SPOILER WARNING For The Clone Conspiracy #5.
The Clone Conspiracy kept Spider-Man fans guessing for months. Who is the Jackal? Is Gwen Stacy really back? Will they bring back Uncle Ben?
Those questions have now been answered, though they may have left just as many new questions in their place.
ComicBook.com caught up with The Clone Conspiracy andAmazing Spider-Man writer Dan Slott to discuss The Clone Conspiracy and to look towards the future of Amazing Spider-Man, which will bring on superstar artist Stuart Immonen with the oversized 25th issue.
Read on to see what Slott had to say and to some preview art from both Amazing Spider-Man #25 and the upcoming Clone Conspiracy epilog issue, The Clone Conspiracy: Omega, as well as Alex Ross's cover to Amazing Spider-Man #27.
The Clone Conspiracy
The Clone Conspiracy feels like a story with no winners. Was that part of your goal?
Dan Slott: I'm not going to say there are no winners. I'm going to say everybody gets hurt. When you bring the cast's loved ones back from the dead, it's very much a monkey's paw, you know? You're going to lose them all over again.
People are not walking out of this one happy. This is an event that puts scar tissue on the Spider-Man universe that Spidey and Jonah and all kinds of different characters are going to have to deal with. It's going to set characters off in different directions.
And there's still story to tell after Clone Conspiracy #5. There's still what happens in Amazing Spider-Man #24, which will pay off on some things, that lead into Peter David and Mark Bagley's new Ben Reilly: Scarlet Spider book. There are big moments that happen in the aftermath over in The Clone Conspiracy: Omega too.
Spider-Man's going to walk out of this where he has done some things that are noble and heroic and self-sacrificing in order to try to help save the day. But you're right, he wants a win. After this story, that's something he wants really bad. A nice clean win. He's going to be hurting from this one and something happens in The Clone Conspiracy: Omega that will set up his next big adventure. It's also a great chance for everyone to see some fantastic new Stuart Immonen art before the launch of Amazing Spider-Man #25.
Ooooh, there's something that's going to happen. There's still hearts that can be broken.
Speaking of the coming Scarlet Spider book, one of the most interesting scenes in The Clone Conspiracy #5 was the showdown between Ben Reilly and Doctor Octopus. You've pitted this one hero behaving like a villain, and a villain behaving somewhat heroically. What was the perspective you were hoping readers would find there in these two dueling mad geniuses?
DS: It's weird because they both share a very specific thing in common, they've both had Peter Parker's memories sitting in their skull. Ben Reilly came out of that tube thinking he was Peter Parker the first time and Doc Ock has also had Peter Parker's memories and value systems shoved into his head as well. That's a weird kind of showdown.
We see the way that ends with-
DS: Do you? Do you really see how that ends?
Well...has the term "Superior Scarlet Spider" come up in any context in the Marvel's Spider-Man office?
DS: You are going to have to read Amazing Spider-Man #24! Not spoiling that in this interview, sir.
The Clone Conspiracy #5 makes clear that there was no firm tally on who survived the clone meltdown. Was this a fun way of putting all of Spider-Man's rogues' gallery back on the board and making them fair game to use in future stories?
DS: Isn't that great? Most events usually kill off characters and leave them dead and unusable. One of the fun things about The Clone Conspiracy is there are now a lot of characters who can suddenly pop out of the woodwork at any time.
Should we assume you have plans for some of those characters down the line?
One of the other key characters in the series was Gwen Stacy, who came back from the dead only to end up dead again at the end of it. What did The Clone Conspiracy add to Gwen's story and her legacy as part of Spider-Man's mythos?
DS: It gave her a chance to have agency. When you read the original "The Night Gwen Stacy Died," back when, you believed she was unconscious, she was used as a prop for Goblin to get vengeance on Spider-Man. She was used as a pawn, a thing. One of the terrible, torturous moments we sprung on you at the start of The Clone Conspiracy is we showed you that, while she couldn't move, she was conscious during some of that. She fell to her death knowing that Peter Parker was Spider-Man. That's kind of horrible.
We found that out in the backup story in The Clone Conspiracy #1. We let you think that she died hating him, but what you found out with more nuance is that she died being disappointed that he always hid that part of himself that was Spider-Man from her. That he kept this great secret to himself.
We're able to take away some of the edge because back in the day Gwen believed that Spider-Man helped kill her dad. We took away some of that hurt by having Captain Stacy there too, so she knew Pete wasn't to blame, or at least that Captain Stacy didn't believe so.
