Scarlet Spider swings into Houston just in time to tangle with supervillains lurking in the shadows of the Texas metropolis. Consider yourself lucky if you have never seen the evil Salamander, who can generate and control fire.
Scarlet Spider is the star of a new Marvel Universe comic-book series that launches Wednesday with events at 8th Dimension Comics & Games and Alamo Draft House at West Oaks Mall.
Scarlet Spider/Kaine, a clone of Spider-Man, has a villainous past and is on the run to Mexico when life happens, said writer Christopher Yost, and Kaine stops in Houston. Yost of Los Angeles and illustrator Ryan Stegman of Flint, Mich., will be at Wednesday's book signings of Scarlet Spider #1 (Marvel, $3.99).
Setting up a superhero in Houston has been engaging for the Marvel duo. While they are in the city, they will be taking lots of photos and checking out sites to make their settings authentic.
"We are getting the lay of the land. The first issue really kind of sets up the character, and the more we go, the more we are going to explore," Yost said. "We really want Houston to be a character in the book. It's got personality and its own culture. And we really want to explore it."
Yost said 99 percent of everything in the Marvel Universe happens in New York. It was Marvel editorSteve Wacker's idea to send Scarlet Spider to Houston.
"He thinks that location is important in comics and that Houston is a growing area with a very large population. He just thought it would be interesting to get outside of New York City and try some new ideas," said Stegman.
Leaving New York gives Yost and Stegman extra freedom in story lines.
"We are actually going to get to create about 90 percent of the characters that probably have never been heard from before. It's all new stuff, so, basically, new readers can jump on from the beginning and not feel like they need to read a lot of other stuff to understand what's going on," Stegman said.
Spidey fans know that Kaine was a failed clone experiment that arch villain Jackal discarded to concentrate on clone No. 2, Ben Reilly. This 1990s clone story line got mixed reactions from fans as it went along.
But Kaine, who had been disintegrating all his life, tormenting Ben Reilly and working as a hired killer, got a second chance in the Spider Island story when a cure was found for his madness.
In the previous stories, Kaine had a scarred face and body, long hair and a beard. Now that he is not dying from the cellular degeneration that clouded his mind, he has to figure out how to live again and reconsider his bad-guy past, Stegman said.
"He had a rough life. He didn't have everything that Peter Parker had - family and love and all those moral lessons like 'great power and great responsibility' and all that," writer Yost said. "He had the Jackal, which is a horrible father figure."
By the end of Issue 2, Kaine decides to stay in Houston, which has a host of villains, Yost said. In addition to Salamander, Scarlet Spider also will tangle with an assassins guild from New Orleans and the famous Marvel Universe corporation Roxxon, which first appeared in a 1974 issue of Captain America The conglomerate has headquarters in Houston.
The daughter of Roxxon's president becomes a potential love interest for Kaine, who also hangs out with a singing bartender at the Four Seasons. Kaine's supporting cast includes Aracely, a 16-year-old girl who becomes his responsibility after he saves her life.
Yost and Stegman have 12 issues mapped out.
"If the fans respond, it will go on forever. The hope is people will check it out and like what they see, but in this economy it all depends on sales," Yost said.
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