If there’s one adult hero in the Marvel Universe who still understands what it’s like to be a teenager with super powers, it’s the Amazing Spider-Man. Peter Parker has never forgotten the importance of the lessons he learned in his formative years as a teen hero, and he has a great rapport with adolescents having since worked as a high school science teacher.
This December, that bond and understanding will earn Spidey a special position on the faculty of the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning in the new ongoing series Elliott Kalan and artist Marco Failla. CBR News spoke with Kalan about writing Spidey, the Wall-Crawler’s role as one of the only non-mutant faculty members at the Jean Grey School, the kids Spidey will be working with, and the villains that will try and ruin their first day of classes.
CBR News: Elliott, your day job with “The Daily Show” keeps you pretty busy, which means a lot of the stories you’ve done for Marvel thus far have been shorts or done-in-one stories. Your next project, however, is the launch of all-new ongoing series featuring two of Marvel’s flagship properties. How does that feel and what was your reaction when Marvel offered you a book featuring both Spider-Man and the X-Men?
Elliott Kalan: It feels totally awesome and extremely exciting. Working with these characters has been a dream of mine for a long, long time and I was thrilled to be asked to write this book. Now I’m just worried about breaking them! As for being busy, I can always find time for Spider-Man and the Children of the Atom.
The title “Spider-Man & the X-Men” suggests that Peter Parker will be accepting a role at the Jean Grey School. What can you tell us about that role? Is Peter returning to teaching? And what’s it like writing Spider-Man in this type of setting?
Spider-Man isn’t going to be taking a traditional subject teacher in a classroom role. He’ll be taking on a special class of students for extra counseling and teaching, students who the school may not be totally meeting the needs of–and who Wolverine suspected might be working for the X-Men’s enemies. One of those kids has a secret, and Spider-Man has been tasked with finding out which one. Unfortunately, the rest of the faculty wasn’t informed of this, so they’re pretty unhappy he’s there.
It’s an interesting challenge to write Spider-Man in an X-setting, because it isn’t natural to him. On the other hand, it generates a ton of possible stories and scenes because there are so many elements he doesn’t normally interact with for him to bounce off of. Sometimes literally.
Dropping Spider-Man into the word of the Jean Grey School means he’ll have a chance to bounce off a whole host of unique and interesting characters. Let’s talk about those characters starting with the students. What can you tell us about the kids Spidey will primarily be interacting with? What kind of dynamic will he initially have with them?
Spidey’s going to be working closely with six students — Shark Girl, Hellion, Rockslide, Glob Herman, Eye Boy, No-Girl, and Ernst — a group of characters who have hovered in and out of the spotlight at times, but spend most of their time appearing in the margins of other X-Men stories. His initial dynamic is the familiar one of “new teacher and bored students” — they don’t want to be there and he’s easily frustrated by them. At the same time, he feels the need to communicate his own ethic of power and responsibility to them. He wants to make a difference, but he doesn’t necessarily want to be there.
Will the rest of the Jean Grey School staff play a role in this book? Is it just as much about them and their students as it is about Spider-Man and his?
The main focus of the book will be Spider-Man and his students. We’ll see the rest of the faculty, and he takes part in a battle/staff meeting with them right at the start of the first issue. But I want to take Spider-Man and his class outside the environs of the school, too. We’ll be seeing a lot of field trips, some of them planned!
Let’s talk about the action in your inaugural arc of “Spider-Man & the X-Men.” What sets this story in motion?
Let’s just say Spider-Man villains and X-Men villains are surprisingly team-up-able. Also, I think I mentioned one of the kids might be a mole working for the opposition? And also also, Spider-Man may appear shirtless at some point.
The villains that team up in this initial story are the dinosaur-themed X-Men foe Sauron and the dinosaur-themed Spidey villain Stegron. Their dinosaur motifs and their adversaries make them a natural fit for a team up and this book, but what made you want to use Stegron and Sauron? What do you find most interesting about these guys?
Well, number one they’re both dinosaur-men, which makes them amazing. But also they’re two characters with very similar motives and powers who I haven’t seen work together before. I wanted to see what might bring them together and how would they feel about each other? Sauron’s such an arrogant, domineering personality and Stegron is a less dominating character. Sauron looks down on Stegron and Stegron bristles under that. There’s a surprising amount of depth to the relationship between a stegosaurus-man and a pterosaur-man.
Artist Marco Failla recently drew some “Harley Quinn” stories for DC Comics, but he also worked on the 2010 “X-Campus” project where European creators reimagined the X-Men Universe. What can we expect from his return to mutants and a school setting?
Editor Katie Kubert: I was extremely pleased working with him on “Harley Quinn,” and when I was looking for an artist for “Spider-Man and the X-Men,” I wanted someone with a bouncy, young and fun style — and Marco has all of those qualities in spades. Someone who can handle Spidey’s (and Elliott’s!) sense of humor with aplomb!
Finally, as we talked about in the beginning of this piece you do have a very busy day job. What does that mean for your run on this book? Are you just working on a story arc of “Spider-Man & the X-Men” or do you see yourself on this book for a while?
We’ll have to see how this storyline is received and whether my life buckles under the strain of having multiple jobs and a family. The real question is, “What does this mean for my sanity?”
What we’re aiming for with this book is a fun, exciting, light-hearted, enjoyable, sometimes goofy roller-coaster of a book that should leave the reader with a smile on their face. If you like Spider-Man and you like the X-Men and you like fun, then I don’t see how you can go wrong. These are characters who have meant a lot to me for a number of years now, and I’m extremely thankful for the opportunity to tell some stories with them. I promise to do my best not to break any of them!
“Spider-Man” and the X-Men” #1 debuts in December from Marvel Comics.
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