Fans of Marvel Comics’ Spider-Woman have been waiting almost four years for the character’s ongoing series to become a reality. The possibility of an ongoing “Spider-Woman” series by writer Brian Michael Bendis and frequent collaborator artist Alex Maleev was first mentioned back in 2005, but the character’s abduction and replacement as part of the Skrulls’ “Secret Invasion” prevented the series from becoming a reality.
Well Spider-Woman fans, “Secret Invasion” is over and your wait is too (almost)! This April, fans will finally find Bendis and Maleev’s “Spider-Woman” #1 in their local comic shop. Before that, though, fans will find a version of the issue in a different place – Apple’s iTunes store. In this version, the characters and adventures will come to life with the added dimensions of sound and motion. CBR News spoke with Bendis and Maleev about the “Spider-Woman” digital motion comic and what fans can expect from them.
The birth and evolution of digital motion comics is something Bendis, Marvel’s Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada, and Marvel’s Publisher Dan Buckley have been watching with great interest. “We were wondering what the ‘language’ of comics would become, free from the confines of paper. Then the question became, which properties?” Bendis remarked. “What’s going on at Marvel that would benefit the most from this? It was great to do stuff like Stephen King’s ‘N,’ or take stuff that’s already existing and wiggle it around, but what really needed to be done was that someone had to roll up their sleeves and make an in-continuity, ongoing series with an iconic character that is written and drawn for both the digital motion and print mediums at the same time.
“I think the ‘Watchmen’ digital motion comics are fantastic, but really that stuff wasn’t meant to wiggle. So as great as an achievement as it is– and it is an achievement, I’m going to buy the Blu-Ray, it’s still hampered by the fact that none of that work was created for that,” Bendis continued. “So with ‘Spider-Woman,’ we’re looking at what can be accomplished when you’re completely unfettered by any confines of the medium. Fans of Spider-Woman and fans of me and Alex are going to get an opportunity to see work accomplished in two different mediums simultaneously. You’re going to to see the motion comic, which has a different sort of experience to it than the printed comic that will be coming out afterwards.”
Bendis feels the intense emotions Jessica Drew, AKA Spider-Woman, feels over being abducted by the Skrulls and impersonated by their leader Queen Veranke during “Secret Invasion,” is one of the main reasons why “Spider-Woman” was an ideal series to be done as a digital motion comic. “Sometimes I see these motion comics and I’m interested in them but I’m not feeling anything. And Jessica’s story is so angry. She comes out of ‘Secret Invasion’ pissed-off and that rage is so attractive to write and very easy to get across in both the print and digital motion mediums. I thought, ‘There’s a good place to start.’ Let’s start with that rage. Let’s start with ‘I’m fucking pissed off.’ Let’s get that across, and from there we’ll get into her psyche and see what else we can do,” Bendis explained. “Also, we can be in her head as she’s experiencing new things, and her abduction by the Skrulls means she’s new to the Marvel Universe. So everything she is seeing is new, and her point of view is unique. All these things made the digital motion medium such an attractive experiment for her ongoing.”
Doing “Spider-Woman” as both a print and digital motion comic was also attractive because it was another way for Bendis and Maleev to give their latest collaboration a distinctive feel. “We both knew we were going to do this book either way, but the attitude then became, ‘Now you’re talking!’ This isn’t just something you’ll compare either positively or negatively to our run on ‘Daredevil.’ It’s something completely different; a grand attempt at something,” Bendis remarked. “Also, Alex is the perfect guy for this. He did the Stephen King’s ‘N’ digital motion comics, and a lot of people don’t know that most of ‘Daredevil’ was produced digitally, years before anybody else was doing it. Alex is the artist who may bridge where we are to where we’re going because of his technical know how and artistic achievements.”
Because of it’s digital motion aspects, Bendis is writing “Spider-Woman” in a completely different style from his other books. “I had just written the pilot to ‘Powers,’ and I had written a pilot for HBO. So I was writing in this television motif, and when it was time to start writing these things, I thought, ‘Well I could go back to comics script format, but me and Alex have been working together for almost 10 years and know our comic book bones pretty well.’ So I focused this material as episodic scripts.” Bendis explained. “I’ll notate what would happen in the comic book. Like there will be side notes saying, ‘This will be a double page spread.’ or ‘This is a half page spread.’ But I’ve really focused on the language of these ‘mobi-sodes’ So it’s written very differently. I’ve written ten episodes so far.”
