One of the most entertaining aspects of the Marvel Multiverse is seeing
familiar characters and concepts evolve under different settings. In “Spider-Gwen,” writer Jason Latour and artist Robbi Rodriguez have struck a chord with readers, introducing them to the reality of Earth-65, a world where a radioactive spider bite endowed Gwen Stacy with super powers and she became the costumed hero known as Spider-Woman.
This month, two of Gwen’s extra-dimensional friends from the Marvel Universe’s Earth Prime will get to experience the wonders and differences of Earth-65 for themselves, as the “Spider-Women” crossover begins. CBR News spoke with Latour about how “Spider-Gwen” sets the stage for “Spider-Women,” the role the mysterious organization known as S.I.L.K. will play in the story, and what to expect in the series’ next arc, when the Earth-65 versions of Frank Castle and Matt Murdock will come back to haunt Gwen in a major way.
CBR News: Jason, a lot happened in this first arc of the new “Spider-Gwen” series, and it really felt like by the end of the story, Gwen had come to terms with some stuff that has been bothering her for years, like the death of Peter Parker, and is now almost of a kinder and compassionate hero.
Jason Latour: She’s definitely making an effort to be. One of the things I really want to do with this book long term is to look at “with great power comes great responsibility” from different vantage points, and a big question I have is, where does compassion fit into that equation? Into the role of being a superhero in the modern era?
It always occurred to me that one of the key differences between Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy was who the parental figure in their lives was. Her father being a cop just instills a different set of values. So whereas Peter Parker is sort of living in the shadow of this great advice that Uncle Ben gave him, Gwen is still living with her father and his world view. So I think it’s just a little more natural that she would put that under the microscope, and one of the things she’s slowly trying to do is sort of break the violent cycle of what keeps getting her into trouble and what seems to be continually causing her trouble in her life.
I thought that was an important thing to do. We’re slowing moving the character more and more into her own territory. I wanted to make it very clear that this is going into some territory that Spider-Man really hasn’t. I love Spider-Man, but they’re two different characters.
Like you said, the figure that instilled Gwen’s sense of responsibility is still a big part of her life and at the end of this first arc it looks like there’s been some major developments for George Stacy too in that he quit being a police officer.
That’s correct. The relationship between Gwen and her dad is like any great parent-child relationship in the sense that parents are usually challenged by their children to reexamine their own lives. With George that’s a pretty important part of his growth as a character. He’s trying to find his place in the world the same way that Gwen is trying to find hers. They’ve been hurled into these extreme circumstances, they just didn’t realize they were in it together for a long time.
So a lot of this arc was about was them coming to a place where they may not understand one another, but they’re at least now open to trying.
Can you talk about what George’s role will be in “Spider-Gwen” moving forward? BAt first glance, it seemed like he could almost be a Jim Gordon-style character to Gwen’s Batman, but now it seems like you’re going for something different.
I love Commissioner Gordon, particularly with Barbara in “Batman: The Animated Series.” That was one of the big initial inspirations. I don’t want to just rip off Batman though. The Stacys have an opportunity to go in a direction the Gordons haven’t.
His role moving forward is part of what our story is going to be about. How far is George willing to go to encourage Gwen? Can he be the guy to hit the brakes when she needs it? He’s going to be at a real existential crossroads for a while. We’ll see a little bit of that in the “Spider-Women” event, a brief glance of what’s going on in his head.
This arc also saw a sort of redoubling of the drives of Gwen’s biggest enemies both within and on the opposite side of the law: Matt Murdock who is the Kingpin of New York crime on Earth-65, and Frank Castle is a detective with the NYPD. How dangerous is Castle now that he’s been attacked by Murdock’s ninjas? And will we see what the Kingpin wants to do with Gwen’s secret identity soon?
