Fantastic Farewell: Dan Slott Explores His ‘Fantastic Four’ Legacy
Ahead of his final issue on ‘Fantastic Four,’ Dan Slott pinpoints the heart of 'The Reckoning War,' breaks down his favorite moments from his run, and more.
Next month, writer Dan Slott will wrap up his FANTASTIC FOUR run with issue #46, before moving on to his all-new SPIDER-MAN series with Mark Bagley in October. As he prepares to say goodbye to Marvel’s First Family, he took some time to reflect on his four-year run with the team, his favorite moments and guest stars, what he hopes will remain after he’s gone, and more.
“I always try when I wrap up a book to put the toys back in the box. I don’t want to burden the next team with stuff they don’t want to play with. That said, I will murder someone if they harm those Grimm children,” he said with a laugh. “I will hunt them down. Not Jo and Nikki! They’re strange, militant young people who need love.”
MARVEL.COM: Let’s talk a little bit about your final big story arc, "The Reckoning War." You’ve been telling me about "The Reckoning War" for as long as I’ve known you, and I’ve known you since I was in my early 20s and am now 40, just for context. I loved the actual story. It was amazing. Did it live up to your expectations? Is that possible? How did the final story change?
DAN SLOTT: It was stressful. You build up expectations for this entire grand plan. The Watcher, Uatu, discovering that the Reckoning, the Prosilicans, were back was always going to be the heart of “The Reckoning War.” What the Prosilicans’ plan was over time has changed. You’ve been in the Marvel retreats, so you know how sometimes all sorts of crazy wrenches can happen. Somebody over in THOR or GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY has used a major piece and blown it up, or changed a character and you didn’t see it coming. Now you can’t do your original plan, or you have to rebuild this piece in order to get close to your original plan. We’re a company. There are all these different servants and masters. Part of your job is to dance between the raindrops and tell these stories.
There was a draft of “The Reckoning War” that everybody had signed onto that one day changed. Okay, I’m going to go with the flow, I’m going to do this now. The core concept with the Prosilicans and the Reckoning and the Watchers always stayed the same, but all sorts of things happened differently.
We did a Spider-Man story called “Ends of the Earth.” In a Free Comic Book Day issue, Madame Web prognosticates what’s going to happen and you see a sneak preview of “Ends of the Earth” that’s Spider-Man, Agent Venom and Black Cat in a fight against the Sinister Six. Well…Mark Waid wants to use Black Cat as a DAREDEVIL love interest, and that’s happening now. Rick Remender is in charge of VENOM and he has a massive storyline that’s going to come out at the same time. Suddenly it becomes Black Widow, Silver Sable and Spider-Man fighting the Sinister Six. It’s not like you’ve been screwed over; it’s just the way the game is played.
You have to go with that kind of flow and alter your plans. Sometimes, you’re in the room and [Brian Michael] Bendis has crazy, long-term plans for the Avengers, and [Jonathan] Hickman has plans for the FF, and you’re the guy coming in the room saying, “Guys, for the next two years, Spider-Man is Doctor Octopus!” [Laughs] They don’t want to write Doctor Octopus in their story – that’s going to be weird! They’re going to have to take three panels out of every issue to explain that’s Doctor Octopus. Then you get into bargaining. There’s always those kinds of things. When you’re a writer at Marvel, you know that’s part of the assignment.
So yeah, for “The Reckoning War,” there were going to be elements in it, and then there weren’t. At the end of the day, it’s the Watcher, it’s the Prosilicans, it’s She-Hulk – except now She-Hulk is friends with Jack of Hearts, so he’s coming along. You play with all the pieces you get, old and new. Jack of Hearts was great to play with. There was a flash forward to “The Reckoning War” in my SHE-HULK with all these characters and none of them was Jack of Hearts. That’s okay. I liked what [writer] Rainbow [Rowell] was doing with Jack of Hearts over in SHE-HULK and asked if I could use him and she said go for it. That was a lot of fun.