As Bendis mentioned, “Spider-Woman” is Alex Maleev’s second digital motion project. It’s the added dimensions of sound and movement that make the digital motion format so compelling for the artist. “It’s an enormous challenge, as we have to fit the animation within certain borders,” Maleev said. “I don’t expect smooth sailing, but as everything before, we always managed to pull it off. I am looking forward to solving the puzzle.”
Maleev feels that there isn’t just one or two particular elements that made “Spider-Woman” right for the digital motion medium. “As an artist, I look at it from a visual point of view, her costume and colors, guest appearances, locations, time, weather, all of it will be interesting to animate,” the artist stated. “It’s not the character alone, it’s the whole project that seems right for the job.”
The “Spider-Woman” digital motion comics are being designed with the intent to move, and providing the art for them is a slightly different process then creating art for a standard print comic. “The episodes are broken down in storyboard format and drawn in pieces, or layers. The backgrounds are separate and some will be in 3-D,” Maleev explained. “More or less what I’d do for the regular comic, but this time I have to think of how to animate it and keep the viewer intrigued.”
To create the “Spider-Woman” digital motion comics Maleev has to be more than just an artist, he also has to wear the hat of a director as well. “It is difficult, because the responsibilities are greater. I am confortable providing a comic book on a monthly basis and still have time off,” Maleev stated. “This project will keep me swamped and grounded for a long, long time. But being finally behind the camera and yelling ‘action’ is the cherry on top of the cake. (It’s not as romantic as you imagine; we sit in a studio full of computers and glare at the screen for hours).”
Maleev is currently enjoying the process of bringing both the print and digital motion “Spider-Woman” comics to life. The artist graduated with a print making major and still loves that medium, but if the digital motion medium picks up, the artist has no qualms about making the move to just producing digital comics. “The appetite will come with the meal,” Maleev said. “We are living in a digital era, and not having comics be a part of it is a crime.”
Producing a digital motion comic isn’t just about writing, doing the art, and animating it. You have to consider sound aspects like background music and voiceover work as well. And both Bendis and Maleev are actively involved in the audio production aspects of “Spider-Woman.” “You just can’t hand it over and go,’ Hope it works out,'” Bendis said. “I’m in. I’m playing all the parts– no, I’m joking. Actors are being cast and it’s very exciting. I’m on the server with all the animation and audio and we’re going in next week to get a lot of those aspects done.”
Bendis knows that some fans don’t consider digital motion comics as truly being “comics,” and the writer agrees with them. “These are something else. There is something different happening here. There is a different language being produced here, It’s not animation and it’s not comics,” the writer remarked. “It’s something else. It’s the digital version of our work, and it’s being produced in a different way, and the journey of what that means, we’ll see together whether it’s on this project or something else.
“It has a capability of being a completely new art form, and I think it’s up to the artists to figure out where and what that is. We’re rolling up our sleeves in attempt to find out what that is,” Bendis continued. “We’re very happy that there are people already out there who have done or are trying similar work and showing us what works and what doesn’t. I don’t want to come off as if we’re pioneering something, because people have already started doing this, but what’s really important is that this is the first ongoing, in-continuity monthly Marvel comic in this format.”
Bendis is also aware that having “Spider-Woman” produced as both a monthly print and digital motion comic might makes some people a little uneasy. “I know some retailers and some book store owners will see these and get panicky. They shouldn’t though, because what’s going on is an attempt to get more people into your store, not less,” the writer stated. “What’s going on here is that, when we we’re kids, you used to go into 7-11 and there were comic books and then you’d get hooked. Well, we’re all hooked, and we need to hook people who aren’t coming into comic stores…and this is where they are. They’re not at 7-11. They’re on iTunes. When they go to check out their music, there we’ll be. And hopefully we will generate some new interest.”
The writer also doesn’t want people who prefer printed comics to feel worried or cheated. Both the print and digital motion editions of “Spider-Woman” will be identical in terms of plot and story. “If you just want to read the comic, it’s coming, and it’s going to be as gorgeous and cool as you hoped it would be, but it’s also being produced as this motion comic, or mobi-sodes. Those are going to be a different way to experience the story. One will be far superior to the other, but I’m not sure which. You’ll decide,” Bendis said. “One thing is for certain though, Alex’s work on this is amazing and I’m really excited for you to see his work in this way.”