Green and Orange Punch Lines

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He’s played in just about every corner of the Marvel sandbox during his Marvel exclusive contract, but this fall, Dan Slott is returning to two of his biggest loves: The Thing and She-Hulk.

Much like the books he writes, Slott is non-stop humor and an endless burst of electrifying energy. Just don’t make the mistake of mentioning the words ‘prematurely cancelled’ and ‘She-Hulk' in the same sentence. Unless you want to see the writer going all Jen Walters on you, that is…

BROKEN FRONTIER: Spider-Man/Human Torch, GLA, She-Hulk, Thing… your workload is quite heavy this year—and that’s an understatement. Do you have an incentive in your Marvel exclusive contract that says you have you will only get paid if you work 24/7?

Click to enlargeDAN SLOTT: Right there, with that first question, I’m sure you got a big laugh out of my editor, Tom Brevoort.  Truth is, I’m a very slow and meticulous writer.  Two books a month—with maybe a small project on the side—is really my upper limit.  Starting with THE THING, though, I’m going to try working full script (as opposed to “Marvel Style”).  So we’ll see if that speeds me up.  Here’s hoping!

BF: The comic book crowd in general has been very receptive of your knack for portraying characters in an original and at times slightly askew fashion. Do you consider yourself an outside-the-box thinker?

DS: Actually, I think I’m a little too inside the box—the long box, that is.  I just LOVE all the Marvel characters, continuity, and the opportunity to play with them!  The BIG trick is how to tell a story that rewards long time readers—while bringing new readers up to speed—and having it still be a fun ride.

BF: It seems that a key factor in constructing these original takes on characters is humor. Is humor something that comes naturally to you as a writer, or is it an aspect of your craft that you constantly need to polish for it to remain effective?

DS: Honestly?  I don’t set out to tell a funny story—just a fun one.  As the story develops, I find that the humor presents itself.  Sometimes, I plan for specific gags in the plotting stage—like Spidey’s reason for why Jonah hates him in SHE-HULK #4, or the Spidey/Paste Pot Pete scene from SPIDEY/TORCH #1.  Other times, I see the art, and the character “blurts” something out while I’m typing up the script—like Southpaw’s “He’s not wearing any pants” line from SHE-HULK #7. 

And THAT’S something that can ONLY happen when you’re working with talented and funny artists!  When the art comes in, these guys constantly give me so many gifts.  I mean, look at that shot of Dinah Soar with the kid’s balloon in GLA #1.  That’s all Paul Pelletier—and that cracks me up EVERY time I see it!  The expressions on the faces of the Red Ghost and his Orangutan as he licks that fruit pie wrapper?  Comedy gold from Ty Templeton.  One of the best Awesome Andy bits—where he’s standing on his head in SHE-HULK #4?  I can’t take credit for that—that’s Juan Bobillo doing his thing.

BF: When your Marvel exclusivity was announced, you teased fans by saying “This August, I'll be the writer on a new "secret" monthly book for Marvel, starring one of their top-tier characters. I don't know if we can let the cat out of the bag just yet.” Was that cat in fact a 500-pound orange bulldozer?

DS: Yup, it’s Aunt Petunia’s favorite nephew! The idle of millions!  The ever lovin’ blue eyed you-know-who!  And boy, is this gonna be FUN! 

Back when I was working on BATMAN ADVENTURES for DC, there were days when I looked like the world’s happiest idiot.  There was an honest-to-God skip in my step—because I knew that every morning I got to wake up and write Batman!  SHE-HULK was a different story—same with GLA too.  Working on 2nd and 3rd tier characters, no matter how much you love ‘em, there’s a sense of panic—that you better knock it out of the park with each and every issue!  With SPIDEY/TORCH there was the anxiety of doing my FIRST big Spidey project.

