The Goblin Knight rides in ‘Superior Spider-Man Annual’ #2

(CBR) The heroes of the Marvel Universe don’t know it yet, but there’s a growing criminal empire lurking beneath the streets of New York City. Soon, however, they’ll become painfully aware of its existence when “Goblin Nation” kicks off in “Superior Spider-Man,” and the armies of of the mysterious Goblin King arrive topside to stake his claim on the city.

One of the soldiers at the front of this charge will be the King’s enforcer, the Goblin Knight, better known to longtime Spidey readers as one-time hero Phil Urich. The nephew of famed reporter Ben Urich, Phil’s unpredictable personality makes him a wildcard in the upcoming chaos, and his uncle certainly isn’t going to let the forces of darkness drag him down without a fight.

Writer Christos Gage and artist Javier Rodriguez will tell this tale of familial conflict and more in March’s “Superior Spider-Man Annual” #2. We spoke with Gage about the book, which features two stories that tie into the “Goblin Nation” storyline — the second of which is so crucial to the overall story that Gage wasn’t even able to tell us who is featured in it!

CBR News: Christos, this is your second “Superior Spider-Man Annual.” I know part of the appeal of these projects is writing the title character, but is the Annual format a draw as well? What kind of freedom and leeway do you feel the format provides?

Christos Gage: It varies from story to story. Interestingly, the first Annual I did was very focused on Superior Spider-Man, while in this one — though Spider-Man is definitely a big part — the focus is on members of the supporting cast. Specifically, in the lead story, Ben Urich and his nephew Phil Urich, who is now the villainous Goblin Knight. The cool thing about this Annual is that I get to explore stuff there literally wasn’t room for in the jam-packed main series, but that is an important part of the saga. In fact, the events of the second story in the Annual are so tied into the “Goblin Nation” storyline — and significant to it — I literally can’t tell you what it’s about without spoilers. Seriously — I’m not saying that because I haven’t figured it out yet. It’s all written. I just can’t discuss it!

What do you find most interesting about Phil? What’s your sense of his headspace when this story begins?

In a lot of ways, Phil is almost a dark, mirror image of Peter Parker. He was close to his Uncle Ben [Urich], and when he acquired great power, he took on the responsibility of being a hero. But in his case, the source of that power is the Goblin Formula, and sooner or later, everyone who is changed by that formula goes insane. And it happened to Phil, too. The question is whether he’s redeemable. Can he be saved? This is something Ben Urich is struggling with. Ben lost his wife not long ago, and he’s not going to let Phil go without a fight. I can tell you that both I and artist Javier Rodriguez were tickled pink to be doing a Ben Urich focused story, because of how much we loved the great Frank Miller Ben Urich stories of the past.

In my case, my father was also a trench-coat-wearing New York reporter covering organized crime, for the “New York Times” in the 1970s. So it’s a take on the story that pushes the buttons of the entire creative team.

How would you describe the dynamic between the Goblin Knight and the Goblin King? Is he content with his role in hi boss’ organization when this story begins?

That’s the big question. Phil has been in vast criminal organizations before — he worked for the Kingpin, and later the original Hobgoblin. And in both cases, it ended badly. In light of this, can he be turned against the Goblin King? And if so, is it out of his own self-interest, or can he be redeemed as a person? Or does he think he’s finally found a home? That’s the big question.

Whose point of view is this tale told from?

It’s actually from Ben Urich’s point of view. As I mentioned, Ben is a man who has lost the people closest to him, and is making one last, desperate attempt to save what is left of his family. But he’s also a man who has dedicated his life to the truth, and bringing perpetrators of evil deeds to light. Can he choose between the two, or will he have to sacrifice one thing he loves for the other?

Is the Goblin Knight Spider-Man’s only antagonist in this Annual? Or will he be dealing with other adversaries as well? And if so can you hint, tease, or talk about them?

It’s Goblin Knight in the lead story. In the second story — you know the drill, mum’s the word. But there’s a goblin in that one, too.

Let’s move away from Phil and into the title character of the Annual the Superior Spider-Man. I know you’re wary of spoilers, but can you talk about the issues Otto is wrestling with when your story begins? Has he discovered the existence of the Goblin Nation yet?

Yes, as the story begins, Spider-Man is literally in the midst of the big conflict with the Goblin Nation. In talking to Dan Slott [writer of “Superior Spider-Man”] about the Annual and when it takes place, he really emphasized that the feel of the story, whenever Spider-Man is around, should be intense, fast-paced, with a sense of tremendous pressure, and both Javier and I took that to heart. In fact, Javier did some amazing visual stuff with the fight scenes to make it work! I can’t wait for everyone to see it. You’re also right that I can’t say much about anything else, but the stakes are very high for all concerned.

You’ve touched on it a little bit already, but let’s talk a little more about the work of artist Javier Rodriguez. What does he brings to your story?

I get to reunite with Javier, with whom I collaborated on the first Annual, and I couldn’t be happier. As anyone who read that story or has seen his amazing work on “Daredevil” knows, Javier is both a brilliant colorist and an amazing artist. He takes a Will Eisner-esque approach to a page, looking for innovative and exciting ways to tell the story, but always in the service of that story, not being flashy just for the sake of it.He’s a tremendously exciting artist; and as he does it all (except the lettering, which I’m pretty sure is being done by my fellow Greek lettering maestro Chris Eliopoulos) I get the special treat of watching his process unfold from layouts to finished art.

“Goblin Nation” is a huge storyline — it’s the culmination of the “Superior Spider-Man” saga. I’m actually coming on board to dialogue a couple issues of the regular series in this storyline, and let me tell you, Dan Slott is painting his masterpiece here. (With his incredible bullpen of artists, of course!) This is going to be one people never forget. Mark my words.

And with the last annual, we told the readers it would matter to the ongoing series, and it has — both in terms of Aunt May’s relationship to “Peter Parker,” and in other ways you won’t even fully see until “Goblin Nation” kicks into gear. Let me assure everyone that this Annual is tied into the main book as well. It’s a chapter of “Goblin Nation” — two, actually!