By Kiel Phegley
Dan Slott's a busy man.
Aside from co-writing the monthly AVENGERS THE INITIATIVE, a title currently playing a major role in Secret Invasion, Slott has been putting the finishing script touches on "New Ways To Die," a six-part AMAZING SPIDER-MAN epic featuring the return of many of Spidey's classic foes as well as classic AMAZING artist John Romita, Jr. and the introduction of the new villain Anti-Venom.
Luckily for Marvel.com, Slott made time to talk about the secret origins of both projects over a delicious Pad Thai lunch at Republic Noodles in Manhattan's Union Square. For the sake of length, we've edited out the chewing sounds, but not the news on Slott's secret play to make Brian Michael Bendis kill off his own characters, the inner workings of Spidey's Braintrust or how "New Ways to Die" literally breaks all the rules.
Marvel.com: You've done tie-in issues for different crossovers before, but with the arc of AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE, you're writing a book with strong ties to the main event series where we'll see an event at Camp Hammond in SECRET INVASION that will reverberate in your own story. Has it been different writing something that incorporated into the event at hand?
You always have to play along when you do a crossover. We try to keep INITIATIVE firmly in the Marvel Universe and spread out into every corner. So if something big happens, we try to make sure the Initiative is going to be there. With World War Hulk, it took place in Manhattan or in Times Square. It really localized it.
For Secret Invasion, we're spread out now. We're fighting this war on multiple fronts. Skrulls are in Camp Hammond. You've got the grunts fighting on the frontline, and you've got this homegrown insurgency of 3-D Man and the Skrull Kill Krew taking it on the road and killing Skrulls all over America. It's fun to have a multi-pronged assault. There are all these great facets of the Marvel U like how we see INCREDIBLE HERCULES dealing with the fight on the side of mythology and the gods. CAPTAIN BRITAN AND MI-13 are dealing with the Skrulls' assault on magic. With INITIATIVE, we're seeing the fight everywhere. It's really a giant, global invasion. It's fun.
Marvel.com: A lot of the time you get credit as a guy who's steeped in continuity who pulls out a lot of left field guys. Now that you co-write THE INITIATIVE with Chris Gage, do you see him helping pull out strange pieces of Marvel history or adapt them in ways you didn't even think of?
For the most part, I'm plotting and Chris is scripting. We do kind of juggle up how we put the book together, but for the most part, I'm the guy choosing the scenes and he's the guy choosing how to execute them.
A couple of creative summits ago, we were all talking about what we were going to do with our tie-ins to Secret Invasion, and I would not shut up about 3-D Man. I was going on and on about 3-D Man. And we had all these other cool pieces in there like the Skrull Kill Krew and Crusader, a good Skrull, and we knew well ahead of time that Hank Pym was a Skrull, but I couldn't stop talking about 3-D Man. At the end, editor Tom Brevoort pulled me aside and said, "Why
?!? No one cares about 3-D Man but you! Did you see everybody's eyes glaze over when you started on about him?" But now the joke's on them, because the first issue sold out, and now all anyone can talk about is how cool 3-D Man is. He's awesome. [Laughs
Marvel.com: I'd heard you mention in the past that Brian Michael Bendis had asked you for some, I guess you'd say "cannon fodder," out of the INITIATIVE camp that came to bear in SECRET INVASION. What was that all about?
Last year at the San Diego con, I'm at the Marvel booth, and [NEW WARRIORS writer] Kevin Grevioux walks up—nicest guy in the world with [a] great voice—and goes [Slott puts on gravely approximation of Grevioux's voice
] "Dan, I like what you're doing in INITIATIVE. You have all these great New Warriors characters. You know what? I think they'd work really well in NEW WARRIORS. Can I take your characters and put them in NEW WARRIORS?" And I say, "Ok," because he's a big guy. A nice guy, but a big
And then at night at a Marvel dinner, I'm having my dinner and spilling most of it on [MS. MARVEL writer] Brian Reed. And Bendis comes over to talk to Brian, and he goes, "Oh Dan, by the way, when we do Secret Invasion I have this scene where I'm going to kill the Initiative. You can pick one or two characters who you want to live, but keep that in mind." And then he walked away! So I call up Brevoort, and I'm like [Slott puts on "crying to Brevoort on the phone" voice
] "Kevin Grevioux wants to take all my New Warriors, and Bendis wants to kill everyone else. What am I gonna do?!?" Tom was like, "Don't worry about it!"
So what we did was graduated all the kids in issue #12 and shipped in a whole new bunch of kids. And the first one that stepped off the bus was Proton, the 616 equivalent of Geldoff [a character Bendis created in ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN]. Like, "Let's see Bendis kill off his own characters." And he did. That's how hardcore Brian Michael Bendis is, man.
Marvel.com: Is there anything you can say right now about what might happen after Secret Invasion for the kids of THE INITIATIVE?
