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Monday, January 22, 2018 

Dan Slott leaves Spider-Man only to write Iron Man

Here's an example of how Marvel is keeping around unappealing personalities due to their lack of creativity and disinterest in rehiring writers they've blacklisted like Chuck Dixon. NY Vulture interviewed Slott about his past career and his move from writing Spidey to writing Iron Man, another series you can be sure he won't contribute to in a meaningful way. The interviewer starts off by sugarcoating even the worst parts of his run on Spidey:
How long has Dan Slott been writing Spider-Man stories? In the immortal words of Staind: It’s been a while. The scribe began his run on Marvel Comics’ flagship series, The Amazing Spider-Man, during the 2008 story arc “Brand New Day.” Since then, he’s taken the character on some wild rides: At one point, the entire island of Manhattan got spider-powers, every Spider-Man (and -Woman) from every alternate dimension teamed up, and — perhaps most famously — the supervillain Doctor Octopus took over Spidey’s body for a while. [...]
Their reference to the time when Mary Jane Watson's marriage to Spidey was erased so callously sums up what they think of her too. As does their assertion Doc Ock's takeover of Peter Parker's body was "famous" when "notorious" would make a far better description. Now for some segments of the interview itself:
I never thought I’d see you walking away from Spider-Man. Was this a hard decision to make?
This was a decision that was made way long ago. I gotta feel like a jerk, because whenever someone would interview me, or whenever it would come up on panels, I would look out at people and say with a stern look that I was never leaving. Very much in the same way I was saying, “Peter Parker is never coming back. I killed him” [during The Superior Spider-Man]. I lied. I lied horribly. [Laughs.] But that’s what us storytellers do, we spin lies.
And how is that a positive trait? And, how was it even positive to have Doc Ock take advantage of Mary Jane in the disguise of Peter's body? And more importantly, does he consider it acceptable to antagonize fans and block them on Twitter if they dare voice dissent with his writing? He certainly does have to feel like a jerk alright.
What have you learned about the character over the course of your ten years of writing him? What are some crevices or nuances that you weren’t really aware of until some point during your run?
A lot of people have one take on Spider-Man. They go, “When he’s Peter Parker, his life is terrible and he puts on the costume and then it’s this great release and he gets to swing through the skies and be Spider-Man.” And other people have this take of, “His Peter Parker life would be so much better if he didn’t have to become Spider-Man. Spider-Man is a curse.” You start realizing, just the way you’re not the same person every day, Peter Parker and Spider-Man aren’t the same person every day. They have so many different flavors, they have so many different facets. There is no one way.

When I grew up, one of my favorite books was Marvel Team-Up. And in that book, Spider-Man would be with Adam Warlock on the moon. And then the next month he’d be with Doctor Strange in a mystic dimension. And sometimes you’d have people write stories where they want you to believe that Spider-Man is only a street-level character. You know, Spider-Man can do anything. Spider-Man can go anywhere. What it is, is he brings that street-level sensibility and that sense of humor with him. That if you make him the fish out of water, he’s still Spider-Man. It’s how he deals with that weirdness. So many people were so upset about Peter Parker’s CEO arc of “Worldwide”: “That should never happen to Spider-Man.” And to me, the fun of it is, what if it did? How would Peter Parker react to that? And the one advantage I had was, I knew it wasn’t going to last forever. I knew I was going to knock the legs out from under him and knock him down even lower than before and get back to that core Peter Parker. I knew what was coming up. So that gives you the freedom to do weird things. To swap brains with Doc Ock, to make him work at high-tech lab, to whatever you want, really, as long as you know you’re going to put the toy back in the box.
It should be noted that, in all this interview, Mary Jane never seems to come up as a subject (though there is a draft panel of a scene with her from ASM #797 on the page), because Slott fits into the category of a person whose one take on Spidey is that he should never ever be married, and/or believes Mary Jane's the biggest abomination that could ever have been created for Spidey. In a way, he's thus exploited Stan Lee's weakness as a spokesperson; many know that Stan will simply not criticize Marvel's steps under any circumstances, and the staff, fully aware of this, have often used it to their advantage.

