The legendary writer speaks about returning a character he helped define in Amazing Spider-Man: Spiral!
March 2015 should delight fans of legendary writer Gerry Conway as a new Spider-Man limited series “Amazing Spider-Man: Spiral,” kicking off in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #16.1, teams him with artist Carlo Barberi!
The five-part limited series pairs Spidey with Police Captain Yuri Watanabe—also known as the vigilante The Wraith—just as the struggle for power in the criminal underworld flares up. Conway explains how this new story allows him to capitalize upon his experience growing up in a family steeped in law enforcement, as well as the writer for several TV police procedural dramas and more!
Marvel.com: After dipping your toe back into the Spider-Man world with your work on SPIDER-VERSE TEAM-UP #2, how enthused are you to be tackling this five-issue arc?
Gerry Conway: I’m incredibly enthused. Ironically, the Spider-Man team-up story is my second Spider-Man project. The limited series began first. We were working on that first when [editor] Nick Lowe asked me to do the 10-pager. Even though SPIDER-VERSE TEAM-UP came out first, it was something that I started while I was already working on the AMAZING SPIDER-MAN issues.
Marvel.com: How long have you been working on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN: SPIRAL?
Gerry Conway: We’ve been writing it now for a couple of months. We’re plotted through the first five issues and I’m finishing up the script on the second issue. We’d been talking about the story for several months before that.
Marvel.com: So you are not at the point where you’ve started to see any of the art from Carlo Barberi?
Gerry Conway: Actually, I have seen a couple of pages from Carlo and they look amazing—just spectacular. It’s a spectacular Spider-Man! [Laughs] I think he’s going to do a great job on this story; I’m really excited to be working with him.
Marvel.com: Since you’re actually able to see some of what he’s done, are you trying to play to his strengths or give him certain scenes that you know he can tackle?
Gerry Conway: That’s definitely going to come into play with the second and continuing issues. The first issue I wrote without really knowing who the artist was going to be on it, although I had my hopes, obviously. But now that I know it’s Carlo, I’m going to try to play to his strengths.
Marvel.com: Can you talk a bit about how you and Nick started talking about doing this arc in the first place?
Gerry Conway: I originally had dinner with [Marvel Chief Creative Officer] Joe Quesada when he was out in Los Angeles last year. During the course of the dinner we started talking about comics and I had mentioned that in a weird sort of way I had always thought of myself as a comic book writer who does other things, even though I haven’t written comics on any regular basis for a couple of decades. But my heart has always been attached to comics and particularly, to Marvel. When Joe heard that, he said, “Well, I think the guys would be very interested to hear if you had any ideas.”
That led me to talking to [Editor-in-Chief] Axel Alonso, then Axel put me in touch with Stephen Wacker—who at the time was editor of Spider-Man. Stephen and I talked over this notion I had for Spiral. Then when Stephen moved on to the Marvel Animation, Nick and I started talking and noticed that we were both very much on the same page with what could be done with this story.
Marvel.com: Can you discuss what it’s like exploring some of the Marvel Universe underworld in this arc, given that it’s been in flux since the fall of The Kingpin?
Gerry Conway: The notion here is that the various Marvel crime gangs like the ones led by Hammerhead, Tombstone, the Circus of Crime, Black Cat, and Mr. Negative—they’re all at each other’s throats because there’s no single overlord of crime currently running things in New York. Things only escalated, especially after The Goblin King fell out of the scene and Doc Ock is no longer operating as the Superior Spider-Man, keeping a lid on everything. It’s an opportunity for all of these power players to see which one of them can come out on top. While the larger gang war is taking place over the whole city, we’re focusing in on how it’s affecting the precinct of Captain Yuri Watanabe, who we also know as The Wraith, and that’s where the focus of our story is going to be.
Amazing Spider-Man #16.1 cover by Arthur Adams
Marvel.com: As someone who is a veteran Spider-Man writer, what are you enjoying most about getting to write the adventures of Peter Parker?
Gerry Conway: I just love hearing his voice in my head. I’ve always enjoyed writing Peter, I love the character and I’ve always identified with him. I identified even more when I was closer in age to him. I used to say to people when I was first writing Peter Parker and Spider-Man I was basically the same age as Peter and going through a lot of the same things as Peter. That’s no longer the case, obviously, but it’s really interesting to me just how quickly that suit of clothes fits back on. I find myself really welcoming the opportunity to talk with him basically, to hear what he has to say; take his perspective of the world and run with it.
Marvel.com: As you’ve said, this arc allows you to explore the work of Police Captain Watanabe in her day job as well as her secret life as the vigilante The Wraith. Given that you are a writer with some pretty substantial experience in writing police procedurals, was getting to use Watanabe in this arc part of what interested you in taking on the assignment?
Gerry Conway: Yes. Actually, it was my suggestion to use Watanabe and one of the attractions was the fact that I have this additional background writing cop show. I also come from a family of cops; my dad was a cop and my uncle was a cop, the Captain of the Police Academy in New York City. I have a cultural affinity for the cop mindset, which is not to say that I approve of cops in general or think that cops are beyond reproach, just that I empathize with what they go through. I’m also familiar with the struggles of any individual dealing with any institutions that are larger than themselves. Yuri Watanabe is just a fascinating character to me as a high-level representative of the law. She is a police captain and that means that she’s worked in that field for a number of years and worked her way up the ranks and knows how the system works. But at the same time, now she’s also acting as a vigilante. That’s a contradiction that I think makes for an interesting character.
Marvel.com: Without spoiling the story, can you talk about some of the supporting cast you hope to work with in this story?
Gerry Conway: In terms of supporting cast, we’re basically dealing with villains. We’re dealing with Tombstone and his gang, Hammerhead and his gang, and those are both characters that I co-created, so I have special love for them; Mr. Negative, who’s an interesting behind the scenes manipulator; Black Cat, who’s got her own ambitions to become the queen of crime in New York City; and the other players that we’ve seen at the street level of crime in New York. In terms of the ongoing cast, I’m keeping my hands away from them because that’s for the main book. That’s the way that I approached writing WEB OF SPIDER-MAN and SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN while David Michelinie was writing AMAZING SPIDER-MAN during my last run at Marvel: to recognize that the main book has to deal with the main supporting cast and the main story-arcs but that the secondary books have an opportunity to flesh things out in areas that may not be explored by the main title.
Marvel.com: From a writing standpoint it seems like it opens up a lot more opportunities for you.
Gerry Conway: Sure, because I’m not responsible for moving the big story along, I’m responsible for exploring a little area that otherwise might not get the attention that it would because the bigger story is taking place—taking Spider-Man to more important places; although this arc is going to have effects on the Spider-Man universe as well. It’s not a throw-away “this didn’t happen” story, this will actually have repercussions, which we’re happy about.
Marvel.com: Few veteran writers wrote Spider-Man as well as you did or helped define a lot of the book’s core appeal over the years as you did. But I am curious, of your current peers writing in the Spider-Man family of books, do you look toward any of them to draw inspiration for your present day approach?
Gerry Conway: Oh God, yes. I have to tell you, you may think of me as someone who’s really familiar of the character, and I am, but I’m totally intimidated by the work of people like Dan Slott and Christos Gage, who are actually writing the character on a regular basis; or Brian Bendis, with ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN; they’re all people who have taken Peter Parker and Miles Morales, of course, into a whole new level of writing. My biggest fear, honestly, coming back to this book, is that I would not be able to compete.
Marvel.com: Not a chance!
Look for AMAZING SPIDER-MAN: SPIRAL by Gerry Conway and Carlo Barberi in March 2015!