Catching Up with Chip Zdarsky, From Sex Criminals to Spider-Man

Good news, Brimpers: "Sex Criminals" is back on comic book stands today, after an absence of nearly 10 months. The beloved sci-fi sex comedy has been off Image Comics' schedule as series creators Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky have gotten multiple issues completed, and the book's fourth arc is slated to ship on a monthly basis.

But that's not all Chip Zdarsky has going on in an especially busy week for the writer/artist. Since "Sex Criminals" has been away from stands, his profile as a comic book writer has grown, and today also sees the release of two new Marvel issues written by Zdarsky: "Star-Lord" #3, illustrated by Kris Anka; plus "Doctor Strange #1.MU," a one-shot illustrated by Julián López and teaming Doctor Strange and classic Ditko/Lee monster Googam, in a tie-in to the ongoing "Monsters Unleashed" event.

And, as a tantalizing prelude to his big Wednesday, Marvel announced this past Tuesday that Zdarsky is writing "Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man," a new ongoing Spidey series launching in June and set in New York City (as opposed to the globetrotting of "the current "Amazing Spider-Man" book), with art from veteran comics superstar Adam Kubert and a focus on Peter's supporting cast.

CBR talked to Zdarsky about all of the above, including why "Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man" is "personal in a different way" than "Amazing," unleashing "Sex Criminals" back into the world, the "ludicrous pairing" of Doctor Strange and Googam and the inherent conflict between Star-Lord and Daredevil.

"Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man" #1 cover
"Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man" #1 cover by Adam Kubert.

CBR: Chip! News broke on Tuesday that you're writing "Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man" which is obviously a pretty big deal. I'm sure we'll talk about that book more in depth as it gets closer to release, but what are you hoping to bring to the character that maybe hasn't been seen in recent months? (Other than, apparently, senior citizens.)

Chip Zdarsky: I don't think I'll be bringing anything to Spider-Man as a character that hasn't been seen lately in "Amazing," it's just contextual stuff, really. Dan [Slott]'s telling a big, international story with Peter achieving his potential, but it's still classic Spidey at the heart! In fact, I'd say it just reinforces what makes the character tick by putting him in new environments and situations.

With "Spectacular," we're narrowing things a bit and focusing on Spidey in New York. So it's personal in a different way than "Amazing," as it's about Spidey slightly nostalgic for when his life didn't involve board meetings and jet-setting. With great power comes great responsibility, and his power's never been greater, but the increased responsibility can be... look, Obama went grey real quick, y'know? In a lot of ways this series is about recognizing the need to share that great responsibility. Also there are jokes.

But that's not till June -- this week, "Sex Criminals" returned for the first time in nearly a year. I don't want to say the absence of the book is the reason the last 10 months or so went down the way it did, but the timing is conspicuous. How does it feel to have the series back on stands, and be back on a monthly schedule?

Oh god, it feels so good. I get the idea behind us taking time off to get issues in the can, but being off the stands for that long just gutted Matt and I. Nothing kills your work momentum on a book quite like no one seeing it. Because I'm a stupid control freak doing pencils, inks, colors, letters and design, it means we're a bimonthly book in a monthly world, and there's no good solution for that. Having issues 16-20 out back-to-back is going to be great. Especially with where the series is headed. Gasp!

"Sex Criminals" #16 starts with a fun and rather thorough recap of the series thus far. It can be a little tricky for any series to gain new readers mid-stream, so how much of a priority was it to y'all to make this issue as welcoming as possible?

Ha! Yeah, Matt really wanted to do a detailed old-school recap, so we added eight pages to the book! I don't expect to necessarily gain a lot of new readers with issue #16, though this issue does facilitate that. What we really wanted was to give some help to the returning readers. The issue itself beyond the recaps eases people back into the world with a focus on Jon and Suzie, setting up some big things to come. Our cast is growing, but those two are the heart of it all. Also there are jokes.

"Sex Criminals" #16 cover
"Sex Criminals" #16 cover by Chip Zdarsky

The first issue of "Sex Criminals" since April also means the first time people will have seen new interior art from you since then. As your writing career continues to grow (you're writing Spider-Man, for goodness sakes), how tricky has it been to balance your time between writing and drawing? You see a lot of creators who do both eventually move to writing full-time -- how important is it to you to keep active as an artist, even beyond "Sex Criminals" (variant covers and such), as your writer profile rises?

The goal is always to draw a page a day, and then switch over to writing in the afternoon/evening. I'm not gonna lie, it's tricky, but I have a certain amount of physical and mental bandwidth during the day for drawing, and so it's nice to be able to switch back and forth.

And covers are just fun! Doing those are my version of "leisure time," really. I was out with friends the other night and everyone was talking about their hobbies, their collections, stuff like that. And I had nothing. And then I realized that my hobby is doing comic covers. Is that sad? Am I sad? You can be honest.

"Doctor Strange #1.MU" cover
"Doctor Strange #1.MU" cover by Chip Zdarsky

Speaking of writing -- you wrote a "Doctor Strange" one-shot as part of "Monsters Unleashed," also out this week. How much fun was it not only writing a doctor who is strange, but also Googam, in what had to be one of that character's most substantial appearances?

Oh my god it was a crazy amount of fun. Even though Googam and Doctor Strange is a ludicrous pairing, this is weirdly my most serious issue to date, but with one panel that still makes me laugh.

I love what Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo have been doing on the main "Strange" book and it was great to be able to use this lesser-powered version of the character, scrambling to survive. And the art! You'll be seeing a lot from Julián López in the near future. He's insanely talented! I want him to draw my life.

"Star-Lord" #3 cover
"Star-Lord" #3 cover by Kris Anka.

"Star-Lord" #3 is also out this week! It's a lot of fun to see Star-Lord and Daredevil interacting, as Daredevil is effectively "the" street-level hero and Star-Lord is... Star-Lord. What inspired putting the two together?

Well, first of all, if Star-Lord isn't in space, he's really a "street-level hero," which is something else he struggles with in this arc as he gets used to Earth again. And he's frustrated by some of the Earth things he's forgotten about, like basic laws. So it just made sense to have Marvel's resident District Attorney give him some gentle reminders of how things go here. And they fight! I know what you're thinking: Superheroes? Fighting each other?? It seems ludicrous, but here we are!

Also, Kris Anka is a beefcake god.

"Sex Criminals" #16, "Doctor Strange #1.MU" and "Star-Lord" #3 are on sale now. "Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man" is scheduled to launch in June.

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