Dan Slott is one of the most recognizable names at Marvel. His run on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN has brought many emotions, while his other runs (SHE-HULK, SILVER SURFER) have been highly regarded pieces of writing. Now that it has been announced that Mr. Slott is leaving AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, I find myself reflecting on the series, one that I have read since the early days of my life changing hobby.
“One More Day:” The Modern “Clone Saga”
In 2007, J. Michael Straczynski and Joe Quesada created one of the most controversial storylines in Marvel history: “One More Day.” In this storyline, a desperate Peter Parker and Mary Jane trade their love away to Mephisto. This desperation comes from two major factors: Peter’s revealed identity as Spider-Man and the approaching death of Aunt May. The storyline itself was okay, touching moments of a potential daughter really hit fans in the gut. But the story to this day still feels rushed. While a clearly calculated move implemented by two skilled creators, “One More Day” was a betrayal. It was a slap in the face, and there’s no denying that. It was like the “Clone Saga” all over again. Except it felt as if only Spider-Man was derailing as opposed to the rest of the Marvel Universe. It was entirely unfair.
However, as fans, we must move on. After “One More Day” came “Brand New Day,” the overarching theme of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. Peter Parker now had his secret identity back. He was also single again, something that would prove to be sometimes exciting and sometimes overbearing. What was cool about “One More Day” was that it came out nearly weekly: we received three issues of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN each month. There were multiple writers on the project, and as a young Spider-Man fan (I was about sixteen at the time), this was amazing to me. This was before I paid attention to the grand details of continuity; it was before I paid attention to who was writing and who was drawing and who was coloring. It was before I honestly looked at anything other than the cover of a comic before buying.
Writers Make The Characters
But this series made me pay attention. I remember when it was announced that Dan Slott would take over as the writer: it meant that only one comic was going to come out each month. “Brand New Day” had lost a bit of steam, and AMAZING SPIDER-MAN was now returning to a normal title. Now, it had to rely on quality stories rather than shock value. Marvel made the right move by giving this job to Dan Slott, as the resulting issues and story arcs were amazing.
The details of these stories will be important to discuss as we think about the impact Slott had on fans. And while the majority will agree “Brand New Day” was rushed and intolerable, it’s intriguing how split the fanbase is when talking about the resulting stories. Can we as fans ignore the taint that comes along with excellent ideas? This is a question many DC fans ask themselves as DOOMSDAY CLOCK rages on. It’s not an easy concept to answer, and arguing about it will result in cliche nerd rage (check out Joey Q’s Twitter page for just that).
Revising and Modernizing Villains
But for now, I simply wish to analyze and talk about the importance of Dan Slott’s work as stories themselves instead of the questionable editorial methods that lead to them. For starters, let’s admire two major villains Slott introduced early in the series: Mr. Negative and Anti-Venom. With Mr. Negative, Dan Slott introduced a new crime boss that felt fresher than Kingpin and Hammerhead. With Ant-Venom, we were given Eddie Brock all over again.
This story arc was titled “New Ways to Die,” and it was, in simple terms, cool. Spider-Man was a fugitive, Norman Osborn’s Thunerbolts were hunting him down, and we got our fan favorite Eddie Brock back. But Slott knew there had to be a twist: this Venom healed rather than killed. His healing ability (one he could even use on others) was nearly biblical. And this felt fitting. For if you’re a major fan of the original Venom, you know he first contacted the symbiote while in a church.
Slott took this history of Eddie and expanded upon it; he made Anti-Venom a sort of religious character, one that sought out good even though he was produced by evil. I found this so neat at the time. Even though I was a somewhat new reader, I knew this wasn’t an entirely original concept. But even as I reflect back on it now, it seems fresh. As a writer, it’s very difficult to think of completely new ideas; we have to rely on borrowing at times. But when you do this, you have to add your own spin to it, which is what Slott did, and continues to do, today.
We Want the Classics to Stay Fresh
This is something I’ve thought about a lot. We as fans crave fresh and original ideas but also wish to see characters we’ve become attached to stay relevant. Throughout his run, Slott does this. There was Norman Osborn and Rhino. Slott did it with Electro, and he certainly did it with Doctor Octopus (more on SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN later on in the article). He even did it with the supporting cast of Peter Parker, making J. Jonah Jameson mayor of New York City. And Slott even made Marla Madison a prolific character once again, a character story readers wished to invest in. It made her subsequent death so tragic.
But, of course, all of this is to be expected from a writer who has worked on a title for nearly a decade. There are tons of stories to reflect back upon, dozens of tragic snippets in time, a plethora of events that gave us readers glee. But besides entertainment, what else did Slott do with the series?
