Readers have been thrilling to the adventures of Marvel Comics’ Spider-Man ever since creators Stan Lee and Steve Ditko introduced him to the world in 1962’s “Amazing Fantasy” #15. Over the years they’ve watched the teenaged Peter Parker and his alter ego grow from boy to man, and next year the character will celebrate both his 50th anniversary and the publication of the 700th issue of his monthly series, “Amazing Spider-Man.”
That’s great for fans that have been reading Spider-Man’s adventures for a long time, but every year new and younger readers discover the character through other avenues including cartoons, video games and movies. Next year, the Spidey film franchise will be rebooted and reimagined with a new film, “The Amazing Spider-Man” and Marvel Comics wants to have a book ready in time for its release to serve as an introduction to Spider-Man for new readers while also entertaining long term fans of the character. That comic is May’s “Spider-Man: Season One,” an original graphic novel from writer Cullen Bunn (“Fear Itself: The Deep,” “The Sixth Gun”) and artist Neil Edwards (“Fantastic Four,” “Herc”). CBR News spoke with Edwards about his work on the project, the daunting task of reimagining an icon and his affinity for the character.
CBR News: Neil, if my research is correct, you’ve only drawn Spider-Man in guest appearances like “Fantastic Four” #574 and you’ve also never done an original graphic novel before. Did you accept the “Spider-Man: Season One” assignment simply because it would be a chance to draw a long form Spidey story and do an OGN, or were there other factors involved as well?
Neil Edwards: I’ve drawn Spidey before, but only really for the UK market. One of my first jobs when I was in university was a “Spectacular Spider-Man” cover for Marvel UK, which was reprints from Marvel US. Most recently I drew him in “Fantastic Four.” The idea of a OGN was very daunting especially as it’s Spider-man and it’s retelling his origin, but I jumped at the chance. I love the character and hope I’ve done him justice (fingers crossed).
As an artist, what do you find most interesting and appealing about the character of Spider-Man?
I think it’s his gymnastic and acrobatic feats, I love drawing them and the New York shots; can’t get enough of drawing buildings. It was great showing Pete at such a young stage in his career as Spidey, too.
What stages of Spidey’s career will we see in “Spider-Man: Season one?” Do you get a chance to draw much of Pete and Spidey before Uncle Ben’s death? And if so, how differently does Pete/Spidey move and act before and after Uncle Ben’s death?
Absolutely, we really show the connection between Ben and Pete, how much fun Ben was and how he was a rock for Pete as he’s such an outsider in high school. You also see a progression in Peter’s confidence in posture and style as he comes to term with his newfound powers.
You and Steve Ditko have very different styles, but from the “Spider-Man: Season One” preview art I’ve seen it looks like you were inspired by the way Ditko portrayed Peter Parker as a skinny kid even after he got his spider powers. Did Ditko or other artists influence other aspects of your work as well? Or did you want to go with a more modern day look since your primary task in the book is to present Spider-Man’s origin to new readers?
I tried to research as much as I could before starting the pages and found all my old “Spider-Man” issues to go though. I love how Ditko gave Peter a longer face.
Other artists I loved while researching were John Romita Sr & Jr for storytelling and composition along with incredible energy. Also loved Gil Kane’s Spider-Man work and Stuart Immonen did incredible work on “Ultimate Spider-Man.”
We’ve talked a little bit about Peter and a little bit about the look of the book, but let’s shift to discuss the supporting players. Spidey and his civilian friends and family first appeared in the ’60s. Since style and looks have changed quite a bit since then, how did you update the the looks of Peter’s friends and family? Did you take an approach similar to what Mark Bagley did on “Ultimate Spider-Man” with things like a more active and less frail Aunt May? Or did you really only change the clothes and hairstyles of these characters?
I tried to update them a little, but keep them clearly recognizable. I especially looked at fashion for the high school sections of the story. I also updated Pete’s hair as he gains confidence with his new powers.
Spidey’s villains are just as important in his life as his friends and family. Who are some of the villains you get to draw in “Spider-Man: Season One.” What was it like bringing them to life?
Its amazing to work with such classic characters, but i can’t say who the villain is as yet, you’ll have to wait ’til May!
Fair enough. Let’s talk about another important character in Spider-Man’s world then, the city of New York. You’ve drawn the city in books like “Fantastic Four,” and most recently “Herc,” and it seems like an environment you’re very comfortable portraying. Which qualities of the city speak to you most as an artist? Do you want your New York to feel real, mythic, or both?
I really want it to be grounded and have that massive feel I certainly got when I’ve visited NY in the past. It’s the best city in the world and definitely a character. It’s also been nice to draw Forest Hills, Queens which give a lovely contrast to Manhattan.
What was it like working with writer Cullen Bunn on “Spider-Man: Season One?” What can readers expect from his script and what did you enjoy most about bringing it to life?
Cullen is wonderful to work with. His scripts are full of levels and incredible emotion, which I hope I have been able to convey. There’s lots of comedy too, and tons of action!
When you add it all together, how would you describe your experience drawing an original graphic novel for the American market?
Its been an absolute joy. I feel incredibly privileged to work on Spider-Man. Cullen, [editors] Stephen Wacker, Elizabeth Pyle and Rachel Pinnelas are wonderful to work with. It’s also been one of my highlights to work with one of my favorites on inks, Karl Kesel. He’s amazing!
This has been a real highlight in my career and a dream come true. I hope everybody likes the book and would love to draw Spidey again! Make Mine Marvel!