We’re immediately jumping into “Spider-Women” for two issues, featuring Jessica Drew and Silk in a fun story that pits them against a brand new villain who we’ve teased a little bit of in the first arc. The evil spy organization, S.I.L.K., as run by Cindy Moon’s Earth-65 doppelgänger. Mirror Cindy is important; she plays a major role in Gwen’s life. Our next two issues will tie into the event, but also be standalone character issues in their own way that I hope you can read and enjoy on their own.
Immediately after that we’ll dive into the Frank Castle and Matt “Murderdock”. In Murdock you have Great Power run amok, and with Castle you have this corruption of Great Responsibility. I think it makes them both really interesting foils for Gwen and George. Castle’s been keeping his master plan close to his vest, but we’ll start to play his cards in issue #9.
This arc hinted that Castle had a past with War Machine, a mercenary company run by Earth-65’s Tony Stark. He may not be the Punisher, but it seems like this Castle’s just as formidable as his Earth Prime counterpart.
Yeah, I would encourage people to always read the little handbook-style entries we have in the back of the book. Those are not necessarily required reading, but I think they’re pretty fun supplements and they actually fill in some gaps.
With Castle, we’ve hinted at some of his past and where he is, psychologically. We’ll get to see that on full display coming up. He’s a guy who essentially only has his job to live for now. That’s a scary place, a place both Captain Stacy and Gwen could easily end up.
Castle and Murdock haven’t been the only fun twists you’ve featured on Earth-65. In this most recent arc, you introduced readers to some different takes on S.H.I.E.L.D., Captain America and the Falcon. What inspired these characters and concepts?
They’ve organically grown and grown. I think that there’s really no cap on where it can lead. [Laughs] Pun intended.
I don’t know what inspired the idea for our Captain America. My time writing “Winter Soldier” was so fun, and it gave me a decent handle on how to balance the Marvel espionage stuff, so that just seemed like an organic way to introduce new elements here.
It felt like we’d seen a lot of different iterations of Captain America in the past. I just wanted to find a unique angle on that, and to some degree I think we have. For all the good she did in stopping this big, bonkers, Kirby-style invasion of Nazis from other dimensions, she really paid a price and missed a very significant era of US history. One in which she may have been needed. So she feels very guilty about that and eager to do all she can to change things now. You can tell I’m really in love with that character, right?
Who knows where things will lead, but she’s definitely going to be a main character in “Spider-Gwen” moving forward. In much the same way a lot of characters develop rogues galleries, Gwen is starting to develop this little cast of allies and mentors like Jessica Drew and Captain America.
I thought what you did with the Falcon of Earth-65, with him being a young male clone of Captain America, was a lot of fun.
[Laughs] I hope you’ll get to see a lot more of Falcon and Betty. It’s in my plans to foster that friendship and show more of that strange pairing, just because I find them really fun to write.
Circling back to the Earth-65 incarnation of Cindy Moon, it seems like S.I.L.K., the organization she’s affiliated with, was set up as a Hydra-style group.
Yeah, but her motivations are a little more complex than evil. We’ll get into who the person we’ve dubbed Cindy ’65 is, and what differs between her and the Cindy Moon of Earth Prime in the “Spider-Women” event. The key changes to her family life and her identity have reflected what her organization stands for, which is what “Spider-Women” is about: family and identity. S.I.L.K. is the foil to Earth 65’s S.H.I.E.L.D., but it’s not quite such a white hat-black hat scenario.
You did hint that S.H.I.E.L.D. hasn’t always been a morally upstanding organization when you talked about what they did with the Falcon and his programming.
Yeah, S.H.I.E.L.D. has always been this great Marvel organization because I
think they can be great allies, really great villains, and really great arbiters. They play a lot of different roles because, like any government agency, they have a lot of different agendas and a lot of different things under their auspices.
That makes them a really interesting element to introduce, and S.I.L.K. is intended, in a sense, to be like our Hydra, an adversary to Gwen and the Spider-Women with a large and complex agenda.
