CCI: Paul Tobin Talks Spider-Girl

At first, Anya Corazon hated when people accidentally called her Spider-Girl. These days, she doesn't mind as much and actually tries to live up to the name. This works out well because this November, the young heroine launches her very own "Spider-Girl" ongoing Marvel Comics series courtesy of writer Paul Tobin and artist Clayton Henry.

Originally appearing in "Amazing Fantasy" as the high school hero Arana and eventually starring in her own 12-issue miniseries, Anya currently appears in the pages of the "Young Allies" ongoing series alongside her friend and classmate Rikki Barnes. The first issue of that title featured Anya wearing the costume previously worn by one-time Spider-Woman Julia Carpenter. Fans discovered the reason for this during the recent "Amazing Spider-Man" arc "Grim Hunt," which officially debuted Anya as Spider-Girl. As announced during Marvel's Spider-Man-centric panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego, Spider-Man's "Brand New Day" ends this October, but he and his friends hits the Big Time in November, and the upcoming "Spider-Girl" spins directly out of this new status-quo for Marvel's Spider-family of titles.

"Spider-Girl" writer Paul Tobin spoke with CBR News about guiding the young Anya Corazon on her new journey, building a supporting cast for the title, and his love for the fantastic Mrs. Fantastic.

CBR: Paul, your new book stars Spider-Girl. However, as readers of "Grim Hunt" and "Young Allies" know, this Spider-Girl is Anya Corazon and not Julia Carpenter. What else can you say about what we'll be seeing?

PAUL TOBIN: It is indeed Anya Corazon, fresh off the events of "Grim Hunt" and starting a new life as Spider-Girl. I'll be really focusing on what being Spider-Girl means to her, what being a hero is about, and why she does it. Unfortunately for her, it's going to be a hard road. Luckily, she'll have friends to keep her sane, friends like Rikki Barnes, of course, but also a new character, Rockefeller "Rocky" Flint, and then Sue Richards will be playing a massive role in Anya's life, both as a mentor and more importantly as a friend.

Looking at the character of Anya, what do you like about her as a fan and writer?

She's at the crux of so many turning points, not only trying to determine who she is, but her place in the world, and the world itself. I can well remember the crushing weight of being a teen-who-was-also-almost-an-adult, and some aspects of being a superhero, the freedom, would have alleviated that pressure, and some other factors-that thing about responsibility, the theme that is so central to all the Spider-Family titles-would have been unbearable. Still, Anya has the energy to put on that mask, day after day. I look at her as a very admirable character.

As we mentioned earlier, this book launches out of the "Grim Hunt" storyline in "Amazing Spider-Man." How have the events of that story changed Anya? Is she any different from the person we knew before?

She's definitely more knowledgeable about what it means to be a superhero, the sacrifices it takes, the horror of the other side of the equation. Plus, she absolutely hates leopard print.

You're known for your light-hearted, fun superhero stories that hearken back to the old days of the genre. Will you be keeping that same sort of tone and atmosphere in "Spider-Girl?" What about that type of storytelling appeals to you?

It's a slightly darker tone, especially at first, when things don't go well for Anya, but there will be some of that fun, certainly. I think it's very important for superheroes to be able to laugh, because part of laughing is being human, being able to care, and without those things the characters can become very one-dimensional. And if I don't care about a character as a person, then I really don't care about fight scenes. Action can become almost mathematical; meaning, "By what equation does the hero win this fight?" rather than the far more engaging, "What is it about the hero that makes me want her to win this fight?"

Anya also appears in "Young Allies," where she shares a close friendship with Rikki Barnes. You mentioned Rikki will be appearing in this title as well. What sort of supporting cast will you be working with?

Rikki will definitely be making some appearances, and Anya will have other friends from Milton Summers, the school both she and Rikki attend, such at the aforementioned Rocky Flint. I think people like Rocky are important to a title. She's a 16-year old classmate of Anya's-no super powers, no real baggage, just a normal, everyday girl that can help ground the story and make the dramatic moments all the larger for that grounding. Beyond that, Anya and her father have a new apartment, and her neighbors will begin to be a part of her life. Plus, Susan Richards is a friend of Anya's father, and Sue will have a strong presence in the title.

Speaking of Sue Storm, she plays a big role in your "Marvel Adventures Super-Heroes" work as well. What about her do you like and why'd you decide to do what others rarely do and employ her in the greater Marvel Universe beyond the Fantastic Four?

Writer Jeff Parker is partially responsible for my interest in the character. In his own work during his run on "Marvel Adventures: Fantastic Four," Jeff played her as the clear team leader. I saw it as the end of a natural progression for her. Way back in the beginning she was incredibly demure, thinking not much beyond her hairdos and desires to please Reed and not speak out of turn. Her only real power was to disappear. Then the force fields came along and she began to play a protective role. At last she was having a voice of her own, albeit a small one. But she still, for decades, played largely a Mother Hen role: the voice of reason, caution, etc. Jeff changed all that for me. He made Sue a very proactive person, protecting people by kicking butt and taking charge. That opened all these thoughts for me that are now filtering into my own writing with me thinking in terms of what's going on in that brain of hers. What kind of life does she want with the Fantastic Four? And, more importantly, what kind of life does she lead when she steps outside her own comfort zones outside her "family" team? That's the Sue I'm interested in right now. The one who is her own person.

Artist Clayton Henry joins you on "Spider-Girl." What do you like about his style and what does it bring to the table with this story?

Power. Dynamics. A sense of structure to the world and, really, everything that Clayton does has just such an incredible sense of grandeur to it. Things feel more important.

As we mentioned, this book spins out of the events of "Amazing Spider-Man." But that said, how much does this book tie-in to that title, if at all?

Spider-Girl and Spider-Man can't help but be aware of each other. Heck, I pay more attention to people named Paul, and that's a bit more common than "Spider." Spider-Man will definitely make appearances in the book. They've run across each other a few times, and Sue Richards will help to facilitate a real friendship-a strong bond between the two. I think that Peter, in Anya, sees a lot of what he used to be. And Anya, in Spider-Man, sees a lot of what she would like to be.

You're no stranger to the Spider-Man world. You've written a number of titles starring the arachnid in various shapes and forms and realities. What about this corner of the Marvel Universe appeals to you as a writer? What do you like about the Spider-Man family of books?

I like that Peter Parker never stops being Peter Parker, even when the costume goes on. I like the freedom of telling a story with cosmic implications or telling a personal street-level story. I love the bull-doggish qualities of characters who will not quit no matter how bad things are, no matter how small their chances for success. And it's not from a sense of ignorance, either. One thing I've always liked about Peter Parker/Spider-Man is that he's smart enough to know when he's beaten but still won't walk away. It's a quality that a great core of writers such as Fred Van Lente and Dan Slott have kept at the forefront and a quality that has spread throughout the entirety of the Spider-Family books.

What are you most excited about with respect to "Spider-Girl?"

To tell stories that build over time. I love action, and I love big events, but in many ways I consider myself a character writer, and to be able to build small things into larger things over the course of time is always a treat. Anya has already gone from being a comparative stranger to an actual friend in my own mind, and I want to bring that same process to the readers.

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