AHHHHH!!! – OR – Reflections on Dan Slott’s Return to Writing Spider-Man

It’s like Marvel knows it’s my Birthday Week!  On July 1st it was announced Dan Slott will be returning to write a new monthly Spider-Man book – the adjective-less Spider-Man, which first debuted in my youth as a vehicle for the artist/writer Todd McFarlane in August of 1990 – this October.  Dan Slott was part of of the Webhead Braintrust of writers who launched Spider-Man’s “Brand New Day” Era in January 2008 alongside Marc Guggenheim, Bob Gale, and Zeb Wells and grew to include Mark Waid, Joe Kelly, Fred Van Lente, Roger Stern, Brian Reed, and Tom Peyer before BND ended in November 2010.  He then took over as solo writer for The Amazing Spider-Man which he wrote from that November’s #648 through June 2018’s #801.  Dan Slott can be a bit of a divisive writer among Spider-fans so I wanted to take this chance to reflect a bit on his writing and why I’m pretty excited for the return of such an amazing (heh) Spider-Man writer.  THWIP onward for Spider-Reflections!

I first saw the news care of David Brooke’s article on AIPT.  It explains Dan Slott will be teaming up with artist Mark Bagley for this new Spider-Man comic which will run alongside Jim Zub and John Romita Jr.’s The Amazing Spider-Man.  The first issue arrives in comic shops on October 5th and it flows out of the Edge of the Spider-Verse miniseries beginning in August.[1] 

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Yes, I mean, of course this is already on my pull list. / Photo Credit – Marvel Comics

The first story arc beginning in Spider-Man #1 will be “The End of the Spider-Verse.”  In the interview with Brook, Slott said, “THE END OF THE SPIDER-VERSE will see Peter, Miles, and your favorite characters from previous Spider-Verse stories, along with all-new characters from the upcoming EDGE OF SPIDER-VERSE mini, slam them all together, and bring the entire SPIDER-VERSE saga to a fiery close!  It’s going to have lots of action, surprises, but most of all, it’s going to have a lot of heart!  Even though this story will be epic, it will also have a profound effect on Peter Parker.  You are not going to want to miss this!”[2]

After the news was announced, Dan Slott began discussing his excitement about his return on Twitter, “Over the years, in multiple interviews & podcasts, I’ve said I couldn’t see myself ever returning to AMAZING SPIDER-MAN cause of the 2-to-3X’s a month schedule. 10+ years of that fried me to a crisp.  That was the monkey’s paw of my wish coming true & getting to write Spidey.  Working on SPIDER-MAN once a month *is* my dream job.  And working on Spidey stories w/ an absolute legend like Mark Bagley makes this something I didn’t even know it *could* be…This is my BETTER-than-a-dream job.  Spidey is my favorite character in all of fiction.  I will stay on this title until they fire me or I die.  And even *if* I die, I’ll have a Ouija board hooked up to a keyboard & will keep working on Spidey stories from beyond the grave.”

Enthusiasm like that is why I’m so excited :).  When I returned to reading comics after seventeen years away, it was in the midst of Dan Slott’s solo tenure on The Amazing Spider-Man.  Even though I wasn’t reading comics, I had heard the Legend of Dan Slott and was eager to check his work out for myself.  I wasn’t disappointed.  Two things became immediately clear to me upon reading his Spider-Man stories.  First, he loved Peter Parker/Spider-Man as much as anyone could.  Second, his knowledge of the character, and of the Marvel Universe in general, was encyclopedic (something I found reinforced as I read his runs on Iron Man, Fantastic Four, She-Hulk, and Silver Surfer (which I’m just beginning now)).

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Photo Credit – Marvel Comics

What I learned as I read through his work – and why I count him among my favorite authors to ever handle the character – is Dan Slott masterfully walks the all-important line in comic writing of creating all-new stories where his characters do things they’ve never done before without ever losing their authentic identity.