But THE THING?  Sure, I love the big lug.  Yeah, I’ve got EVERY issue of MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE in my long boxes.  Is he a legacy character?  You betcha.  But the difference is—I got a chance to play around with him in SHE-HULK and SPIDEY/TORCH.  Already got my feet wet. And I am so comfortable with who Ben Grimm is and what he’s all about that I’ve finally got my “skip” back.  I am so stoked to be working on this book!  Basically, Marvel is PAYING me to go out and play— and guess what?  You can all come along for the ride!  C’mon!   

BF: At Wizard World Philadelphia, Marvel revealed that your new Thing series will debut in November. Since the FF movie is hitting theatres in July, how come the Thing series won’t be released until fall?

DS: Mainly because I was still wrapping up SPIDEY/TORCH and GLA.  Also, it’ll give Marvel readers a chance to see more of Andrea Di Vito’s art on some high profile gigs.  If you weren’t lucky enough to catch his jaw-dropping run on THOR or his power-packed pages in STORMBREAKER (the Beta-Ray Bill mini series), now you can check out his babe-a-licious SPIDER-WOMAN cover and his guest stint on YOUNG AVENGERS!  I think once people get a good look at Andrea’s art, there’s no way they won’t follow him over to THING #1!  I mean, did you SEE Andrea’s THING #1 cover?  It’s freaking GORGEOUS!  I tell you, if they don’t make that into a poster, there’s just no justice in the world!

BF: As you stated, the book sees you teaming up with Andrea DiVito, who knows a thing or two about drawing epic battle scenes. His work on Brath, Thor and Stormbreaker are good illustrations of that. Does that mean we’ll see Ben Grimm scream “It’s clobberin’ time!!!” every other panel?

DS: Oh, there’ll be clobberin’!  Lots n’ lots a clobberin’!  Though I’m equally excited about seeing what Andrea will do with all the guest stars!  Can’t wait to see his take on all the Marvel Universe guys and gals that are going to be passing through!

BF: Who's responsible for bringing you together with Andrea?

DS: Chalk it up to Tom Brevoort’s matchmaking skills.  We’re all part of the team Tom put together.  When Tom first asked me if I wanted to write the new THING book, I was freaking out BIG TIME!  The first super hero comics I ever got to read were my cousin’s copies of the Galactus Trilogy!  When my dad gave me my first allowance, I immediately used it to buy 5 comics every month: AMAZING, MARVEL TEAM-UP, DETECTIVE, BRAVE & BOLD, and MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE!  I’m telling you, this is one of those “brass ring” projects for me!

And when Tom told me Andrea was going to be the artist?  I was over the moon!  I’m a big Chuck Dixon fan, so I already owned a complete run of BRATH.  With Andrea on board I know this book was going to be a monster!  A big two-fisted, free-for-all, wall-to-wall MONSTER!  Let’s face it, the Thing is a tough character to get right.  Over the years, following his adventures, you can tell that some artists just can’t wrap their heads around him—his anatomy, his scale, his attitude, his granite-like hide, and his big ol’ baby blues.  It’s a tall order.  But the moment you lay eyes on Andrea’s THING?  Everything falls PERFECTLY into place!

BF: How will you portray the Thing? Conventional wisdom says there are two classic ways to depict the character, either as a big, orange, wisecracking and loveable guy or as someone who’s rather depressed about how he looks. Which direction are you taking?

Click to enlargeDS: This new book spins directly out of the current (and quite awesome) JMS/McKone run of FF.  So we’re going to have a LOT of fun with Thing’s new status quo as “Ben Grimm, Billionaire Playboy”.  What’s it like to go from Yancy Street to Park Ave?  From Rocky-fella to Rockefeller?  Okay, that last one was kinda bad.  Maybe I should strike that…

But even with the big bucks, at the end of the day, it’s still Ben.  And that does mean BOTH sides of the coin that you were talking about.  Yeah, he’s a wisecracking guy who’s buddies with practically EVERY superhero out there.  Sure, he goes off on wild adventures and does ten amazing things before lunchtime.  But he’s also cursed to be this big, lumbering THING.  How he feels is pretty much dictated by what the world’s throwing at him on any particular day.  I don’t think it’s really an either/or way of looking at the character.  BOTH of these aspects are VERY important facets of who he is. 