The answer is that it’s a monkey’s paw. When you write your big stories for Marvel, your wish gets to come true, but just not the way you want it. If you’re good with that, you will have a nice, long career in comics. That’s part of the fun of this is the puzzle. So maybe you get Spider-Man, but now he’s unmarried. Or you get The Thing, but he’s a millionaire. That’s okay. At the end of the day, he’s still Ben Grimm from Yancy Street and you’re still having fun.
MARVEL.COM: What was your favorite new character or concept that you introduced over the course of your run?
DAN SLOTT: Oooooh…that’s tricky! I liked Victorious. I liked giving Doom a right-hand woman. Chris Cantwell did some great stuff with Victorious on his DOCTOR DOOM book. I love turning on the Marvel game and there’s Victorious. I loved having her flirt with Johnny, this decadent American pretty boy, and smack him and constantly betray him. She dearly loves Doom, she loves him so much, he’s the father figure of her country. I loved adding Victorious to the mix.
Of course, there’s Jo and Nikki. Jo-Venn and N’kalla, but they’re Jo and Nikki. They’re on Yancy Street now, they’re Jo and Nikki! I loved adding them. Gosh, they were so much fun.
I liked creating an entirely new super hero team on a totally different planet. The Unparalleled! I love that we did one issue where they were on the cover. I had the best time working with these guys.
MARVEL.COM: Who was your favorite guest star?
DAN SLOTT: When I was writing AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, I was always having the FF show up; I couldn’t help it. Or just Johnny showing up was always fun. The flipside was writing FANTASTIC FOUR and loving whenever Spider-Man would drop in for a heart-to-heart or to help look after the kids.
MARVEL.COM: Can you take a moment to talk about your artistic collaborators?
DAN SLOTT: We had a billion artists on FF, and they were all incredible. Working with Sean Izaakse on the two-part Hulk/Thing fight was amazing. Working with Adam Hughes on the bachelor party in the wedding issue was amazing. Having Aaron Kuder do the Doom fight in Latveria. There were so many people. Paco Medina! Any time he was on the book, I had a blast. RB Silva was gorgeous. I got to work with so many talented people on this book and tell so many stories about these characters I dearly love.
Marvel.com: What do you hope is most remembered or taken from your time with FANTASTIC FOUR?
DAN SLOTT: I always try when I wrap up a book to put the toys back in the box. I don’t want to burden the next team with stuff they don’t want to play with. That said, I will murder someone if they harm those Grimm children. [Laughs] I will hunt them down. Not Jo and Nikki! They’re strange, militant young people who need love.
When Robert Kirkman was wrapping up IRREDEEMABLE ANT-MAN, he came to me and asked if I could put Eric O’Grady in AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE. He wanted a life raft. He thought Eric was the most killable character in the Marvel Universe – who needs another Ant-Man? I said as long as I was on the book, I would keep him alive. And then I left the book. But we all have that. I’ve seen Donny Cates almost moved to tears in retreats; when he wrote DOCTOR STRANGE, he introduced Bats the ghost dog, and there hasn’t been a team on the book since that Donny hasn’t physically accosted saying, “Keep Bats!” [Laughs] We all have this love for these things we bring to life.
When I was on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, I did a storyline where Aunt May’s husband, Jay Jameson, was dying of an incurable disease, and that was a plot point in the soap opera. They had to let him die. He’d been around the book for about half a decade. Mark Waid created him during the "Brand New Day" era. I married him in issue #600. As of the storyline where he was dying, he had been in the book well over 100 issues – that’s a good run! But when I was walking people through the story, there was a “Noooooooo!” from across the room, and it was Mark Waid. [Laughs] He thought he had gifted the Marvel Universe with J. Jonah Jameson’s father, who was married to Aunt May, who was going to be around for years to come, and I killed him.
We all have that. So it’s going to break my heart if anything ever happens to the Grimm children. Oh my God. [Laughs] I don’t know how I’d deal with that! Somebody could kill Victorious tomorrow and I’d be fine. I could flick a cosmic wand and she’d be back. I could do that in my sleep. But with the Grimm children? Feels weird. They’re innocent civilians, not super villains; it would be harder for them to come back. Leave them alone! And don’t age them! Leave them where they are!
FANTASTIC FOUR #46, which will conclude Dan Slott's run on Marvel's First Family, releases on Wednesday, August 24th.
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