I don’t think the importance of this can be overstated when discussing a medium like comic books where the same characters appear in serialized stories month after month for decades.  Spider-Man just celebrated his 60th Anniversary!  And during some periods over those sixty years he appeared in over half a dozen titles a month!  Then there are the countless guest appearances, event titles, team books, and alternate universe versions.  To be able to take such a character and keep their stories feeling fresh, their character feeling dynamic, while never defaulting to a “greatest hits” approach to storytelling without ever losing the feel of who the character’s always been is a superpower in and of itself.

While discussing his return to Spider-Man on Twitter, Slott shared a comment a colleague made upon hearing of his return, “‘After 10 years, aren’t you out of ideas for Spider-Man stories?’  I was talking to a big-name-comic-writer-person who knows their Spidey stuff.  I told them about an upcoming arc.  And then they said ‘That’s GOOD.  How has no one told *that* story in 60 years?!’  I live for this.”

I am not surprised.  And I’d wager it’s no exaggeration either.  I’d also bet this feature of his writing – his fearless reinvention of the status quo – is why his stories can be so divisive among Spider-fans. 

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Spidey gets tossed around by Mr. Negative, the new crime boss introduced in “Brand New Day,” as some angry fans like to come after Slott on Twitter and the Spidey letters pages. / Photo Credit – Marvel Comics

As the solo writer for Amazing Spider-Man, Dan Slott kept the revitalizing spirit of the Brand New Day Era alive.  “Brand New Day” was the years long thematic storyline that followed the dissolution of Peter and Mary Jane’s marriage in the “One More Day” story arc which also reset his secret identity after “Civil War” and established a new status quo for the web-slinger.  Peter Parker was single for the first time since 1987 (well, a little different in narrative time but that’s how long it had been in regular human reader years).  He was living with Aunt May again.  His best friend Harry Osborn was back from the dead.  His supporting cast expanded in the best sort of way with exciting new characters like Carlie Cooper, Norah Winters, Michele Gonzales, and Lily Hollister; new villains like Mr. Negative, Overdrive, Paperdoll, and Scewball; and the stories were filled with dynamic growth for established characters like Mary Jane, Betty Brant, J. Jonah Jameson, Harry Osborn, Felicia Hardy, Aunt May, and Flash Thompson.

Many readers didn’t appreciate the major changes to Peter Parker’s life.  And I will admit, while I wasn’t reading comics at the time, I was not a fan of “Brand New Day” either when I first heard about it.  But once I actually sat down and read the comics myself, it became one of my all-time favorite eras for Spider-Man.  Many of my favorite characters and stories in the BND Era were Dan Slott’s creations.

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Creating Eddie Brock’s new alias, Anti-Venom, alongside John Romita Jr. in the “New Ways to Die” arc was one of my favorite things Dan Slott brought to the Brand New Day Era. / Photo Credit – Marvel Comics

With Dan Slott as the solo author, the “making everything new again” approach of BND kept rolling along.  Many (like myself) adored it!  But some were frustrated and some overtly angered by the changes he brought to the title.  His run saw Peter, disgraced from selling a doctored photo to The Daily Bugle during “Brand New Day,” find a new life working at Horizon Labs.  Now Peter was using his science acumen to make good money!  He was innovating and inventing and he even played the, “Uh, I make gadgets for Spider-Man” card to use his time at Horizon to design new Spidey tech and Spidey suits.  All the inhabitants of Manhattan mysteriously gained Spider-Man powers before turning into spider monsters in “Spider-Island.”  Doctor Octopus infamously swapped minds with Peter Parker so Peter died in his failing body as Otto went on living Peter’s life.  The Amazing Spider-Man became The Superior Spider-Man for thirty-one issues (from January of 2013 to April of 2014) resulting in one of the most beautiful and moving redemption stories I’ve ever read.  Once back in his own body, Peter had to serve as CEO of Parker Industries, the science and technology company Otto built while he was Peter.  Dan Slott also created Cindy Moon/Silk!  And the Spider-Verse!  And had Spidey became an international superhero/jet setting CEO in “Spider-Man Worldwide”!  And did the unthinkable and made clones cool again, bringing back Ben Reilly in “Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy”!  From Carlie Copper to Anna Maria Marconi to Bobbi Morse/Mockingbird, he gave me some of my favorite romantic relationships for Peter, too.  Eventually Parker Industries would fall and Peter would have to figure out how to pull himself out of the gutter.