Dan Slott’s Presence was Key Throughout the Past Decade
For me, he taught me about plot threads. There were many moments in Dan Slott’s run where events were hinted at or themes were alluded to. A story arc that represents this is “The Gauntlet” and “Grim Hunt,” epic storylines dealing with the resurrection of Kraven the Hunter. While Slott was mostly part of the think tank for these two storylines, his presence was felt as it was clear this Spider-Man Universe was becoming his. It was shortly after this storyline that Dan Slott took over AMAZING SPIDER-MAN completely.
I bring up “The Gauntlet” and “Grim Hunt” because these are two examples of how serious Spider-Man stories can be. They’re thrilling, heart-wrenching, and jaw-dropping. I remember when Chameleon impersonated Ezekiel; the way the writers and artists duped Spider-Man (and subsequently the reader) into believing this character has returned was flawless. I was aghast!
Slott would later use the real Ezekiel in the relaunch of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN in 2014, around the time ORIGINAL SIN was being published. This all lead into “Spider-Verse,” a story arc that tried a bit too hard to once again build upon the mythical “Spider” side of Spider-Man. This theme aside, the story was very epic and once again showcased why Spider-Man is one of — if not the — central hero at Marvel. The fact that Slott did this nearly flawlessly (nearly because the series did have flaws) is something to be admired. Again, he took themes thought of earlier, both by himself and other writers, and weaved them into his own modern web. While this most likely took a lot of patience, the investment paid off.
Dan Slott Utilized the Comic Medium Nearly Flawlessly
This patience is something that is not simply learned as a writer. It takes practice and perseverance. Dan Slott has received a lot of flak over his years as a writer, but he stayed strong in his ways and made it a point to always guide the character of Peter Parker towards the destination that felt right. I find this admirable, and in a current comic environment where writers and artists often switch titles within just a few years, it’s something to really look up to as a young writer.
That’s not to say that short stints done by certain creators are less valuable (that’s far from the case), but to watch a creator really have the time and world to plan all his or her plot points is so damn cool. It’s something that makes the comic medium so unique and interesting. Even with novels that take place in a series, the writer doesn’t have as much freedom to really twist and turn a story.
Dan Slott Recognized the Scientist in Peter
With comics, creators are usually writing these stories just a few months before publication. This allows them to respond to political climates, new creations other creators are working on, and even switch up potential stories for the heck of it. Dan Slott utilized this function in a way that really gave new life to Peter Parker. Remember when Peter was at Horizon Labs? Remember when Peter was actually allowed to embrace the brainiac within him? I certainly do because that was when a lot of Peter’s sneaking around actually made sense.
He now had his own lab — his own lab! It was so exciting. He was now able to create crazy new inventions (like his stealth suit used to overcome Phil Urich’s Goblin Laugh) with nearly unlimited resources. Peter’s new job was to invent, and while his main goal was to develop products for the public, he found the time to also create tools for his vigilante lifestyle. I genuinely loved this because, again, we were seeing Peter as the scientist he was.
Slott Utilized All of Peter’s Attributes
And, honestly, it was nice getting past that Tobey Maguire version of Peter, where he was more cool and witty than sciencey. Where he was more street level than Avenger. Admittedly, Straczynski initially helped this push when Tony took in Peter right before CIVIL WAR, but it was Slott who really allowed Peter the opportunity to be a scientist again. And, as if following Straczynski’s spirit with the involvement of Tony Stark, Peter became a big name in tech with the creation of Parker Industries.
Dan Slott may have put Peter on the questionable track to becoming similar to Tony Stark, but he kept everything else in Peter’s life strong and traditional. Well, sort of. After all, this newfound tech success was mostly due to Otto Octavius, a character Dan Slott made drastically different and relevant.
Otto Octavius is Spider-Man’s Greatest Rogue
In AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #600, Octavius is reintroduced with a degenerating condition after years of brutal impact on his cranium. The opening pages are intense, showing various heroes like Spider-Man, Daredevil, and Captain America throwing punches at Octavius. What follows is a story that takes about one hundred issues to finally develop: the day Otto Octavius takes over the body of Peter Parker. This, of course, marks the start of The Superior Spider-Man, a 31 issue run that ended AMAZING SPIDER-MAN and had many Spider-Man fans finally call it quits.
I was one of those fans.
SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN Felt Like One Step Too Far
I had collected AMAZING SPIDER-MAN in its entirety from CIVIL WAR up until AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #700. It was hard to swallow the news. I was furious Peter Parker would no longer be the star in his own series. It simply baffled me. I was outraged. I even thought, “This is how fans felt after ‘One More Day.’” It now made sense. Or at least, I thought I understood. I certainly understood nerd rage, but I soon learned how that leads to missing out on epic storylines.
SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN winded up being an enjoyable and fresh tale. While I, and so many others, cursed Dan Slott’s name (along with Joey Q’s name, because why not), I soon found myself regretting those curses. SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN added so much depth to the supporting cast of Spider-Man. It allowed Otto to push the Spider-Man mythos in directions Peter himself wouldn’t have been able to do on his own. And, honestly, it gave us a three-year break from Peter, something we may not have necessarily thought we needed. You know how you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone? That’s what SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN did for us. What’s nice is that we also received some fine stories from it.
This scene still sticks with me when I think back to SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN. It’s very iconic for a few reasons. For starters, it doesn’t fit with what you’d expect in a Spider-Man book. Look how aggressive our hero Spider-Man is being! It’s completely uncharacteristic. And then when you realize that this is the villain Otto Octavius, it feels nearly uncanny. It’s like watching a Spider-Man clone running around, so similar in aesthetics but so different in execution.
The Mythos of Spider-Man is Powerful
Why else is it iconic? It shows that Otto is on the road to becoming a hero. Right after this, the spirit of Peter Parker halts Otto before a fatal blow is given to Boomerang. But what Dan Slott does is neat; Otto has no idea Peter is controlling these actions. As far as Otto is concerned all of his actions are due to his own mind. This premise sets up a path for Otto to become a hero. It shows that not only Peter can be Spider-Man (though, honestly, we have learned this with Miles Morales). And while Peter’s return fighting the Green Goblin was so legendary, it’s nice thinking that maybe someone will take over this mantle again. The mythos is that strong.
The series as a whole allowed us, as fans, to explore the Spider-man universe without Peter in it. This is a rather unique concept, one that rarely happens, let alone for a year and a half. We watched characters develop through the eyes of Otto instead of Peter. This, too, was a nice change of pace. And it was also something that encouraged me as a writer.
Dan Slott had to put a lot of skill into this book in order for it to come off authentic. He was now writing Otto instead of Peter under the guise of Spider-Man; this meant the entire tone of the book had to shift. This isn’t easy to do. It’s hard enough staying consistent with one character throughout your run. To change the tone after just a few issues? That’s amazing.
Risks Taken Throughout AMAZING SPIDER-MAN Paid Off
And that’s the thing. Dan Slott has taken many risks throughout his run: he killed off Marla Madison; he had Aunt May marry J. Jonah Jameson’s father; Eddie Brock returned; he merged the spiritual and scientific sides of the Spider-Man mythos; he naturally allowed Peter to work his way out of the working class; and, ultimately, he took Marvel’s mascot character away for a few years. That’s risky.
This last bit about removing Peter Parker from Marvel for a bit is the riskiest. I’ve already mentioned how much flak Dan Slott has taken for other moves. However, this idea really had fans in an uproar. But again, it paid off, because fans received a year and a half’s worth of original stories. Marvel persevered through the nerd rage because they knew it was going to be what people liked. When Dan Slott’s run is looked back upon in a decade’s time, I’ve no doubt SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN will be something that’s highlighted positively.
Dan Slott’s Spider-Man Will be Looked Back Upon for Years
I need to thank Dan Slott for his run on Spider-Man. It certainly had its bad moments in regards to Peter’s romantic relationships. And there was the occasional awkward bit whenever MJ came to town. And it was maybe too ridiculous how Peter could dupe others into believing he wasn’t Spider-Man.
But overall, AMAZING SPIDER-MAN and SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN were so fun to follow. I still consider “No Turning Back” to be one of the greatest stories dealing with the Lizard and Morbius. And then “Ends of the Earth” was one of your first attempts to write Spider-Man on a global scale. It was awesome seeing one of Peter’s rogues taking the world hostage. It also deepened the Doctor Octopus mythos, making him more relevant and consequently worthy of being the enemy that takes over Peter’s body.
The Reality of Comic Book Quality
There’s a reason Dan Slott stayed on the title for nearly a decade: he put in the proper work to at least make the story stay consistent. And this sounds odd, but we as fans have got to be realistic. When you have a staple title (AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, BATMAN, THE MIGHTY THOR) you expect quality, yes. But these are also titles that Marvel and DC have to put out each month due to demand.
Expecting writers on these stories to produce gold throughout every issue is not logical. But to expect stellar stories amongst average story lines that move the plot along with character development? That’s something I think is realistic, and that’s something Dan Slott always delivered. And for that, I’m thankful. I love my Spidey fix, and I enjoyed reading work that clearly showed effort and thought. It was simply icing on the cake when my breath was taken away.
What Can We Expect?
So, anyway, here’s to seeing where Dan Slott goes next, and here’s to hoping the next writer is able to continue to make Spider-Man the hero we all know him to be. I’m excited to see where this series goes. With SECRET EMPIRE over and MARVEL LEGACY underway, I’m very curious to see where AMAZING SPIDER-MAN goes. I hope to see Miles involved more, and I wouldn’t mind Peter returning to his homier routes.
Obviously, I mostly just hope Peter continues to grow and be the hero we all know he is.