Zeb Wells and Spider-Man are old friends. Wells began his relationship with Spidey in 2002 when he wrote a few issues of Spider-Man’s Tangled Web, and had a short run on Peter Parker: Spider-Man. Their relationship grew deeper when Wells joined the Spider-Man 'Brain Trust,' a writers room that rotated duties scripting the 'Brand New Day' era of Amazing Spider-Man. This led to the launch of Avenging Spider-Man, a title that teamed Spidey up with the heroes of the Marvel Universe.
Wells and Spider-Man kept in touch, with the writer joining a rotating creative team during the 'Beyond' era of Amazing Spider-Man. Then the title relaunched in 2022, with Wells serving as the primary writer. In the past year Wells has had Spider-Man fight in a gang war, separate from his true love, reignite an old romantic relationship, and form an uncomfortable alliance with a former enemy. Wells and Spider-Man may be old friends, but sometimes the writer enjoys challenging the hero.
Thanks to Wells, Spider-Man is about to face one of his biggest challenges. Amazing Spider-Man #26 will be released in May, and Marvel has teased that it will be the most shocking issue of the title in 50 years. A tease like that naturally got us curious, so Popverse sat down to have a conversation with Wells. The writer discussed the past year of his run, the creative decisions he’s made, and the creation of the fan favorite character Rek-Rap. Wells also teased the future of the title, and why his editor want him to avoid comic conventions after his current storyline concludes.Popverse Happy anniversary. We're about a year from Amazing Spider-Man #1 (2022), the beginning of your current run. How are you feeling?
Zeb Wells: You know, I’ve learned a lot. It's been a whirlwind, but overall I'm feeling great, I've done a lot of fun stuff with a lot of great people, worked with great artists and I'm writing Spider-Man. I could not be better.Your Spider-Man run has had street level stories. We began with an arc centering on the mobster Tombstone. We've also had cosmic stuff and magic stuff, like Dark Web. Where do you feel the most at home with Spider-Man?
I think I feel most at home with the street level stuff. But then because he's such a street level character, it is fun to push him into other things. So it makes it fun to do both, to push him into the magic, and the supernatural, because he doesn't belong there.Yeah, because he's the odd man out.
Exactly, which is good for Spider-Man. He should always be the odd man out.You worked on Spider-Man during the 'Brand New Day' era. What are some of the biggest changes in your writing process since then, how you view Spider-Man, and if you think he's different now than he was then?
Well, I think I'm a much more skilled writer - I would hope. I'm more confident. I've just done it for a lot longer, and so my process is a lot more dialed in. I have more fun doing it because I am more disciplined. And that's one thing you have to learn, more discipline leads to more fun. Spider-Man, he's got some more miles on him. He's seen some more stuff, some more traumas, some different traumas.You're responsible for one of those traumas!
I am! I am!Poor Billy Connors, but he's okay now.
And Nick Spencer, who was writing it before me, added a bunch of fun trauma and story points to the soup. So there is just a lot more nuanced stuff to play with.You mentioned Nick Spencer, and that brings up an interesting subject. He kind of set a lot of the table that you've had to work with. He gave you, 'Norman Osborn is a good guy now, have fun with that.' How did you approach that Peter and Norman relationship going in?
What Nick had teased up was giving me a chance to write Peter Parker and Norman not trying to kill each other, which we haven't seen since the first hundred issues of Amazing Spider-Man. I knew I wanted to live in that world as long as possible because I don't know when I'd ever get to do that again.And how do you view Norman through all of this, and the comfort level between him and Peter?
You want to respect what came before, and try to buy a world where Peter would stick around with Norman. It makes sense to me that Peter would want to stick around in order to help Norman not go back to the Green Goblin. Peter knows how damaging that would be if he does, and if he trusts that Norman really does want to change. Peter is a very kind hearted person and he's been a jerk in the past, so I think he's always looking for the best in people.Another former rogues gallery member, but one that Peter is a lot more comfortable with - A LOT more comfortable with is Felicia Hardy. They've gotten closer during your run. Talk about getting Peter and Felicia back together. How do you see their relationship?
