Spider-Man is pretty busy these days, but he's about to get even busier, as Marvel is featuring the wall-crawler in a new series titled Non-Stop Spider-Man later this year from writer Joe Kelly and artist Chris Bachalo. The series was actually announced last year, but due to the challenges posed by last year on a number of fronts, the book has been rather quiet. Now it's finally time to pull the curtain off of the anticipated series, which will live up to its name in a number of ways, and ComicBook.com had the chance to talk to Kelly all about the new series, including its focus on epic action, who the villain will be, and what other surprises are in store for Marvel fans who check it out.
First we addressed the book's significant delay and whether that was purely because of the pandemic or if other factors played in its pushback.
"It was really more pandemic affected, honestly," Kelly said. "I feel like we were psyched to have the book, have the launch date, et cetera, and then things started happening. And then I was already a couple of scripts in when, what do you call it, like Diamond shut down. All this stuff seems like 10 years ago, but it's like you start to remember the order of events. And yeah, it was a lot of that. And then once things slowed down, both at Marvel and the industry in general, I think everybody just had to take a break and take stock as to what was what, and when we could release the book with some kind of continuity. And then in the midst of all that, Chris got COVID. So that took him off the board for a little while too. So the world definitely conspired against our little book, for sure."
With a title like Non-Stop Spider-Man, you know the vibe the series is seeking to capture, and that blockbuster mentality is what the idea was from the very beginning. That said, there will be a substantive theme at the center of all the big-time action.
"When Nick Loeb contacted me about the idea, we talked about just doing, as often as possible, each issue is a blockbuster movie," Kelly said. "The main book, I think, has gotten back to sort of the elements that work so well with Spidey, which is like the soap opera stuff and a really robust supporting cast, and those relationships that always flesh out the superhero adventures. And I think we were just talking about how fun would it be to just do this perpetually escalating sort of preposterous action book with Spidey. My brain can work that way, but inevitably, I have to tie it to something, there are real themes that play out in this book. I think it's stuff that's going to be pretty timely, and they play out in a way that sort of your ... the best of your kind of action fiction stories can, where it can really like lean heavy on the genre, but still sneak in proper themes and issues of the day. There are some quiet moments, but they're the exception, not the rule, by a long shot."
With its focus on action, we had to ask what action film franchise it would be best compared to? Would it be Fast & Furious? Crank? John Wick? The answer was actually another globe traveling icon.
Oh, that's funny, God. I mean, the best of Bond, with less talking, and no sex. But I do feel like there's a pretty big ... It's the sort of story that starts out very small. I mean, John wick is actually kind of a funny example, in that it does start out as something so small. It's not they killed my dog, but it's something that's sort of a small incident that hits close to home for Pete, and then pulls him into this conspiracy that gets very, very big, very quickly."
That massive scale mission is why Baron Zemo is a perfect fit for the story, and will provide a fresh villain for Spidey to face off against.
"And he finds himself kind of alone. I mean, it's Non-Stop Spider-Man, but it really is just him. Like, he can't really rely on anybody else. It happens in a very compressed period of time. So it's not like each issue is an hour. We're not quite doing that compressed. It's not 24-style, but it is like Bond would get pulled into something. I mean, this is seeing something unfold ultimately on a global scale.
"It's not a secret that Baron Zemo is part of it too, and Zemo is taking on a much bigger role, I think, in the Marvel universe at large, not to mention the cinematic universe," Kelly said. "So while I would not say that we're doing exactly what they're doing, I won't say we're not doing exactly what they're doing. I mean, he's a really interesting villain, and I think that, especially the way that we're planning on using him, he's a great foil for Spider-Man. So having those guys face off against one another in this insanity, I think is going to really ground it."
"Part of it was what Zemo represents, and the type of villain he is," Kelly said. "His intelligence is actually really important as a component of the story, and what he stands for is important for the themes. But I love ... and it's an old example, so I always hate to drag it out, but Kingpin becomes Kingpin when you take him out of Spidey and put him in Daredevil Right? He's a perfectly fine villain in Spider-Man, but you put him up against Daredevil, and he becomes iconic. And I love mixing and matching from the sort of different rogues galleries. And you never know, there's no guarantee that it's going to be a home run, but sort of taking a character like Zemo, who, in a lot of ways, is grounded and would be kind of like the right kind of ... street-level is not the right term, but if Daredevil's like street level and Spidey's street plus, where everybody's plussed up a little bit, Zemo fits really well against him.
"To have a guy who's acrobatic, smart ruthless, manipulative," Kelly said. "That guy against Spider-Man, especially in the kind of story that we're telling, I think really feeds into the genre, like what we're aiming for. Like again, Bond is an example. It's like, who can you trust? Who can't you trust? Does the enemy of my enemy become my friend? These are all things that sort of play out over the course of the Non-Stop story."
Non-Stop Spider-Man is also the return of Chris Bachalo to the character, and his style was a brilliant match with the action rollercoaster ride theme.
"Oh yeah. 100%. I mean, I've known Chris for a very long time, and I've been lucky enough to work with him, both on indie stuff and superhero stuff and mainstream stuff. I mean, he's an incomparable talent, and him and Tim are just a team supreme," Kelly said. "So the stuff always looks amazing. And I think with Chris, giving him room to breathe is always ... for me personally, it's a challenge, because I like to use too many words, and I like to cram in a lot of panels. So it's a good exercise for me to cut back and do less is more, and then let Chris play, because he does such crazy storytelling and really interesting panel layouts and almost any Bachalo page is dynamic. Even when people are talking, he can't draw a boring page. So it's going to be a beautiful, beautiful book, no matter what."
The first issue will also feature a second story with another talented artist at the helm, Dale Eaglesham, and that story will help plant the foundation for the main series arc.
"We wanted to have the first issue be something special and kick it off with a little bit more meat to it. So the Dale story, which again, like you said, super-talented, and his work is amazing, sort of starts the collision course between Spidey and Zemo, so they are connected. And then after that ... and there's actually going to be another, just very short story tucked in there as well. But after that it's pretty much straightforward run-and-gun action with the main story."
Now, this is me, so yes, I did ask about (and plead for) a Cardiac appearance. While he couldn't guarantee that, he did tease a few other guest stars along the way.
"That's so funny. I don't know if I can promise you Cardiac," Kelly said. "There will be some guest appearances, and the supporting cast, especially in the beginning of the story, as it kind of ramps up, they are around. It's not completely in a vacuum, but the story kind of is engineered to start in...basically an event happens. It starts to affect Peter on a personal level, and as he digs deeper, he starts to realize how much bigger an issue this is. It kind of pulls him out of the city, and the story gets bigger and bigger."0comments
"I mean, that was one of the things that when Nick and I talked about it, it was like basically, how can we screw over Spider-Man in every issue? What are all the places where having webbing does you no good, or being acrobatic does you no good? What happens when you're stuck in a really confined sewer? And what happens when you're in a place with no building? All those sorts of things," Kelly said. "Like the idea is to constantly put Spider-Man in the worst possible scenario and see that he's smart enough to work his way out of it or not. And so, yeah. So the guest stars that'll sort of show up down the line, or the supporting cast members, there'll be surprises. They wouldn't be more of the normal crew that we're used to seeing."
You can check out all the action when Non-Stop Spider-Man hits comic stores later this year, and as always you can talk all things comics with me on Twitter @MattAguilarCB!