BF: Is the book set in the immediate vicinity of the Baxter building, or will we see Ben knock about the Big Apple all by himself?

DS: Big Apple?  Feh!  Ben’s gonna knock around wherever he darn well pleases!  He’s a billionaire, kiddo.  You think Tony Stark is going to cool his heals in any one place?  No, sir!  The whole world is Ben Grimm’s playground!

As for the FF?   Reed, Sue, Franklin, Val, and Johnny are Ben’s family.  And they’re all going to be in his book—the same way that your family would be in your book.  And Ben will continue to have adventures with them—in the pages of FANTASTIC FOUR.  Over in THE THING though, we’ll see what Ben gets up to when he’s hanging out with his poker buddies and other Marvel U pals.

BF: What about your She-Hulk relaunch in October? Does it pick up right where the previous, prematurely-cancelled series left off?

DS: The new SHE-HULK books starts at the perfect place for new readers to jump on.  How’s that for an answer?  Seriously though, Frederik, I think that’s a very leading question.  The SHE-HULK book wasn’t “prematurely-cancelled”, it was put on hiatus.

The title was getting rave reviews, earning “Best of 2004” nods from over 20 sites and blogs in their year end wrap ups.  Aint It Cool News called it “the best comic Marvel publishes today.”  The 4th Rail called it “one of the best new series to come from Marvel in the past ten years.”  And, heck, the book even got a recommendation from the New York Times.  Trust me, Marvel wasn’t about to kill this title.

Click to enlargeQuite the opposite, in fact.  Putting the title on hold and relaunching with a big push was a decision Marvel made to try to give the title a much needed boost and IMPROVE its longevity.  This strategy has already worked for the critically acclaimed RUNAWAYS.  Here’s hoping it works for us too!

I have a LOT of faith that we’re going to pick up new readers this fall.  Our first two trades (which collect our entire first year) have sold EXTREMELY well—with both books placing in the Top 20!  So, if just those new readers come on board for the relaunch, we’re already in great shape.  And if that doesn’t do it?  We’ve got a really good “secret weapon” in place for our first few issues—trust me, you’ll know it the second you see the SHE-HULK #1 solicit!

Look, I can throw hyperbole at you all day long.  In the end, it comes down to this: it’s a fun book that has its own quirky way of looking at the Marvel U—as both ludicrous and, at the same time, full of wonder.  It’s there to provide an alternative to all the doom n’ gloom—and, in an age of six part arcs, it’s a book that’s proud to tell three part, two part, and even done-in-one stories.  Now I could go on and on about it, but I’d rather let YOU make up your own mind!  So why not try out TWO ENTIRE issues of SHE-HULK for free?  You can find SHE-HULK #5 and SHE-HULK #8 online, so it won't cost you a penny!

BF: You damn well know how to make a statement, I’ll give you that! [Laughs]You’re the obvious guy to ask this question to: who would win a She-Hulk/Thing slugfest? Or doesn’t Ben hit green ladies?

DS: Now, you’d think that in this day and age that Ben would be an equal opportunity clobberer…  But, no, his Aunt Petunia didn’t raise ‘im that way.  Really though, why would these two square off?  They’re pals from way back.  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if they dropped by for a visit in each other’s books.  After all, multi-billionaires need lawyers and lawyers need multi-billionaires.  It’s a good match. [Laughs]

BF: Now that you’re working on an FF-related project, you’ve played in all of Marvel’s biggest sandboxes, including Fantastic Four, Avengers (in a way) and Spider-Man. The only sandbox that is missing at this point is the one marked with an ‘X’. How long will it take before we see you jump into the X-Men pool?

DS: Gosh.  Well, the plate’s kinda full right now.  But you never know who’ll pop by She-Hulk’s law firm looking for a little legal advice…  And, I happen to know that one of my favorite X-Villains is going to give Ben Grimm a hard time in the near future.  So I guess when it comes to the X-pool, I’m already getting my toes wet.

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