Somewhere, Peter Parker’s spider-sense is tingling, and with very, very goodreason — the Marvel superhero is about to face one of his most unexpectedchallenges yet: One of his long-standing foes seems to have uncovered the key toeternal life.
The Clone Conspiracy, a new series which launched last week and runsalongside the regular The Amazing Spider-Man series for the next fewmonths, features the return of the Jackal, a mad scientist who has uncovered away to create clones of the dead that are identical in every way to theoriginals, down to their very last memory… which could be a good thing, if hewasn’t obsessed with ruining Peter Parker’s life.
Heat Vision spoke to Dan Slott, the writer behind CloneConspiracy — and also the man who killedPeter Parker in 2012 (Don’t worry, he gotbetter) — about what’s behind this new storyline, and what it’s likemaking life difficult for the friendly neighborhood web-head.
Spider-Man is a character who’s almost defined by those he’s lost:Uncle Ben, Gwen Stacy… and you’re bringing back all the dead characters, lovedones and villains, as part of this new series. Dan, you’re breaking Spider-Man!
I am breaking Spider-Man. That is the goal, every time. Find a way to breakSpider-Man.
You keep doing that. You killed off Peter for Superior Spider-Man,you make him into a wealthy businessman for the new series. You look for thirdrails to run toward with the character.
I must run into the thing that will drive everyone insane! But that’s it —you’ve read these stories for 50 years, and you know what’s gonna happen. Nowyou don’t! I look at 50 years of Spider-Man and think, ‘OK. What haven’twe done?’
And then you have fans complaining that you don’t "know"Spider-Man.
Despite the fact that I’ve written one out of every five issues of AmazingSpider-Man, which is kind of scary. But, to me, the fun of it is, at hisbasic core, even if you strip away "with great power must come greatresponsibility," what makes Peter Parker this character that resonates withall of us is that he’s really the first character who’s you. He’s theguy you know. He’s not a wealthy billionaire playboy, he’s not an alien fromanother planet, he’s not a god from a pantheon. He’s the guy down the block whotrips and falls, who screws up in every way that you screw up. All theself-destructive traits that you have, and your friends have, he has. People sayto me, "Who’s your favorite Spider-Man villain?" and my answer isPeter Parker, because no one can mess up Spider-Man’s life like Peter Parkercan.
With The Clone Conspiracy, you’re finding a new way to messup Spider-Man’s life, though. You’re bringing back beloved characters like GwenStacy in a way that fans wouldn’t expect …
Or a way they will want. (Laughs.)
What has fan response been since the story was announced? After all,there’s a 1990s clone storyline that remains a touchy subject for fandom. [The"Clone Saga," which infamously went off the rails to such an extentthat Marvel publisheda parody of its own inability to find a satisfying conclusion.]
There are so many sacred things in Spider-Man. Before, we were doingthings that you "shouldn’t" do. Now I’m doing things that, oh dearGod, no! At the last panel, someone was begging, "Don’t bring Uncle Benback, whatever you do!" Everyone is so afraid that that … could …happen. Like we would really do … that. You’ll have to wait andsee.
There’s something this time with the clones, from the way everyone remembersthem in the ’90s. Those clones had a limitation, even going all the way back tothe ’70s, with the very first Jackal clone story. Miles Warren was Peter Parkerand Gwen Stacy’s science teacher, and in the story, he got a sample of bloodfrom Peter and Gwen and he grew a Peter clone and a Gwen clone — somewheredown the line, he just started doing Peter clones, because that kind of becamehis thing. But that Peter clone, whether it’s Ben Reilly or Kaine or Spidercydeor whoever, they have their memories up to the point where the blood sample wastaken, and from that point on they’re their own people.
We’re doing something different. The Jackal has expanded his science. He’snot getting it from a blood sample, he’s getting it from a corpse. It’s all thememories, all the way up to your death —
So they’re complete copies.
Yes! They remember everything, all the way up to that last moment.It’s less a clone — I wanted to brand them, and the Jackal brands them,"re-animates." It’s different than a clone, it’s better thana clone. And in that moment, the Jackal becomes the ultimate devil you can makea deal with. He becomes the person who says, "If you’ve lost anyone, I cangive them back to you. Whatever person you’ve loved or lost, or maybe someonewho tormented you and lost, I can bring them back to you."
Has the Jackal turned over a creepy new leaf, or is this still just aplan to screw with Spider-Man?
You’ve got to figure, if you put that much time and effort into something —and you are a mad scientist — then you’ve got to have an end goal. You’ll seewhat that is in The Clone Conspiracy. I’m not telling you now, HollywoodReporter! No! That’s the story!
By this point, you’ve done so many event storylines like this forSpider-Man, is it hard to come up with new epic ideas to torture the character?
No. (Laughs.) I can do this forever. Spider-Man isn’t justmy favorite comic book character, he’s my favorite character in all of fiction.He is my guy. This is the job I’ve wanted since I was 8 years old. Not to go offand do a Spider-Man movie or whatever, to do this: to write The AmazingSpider-Man comic book.
When they gave me the book solo, the then-editor Stephen Wacker and I had aconfab. We went to lunch, and I had a yellow legal pad and I started walking himthrough [my plans for] the first few months. And, you know, the drinks arecoming, the hors d’oeuvres, and I’m going through the next few months, takinghim through the next year and eventually he just grabs the legal pad and he’sflipping and flipping and flipping before saying, "We are notgonna talk about this over lunch! A year and a half is fine!" (Laughs.)
You said you’ve written one in every five issues of AmazingSpider-Man. Is that more than anyone else? Can we call you the preeminentSpider-Man writer now?
Brian Michael Bendis has done longer on Ultimate Spider-Man, and itdoesn’t stop! He’s still going! But on Amazing, yeah. I’m on year nine.But it’s not just year nine. With Brand New Day [Slott was part of awriting team on the book for two years], we released three books a month, andwhen I got the book solo, we double-shipped. Most comics come out 12 issues ayear, and we usually come out with 24. It means that, even if they wanted tofire me, they don’t have a good chance. We work on so many stories with so manyartists, I have to write stories out of sequence constantly. There’s a storythat doesn’t come out until next May that I’ve just turned in a plot for. I goto sleep and I dream of Spider-Man.
For new readers looking to jump onto Spider-Man’s comic adventureswith this storyline, what do they need to know to get started?
One of the things we do, especially with our editorial team, is make surethat any issue, people can jump on. Right now, Peter Parker’s finally hit it.He’s got everything he ever wanted. He’s got a corporation — Parker Industries— where there are plants and locations all around the globe. But he’s usingthat power responsibly, because he’s Peter. He’s got a worldwide charity, theUncle Ben Foundation, that is trying to make the world a better place. That’sall you really need to know. He’s Peter, he’s trying his level best to be TonyStark, but he’s Peter Parker. He gets to give the big corporate address andpeople say, "You did a great job, and by the way, your fly’sunzipped." He is you, so it’s "What if this happened toyou?" He’d love to be slick, but he’s not.
One of the most amazing things about Clone Conspiracy, though, isthe Jim Cheung artwork. Anyone who’s ever looked at Jim Cheung’s art, this issome of the most beautiful artwork I’ve ever had a chance to work with in all myyears in comics. I’d never worked with him on interiors, and every page isstunning. To see Jim Cheung do Spidey, and do Peter, and J. Jonah Jameson, andAunt May — it’s just like, waaaaah! It’s exciting. That’s the biggestsell for me: to get to see Jim Cheung do the interior art, and to see GabrieleDell’otto’s covers, it’s like, good look every other book on the rack. Graeme McMillan