Just a few months after the finale of Ultimate Spider-Man, Spidey returns to television this Saturday with the aptly titled Marvel’s Spider-Man, a new Disney XD animated series. The show has a heavy focus on Peter Parker’s high school days, but with a twist — instead of being bullied at Midtown High, he’s among other science geeks at Horizon High, run by Max Modell as principal.
Fans will recognize plenty of his classmates — as they include Miles Morales, Gwen Stacy and Anya Corazon. The show aims to pay tribute to everything from Stan Lee & Steve Ditko’s Silver Age comics that laid the groundwork for the Spidey mythology, to writer Dan Slott’s current run on the comics, while presenting a superhero series aimed directly at an all-ages audience.
TV and comics veteran Kevin Shinick is at the creative center of Marvel’s Spider-Man, serving as supervising producer and story editor. CBR spoke in-depth with Shinick about the series, and how he’s looking to distinguish it from past animated Spidey adventures — along with the briefest of teases for his upcoming Star Wars children’s book, Star Wars: The Last Jedi — Chewie and the Porgs, illustrated by Fiona Hsieh.
CBR: Kevin, there’s been a Spider-Man animated series on air pretty consistently since at least Spectacular Spider-Man in 2008, and Ultimate Spider-Man just wrapped a run after about five years. For you, what was important to accomplish with this seires, in terms of showing viewers things they haven’t seen before?
Kevin Shinick: Two things were important to me. One was to go back to the Spider-Man that I grew up loving. I love all incarnations of him, but we got to the point now where he’s a superhero all the time, we’ve had series where he’s been in S.H.I.E.L.D. and comics where he’s been in the Avengers. I wanted to go back to the angst, to be blunt. “I’m trying to get my grades, I’m trying to help Aunt May, and I’m trying to be a superhero,” because that’s what I loved about it from the get go.
I wanted to go back to that, but I also wanted to move forward in a direction that hadn’t been done before. So we pitched this idea that, kind of like Hogwarts, there is a school system set up — Horizon High, a magnet school for geniuses. He’s a science geek, Peter loves science. What I wanted to do is create an environment we hadn’t seen before. Between Midtown, Horizon and Osborn Academy, you’ve got this triumvirate of competing schools, competing heroes, and all of the stuff that goes along with that.
When I pitched to Disney, I said, “Spider-Man can be summed up in one word.” They were about to say “duality.” I said “science.” They were a little taken aback by that — but I really wanted to approach this from an authentic voice. I wanted it to be a science geek, 16 year old, who’s going to school. I wanted kids to be able to relate to this. I wasn’t great at science in school, but I was a high school kid, and I wanted to get back to the reality of being a high school kid who has the burden of becoming a superhero, as well.
That definitely creates different dynamics — and speaking of dynamics, wanted to ask about the relationship between Peter and Miles. Comics fans are used to Peter being the hero who inspired Miles, and Peter being 10 to 15 years older than Miles — here, he’s maybe a year older than Miles.
He is — a year or two.
That alone makes their relationship different that what fans are used to. What are your thoughts on that dynamic, and how they both fit into this series?
What’s great about this story is you live it through each of the characters, as opposed to just one. You go along with Peter, he’s become Spider-Man, it’s his first outing as the hero. We did the shorts because people want to know how he became Spider-Man, although like Spider-Man: Homecoming, so happy we don’t have to do that again.
What’s great about Miles for me is, the age is close, but it’s almost like an older brother. Just like in the comics, Miles looks up to Peter. It’s that same thing, but it’s almost a closer relationship. Here, it’s more like siblings. They’re good friends. Now they have a lot in common. How often can you be that close with a friend where you have the same spider-powers?
To me, a lot of this series is about relationships. If you look at kids that age, relationships are huge. It’s one of the things we focus on, because you’re leaving your family, and your friendships are really important. Peter’s relationship with Harry is invaluable. They’re best friends. His relationship with Miles is almost brotherly. In many ways, I think Harry looks out for Peter, and that’s kind of flipped with Miles. Peter’s kind of the older brother, trying to look out for Miles. Miles is more of a shoot from the hip kind of guy. Peter hasn’t even been a superhero that long, and he has to mentor another superhero. To me, that was important. Making those relationships definable and distinct.
It’s not just Miles Morales — plenty of characters who fans know play a part in this series, including Anya Corazon and Gwen Stacy. What was the like of taking elements from all over the Spidey mythos? The show uses Max Modell, something from the relatively recent past, and characters from Silver Age. How did that come together?
What’s great about it is, Spider-Man is popular for many reasons, but one core reason: Because he is kind of the everyman. Or the everyboy. As long as you stay true to that, I think you’re going to be on your mark. But I wanted to update it. I enjoy Dan Slott’s run, and I wanted to corporate as much of that as I could. That being said, the comics can be tailored to be more kid-friendly — or more relatable, I should say. That’s the whole point of this series: Take what works from the comics, but make it more relatable to this generation.
Consistently, we’ve had a Spider-Man [animated series] since Spectacular Spider-Man. There’s a reason for that. That generation is always a new generation. People love Spectacular. People love Ultimate. There will be people who love this. Everybody will have their own Spider-Man. When I grew up, I think they only had the ’60s one, which were older reruns. I think now that we keep this alive, everybody can have their own.
You mentioned Dan Slott, and he’s a consulting producer on the show. How did that come about?
I respect and enjoy a lot of the stuff, just as a fan and a reader, of his run, so I wanted to be able to use some of that, and yet make it our own. We all thought the best way to do that was to have Dan come on as a consultant. We’d do summits where we’d break story, and he was invaluable.
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