She still died in the past knowing that her death was used against Spider-Man and that Green Goblin treated her like a pawn, a thing. That's horrible. This time around she holds the bridge. She's the one that stops the Goblins from going further. She holds the door. She catches that pumpkin bomb and she just sneers at him.
She gets to have a more heroic death this time around, and she also has a moment with Peter. He gets to know what she was thinking. They get to talk to each other. They get to, in a weird way, have their goodbyes, at least from her side.
Do you think this takes the edge off for Peter or is knowing that she was not angry, just disappointed, almost worse for him?
DS: I think if you're Peter Parker your takeaway from all of this is more guilt and more pain. Uncle Ben could come back from the dead and tell him, "It's okay Peter," and he would still feel guilt and pain. That's the nature of Peter Parker. He puts everything on those shoulders. It's all his fault. He'll always feel that way. He'll always be the hero trying to make amends for it and trying to be a better person and trying to live up to that responsibility.prevnext
We mentioned Green Goblin in the context of Gwen's history and he happens to be the next rogue showing up to ruin Peter Parker's life this time around.
DS: Or does he?
Well, is it even fair to call him Green Goblin anymore, or is this just Norman Osborn?
DS: This is Norman Osborn. This is sane and calculating and cunning Norman Osborn without the Goblin serum. Spider-Man has never fought him like this before and this isn't Goblin showing up to mess up Spider-Man's life. This is Peter Parker going on a Norman Osborn hunt. That's different. This is Peter Parker with all the power of Parker Industries behind him and he's aiming it all at Norman.
Usually, Spider-Man's all, "Ooohh, something bad happens and I have to react to it." Nuh uh. Not this time. Proactive Peter Parker. (Say that three times fast.)
When Spider-Man goes dark, usually he changes his costume to match, as if to let people know he's angry. Is it more spontaneous this time? More subtle?
DS: Oh no, he's got the ultimate Spider-Man suit, with a bazillion gadgets and gizmos. He's already armed for bear. Alex Ross designed his suit. He's ready. Bring it.
You've built up around Peter a somewhat extensive network of allies and relationships both as Peter with Parker Industries and as Spider-Man as part of the Avengers and the Marvel superhero community. Which of his relationships is going to be most relevant and most important for this next coming arc?
DS: Bobbi Morse, the high-flying Mockingbird.
She's showed a few times in the What do you think it is about Mockingbird that makes her so much fun when paired with Spider-Man?
DS: There's a weird roster of people, we've tried to keep it down, of how many people know he's Spider-Man, who out there knows Peter Parker's dual identity since Doctor Strange cast that spell in "One Moment in Time,". We've really done our best to make sure that secret identity bond, the heroes who know, we've tried to keep that number way down.
Right off the bat one of the things Brian on New Avengers wanted was Spidey to immediately unmask for that version of the Avengers roster because he liked all of those characters knowing their secret identities. His argument was that after Secret Invasion it was going to be hard to trust people again and the fact that Spider-Man's secret identity snapped back in place made him feel very untrustworthy to the other Avengers and if he wanted to stay on the team he had to unmask for them.
In the Spider-Man group, we're all like, "Oh no, don't do that. We want to keep the number down. Don't suddenly give him six buddies. No." We lost that fight, but then having lost it, I looked at it and went, "Wait, these are six really weird characters who know his identity. There's something cool here. We've never seen this before," because over the years Spider-Man kept revealing his identity to so many characters it was almost like the entire Marvel Universe knew.
One of those is Mockingbird and I was like, "Oh that's kind of neat." If you're Spider-Man and you have this friend who's this super scientist and a SHIELD Agent and one of the coolest heroes ever, why wouldn't you hang out with them? Why wouldn't you have these adventures? She's a great addition to the cast.
We're about to see them bond some more, the way people become friends in foxholes. That's about to get deeper in the next story arc.
Stuart Immonen is about to come on as the new artist of Amazing Spider-Man.
DS: Oh my god, Wait until you see the art! This is just, oh, it's gorgeous!
You've been on Spider-Man for a while and have had great artists on board pretty consistently. What does Immonen bring that is different and unique from the other artists you've worked with?
DS: Stuart is fantastic at everything. There are moments where I wrote some scenes for certain characters that just had all this extra chemistry going on because of the magic Stuart was bringing to the mix-- and I went, "Oh, this is changing some of the story because I now care so much for this relationship right here. I want to see where it's going to go. Oh my god, look at these characters acting together."
