The man who writes Spider-Man talks Marvel’s Cinematic Universe

A chat with comics writer Dan Slott about Spider-Man from the Verge:

Dan Slott
Dan Slott

What were your thoughts around Spider-Man finally coming to the Marvel Cinematic Universe?:

I was completely side-swiped. I didn’t see it coming at all. I had so long been told about the politics of it, and had been told by the powers that be that it was never, ever, ever going to happen. So, I was gobsmacked.

You write Spider-Man right now, but you’ve also written The Avengers in comic form. Especially since there can’t exactly be a clean slate for the character, what do you think this means for Spider-Man at the movies?

The thing that’s exciting about it — and I don’t want you to walk away going “Oh! He hated every Spider-Man movie.” — is that I love Spider-Man. I loved the first two Sam Raimi movies. And with the new Amazing Spider-Man movies, there are certain things about [them] that I love. I love the chemistry between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, between Peter and Gwen. They’re just adorable. You don’t even need to swing around town or anything, you just put the two of them onscreen the whole time, and you can just watch that.

The great thing is, and there’s no denying, the best superhero movies in the world are coming out from Marvel. Those are the movies that get everyone the most excited. Especially the Marvel Studios movies. A lot of people are trying to replicate what they did by having that combined universe, but what they did was astounding. They did these great single-unit movies first, so you really cared about Iron Man and Steve Rogers and the Hulk. You cared about Thor. And when you put them all together, it was like “Oh my God!” That’s what’s great about the comics. That it’s this giant shared universe. It’s this sandbox where all the comic books and all the characters and creators get to work in and weave this giant tapestry together. That hopefully everything that works makes all the other stuff that works even stronger. And the idea that you could bring Spider-Man into that world, that sandbox? It’s the most exciting thing ever. As cool as it is to see Spider-Man onscreen, now I get to see Peter Parker and Tony Stark. I can’t believe this day and age we live in. When I was growing, we had Christopher Reeve Superman, and that was it. You’d better like it! [Now] it’s the Golden Age for Heroes. I can’t even imagine if I was a little kid, and if stuff like that came out when I was young. I would’ve lost it.

Reboots means telling old stories in a new way. As far as writing Spider-Man is concerned, what’s that process like? Taking an origin story, like what you did in last year’s “Learning to Crawl” and finding new wrinkles.:

[In “Learning to Crawl”] we told a story that fit in the cracks of Spider-Man’s first 60 days of being Spider-Man, which dealt with the first time he really had to fight a bad guy that was his own age, and also dealing with the fallout of everything that should be happening in his personal life. You know, his grades slipping, and Aunt May wondering what he’s up to, and whether or not he should show off his powers at school. And it was fun to revisit that stuff.

Amazing Spider Man
Amazing Spider Man

I don’t think you should think of them as old characters. I think they’re more like archetypes that have always been around. It’s saying, “How can you tell a new story with the nerdy guy? How can you tell a new story with the fool or the trickster?” These characters have a resonance because they are eternal, and there’s always something new to say. If not, we stop telling stories altogether. There’s always some new thing happening in the world, so how would Spider-Man react to that. It’s all very fun. Right now, in the comics, Spider-Man has his small startup company. That’s a new thing for him! We’ve never seen him try to do that. During the time I’ve been working on the book — I’m going into my eighth year writing Spider-Man — we passed the 50th anniversary. Spider-Man’s been around for 50 years, and at some point if he’s still taking pictures for the Daily Bugle, you go, “Oh my God, what’ve you done with your life Spider-Man?” That’s gonna look terrible at your high school reunion.

You just finished an event series, “Spider-Verse,” that featured dozens of Spider-People from the parallel dimensions in the Marvel universe. Still, you had Peter as the focus. Why is Peter Parker such an important character? Is Peter Parker the Spider-Man?:

We just told this big story because, in over 50 years of Spider-Man, other cultures and other mediums… there are so many different kinds of Spider-Men. There’s Pavitr Prabhakar, the Spider-Man of India in another reality. There’s the live-action Japanese Spider-Man who has a giant robot and a flying race car and a spaceship. There’s a Spider-Man from a universe where he’s a cartoon pig named Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham. There are so many different Spider-Men. And we just had a big, fun story where all you really need to know is that we took all those toys in the Spider-Man toy box, all these Spider-Men from over 50 years, and we threw all those toys up in the air and made a big fun adventure. And now that that adventure is over, it’s not that Peter knows that he’s the one true Spider-Man, because what you want to say is that all those Spider-Men are the true Spider-Man. Whichever Spider-Man you care about is the real Spider-Man.

What storyline would you most want to see on the big screen?:

As a fan? If I had to discount anything that I’ve written — me and my gigantic ego — I would say the J.M. DeMatteis story “Kraven’s Last Hunt.” I would love for a screenwriter to mine that material.

This is something that comics fans get upset about when a movie is being made before they get a chance to see it. You have to change things for the movie. There are things that work in a comic, and then there are things that you can only do in a movie. But I think if someone, as a starting point, took “Kraven’s Last Hunt,” which is one of the greatest Spider-Man stories ever told, I think you could have a phenomenal movie.

Kraven Hunt
Kraven Hunt

And there are so many characters who haven’t had their chance yet. I think Mysterio would be one of the greatest movie villains. The guy’s powers are special effects. That means you could do anything you’ve ever seen in a movie in a Spider-Man. Anything. Blow up the White House. 10,000 aliens descending from space. Ghosts coming out of walls. Whatever you want! Matrix bullet time. I don’t care. Eye-popping, blow-the-back-of-your-head-out special effects. It gives you free rein. There are just so many characters we haven’t seen that are ripe to be the main character in a Spider-Man movie.

Peter Parker does have the heritage of 50 years of adventures, as great as other characters in the costume are.:

That said, one of the things I’d be interested in seeing is, I hope they make the casting open for everyone. There’s nothing inherently white about Peter Parker. Peter Parker is a nerdy outcast. Anybody, from any walk of life, can be a nerdy outcast. One of the reasons why Spider-Man speaks to everyone around the world is that mask. I’ve met so many young Spider-Man fans over the years. People that grew up and are now old, but when they first met Spider-Man, they kind of didn’t know who was under that mask. And that gives him the freedom to be anyone. That gives him the freedom to be someone just like you. It’d be really nice to see that as a possibility. Even if they end up casting someone who, at the end of the day, looks just like Peter Parker. It would be nice if the door was open and they just [said] , “Spider-Man can be anybody.”