Seeing he cited Marvel Team-Up as one of his favorites (only?), it got me to thinking: while the original MTU from 1972-85 was a brilliant series, a clever way to have Spidey team up with dozens of different superheroes and other guests to fight crime every month, I can't help but wonder if that could explain why Slott has such dislike for cast members like Mary Jane: most of the regular Spidey cast's appearances in MTU were minor, as the main focus was on Spidey's interactions with a variety of superheroes and other such folks, and less on his relations with the main casts from the flagship series (or even Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man, which began while it was still in publication). Suppose Slott read MTU far more than he actually did the flagship? That could explain why he's got such disdain for Mary Jane, and she's surely not the only character he harbors dislike for.

And anybody who thinks Peter Parker's life should only be misery is definitely out of their minds. If anything, Slott's own thinking is that fans shouldn't be happy.
I always wonder about this with comics writers, is there something frustrating about the fact that you do have to put the toy back in the box and that some version of the status quo has to return? That you can’t fundamentally change the character? Is there some part of you that wishes you could really shake up the status quo permanently?
I’m not that selfish. I think you do have to, every now and then, refresh and restart. Every now and then, you do have to go back to ground, because every generation deserves to have Spider-Man with them. He’s one of the greatest characters of all time, of all of fiction. If some 8-year-old kid is growing up now, he deserves to have Spider-Man go on the journey with him. It feels kinda selfish to go, “No, Spider-Man should age just with my era, and he should track with me, and he should go through these moments with me. And then he should grow old and then he should die.” No, it’s important that everyone has a shot to have Spider-Man be their Spider-Man.
Well in that case, does everyone include conservative-leaning scriptwriters, along with anybody else who'd want Peter and Mary Jane to remain married, and above all, be able to lead a plausible, believable relationship not sabotaged by brain-switcheroos and other machinations deliberately intended to insult the audience's intellect? Slott may not be selfish, but Joe Quesada, who instigated the whole fiasco with Mephisto serving as a Mary Sue, certainly is, and Slott's made clear he fully agrees with Quesada to the letter.

And who said Spidey should become a geriatric and pass on? We all know that one of the most cleverly surreal parts of serial fiction is that the characters can go an eternity without aging, or stop aging at a certain point. Sometimes they can even be de-aged in a manner of speaking, recalling Chuck Dixon's run on Birds of Prey included a moment where Black Canary fell into a Lazarus Pit and had her sonic scream restored, with possibly several years of aging shed away to boot. Even European characters like Michel Vaillant, the race car driver, were de-aged after a few decades. One character who apparently did age, for whatever reason, was John Constantine, Alan Moore's quasi-sorceror who debuted in Swamp Thing and went on to get his own solo book, Hellblazer. But apart from that, the whole notion anybody wants superheroes to physically age and retire as geriatrics is laughable. Slott's just putting words in the majority's mouths.
Along those lines: It’s no small responsibility to be the premier writer for one of the most famous characters in superhero fiction. How do you not let that pressure get to you?
Oh, you do. You do let it get to you, and you do let it drive you crazy. What you do is you have these very wonderful editors like Steve Wacker and Nick Lowe, who then have to also act as your counselor. On top of everything else, they have to walk you off of every crisis and calm you down and get the pages out, and then, other days, they have to crack the whip and tighten the vise. If you’re gonna be an editor on the Spider-Man book it takes a superhuman ability, and Wacker and Lowe just killed on this.
Sigh. They failed as miserably as he did. And so did the interviewer who left Mary Jane out of the list of questions. What pressure did he have to cope with? He represents their vision of how superheroes should be written, and that's what he did with Spidey, and now, you can be sure, Iron Man too.
How do you think you’ve grown as a writer over the course of those ten years?
Waistline. This is how I’ve grown. [Laughs.] Yeah, it’s really been an honor. There is that part of me that would like to keep going because I’d like to call it the salad days, but as I just said, there was no salad involved. This is the best job I’ve ever had, doing something I very much love. And there’s that point where you just have to be grateful for everyone that you’ve gotten to work with and everyone who’s decided not to pull you off a book. Whether it’s [former editors-in-chief] Joe Quesada or Axel Alonso, or just … yeah. That was a weird thing, to go to Axel and say, “Yeah, this is when I’m leaving, I think,” because he was very nice. And when [new editor-in-chief] C.B. [Cebulski] was brought on, the day everyone found out the news, I got a call from him within five minutes of seeing it. Like, “What?” And he was like, “So, you know, I’ve talked with everyone. I heard you’re now going to be on this. I think that will be a great book for you.” And I was like, “Okay, cool.” So, yeah, I was kinda scared because it was like, “Oh, I’m leaving Spider-Man and we have the next book lined up, but now here’s a new EIC.” And he was okay with me going to that book.
I think this'll have to count as the first serious failure of Cebulski as EIC. Anybody as awful as Slott turned out to be won't be good to keep around, and if Cebulski caves to Quesada and lets Slott remain with the company, then he's not ensuring fresh talent will be brought in who'll also be allowed to think for themselves, and restore the Spider-marriage if they want to. Let's remember how Marvel devolved into a limited circle of selfish writers who mandated Marvel be done entirely according to their narrow visions of what it should be. And Slott hasn't grown at all, just remained somebody with a biased, backwards notion of what superhero comics should be like.

