spider-man slice

Exclusive: Author David Liss on his new video game prequel novel, Spider-Man: Hostile Takeover

Contributed by
Aug 10, 2018

Swooping into the gaming zone for September is the highly-anticipated Spider-Man video game spawned from a new collaboration between Marvel and Insomniac Games. Dropping on September 7 exclusively for the PS4 platform, the acclaimed studio's addictive superhero amusement is already snagging stellar reviews and boasts a stable of vile villains including Rhino, Vulture, Silver Sable, Wilson Fisk, and Negative Man.

Part of this marketing team-up includes a fresh prequel novel titled, Spider-Man: Hostile Takeover, being published by Titan Books and written by New York Times-bestselling author David Liss (The Ethical Assassin, Black Panther: The Man Without Fear). The new literary adventure funnels directly into the thrilling action of the upcoming game itself and will be published on August 21.

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Liss' official prequel paperback novel finds Peter Parker caught in a precarious web while working in a cutting-edge laboratory as a young scientist trying hard to make a difference. However, the young prodigy is constantly burdened by the extreme responsibilities of his other career as the web-spinning, crime-fighting Spider-Man.

The Kingpin of Crime, Wilson Fisk, has returned to the Big Apple and has been trying to establish himself publicly as an honest entrepreneur and philanthropist. But Spider-Man knows better, and young Parker becomes obsessed with discovering Fisk’s nefarious scheme that could make the intimidating crime lord “too big to fail.”

When a deadly doppelganger wearing Spider-Man’s suit and arachnid abilities wreaks havoc in the streets of New York, the true wall-crawler must prove his innocence. With the hours ticking away and innocent lives on the line, the narrative toys with the notion of whether or not Spider-Man can overcome his fears and stop the ruthless rampage of the Blood Spider.

SYFY WIRE conversed with Liss on this lead-up book for the upcoming Spider-Man video game and how he got snared in its addictive web, learned about his fascination with Green Goblin, the intricasies of Marvel Games' groundrules, how this book dovetails into Insomniac's Spider-Man, and what perils Peter will face when he confronts the cruel Kingpin.

Spider-Man: Hostile Takeover swings into stores on August 21.

david liss

How did you become entangled in your new Spider-Man video game tie-in novel?

David Liss: Bill Rosemann, who is creative director at Marvel Games suggested my name. He edited a few things I did for Marvel comics, including my run on Black Panther and a miniseries called Mystery Men. I'd never worked on a book quite like this before, but I'm a huge Spider-Man fan, and the timing was good for me, all of which meant it was impossible to say no. It's hard to turn down the chance to tell a Spider-Man story.  

What can readers anticipate in this prequel story and how does it dovetail into September's PS4 release?

DL: This novel takes place right before the start of the game. Peter Parker has been Spider-Man for about eight years, and one of the things that sticks most in his craw is that he's never been able to make charges stick against Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin. He came close a long time ago, but Kingpin beat the charges, disappeared for a while, and now he's back, passing himself off as a benevolent businessman. He's actually trying to make himself into a kind of capitalist saint.

Peter, of course, is not convinced. I don't want to reveal anything major, but something happens that raises the stakes and makes things a whole lot more personal for Peter. He's determined to risk everything to take Kingpin down. But it's going to be trickier this time around because Kingpin isn't going to underestimate Spider-Man a second time, and now he's got some very powerful underlings working for him.

All of this leads directly into the game. The novel ends with the same scene that launches the game, and the first thing players will do in the game serves as an epilogue to the novel. We wanted to tell a story that would give many of the characters and events in the game a lot more context and resonance.

How did you approach the material and were there any restrictions from Sony on where you could take this web-slinging tale?

DL: Mostly I dealt with people at Marvel and, to a lesser extent, Insomniac. The Marvel Games team set certain ground rules particularly regarding what elements of the game I could reveal, which game characters could appear, and so on. Beyond that, I was of course limited by the realities of the game universe. Anything that happened in the novel had to make sense in terms of the game, but as long as I stuck to those rules, I had a lot of freedom.

I had two goals when I started on the novel: I wanted to tell the best story I could, and I wanted to tell a story that would work as a shared experience. I wanted readers to enjoy the game more as a result of reading the book, and gamers to find extra insight and meaning if they read Hostile Takeover after playing all or part of the game. Everyone was on board with that, and I had lots of help, insight, and guidance along the way. Most of my working life is spent on my own novels, which is a fairly solitary experience, so I love these kinds of collaborative projects where I get to brainstorm with other people and try out ideas.

Wilson Fisk figures prominently in this lead-up adventure.  What other supervillains are lurking inside the pages and what is your favorite Spidey foe?

DL: When I first started working up my idea, Marvel game me a list of characters that had been approved for the game but not yet used, and I went combing through that to look for elements what would help me get Spider-Man to where I wanted him to be at the beginning of the game. I had an idea early on that, in addition to Kingpin, I wanted Spider-Man to face two additional, and very different types of antagonists. I settled on Echo and Blood Spider, who are very different sorts of characters and who would test Peter in ways I thought would be meaningful.

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When did you first become hooked on Spider-Man and why does the character resonate with you?

DL: The first comic I ever read, when I was maybe seven years old, was a Spider-Man story. I don't remember too much about it, though I do remember being fascinated with the Green Goblin. I wanted to bring forward the things I've always found appealing about Spider-Man as a hero – mainly that he has always seemed so relatable. Spider-Man was the first superhero who was just like the reader – having trouble at school, getting into trouble at home, misunderstood, trying to do the right thing and often failing. People love him because he's human and vulnerable, and while he's got some very cool powers, he's not the strongest or fastest or most powerful hero out there, which means he's often in over his head and legitimately challenged. Spider-Man resonates because he's so recognizable.