That's one of the strengths he brings. Another is, BAM!, the story's about to get so cinematic! I make sure there's some really big action set pieces in every issue because when Stuart's drawing it, it's like you're going to the movies! It's amazing. I don't want to ruin stuff that's coming out so I don't want to describe things, but we're at all kinds of locations and all kinds of – it's kind of like having access to the world's greatest pyrotechnics and special effects artists and stunt people. You just look at it and everything is so immediately cool. I think we've got just some really great sequences that are going to make everyone like forget they're reading a comic. They're just going go, "Wow, who's the cinematographer?" His name is Stuart Immonen.
Oh god, and Wade [von Grawbadger]'s inks and Marte [Gracia]'s colors. This is going to be one of the most stunningly beautiful books on the rack. I pity every book in the entire industry, every company, anything even going into a comic book shop that is not Amazing Spider-Man.prevnext
Spider-Man is one of those iconic characters that can really be defined by the artist. Steve Ditko had that misanthropic, squirrely look and then Todd McFarlane took it in the other direction and made him hyper-athletic. Where do you see Immonen's version of the character fall on that scale?
DS: Peter Parker's a weird mix because you have Ditko drawing him and he's this wiry nerd. You have John Romita Sr. drawing him and he's just a dreamboat. Everybody's got their own take. I look at Stuart's Peter Parker and I just love him.
We can put him in a tuxedo, we can put him in a boardroom, half of the fun of doing this storyline where Peter Parker's running Parker Industries is that he really shouldn't be doing this. He's not Tony Stark. He sucks at this. He's always going to be Peter Parker. The fun of it is putting this fish out of water. That's always been the take of this arc is that we're putting him in situations that he really should not be in. Stuart does such a great job of making this very charming Peter Parker, you just love him, and at times he's got like bed head. He's great.
For all the action set pieces Stuart's drawing, I'm also incredibly in love with any time we take Spidey out of the suit and we put him next to Harry or put him next to Bobbi Morse or with Aunt May. I just love him to bits. His Spider-Man really, it's his own thing. When you see him in action as Spider-Man it feels incredibly real and dynamic at the same time because it's Stuart.
I know you don't want to give away too many plot details yet, but how would sum up the next chapter of Amazing Spider-Man on a thematic level?
DS: It's a hold onto your seat Spider-Man. We're jumping all over the place. Things are blowing up. Everything's gone a little bit crazy. Right off the bat, we're giving you two issues worth of Stuart in one issue. You're getting a 40-page giant lead story. You're going to get a 10-pager from me and Giuseppe Camuncoli that will make a whole section of fans I know very happy.
Right there alone you're getting two and one-half issues of content. Even though it's this 96-page giant, and we're charging what we're charging, right there you've got more than your money's worth.
Then we've got these amazing stories in there as well from Christos Gage and Hannah [Blumenreich]. Wait until you see Hannah's story. It's beautiful. All the features we've got in this on top of that, oh, this is going to be good. I'm so proud of everybody who's working on Amazing Spider-Man #25. We've crammed so much into this comic.
Switching gears slightly, Marvel recently teased the return of Eddie Brock as Venom in the pages of the Venom ongoing series from Mike Costa and Gerardo Sandoval. Brock as Venom is one of the few classic, iconic Spider-Man villains you haven't written. Do you have plans or desires to do so?
DS: Hm, actually, every time I've used Eddie he's been Anti-Venom...
This is going to sound weird. Who doesn't like Venom? The stuff they've got planned for the new Venom series is amazing. I don't want to spoil any upcoming twists they're doing - or future things we might be doing that are Venom-y - but I will say one of the things I'm really looking forward to is that now that Flash Thompson is no longer Venom we will be folding Flash back into the cast [of Amazing Spider-Man].
I'm very excited to have Flash rejoin the title and one of the things we've been doing in Amazing Spider-Man is we've been slowly bringing Betty Brant back and letting Harry have a more prominent role. You're going to see a lot of the classic Spidey cast make their way back into the book.
Any last comments or teases you'd like to leave readers with?
DS: You're not going to want to miss Amazing Spider-Man #24 or The Clone Conspiracy: Omega! There are still dangerous pieces on the board and still lots of aftermath and destruction and heartache to come!
Amazing Spider-Man #24 goes on sale Feb. 22. The Clone Conspiracy: Omega releases March 1. Keep moving throughout the slideshow to see more of Stuart Immonen's art from Amazing Spider-Man #25.prevnext