What route does Slott have Peter follow for this?  Why he returns to The Daily Bugle of course…as editor for their science section!  Yes, Peter’s living paycheck to paycheck once more but he still isn’t back to taking pictures for the Bugle.  There was always forward momentum with the character even if the default setting remained a piece of the puzzle (which, for iconic comic book characters, it kinda has to).

Oh, and he CREATED THE RED GOBLIN when NORMAN FREAKIN’ OSBORN decided to go ahead and BOND TO THE CARNAGE SYMBIOTE.  You read that right.  Norman Osborn + his Green Goblin personality + the Carnage symbiote = THE RED GOBLIN!!!  So many of my favorite villains from my youth fell together in that storyline.

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When I first saw this I couldn’t believe I never thought of this as a kid playing with my action figures. This is EPIC and one of the reasons Dan Slott’s an iconic Spider-Man writer. AHHHH! / Photo Credit – Marvel Comics

This list certainly isn’t exhaustive.  Those story bits/characters were just the first ones to come to mind while I wrote.  And I loved it.  I love Spider-Man.  I’ve loved Spider-Man since I was three-years-old.  I’ve loved Spidey longer than any other fictional character in my life.  And I loved what Dan Slott did…even if everyone didn’t.  For better or worse, we tend to be very protective of the characters we love.  Few characters have the following Peter Parker/Spider-Man does, either.  As Carolyn Cocca noted in her exhaustively researched (and brilliantly written!) text Superwomen: Gender, Power, and Representation, “Indeed, Spider-Man merchandise pulls in more than the next three most popular characters/teams combined: Batman, then Superman, and then the Avengers.”[3]  To go by merchandise sales alone, “Peter Parker is the most popular superhero in the world by far.”[4]  Naturally, a character’s popularity doesn’t come down to merchandise sales alone and it would be classist and reductive to presume it does (Cocca doesn’t argue it does either but, as I am plucking two lines from her text without context, I wanted to be clear on the point).  Still, sales figures like that can’t be dismissed and undeniably say something about the far reach of and deep affection around the character of Spider-Man. 

Spider-Man is popular.  Spider-Man is insanely popular.  So people – lots of people – are going to have opinions because people – lots of people – care about him.  And a certain segment of all fandoms only want nostalgia-drenched, legacy-esque stories.  They want more of exactly what they’ve always known.  For these sorts of fans, anything that doesn’t feel like what they remember from their childhood can feel threatening for all manner of reasons.

While I respect the opinions of those who don’t care for Dan Slott’s work (as all art is subjective and we like what we like based on all manner of influences which come together to shape our “tastes” for things like this), I love what he does with Peter Parker’s life.  The reason his innovations are so important to me (and the reason I adore storylines like The Superior Spider-Man or “Spider-Man Worldwide” when others may not) is I have no desire to see retreads of stories I read as a kid.  I don’t need to see a sequel to or reimagining of “Kraven’s Last Hunt” because I read it as a kid.  I don’t need to see Peter always setting up his camera to take pictures of his fights and then selling the photos to J. Jonah Jameson.  Media is always changing and, again, I read those stories as a kid.  Now, I love Spider-Man and I absolutely will read comics with such familiar echoes.  But I’ll wait until those titles/runs pop up in the library or on Marvel Unlimited.  Personally, I would never spend $3.99 every month for a greatest hits nostalgia package.

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Spidey and Black Cat prepare to tackle the new Hobgoblin in the stealth suit he designed at Horizon Labs for just such an occasion! / Photo Credit – Marvel Comics

This is one of many reasons why my pull list is always full of “newer” characters like Doreen Green/Squirrel Girl, Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel, Miles Morales/Spider-Man, Riri Williams/Ironheart, Cindy Moon/Silk, Jane Foster/Thor/Valkyrie, or America Chavez.  These characters are still new enough to be dynamic.  There worlds are still fluid.  What gets my $3.99 a month are characters who are growing and changing.

