Marvel Comics’ Spider-Man works hard to keep his friends and family from becoming involved with his adversaries, but he isn’t always successful. Sometimes Spidey’s loved ones end up targets of his villains schemes and on rare occasions they even end up targets of his foes’ affections. That was the case when Doctor Octopus (AKA Otto Octavius) met Peter Parker’s Aunt May. The two have since met multiple times over the years and Otto Octavius has come to care a great deal for the aunt of his arch-enemy. Otto’s affection for May changed and grew when transferred his consciousness into her nephew’s body in the final issues of “Amazing Spider-Man.”
Now, for all intents and purposes, she is his Aunt May and he’ll do whatever he can as Peter Parker and the Superior Spider-Man to protect her. What happens when a super villain abducts her? How far would he go to rescue her? Writer Christos Gage and artist Javier Rodriguez (“Daredevil”) will answer those questions and more in November’s “Superior Spider-Man Annual.”
Comic Book Resources spoke with Gage about the book, which pits Spidey against May’s kidnapper, the villainous Blackout.
CBR News: Christos, since your story revolves around the relationship between Otto Octavius and Peter Parker’s Aunt May, let’s start off by talking about your sense of that relationship. What does May Parker mean to Otto Octavius and how have his feelings for her evolved over the years? And in turn, how do you think May viewed Otto? Did she see or treat him differently than Spidey’s other rogues?
Christos Gage: Well, Otto started out romancing Aunt May as a scam, to get something she had inherited that he needed for his nefarious plans, but along the way he came to genuinely respect, admire and care for her. If he ever had genuine romantic feelings toward her, he no longer does, especially since taking over the body and life of her nephew, but he continues to think incredibly highly of her as a person of impeccable character who, he feels, was never treated with the respect she deserved by Peter Parker. So Otto is making up for that by doting on his “aunt.” As for May, she never seemed to believe that Doc Ock was a bad person. She found him classy and well-spoken. I get the feeling she thought he was, at worst, misguided.
This Annual comes out after “Superior Spider-Man” #14, where Otto Octavius adopts a new costume and a new modus operandi. Will those changes be reflected in your story? And I can’t imagine you can talk about what that new modus operandi is, but how changed is the Superior Spider-Man in this story compared to the one who showed up in the “No Escape” arc you co-wrote with Dan Slott?
Yes, the new costume will be part of the story. The biggest change in Superior Spider-Man that you see in both “No Escape” and the Annual is that he has removed all traces of Peter Parker’s personality from his mind. So, while he still has the impulse to be Spider-Man and be a superhero, he is now free to do it his way; The Otto Octavius way, which is very, very different than what Peter Parker would do. To me, that’s the genius of what Dan is doing with “Superior Spider-Man.” He’s showing us that there is more to being the Spider-Man we all knew and loved than the suit, powers and “power and responsibility.” Otto has all those things, but he thinks he knows a much better way of being Spider-Man. For example, when the Spider-Slayer was threatening civilians to cover his own escape, Otto didn’t hesitate: he kept going after the villain, counting on the fact that stopping him would end the threat to the innocent people. Peter would never have taken that chance. Whose way is better? I think Otto feels he’s proving that his is superior. So he’s doing more types of things along those lines–and that’s what our story’s all about.
What else can you tell us about the plot and themes of your story? What sets the events of the Annual in motion?
It picks up a story thread Dan and I left dangling in “Amazing Spider-Man” #695-697, the “Danger Zone” arc, in which certain members of the underworld found out that Spider-Man’s tech is supposedly built by Peter Parker. Now that information has made it to the deadly assassin Blackout, who is out to restore his reputation by taking down Spider-Man. He plans to lure Spidey into a trap using Peter, and to ensure Pete’s cooperation, he kidnaps his Aunt May. You might think you’ve seen the “Aunt May abducted by a villain” story before — but you’ve never seen it with the SUPERIOR Spider-Man. It’s about to get real.
You mentioned Blackout is the villain behind the kidnapping of Aunt May, but which Blackout is this? The Darkforce manipulating villain or the vampiric Ghost Rider villain? And what made this character an interesting adversary to pit against Otto Octavius?
This is the half-demon assassin who has battled Ghost Rider — and who killed Danny Ketch’s sister. We wanted a villain who was a real, credible threat to Aunt May’s life — who has struck at heroes through their loved ones before. The Ringer wasn’t going to cut it. Blackout is a vicious, super-powered killer who can match Otto’s determination and ruthlessness.
Are there any other villains in this story? Is there someone behind Blackout’s kidnapping of Aunt May? And if not, what can you tell us about Blackout’s motivation in this story? What does he ultimately want?
Blackout spent some time working for The Hood, but with the Hood defeated and his mob defunct, Blackout wants to establish himself as a player again. And with Spider-Man clearly the toughest hero in town right now, what better way to do that than by killing him?
Are there any other major supporting players in this story? Seems like a story involving the Superior Spider-Man trying to rescue a kidnapped May Parker might involve her husband J. Jonah James, Sr. and possibly his son? Do they have parts to play in this tale?
Jay Jameson, May’s husband, is definitely part of it, but Jonah isn’t aware of what’s happening. Blackout orders Jay and Peter to keep it quiet, and there’s a risk of May getting hurt or killed if anyone else is informed.
Artist Javier Rodriguez will bring all the characters in your story to life. What do you feel he brings to the book as an artist?
I am a gigantic fan of the “Daredevil” book, and Javier is bringing the same sort of expressive, character-driven, hard-hitting storytelling to the Annual he does to “DD.” His artwork is a perfect match for the story.
Finally, your “Superior Spider-Man Annual” sounds like a character driven, super hero crime-thriller. Could you offer up a sort of grand overview of the story?
When [series editor] Steve Wacker approached me about writing this story, he said it should be something that really shows us the difference between how Otto approaches situations compared to how Peter Parker would. That’s what we set out to do. It is indeed very character oriented — and maybe about as dark a Spidey story as you’re going to see. I’ve really enjoyed working with my old pal Dan Slott on the ongoing book, and I very much appreciate Steve and Dan not only trusting me with the Annual, but making sure it’s an integral part of the “Superior Spider-Man” saga. Javier and I are picking up plotlines from the main book, and Dan will be exploring the repercussions of what happens in the Annual in future stories (as will I, when I come aboard again to co-write issues #22 through 25). So if you’re enjoying “Superior Spider-Man,” do not miss the Annual!
“Superior Spider-Man Annual” is on sale in November.