I see it as very fun. They're both superheroes. Felicia is clearly not his equal because she's more of just about everything that he is - she's more. It's fun to put him in a situation where he can barely keep up and to see if now that he's a little older, see if he can hang with her a little bit better.They've both changed a lot since their first relationship.
For sure, and Jed MacKay has filled in so much of her character in the meantime. It's fun to play with.I mentioned this to you before the interview, but Rek-Rap, he's the subject of one of the most popular articles I have ever written for Popverse. Talk about this Bizarro Spider-Man character and the fun that you had writing him.
It was so much fun. And it all comes from Ed McGuinness' design. He came with that character and said, "Here, I've got an idea for a character. Here it is. I think the name is Rek-Rap. Is there room for this in the story?" And I was like, "Well, there's got to be, because whatever that is, he looks like he’s too much fun to write." I went in and reread the Rek-Rap stuff that I wrote and I was kind of cracking myself up because it's so stupid. This stuff coming out of his mouth is so stupid in a funny way.And so some of those moments like when he shouts his own sound effects.
They're just so dumb. Like when he calls it web-wanging. It's just insane. I loved being able to write something that silly. You don't get to write that very often.Will we be seeing him again?
Definitely. Ed would choke me out if I didn't bring Rek-Rap back.From one spider-doppelganger to another, let's talk Ben Reilly. Why this approach with Ben? What's going on with him, and will we be seeing him again?
I think that Ben is like at the midpoint of a very interesting arc. I would never leave the book without doing more with Ben Reilly or trying to bring that story to a close. He's going to be a big part of the book going forward. And now that he's in that tower with Madelyne Pryor there, there's even talk of other books using him, which would be great fun.It was an interesting parallel with how Madelyne and Ben's stories intersected during Dark Web. As Madelyne Pryor was being redeemed, Ben was taking the opposite path. What was it like coordinating Dark Web with the X-Men creative team?
It was good because me and Gerry (Duggan) know each other from the X-Men days, and I'm no stranger to the X-Slack (editorial note: The X-Men group Slack). It was just fun to be able to work with that office again, because I love all those guys and I love doing Hellions with them, and I had a special run with all of those guys.You also brought back Roderick Kingsley and revisited the Betty Brant and Ned Leeds storyline. What was it like playing in the Hobgoblin sandbox, and how did you decide what approach to take with the Hobgoblin mystery box?
I didn't want to do a Hobgoblin story that didn't have some sort of mysterious identity, because it just didn't feel like I was doing Hobgoblin if I did. But I did it all in three issues! I reread the original Hobgoblin saga and that mystery went on for so long, so I didn't want to stretch it out. I wanted to just do the reveal quickly. So, take all of that Hobgoblin stuff and maybe just kind of take the cream of the crop and squeeze it into 3 snappy fun issues.You left Betty and Ned in a pretty rough spot. Ned is in jail, framed for the Hobgoblin's crimes. Will we be seeing them again during your run?
I would think so. There are no hard plans, but I want to use as much of Peter's social circle as possible.Over in Jed MacKay's Mary Jane and Black Cat limited series we saw Mary Jane with powers. Will the origin of her powers be addressed during your current arc, as we flash back to the missing events from last year?
Yes. We will definitely see how that came about, and what happened and see the origin of Mary Jane as a hero.This is all leading to Amazing Spider-Man #26, which you have called the most shocking event to happen to Spider-Man in 50 years. Back in 1973 Marvel killed Gwen Stacy. I know that you can't tell us what this shocking thing is, but what can you tease?
I can tease that many people will be very mad at me. I can tease that Nick (Lowe) told me not to do any comic conventions after this issue comes out (laughs). People will be upset.I know you can't tell us what happens, but can you describe how editorial reacted when you pitched this to them. What was their level of shock?
Nick's a mad man, so he was completely down. I don't know how it went when he ran it up the ladder, but I'm very excited for people to read issue 26.How long do you see yourself on Amazing Spider-Man?
Well, I see myself a little past issue 50 at the very least. Once we get there we just have to see. I'm getting busier with other things, but I'll be on this as long as I can humanly do it. If I can do it, they will have to kick me off this book. The exact length is undecided, but I'm in the long haul. I'm here until at least issue 50.
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