For characters/teams like Steve Rogers/Captain America, the Fantastic Four, Tony Stark/Iron Man, the Avengers, the X-Men, or Peter Parker/Spider-Man most of all (as I’ve read more of him than any other character) to end up on my pull list, I need a writer who makes them feel fresh.  A writer who isn’t scared of changing, in big and small ways, what was to give us something we’ve never seen before.  A writer who can take a character with decades of continuity and make them feel new – a writer like Dan Slott.

Heck, I’m already eager to see why Spider-Man’s eyes and chest spider are glowing a shiny yellow in the featured image!

Reflecting on the end of his time writing The Amazing Spider-Man and his return to write Spider-Man on Twitter, Dan Slott said, “Writing Spidey has always been my dream job.  Four years ago, the second printing of Amazing Spider-Man #801 came out that July.  It was my final issue to hit the stands.  Today, it’s like he spun around.”  I, for one, am certainly happy he has :D.   

Want more about some of the stories which made up Dan Slott’s time writing The Amazing Spider-Man? Well you’re in luck! Check out:

My Brand New Perspective on Spider-Man’s Brand New Day explores this courageously far-reaching reimagining of Peter Parker’s life and my changing relationship with the storyline as a result of reading it for myself.

Fitting Spider-Man and the Spider-Verse Inside the Multiverse examines how the plot and characters of the story that launched the Spider-Verse fits with what science actually hypothesizes about multiversal theories.

Spider-Man’s Modern Day Frankenstein Tale – “Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy” considers how Dan Slott brought back Ben Reilly and made clones relevant in Spider-Man comics again and managed to do all this within one of the most haunting, tragic, and thoughtful stories I’ve ever read.

Spider-Man and Mockingbird: The Allure of the Workplace Romance looks at Peter’s relationship with Bobbi Morse during his time as CEO of Parker Industries to consider why we are so drawn to the workplace romance…and what awkwardness may be waiting for us if it doesn’t work out.

Spider-Man: Worldwide – I’m Finally Fully Home explores my feelings around returning to Spidey comics after almost twenty years away from reading comics and the my experience of the first arc of Dan Slott’s The Amazing Spider-Man I read which landed the title on my pull list once more.

[1] David Brooke, “Dan Slott and Mark Bagley team up on ‘Spider-Man’ ongoing series,” AIPT, Published July 1, 2022.  https://aiptcomics.com/2022/07/01/spider-man-ongoing-dan-slott/

[2] Ibid.

[3] Carolyn Cocca, Superwomen: Gender, Power, and Representation. (New York: Bloomsbury, 2016), 214 n. 8.

[4] Ibid., 213.

2 thoughts on “AHHHHH!!! – OR – Reflections on Dan Slott’s Return to Writing Spider-Man

  1. This is a pretty thorough examination os Slott’s epic run on the Spider-Man books. A lot of it was great though he dropped the ball with Spidey as a jet setting hero. It just did not feel right. Thankfully he corrected this near the end of his run, which makes me enthusiastic for his return!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I hadn’t intentionally sat down to write a thorough examination of his run but to know it came out that way and that you saw/appreciated it as such made my morning :). I think part of why I liked the jet setting hero thing was because he was so bad at it! It didn’t fit who he was but he tried to do it anyway, like the anti-Tony Stark, forgetting to zip his pants up at press conferences, getting poor Bobbi fired from like three different jobs, invading a foreign country :8, and all that. I don’t think we’ll ever see another corporate CEO Peter Parker though (at least not for decades!). And I’ve always felt Spidey is most at home in the neighborhood. He’s a New York guy through and through and I enjoyed his coming back to his role as the hometown here handling domestic threats. And yes! Now we can start getting exciting for ‘Dan Slott: The Return’ or ‘Dan Slott Strikes Back’ or ‘Dan Slott: Tokyo Drift’ or whatever we end calling the new era.

      I…maybe I shouldn’t try naming eras XD.

      Liked by 1 person

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