers and members of the goblin family as well as a few surprises."
-Also coming up is AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2009 ANNUAL which will be written by Marc Guggenheim just before he takes a brief hiatus from the Spidey team. The annual focuses on classic baddie the Rhino who typically has a reputation of being little more than muscle.
Guggenheim, however, pledges, "At the end of the day, however, it comes down to making him a compelling, interesting character, not just a bruiser. I've got a line on how to do that."
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