Well, once the Skrulls win, and we become Skrullworld. [Pause
] Oh wait! [Laughs
] I am going to say this, though: when the Secret Invasion is over, this is going to be one of those things where the Marvel Universe is drastically changed. Can the Initiative exist in this new world? And if it is to go on, how will they pull it off? Big changes are in store for your Marvel U, and they're going to [Slott puts on "melodramatic announcer" voice
] "rock the Initiative to its very core!"
Marvel.com: Let's change things up for a minute and talk about AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. Recently the Spidey Braintrust wrote their first issue as a team with #564. Did you break it up by chapter between you?
Every other word. [Marc] Guggenheim, [Bob] Gale, me—we all got on the phone and go, "Spider-Man. Walks. In. To. A. Bar." It's really hard, but by the end of it we could tie each other's shoes…
Marvel.com: With our minds…
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Mmmmm hmmmmm. The thing you have to realize is that the whole Spider-Man team is constantly e-mailing each other, on the phone with each other, doing conference calls with each other. We really are becoming gestalt mind. And it's also downright intimidating for the new guys. I think [Joe] Kelly and [Mark] Waid are falling perfectly into the giant mental group hive mind.
Marvel.com: Slash time suck.
Yes! There are so many weird mental disciplines you have to master to be in the Braintrust. You have to constantly be reading everyone else's thoughts, but when it comes to yourself, to keep all the artists fed and 36 issues coming out a year you're writing stories in different orders. You're writing chapter one of this story and chapter one of the next story and chapter three of that story. You're all over the place. It feels like you're Billy Pilgrim in "Slaughterhouse Five." I've been wrapping up "New Ways to Die," and I look and see the date on the first plot was last November. I wrote the first issue of "New Ways to Die" before anyone had read a single issue of Brand New Day. That's so weird to me.
Well speaking of "New Ways to Die," you had said once before how the story came out of these e-mail conversations with the rest of the writers, right?
When we had our first summit—our first "Spidey summit"—as a group we all came up with these rules of "This is stuff that should be in a Spider-Man comic" and "This is stuff that shouldn't be in a Spider-Man comic." And I was being a good little soldier. I thought everything said at that summit meant something. I thought it was serious. And I religiously tried to stick to the rules like "No classic
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villains in the first six months." And one writer's story came in, and I started freaking out and going, "That breaks rules four, six and eight! You can't do that!" And everyone went, "Chill. Take it easy." And it kept happening with everyone else's scripts where the guys kept breaking the rules set up in the first summit, and I was the only one getting bent out of shape. I'm the guy you play Monopoly with who goes, "There's no free kitty rule! It doesn't exist!" I'm uptight.
So at one point, I was getting steamed. And one of our rules was, "You can't use the Thunderbolts. Warren Ellis is doing X, Y and Z, and so you can't use the Thunderbolts. You can't use the original Green Goblin. You can't use Venom." Somewhere down the line, the idea was being pitched around of doing "White Venom," and I wasn't enthused about the name. It sounded to me like you went to a bar. "The lady will have a Pink Squirrel, and I'll have a White Venom." Long story short, people were having trouble with that story idea—how would you do it right?
And somebody else had broken the rules on something else again, so I went home and said, "Oh! They can break the rules! Ok, fine!" Crack the knuckles. "I'll show them how to do the White Venom story!" And I wrote this pitch where the Thunderbolts come after Spider-Man, and this happens, and then this
happens! And then everyone went, "This is great!" And I'm still the guy going, "But I broke the rules!" And they said, "No! This is great!" So that got my head out of it a little. Out of that weird spot.
Marvel.com: At what point after you wrote that pitch did they tell you John Romita Jr. was going to draw the arc. Was it right away?
Yes. And that was super cool. It was the greatest thing ever. We have such great artists on [AMAZING SPIDER-MAN] from Marcos Martin to Phil Jimenez to Mike McKone. Everyone we're getting to work on this book is great, and I always do this grass is greener thing. I don't remember which Spider-writer I was saying this to, but I was like, "Aww…you got that guy to do your art? You're so lucky. I envy you." And he was like, "Shut up! You got to work with Steve McNiven, Marcos Martin, and now you're working with John Romita, Jr. Shut up!" And I said, "Can't argue about that. That is pretty cool."
Marvel.com: How often do you guys have the Spider Summits in order to keep the machine running smoothly?
We've done three of them in person. There was one where I wasn't there because everyone was in L.A., and I wasn't. I did the panel via Marc Guggenheim's iPhone. We've done a bunch, and another one's coming up. For this one we'll get Waid and Kelly in the room. That'll be fun. Joe Kelly—the stuff he did in the BRAND NEW DAY SPECIAL with Hammerhead that's coming up is great. I've read Mark Waid's Venom short story for the first issue of "New Ways to Die"—it's great stuff. People are going to be blown away.
Marvel.com: Is everyone meeting up this weekend at Comic-Con in San Diego?
No. I am doing this interview with you now, as I am shoving food in my mouth, but the minute we're done I'm running back home and scripting my butt off. If it's not leaving for actual sustenance, I should not be leaving my word processor, or [AMAZING editor] Steve Wacker will pull out the Cathy Bates "Misery" hammer and take out my legs.
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