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The Face of the Spider

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In case you haven’t heard – and if you haven’t heard by now you’re probably at the wrong site – the world now knows that Peter Parker and Spider-Man are one and the same.

Marvel Comics held a conference call to talk about how this momentous event will effect the three big Spider-Man titles. Present at the conference were Amazing Spider-Man writer J. Michael Straczynski, Sensational Spider-Man writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man writer Peter David, Editors Axel Alonso and Warren Simons, and Marketing Coordinator Jim McCann. As usual, the conference call started with the writers giving a summary of what’s been going on.

First up was J. Michael Straczynski, who began to talk about his current “The War At Home” arc running in Amazing. He mentioned that “in the past few issues, Peter has thrown his lot in with Tony, believing it was the right thing to do. Not just because it is the law, but because he was backed up by MJ and Aunt May. The problem going along is that he may have invested himself in the wrong side.” He added that Spider-Man would become more and more uncomfortable with what is going on, and begin to have confrontations with Tony. Ultimately, we find Peter thinking, “have I made a terrible, terrible mistake, and what do I do about it?”

Next up, Peter David – who has yet to write about the unmasking – jumped in to talk about upcoming issues of Friendly Neighborhood. “I knew that the situation was an ongoing one in Amazing, and decided to stay out of the way of that juggernaut until the reveal had been done,” the writer stated. Issue #10 will begin to deal with Peter being well known as Spider-Man. In keeping with the current Friendly Neighborhood trend, the issues will surround Peter’s life at the high school. It will explore how students’ parents’ will have to come to grips with Peter’s double life, and, according to David,  “the whole story acts as a nice metaphor for the problems that people have with their teachers not being role-models for their kids in real life. That’s what’s nice about the Marvel Universe; you can do stories on a fictional basis that have real world relevance.” He added that the parents do, in fact, have something to worry about as several Mysterios invade the school in this arc, then teased that one of Spider-Man’s old flames will be writing a tell-all book in the subsequent series.

Finally, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa stepped up to talk about the next issue of Sensational – entitled “My Science Teacher is Spider-Man” – which will be coming out next week. Instead of taking a broad look at Peter’s life at school, the issue will instead “focus on one of Peter’s favorite students, a kid who is very much like Peter Parker and very passionate about science.” The villain for this issue, which is a one-shot painted by Clayton Cain, will be Doctor Octopus. Following that installment will be a three-issue arc called “The Deadly Foes of Peter Parker” which will feature the Chameleon.

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When asked about how they manage to coordinate the stories among the three writers, David admitted that he “tries not to talk to the others whenever possible.” He did then admit that overall JMS handled the macro story, while David and Aguirre-Sacasa filled in the nooks and crannies. Amazing had to follow the beats of the main story in Civil War, then the other two could fill in behind that.

Peter’s decision is going to have an effect on everyone who knew him and there will be a lot of whys that need to be answered. Not only will he have to face ridicule from people who have seen Spider-Man as a criminal, but also deal with the scorn from Peter’s friends who didn’t know about his double life. It’s a great opportunity to explore how it has affected the person on the street. Keeping in mind that Peter made this decision with Aunt May and MJ, they will have to face the results as well.

It’s important to Marvel that they keep things in the middle of the road throughout the Civil War storyline, and that they don’t allow the story to lean to one side – “The monster never sees the monster in the mirror.” If the story should go too far to one side, it’s felt that the story would become less interesting. “It would be a betrayal of the characters. Tony Stark and Reed Richards are the building blocks of the Marvel Universe, what sort of message do we paint if they are called bad guys?” Overall, this is one of the biggest gray areas in the history of comics.

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One thing all of the writers have to face at this time is writing Spider-Man during one of the biggest moments in the history of the comic. The unanimous feeling was best described by Aguirre-Sacasa: “At first it was ‘Oh My God, what am I going to do.’ But then I wanted to know how I got so lucky to be doing the book at this time, when the most momentous stuff in the history was happening. Even my parents in Nicaragua heard about Peter’s unmasking.”

As for longevity, the unmasking won’t be going away any time soon. Stories are planned well into next year, and there are many possibilities for interesting plots coming from the change. “Peter no longer has the anonymity that he had as Spider-Man. Now he’s on call all the time. Every move you make puts you under the microscope.” Before the unmasking, everything would bounce off Spider-Man; Peter Parker didn’t have to own up to things. “Now, however, when he’s riding on top of a truck carrying superheroes across New York, people are yelling ‘Peter, you suck!’”, which, Peter David informs us, is a very uncomfortable thing to go through, even if you’re used to it.

The unmasking also humanizes Spider-Man in the eyes of his foes. Now they know that they’ve been beaten by a 15-year old in the past, as well as a married man in the present. There really is no precedent for this occurrence in comics... no one’s had the profile that Spider-Man does.

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How the fans take to the unmasking is yet to be determined. It will come down to the fans’ decision whether this entire experience has been something to love or hate. However, love it or hate it, all of the writers feel that it will still be exciting to read the books.

One big question that everyone wants answered is how Spider-Man’s revelation will affect the marriage between Peter Parker and Mary Jane. This is a question that will be addressed in all of the books. “That marriage is such a part of the character that you can’t write a story without it. Even in my story that takes place in the school with Mysterio, MJ is still involved with Peter by phone contact,” David said. While the writers couldn’t go into detail about the consequences over the long-term, JMS did point out that with all that is happening “It can go one of two ways... it can push them apart or get them closer together. It need not be a negative.”

Inevitably, things are going to sour between Peter Parker and Tony Stark. Peter never had the chance to reveal himself to S.H.I.E.L.D. alone, but rather was boxed into a corner by Tony to go public. “There was a layer of manipulation there, which Peter will later come to resent. Tony wanted to send a message, and what stronger message is there than Spider-Man?”

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Ultimately, the writers believe that the overall story is in keeping with the creed “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility.” With this kind of crisis going on, Peter’s going to have to face major responsibility, whether it is to stay on the side of the law, or go against it. “Civil War is all about where responsibilities lay: With the country? With the Laws? With the sense of right and wrong? With one’s self? I think that has pulled the Marvel Universe into that paradigm of Peter’s. All these heroes have great power, now what are their responsibilities?”

As for an exit strategy to the entire unmasking story, we’re left with these words of wisdom: “If we can resurrect Hawkeye, we can do anything.”

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