With the death of Wolverine, someone had to take his place at the Jean Grey School -- and Marvel Comics have exclusively revealed to ComicBook.com that the job will fall to someone with academic experience -- although he probably doesn't remember much of it.
Spider-Man will take over as the title lead in what's currently Wolverine and the X-Men in December, ComicBook.com learned. The series will be written by Elliott Kalan, head writer for The Daily Show, and feature art by Marco Failla.
Given the job as a last request from Wolverine and tasked with a mission so secret, Spider-Man can't even tell the other people at the School, America's favorite non-mutant superhero isn't exactly ingratiating himself into the community at his new place of work.
Here's the solicitation text for the first issue:
SPIDER-MAN & THE X-MEN #1
ELLIOTT KALAN (W) * MARCO FAILLA (A)
Cover by NICK BRADSHAW
Variant Cover by BENGAL
Meet the Jean Grey Academy’s new guidance counselor: Spider-Man!
• What’s a non-mutant doing at a school for mutants? What secret suspicion has fueled the formation of his
special student class?
• And because you demanded it! Sauron and Stegron the Dinosaur Man! The villain team 65 million years in the
making! You didn’t demand it? Well somebody did.
Kalan joined us to discuss the title, and the challenges that Spidey will face as a non-mutant employee at a mutant school...and one who won't even take his mask off!
I remember in the '90s, for a while, Marvel actually had the words "non-mutant super-hero" over Spidey's name on the cover. So he isn't just NOT a mutant but to me the last guy you'd see at the School. How'd that happen?
You've hit the nail on the head about why the X-Men aren't very happy with having Spider-Man involved with the school (along with his general troublemaking and wisecracking qualities -- Spidey's an acquired taste for many Marvel characters). He's not a mutant, and though he may be a friend of the X-Men, he's not a member of the family. There's a lot of tension between mutants and an outsider whose true identity they can't even know for sure. But before Wolverine died he made it clear he wants Spider-Man at the school, and he asked Spider-Man to go on a mission for him. Unfortunately, Logan also wanted the mission kept secret from the other X-Men, so all they see is Wolverine's crazy pal inserting himself into their business.
And a "secret suspicion?" To me as a reader, immediately I wonder whether Spider-Man --- a man of science -- doesn't believe some of the kids are actually mutants, but instead just people with powers. Could that be a point of conflict?
Honestly, that's an idea I hadn't thought of until you mentioned it right now. It would totally be a point of conflict if I had thought of it. In actuality, Spider-Man suspects one of the students may be working for the X-Men's enemies. It's up to him to find out which one, while teaching the other X-kids in his class a lesson about their responsibility to the non-mutant world.
Since mutantkind is a race, does that kind of thing raise uncomfortable questions for the characters? Or even just a non-mutant teaching at a mutant school? Is this like all those Great White Hope movies with Hilary Swank and Michelle Pfeiffer?
Exactly. As Iceman says to Spidey in the first issue, how's it look to the world to see a non-mutant telling mutants how to behave? While I don't want to take the racial analogy too far, there's definitely a feeling that Spider-Man hasn't lived the life they've lived and doesn't face the everyday tensions mutants face. Their survival is threatened in a way they feel he doesn't understand -- and he feels like they're overreacting and shutting themselves off from a world that needs them. One of the intriguing things to me about this concept is that Spider-Man and the X-Men live by two similar but different, and equally valid codes of ethics. Seeing those ethics contrasted adds an extra dimension beyond just, "Whoa! Spidey's fighting X-Men villains!"
That said, around that time we also had the Super Nintendo game Spider-Man & the X-Men: Arcade's Revenge. That always seemed like it was a simple mix of Marvel's two biggest properties. Is it fun to be the guy to write a kind of all-star blowout book like that?
It's extremely fun. Because regardless of what I said in that last answer, it's super-awesome to make Spidey fight X-villains. Of course this book isn't just Marvel's big name properties hanging out. I want to spotlight some of the newer X-Men students who have been around for a little while but haven't gotten all of the attention I think they've deserved. The stars of this book are Spider-Man and his class of students. We'll see many of the other X-Men, but characters like Storm and Beast get plenty of attention. Time for Shark Girl and Glob Herman to take the main stage!
Was this something you pitched to Marvel or was it an idea that they had and you fleshed out?
The general concept of "Wolverine asks Spider-Man to teach some kids at the school" was Marvel's, but then editors Mike Marts and Katie Kubert gave me a pretty free hand with fleshing it out. They've also been great with letting me use the characters I'm most interested in. It's been a lot of fun just thinking of possible adventures for Spidey and the kids to go on. They've both got such vast and rich universes to go exploring in.
Sauron and Stegron really is something I'm kind of surprised we haven't seen before. Are you going to play that fairly straight or will it be, as the solicitation implies, a bit sillier?
Me too! There's no way I'm the first person to think of teaming up Marvel's two dino-man villains! Their teaming is going to be played mostly straight in that these two guys are a serious threat to our heroes, but there will definitely be a silly edge to what happens with them. The tone of this book is fun, exciting, light-hearted adventure, so don't expect a grim and gritty take on Stegron.
Obviously, comics fans can be a finicky lot. Everyone likes heart and humor, but they're also continuity wonks and suspicious of Hollywood talent. Does that even occur to you when you're writing a book like this, or at this point are you pretty much used to working with a critical audience?
As a non-stop comic book reader since the age of 10, I'm used to being part of that critical audience. Continuity and correct tone and character behavior are important to me, as well. I can't promise I'll take into account every single story every character has appeared in, but this takes place in the Marvel U that I care about and love, and I plan to do this right.
Now am I writing it worrying about what people will say? Not really. I'm writing the book that I would want to read if I was picking it up on the stands. Also, the idea that anyone would think of me as "Hollywood talent" and not a nerdy guy finally achieving his dream of writing a Sauron story is hilarious.
You've written both Wolverine and Spidey in the past. Which characters are you're playing with here, that you never had a chance to in previous outings?
Foremost, I feel like I never got a chance to write a "real" Spider-Man story before. So getting to do multiple issues with the canon Peter Parker is an enormous thrill. Other than that, the members of Spider-Man's special class (No-Girl, Rockslide, Glob Herman, Ernst, Hellion, Shark Girl, and Eye Boy) are all characters I've never written before, and I'm enjoying figuring out their voices and personalities. Plus the major X-Men cast, actually -- Storm, Beast, Iceman...And then there's all the villains...Really, the question should be "Which characters are you playing with here that you have written before?"
On that note, are there characters you're excited to write, or want to write, or is it more a matter of finding a story that works and being excited about one story at a time?
For me it's more about focusing on one story at a time. I do have a longer Spider-Man story I'd love to earn a chance to write someday. But pretty much every Marvel character has potential, and I like being told "What about this character? What would you do with them?" With the exception of undying love of D-Man. I still hope to write the return of D-Man. So Marvel readers, start up those "Elliott Kalan Needs a D-Man book" petitions!
Obviously there was a Spider-Man Halloween special a few years ago with the guys from SNL. Are we going to have a comedy-writers-in-comics turf war at some point? And if so, who gets Kevin Shinick?
If that's ever going to happen, then we're all going to have to get a LOT better at fighting. Until then, we can just let the characters duke it out for us.