As Amazing Spider-Man rounds the corner of the half-year mark and drops the Brand New Day moniker from its cover, Newsarama is talking to some of the people behind the comic's creation about how it's gone so far and what the thrice-monthly title has coming up in future issues.
In the first part of our discussion with writer Marc Guggenheim yesterday, we asked about his thoughts on the reaction so far to Brand New Day, as well as previewing the story in his upcoming issue #574 about Flash Thompson that hits in October.
Today we continue our conversation with Guggenheim by discussing another issue he's got coming out in October: Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1. As readers of Brand New Day have seen during the last few months, the new character named Jackpot isn't giving up her secret identity anytime soon. Well... at least not until this Annual by Guggenheim. We talked to the writer about the big reveal of Jackpot's identity and asked Guggenheim whether he's part of the so-called Spider-Man "brain trust" for the long haul.
Newsarama: From the looks of solicitations, the Amazing Spider-Man Annual reveals the answer to an ongoing mystery, doesn't it?
Marc Guggenheim: It does. At the beginning of Brand New Day, we introduced a new character named Jackpot. She has red hair and likes to say "tiger." And her code name is evocative of the first appearance of Mary Jane. Ever since then, we've been teasing with the idea that this is Mary Jane in disguise and we've been teasing her identity. At the end of my first arc, Spider-Man went to the home of the woman he thought was Jackpot, and the woman was like, "I have no idea what you're talking about."
NRAMA: So in the Amazing Spider-Man Annual, we'll get the answer to Jackpot's identity?
MG: Right. The Annual will clear up that mystery. We'll actually give the readers a legitimate answer to all the questions we've raised concerning Jackpot. So the Annual is really your one-stop shop for all the answers about the character.
NRAMA: Jackpot is central to the Secret Invasion: Spider-Man mini-series coming up by Brian Reed. Has he been working with you to make sure this fits with the Annual?
MG: Brian has been involved with the brain trust at every stage during the plotting of his Secret Invasion tie-in. I looked over all of his drafts, which were amazing, by the way. He's a really phenomenal writer and he wrote some great, great scripts. And we've given notes here and there, like, "you can't really say this," or "actually, the answer's that." So I don't think Brian's storyline spoils anything in the annual. But we're certainly working very closely with him to make sure everything was tracking.
NRAMA: Between his mini-series and how he's said she's going to bring Spider-Man's universe into the Marvel Universe, and how you've written her and dedicated this Annual to her, it sounds like she's a pretty important character for this series. Is that an accurate statement?
MG: Yeah, we put a lot of new characters on the board at the beginning of Brand New Day, and I think there are certain ones that have jumped out "louder" than others. Any character that got their introduction at the beginning of Brand New Day has a relatively high profile by virtue of that introduction. Jackpot is certainly one those.
One of the reasons we wanted to introduce a character like Jackpot is, when we sat down at the very first Spider-Man summit and discussed Brand New Day, we talked about various elements that the Spidey books had historically had that had kind of gotten lost in the shuffle or sort of gotten short shrift over the past several years. And one of them was the notion of other street-level vigilante characters, kind of like the Prowler or even Black Cat -- just the notion of these other costumed people occupying Spidey's world. There just haven't been a lot of new characters along those line recently. So we wanted to kind of kick it old school, as it were, and get back to that. For us, that was part of the allure of Jackpot, in addition to the whole mystery concerning her identity.
NRAMA: That's also something that's been around in Spider-Man comics a lot over the year, isn't it? That idea of a mysterious identity?
MG: Yeah. It's a sort of a long-standing tradition, although typically it's focused on the other side of things, like Green Goblin. Dan Slott actually had the idea of this character that may or may not be Mary Jane, and we all thought it was great and decided to run with it.
NRAMA: But you've known from the beginning whether or not this was MJ, haven't you?