With the “Spider-Women” crossover, Dennis Hopeless and Robbie Thompson join you in a sandbox that you’ve pretty much been playing in by yourself since its creation. How does it feel to have some writers joining you for some tales set on Earth-65?
That’s been great. You couldn’t ask for a better group of people in the room. Everyone left the “Spider-Women” retreat buzzing, because there really was no clashing of ideals or ideas. Everybody seemed to be on the same page, from editorial all the way through the writers.
We’re also bringing in a lot of new blood to help us tell these stories. It’s a pretty diverse cast of people, so that’s been pretty fun. Two years ago, I never imagined we’d be 13 issues deep on a “Spider-Gwen” series, let alone standing in the middle of this crossover. Every day is like a big gift in that regard.
Robbie and Dennis are bringing Cindy Moon and Jessica Drew over to Earth-65. What’s it been like, bouncing those characters off of Gwen?
I think a lot of the credit for the success of the Spider Universe needs to go to Dennis and Robbie. This idea of “Spider-Women” was set up very early in Dennis’ “Spider-Woman” issues, where he sort of realized the dynamic between the three characters. As we played with them in the room, we realized how amazingly they reflect one another. Again, a large amount of that credit also has to go to Robbie, who’s been doing such a great job fleshing out and figuring out how to make Silk this unique character that has her own vibe and inner life.
As you mentioned, you also have some new artists bringing to life Gwen’s world. I believe you worked very briefly with Vanessa Del Rey, who is illustrating the “Spider-Women: Alpha” book, on an issue of “Wolverine & the X-Men.” And Bengal, who is doing the “Spider-Gwen” issues of the crossover has recently worked on DC’s “Batgirl.” He seems like he’d be a great fit.
Bengal has been tremendous. He was a really big “Spider-Gwen” fan early on, and made it very clear that he’d love to come aboard. Vanessa is a world class talent, too. She’s a really good friend of mine, and I’ve been dying to try and find a place to team up with her. If you’re going to lose someone as vital as Robbi Rodriguez for a couple of issues, then it eases the pain a little to bring on artists that talented. And, of course, Rico Renzi is still around, doing his usual awesome work and keeping us on beat.
But in Vanesa and Bengal, they both lend something unique to an event that, in a lot of ways, is not like most Marvel events. It’s a very character driven story. Small but with big consequences. There’s definitely something world shaking at stake, but in a way it’s almost more devastating to the characters than it is to the actual worlds they hail from, which I think is a good approach. So hopefully people will enjoy it.
What about Gwen’s personal life? Moving forward, will we see more scenes with her and her bandmates, the Mary Janes?
Yes, there will be a lot more of the Mary Janes! One of my big critiques of my own work has been that in order to get a lot of this stuff into the story, we’ve unfortunately had to sacrifice a little bit of Gwen’s personal life. While the next arc will show the street-level threats, we’ll also make a concerted effort to show what’s at stake. Part of building the stakes is to show what her life is like, who her friends are, and what the band is up to… how much it sucks to live on a diet of corn dogs.
So after a HUGE, FOR REAL NOT A HOAX, NO TAKE BACK’S twist in “Spider-Women,” Robbi and Rico are back in issue #9 and we’ll be off and running head first what is essentially year two for us all. Hopefully we’ll strike a good balance between the crazy action stuff we’ve been doing, and the heart and humor, but also push into new ground, and take this book places you might not expect.
You touched upon your post “Spider-Women” plans for the book earlier, but one thing we didn’t discuss was June’s “Spider-Gwen Annual.” What can you tell us about that book?
We’re still sort of setting the final line up, but think of it like “Spider-Gwen & her Amazing Friends.” We’ll get to meet our She-Hulk, see more of our Captain America, the Mary Janes. I may even draw Spider-Ham.
If you’re the kind of jerk that doesn’t like She-Hulk holding the Unlimited Class Wrestling Federation champ belt? Skip it. Go ahead. I dare you.
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