At the end, that's where Slott talks about what he thinks of Iron Man:
What makes Tony an interesting character to you?
Reed Richards explores the universe. He wants to know everything and go everywhere. Tony Stark builds the future. It’s not that he’s not out to discover the next big thing. But he’s gonna take his own two hands and he’s gonna build where he wants to go, or what he wants to do. He looks at a challenge and goes, “How do I machine my way out of this?” When you’re a kid reading comics, there’s a feeling like, if you really wanted to, you could be Batman. You could dedicate your life, you could train and train and train, and you could be Batman. And you read Marvel books and there’s a feeling like, “If you did get superpowers, you would be Spider-Man. You’d be that guy, you’d be Peter Parker. Peter Parker is the guy like you.” Tony Stark is somewhere in between, in that we are not all that kind of … How often is there that level of genius in any person? But more than any character in the Marvel universe, he is the self-made man. You take him out of that suit? He’s a normal man. He makes himself the superhero. He makes himself into the thing he wants. There will be a very unique cast in this book of characters: Iron Man characters you love and Marvel characters that you haven’t seen folded into the Iron Man cast. So, at the end of the day, there’s Captain America with super-soldier serum, and there’s a god of thunder, there’s all these characters around him with these amazing abilities. But his abilities came from his own two hands. He made it, and he stands amongst the gods because of what he can imagine and what he can make. That’s exciting.
If he's alluding to Mary Jane getting shoehorned into the IM cast - something Brian Bendis may have performed - it's pretty apparent after all Marvel's financial failures that nobody's falling for that trick. There's no guarantee anything about Slott's scripting plans will be an organic fit for IM. In fact, what if they intend to stick with the retcon that Howard and Maria Stark aren't Tony's parents?

And if we look at Tony's background from the Silver Age, he's not that normal a man if he had to wear a high tech pacemaker to keep his injured chest from succumbing to shrapnel he sustained in an explosion. That disability may have been dropped later on, but in the beginnings, he was not normal in terms of physical health.

It may have been reported that Nick Spencer might take up the writing on Spider-Man. If that happens, you can be doubly sure quality of writing won't improve on Spidey, no matter what Mary Jane's status is to be following Slott's departure. Nor will it improve on Iron Man with Slott around.

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Stan is generally a positive kind of guy; he rarely criticizes anyone, at Marvel or other companies, in his public statements. But he has been critical of Marvel in the past. He expressed his distaste, for example, for graphic violence in the Max series about Nick Fury, and said critical things about the basic story-telling of the late 90s comics, when they were going for ugly fan-fave art that didn't tell the story very well.

I doubt he reads any of the current crop of Marvel Comics; it was his job for too many years. Julius Schwartz said that he never read a comic book he edited after it was taken over by other people; no matter how good the stories were, he could not appreciate them because they were not what he would do, they were not his characters in them.

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