MG: Oh yeah. We've known from the beginning. Honestly, I will say, every character who we've introduced -- in terms of characters whose identities you don't know, so I guess we're talking about Jackpot and Menace -- we know exactly who those characters are. We've always known. I'm a big believer that, and I think I speak for the whole brain trust when I say this, it's a lousy comic book convention whose identity is concealed without knowing what that identity is. And you've really got to do your homework ahead of time. In modern comics, you have to know who the character is.
But yes, we've known all along. And it's been a long time, actually. I think the first Spider-Man summit was November of two years ago, and this whole thing -- this story with Jackpot that comes full circle in the Annual -- that was stuff we talked about way back at the very first summit. So for me, it's gratifying to see storylines that we concocted two years ago finally come to fruition. For me, it's been a long time coming.
NRAMA: But one of the most interesting things about her is not only this mystery, but the idea that she might be Mary Jane. Is there a fear that this character is all of the sudden not going to be as interesting anymore once you expose her secret identity? Or is it a case of, you have to do it at some point?
MG: Well, you do have to do it at some point. You can't tease forever. I will say that I think the answer to that question, on a case by case basis, depends upon what the answer is. Depending upon what the secret identity is, it can be anti-climactic, or it could open up a whole host of new stories. And that's really what you want to do. You want to answer the mystery in such a way that readers go, "Oh my God! I can't wait to read more about this and see what the next story is!"
NRAMA: So... are you saying that's what's going to happen in this case, with Jackpot's secret identity?
MG: Yeah, I actually think, I will say in this particular case we really nailed that pretty nicely.
NRAMA: Now in the solicitations, Walter Declun is mentioned. Is he an important part of the mystery?
MG: I wouldn't say he's an important part of the mystery as much as he's an important part of the story. Here's the thing, just from a purely mechanical perspective. All I went into the Annual knowing was that I basically had to reveal Jackpot's secret identity. But you still need a villain to fight. And I actually wrote this story during the writer's strike last year. I wrote the script for the annual then. And being on strike at the time and having these negative feelings against these corporations, I was sort of interested in the subject of corporate malfeasance and unbridled greed. And as I was thinking about that, I remembered the character of Walter, who I had created for my Wolverine Civil War arc. And I thought that would be an interesting person to throw into the mix here with Jackpot. One of the things we've established with Jackpot is once she gets someone in her teeth, she really has a tough time letting go. So I thought the notion of fighting this corporate bad guy who existed in this moral gray area was an interesting person for Jackpot to go up against.
NRAMA: Obviously, people think the name "Jackpot" and her use of the term "tiger" have been clues to her identity. Are there other clues that we could find if we went back and looked?
MG: Honestly, there are clues all over the place, because, like I said, we've always known who Jackpot is. There are clues in Brian's story, there are clues in Dan Slott's Paper Doll arc, and I would say that whenever Jackpot and/or Mary Jane have appeared during Brand New Day, we've figured out a way to drop one hint or another. So yeah, there are hints everywhere. So comb your backissues and trade paperbacks and take a look once you're at the Annual.
NRAMA: How's it been working with Mike McKone?
MG: He's amazing. I was so thrilled to get him for this. He's an outstanding artist -- just one of the best. I think he's done a spectacular job with this particular Annual. There are a lot of moments in the Annual that really require some ambitious visuals, in some cases because they're really dramatic moments. Part of it's just good old fashioned superhero action. But because part of it is the exploration of this secret identity, there are a few talking head scenes. One of the things Mike has done a really job of in this Annual is rendering those talking head scenes and making them really interesting visually so you don't just feel like it's talking heads. So he really made me look good here.
NRAMA: We've talked about the issues you have coming up, but when you mention that you wrote these scripts awhile ago and with the nature of the rotation on this title, it's hard to tell if you're still writing Spider-Man. We know you're busy with your television and movie commitments. Are you on Amazing Spider-Man for the long haul?
MG: I totally am still on it for the long haul. I love whenever a Spider-Man script comes up in my script rotation. I'm always really happy when I'm writing Spider-Man. The guys are great. The artists are great. I'm feeling the groove. I think I'm happier with the work I've done on Spider-Man than any comic book work I've done since or prior to it. It's a heck of a lot of fun.