Marvel Comics Writer Dan Slott Defends Zeb Wells’ Abysmal ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ Run: “Storytellers Have To Take Risks And Try Things That Haven’t Been Done With That Character Before”
In what may be best described as a case of ‘birds of a feather flock together’, Marvel Comics and Spider-Man line scribe Dan Slott has pushed back against fans’ overwhelmingly negative reception given to Zeb Wells’ currently ongoing and absolutely abysmal Amazing Spider-Man run, as he believes that the “risks” taken within will ultimately benefit rather than damage the web-slinger’s reputation.
To anyone with even a passing knowledge of the current comic book landscape, it’s no secret that Wells’ run on Amazing Spider-Man is considered by fans to be one of the wall-crawler’s worst runs of all times.
After taking over the title in 2021 following a 74-issue run by writer Nick Spencer and artist Ryan Ottley, Wells immediately began to run riot across the Spider-Man mythos.
His first casualty was Ben Reilly, the clone of Peter Parker and perhaps better known to readers as the Scarlet Spider.
As part of Wells’ Beyond storyline, Ben was brought back into the webs proper to fill in as New York’s resident Spider-Man while Peter was temporarily hospitalized.
However, by the end, the optimistic hero who had learned to accept his existence as a clone was gone. In his place was a man who, after being exposed to a memory-destroying substance, not only turned to blaming Peter for ‘stealing’ his life, but became obsessed with taking it back by any means necessary.
Following the birth of ‘Chasm’, the title would reboot, this time with Wells at the forefront of its new direction – and unsurprisingly, the hits just kept on coming.
Immediately moving to undo all the groundwork laid by Spencer towards undoing the infamous One More Day storyline, Wells kicked off the sixth volume of Amazing Spider-Man by suddenly having Peter and Mary-Jane broken up for the umpteenth time.
This particular plot point was made even more insulting by the fact that not only had Mary-Jane been shown to already be in a relationship with another man – Paul – but that the entire reason behind her break-up was Peter was a time dilation issue caused by Marvel’s version of the Mayan god of mischief, as created by Wells himself, Wayeb.
At the same time, Wells attempted further ‘shock value’ by building upon the ‘purifying’ of Norman Osborn’s soul seen in Spencer’s run and having the former supervillain become not only a close ally to his former arch-nemesis, but also his ‘gadget man’, constantly developing new technologies to aid the hero in his fight against crime.
However, in light of very basic comic book history, few fans have been swayed by this development. Rather, most are just waiting for the eventual moment when Norman ‘shockingly’ reverts to his villainous ways and inevitably stabs Peter in the back.
Then there’s the books currently ongoing storyline.
Remember the aforementioned ‘cleansing’ of Norman’s sins? Well, thanks to Wells, Kraven the Hunter, and a magical spear, these sins are now within Peter Parker, essentially turning him into ‘The Spider-Man Who Laughs’.
But like Norman’s own reverse heel-turn, this arc has been met with eye-rolls rather than applause, as to fans, this story is nothing but Wells’ latest, desperate swing to do ‘something different’ with his run (though it should be noted similar ‘Peter Parker lets his emotions get the best of him, dons the black suit, and goes on a rampage’ tales have played out in the Back in Black and Grim Hunt arcs).
A mish-mash of cheap shock events, subverted expectations, poor writing, and wild character assassination, Wells’ run on Amazing Spider-Man is, simply put, not good.
Further, its continued publication serves only to hurt the reputation of not just Wells, but the publisher as a whole: After all, if this is the level of care with which they treat their flagship character’s main series, why would readers expect anything more from the rest of their books?
Yet, for some reason, Marvel’s own staff, particularly the Spider-Editorial team, are determined to defend this run with their dying breath.
Case in point: former Amazing Spider-Man and Superior Spider-Man scribe Dan Slott.
Addressing the backlash to Wells’ run on September 23rd via his personal Twitter account, Slott asserted, “It’s impossible to ruin/destroy a longstanding legacy character. If an iconic character’s been around for 50+ years, they’re indestructible. Whatever current aspect/storyline displeases you as a fan can be hand-waved away down the road. The character you [heart] will be fine.”
“‘But what if I don’t want to wait that long?'” the original Spider-Verse writer then asked rhetorically before going on to answer, “If a legacy character has been around for 50+ years, chances are good that there are hundreds (if not thousands) of stories about them in various media you haven’t read/seen/experienced yet. More than enough to tide you over.”
Proceeding to address the supposed critical refrain that “‘But the current storyline hurts and disrespects the character! I’m defending them!'”, Slott explained, “For a character to stay vital/fresh, especially one that’s been around for 50+ years, storytellers have to take risks and try things that haven’t been done with that character before…”
“…and whenever that happens, whatever ways those stories deviate from the norm will inevitably upset a number of the hardcore fans,” he added. “Conversely, they could also excite other parts of the base and catch the attention of new fans. These deviations are necessary time to time.”
“W/o these wild swings and stories that take big risks, there’d be the danger of the property growing stale and predictable,” Slott then argued. “And, again, for a character to have survived so long, there’s the knowledge a reboot, reinvention, or hand-wave could put all the toys back in the box.”
“Despite any histrionics, there’s always the knowledge that the fanbase that existed before you felt the exact same way over a previous story or status quo. And, guess what, that character we all know and love is still here and still thriving,” he concluded his initial thoughts. “They’re going to be okay”
Offering a brief post-script, Slott would ultimately declare, “Also…If you think a storyline has ‘broken’ your favorite character for ‘all time’, and you can’t come up w/ an idea for a story that’d fix that, then your fan powers are lacking. Because I guarantee you, there are hundreds (if not thousands) of fans who can come up w/ a fix.”
Yet, this would not be the last comments the writer would offer on the situation.
His thread met with the question from Twitter user @TheSorkDogg, “Why do you think it is that so few comic book characters age over time? I think that’s what makes Judge Dredd comics so great and keeps the characters fresh and interesting. Spider-Man, Superman or Batman would really benefit from becoming older in their books,” Slott affirmed, “Every generation deserves to meet the characters in their prime.”
“Yet every generation feels that the characters should grow old with ‘me’,” he added. “The first sentiment is the more important one.”
A few minutes later, @shadowdog616 would criticize, “Marve managed to [destroy a longstanding legacy character] with Spider-Man when they made One More Day. The Amazing Spider-Teenager forever.”
In turn, Slott would dismissively counter, “Impossible. Because a fan told me Marvel had already managed to do that with the Clone Saga.”
“And when I got in my time machine, another fan told me Marvel managed to do that with the Death of Gwen Stacy,” he further condescended. “And so on. It’s AMAZING how many times Marvel has managed to do this.”