Note: This article contains spoilers from “The Amazing Spider-Man” No. 1
When Nick Spencer turned in the first draft of his debut issue of a new “The Amazing Spider-Man” series for Marvel Comics, everyone at Marvel loved it. Everyone, that is, except Nick Spencer.
Spencer was convinced the script for his first issue of one of Marvel’s flagship titles (which debuted in print and digital last week) was missing something. A dinner conversation with Marvel Comics Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada helped him figure out the secret ingredient he was looking for.
Spencer and Quesada met to talk all things Spider-Man as he prepared to take on the noticeable task of being the writer to come aboard “The Amazing Spider-Man” after Dan Slott’s decade-long writing run, which recently came to an end with the title’s 801st issue (the series was renumbered for Spencer’s debut with artist Ryan Ottley illustrating).
The relationship between Spider-Man/Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson came up. They were once an all-time comic book couple, but were not known as an item anymore. Slott even said during his time writing Spider-Man that fans shouldn’t expect a rekindling of any spider-flames.
Spencer, like many fans, assumed rules were in place to keep Peter Parker and Mary Jane apart. Quesada told him that was never Marvel’s intention when they decided to erase Spider-Man’s marriage to Mary Jane from continuity years ago, during the Spider-Man “One More Day” story.
“Once I had that piece of the puzzle in place, everything else came together and improved massively,” Spencer told The Washington Post’s Comic Riffs.
Suddenly, knowing Mary Jane could be a romantic part of the story made Spencer’s plans for the series “one thousand times better.”
Marvel’s former top couple are front and center at the beginning and end of Spencer’s first “The Amazing Spider-Man” tale. The story opens with a flashback: Spider-Man (in his classic black-and-white suit) and Mary Jane are atop a skyscraper, both smiling, both in love, both happy. It’s a nod to one of Spencer’s favorite Spider-Man stories ever, a “The Sensational Spider-Man” annual written by Matt Fraction and illustrated by Salvador Larroca in 2006.
During the issue, Spidey endures classic Peter Parker problems such as losing his job, rent worries and roommate issues. Mary Jane can do nothing but laugh in Peter’s face at the ridiculousness of supervillains not being the worst part of his life. At the end, Mary Jane lets Spider-Man (and readers) know she’ll be there with him for the good and bad during these new adventures.
“It’s kind of funny how it all turned out,” Spencer said. “Obviously, it’s a huge moment for the fans — they’re very excited. I’m very glad we got it in there.”
That’s not to say Spencer plans to abandon the decade of work Slott put into the Spider-Man comic book universe. One of Slott’s biggest and most controversial Spider-Man moments was when villain Doctor Octopus took over Spider-Man’s mind, becoming the Superior Spider-Man (with a series of the same name). During that series, Doc Ock finished a college degree that Peter Parker never had time to complete. In Spencer’s run, it is determined that the work that led to that degree was plagiarized, giving Peter Parker just one more problem in a life filled with many.
“I have enormous respect for Dan and what he accomplished on this book,” Spencer said. “Thankfully Dan liked the idea of us picking up [with the degree scandal] and running with that.”
Spencer returns to the world of Spider-Man with his trademark sense of humor. During Slott’s time on “The Superior Spider-Man,” Spencer penned “The Superior Foes of Spider-Man,” a comedy series starring Spider-Man’s B-list villains who were anything but superior, including Boomerang, who is now Peter Parker’s roommate in “The Amazing Spider-Man,” a guarantee for laughs.
After recently writing two more serious series for Marvel — one that dealt with Captain America secretly being a spy for Marvel bad guy factory Hydra (“Secret Empire”), and another featuring African American superhero the Falcon replacing Cap (“Captain America: Sam Wilson”) — Spencer welcomed the chance to dust off his joke writing. (Still, he said he tried to fit humor in his more intense Marvel works as well, and he’s also got a laugh-filled “Ant-Man” series to his credit.)
Spencer’s favorite joke of “The Amazing Spider-Man” No. 1 is when former Spider-Man love interest Black Cat (Felicia Hardy) is next to Spider-Man during an alien invasion (which turns out to be an illusion from Spider-Man villain Mysterio).
Convinced he’s the only hero (among a whole lot who make cameos in this scene) who can save the day, Spider-Man tells the Black Cat he’s got to web-swing into the unknown to stop the invasion. He looks at the Black Cat and says: “Bye, Felicia.”
“I genuinely was combing through [comics, and] I was like . . . this name [Felicia] has been [at Marvel] for God knows how long. Somebody’s done that joke before, right? There’s no way I got to this one,” Spencer said with a laugh. “But it appears that I did. I’m happy about that.”
Along with Mysterio, another major Spider-Man villain, the Lizard, makes an appearance in Spencer’s first issue. After having fun with Spider-Man’s subpar villains in “Superior Foes” — but not getting to use Spider-Man in the series because, at the time, he was being mind-controlled in Slott’s run — Spencer now gets the keys to the Spider-Man castle and all the A-list enemies that come with it.
“I get to hang with the heavy hitters now,” Spencer said. “When we get into the second half of year one we’re going to be making full use of the rogue’s gallery for sure.”