By Brian Truitt, USA Today
Spider-Man has been amazing for 50 years. In 2013, he becomes superior.
The wall-crawling superhero and Marvel Comics icon is the natural star of the brand-new Superior Spider-Man series launching in January as part of the "Marvel NOW!" initiative. It replaces Amazing Spider-Man in the lineup following a landmark 700th issue out Dec. 26.
However, this "enormous" change is an all-new development for the decades-old character and will result in a far darker Spider-Man than fans have ever seen, promises Dan Slott, the Amazing Spider-Man writer who's heading up Superior Spider-Man. "The one thing that does not go with this Spider-Man is the term 'Friendly neighborhood.' No. That's gone.
"I've always been the omniscient hand that's been protecting Peter Parker and Spider-Man, and not letting anything too bad happen to him," he adds. "And now I've become this cruel god. There's something exciting about that, about going, 'Mwah-ha-ha-ha-ha, here is what's going to happen to you, Spider-Man!' And it's drastic and it's big and it's exciting and it's never been done before."
Ryan Stegman (Scarlet Spider, Fantastic Four) is the artist of the first three issues, and Amazing illustrators Humberto Ramos and Giuseppe Camuncoli will rotate in on subsequent story arcs.
Stegman says there will be some alterations to the old Spidey costume - tying into some new abilities - that make him look a little more intimidating. "His belt looks a little different, and there's points at the end of his glove that add a little aggressiveness to his costume."
That ties into his personality, Slott confirms. "He's not going to be doing things the old Spider-Man way. There will be a new way of doing things.
"The first story arc is called 'Hero or menace?' I think that pretty much tells you where we're going."
Amazing Spider-Man editor Stephen Wacker has been teasing publicly that it might be time for a new Spidey who isn't Peter Parker, Slott says, but the writer remains cryptic about who exactly will be under the mask.
"You've got to ask yourself, what does 'Superior Spider-Man' mean? Does this mean a Spider-Man with a greater power set? Or maybe he's moving to Michigan. Just set up shop next to Lake Superior," the writer quips.
Whatever happens in Superior Spider-Man, though, spins out of the events of Amazing No. 700.
Slott has recently been writing Peter as having less and less compassion for villains such as Morbius the Living Vampire and the Lizard, and that could factor into the upcoming story line in which Doctor Octopus has one day to live, his whole life has been ruined by his archenemy, and he just so happens to know Peter actually is Spidey.
Slott sent new Avenging Spider-Man writer Christopher Yost the issue early since he'll have the "superior" Spidey in his book wanted to get him up to speed, and Yost tweeted that, "despite being dead inside," issue 700 was "one of (the) best issues I've ever read."
"I don't know if everyone's going to react like Chris Yost," Slott says. "All I know is I'm going into my reinforced bunker when 700 comes out."
Whether or not Marvel fans storm the company's New York City offices with pitchforks and web shooters once Superior Spider-Man comes out - after recently turning in the plot for the second issue, Slott predicts they're going "to be crumpling it in their hands while they're reading it" - the folks inside the building are all for Spidey's new direction.
At one of Marvel's editorial retreats, Slott gave his spiel for the first year of Superior Spider-Man and received the biggest reaction ever from Marvel editor in chief Axel Alonso: "He goes, 'You know, usually when you talk I just hear a lot of fanfic. But this is a roller coaster. I've got to hang on!' "
While "Marvel NOW!" features many of the company's top writers playing musical chairs with the superhero books - Brian Michael Bendis moving from Avengers to All-New X-Men, Jonathan Hickman switching to Avengers after helming Fantastic Four, etc. - Slott made it clear he only wanted Spider-Man.
Plus, he had already been planning this move from fun romp to dark adventure anyway that meets the needs of "Marvel NOW!"
"You're getting a new writer on this book," Slott says, "and his name also happens to be Dan Slott and he is very messed up. I hear this guy wrote Arkham Asylum and Great Lakes Avengers.
"That other Dan Slott? He's adorable. This guy, he's a freak."
The Spidey may be a little different but the rest of the wall-crawler's world is very similar in Superior Spider-Man. Stegman says there will be an all-new Sinister Six - with at least one new member - and many of the familiar supporting characters that have made Amazing Spider-Man great since the early 1960s will be there, too, although they may look a little different on his watch.
"I try to keep the history in mind," says the artist, who's always had a soft spot for John Romita Sr.'s '60s-era 'Mary Jane Watson. "A lot of guys make Aunt May almost look like a witch, which is something I want to stay away from. Just because you're old, you don't have to look like a monster."
Superior Spider-Man is the dream job for Stegman, who's been doodling Spidey in sketchbooks since he was a little boy. His first cover for the new series is the most exciting thing he's ever done in comics, he says.
"I remember having Spider-Man covers I would tear off and put on the wall. I hope that first-issue cover can be that for some kids out there."
Slott feels a similar excitement.
"As someone who's been reading Amazing Spider-Man since he was 8 years old, am I sad Amazing's going away? Yeah," the writer says. "But as the guy who pushed down the plunger and blew everything up, I'm like, 'Yeah! Did you see the size of that explosion? That was awesome!' "