The heroes of Archie's Dark Circle Comics imprint have a long legacy at the publisher. While virtually all of them have been re-imagined time and again over the years, one hero in particular has perhaps seen the most dramatic changes from one incarnation to the next. And now, The Web will undergo its most drastic reinvention yet.
Since its 1942 debut, "The Web" has been cast as an avenging crimefighter, a harried husband, and a team of black ops agents. With the hero's new Dark Circle ongoing series, you can add "multi-ethnic teen girl cosplayer" to that mix. Coming on the heels of series like "Black Hood" and "The Fox," the new Web joins upcoming Dark Circle books "The Shield" and "The Hangman" in diversifying the tone of the line when it arrives in 2016.
CBR News has the exclusive first interview with "Web" writer, crime novelist Dave White, with character designs and a quick bit of insight from series artist Szymon Kudranski. The new comics scribe explains how his take on The Web will work to set the series apart from the rest of the superheroes on the stand, how teen lead Jane Raymond fits in the legacy of previous Webs, why the mean streets of new Jersey make for fertile ground for a superhero story and how cosplay and Internet fandom inform "The Web."
CBR News: The Web is a character with a long history at Archie and a ton of different identities under its belt. When you were prepping this new version, what did you see as being at the core of the franchise that needed to be carried into this new take?
Dave White: While my version of the Web is brand new, I think there are aspects of all the different Web characters that will appear in this series. The first two Webs were very much family stories, as the original John Raymond had to track down and stop his criminal brother. And John Raymond II dealt with the tension of being a superhero and having a family -- his wife becoming one herself at one point. And that's what I have here with this new interpretation of The Web -- along with being a superhero story, it is also a family story. It's about a family that is trying to recover from tragedy, and what happens when all of a sudden crime and super powers are mixed into a tense home.
So far what we know of this new Web is that she's called Jane Raymond -- the first of a few swerves from past iterations. What can you tell us about Jane both in terms of who she is as a character and in terms of what makes her unique from not just past Webs but previous superheroes in general?
Jane is, in my eyes, going to be a lot of fun to follow. She's 14 years old -- a freshman in high school living in suburban New Jersey. She is half Korean, half Caucasian and lives with her father and her older brother. Her mom, who was Korean, passed away prior to the series starting. To cope, Jane has sunk into fandom, and a niche one at that. She's a huge fan of the Silver Age Web. She writes about him, laughs about him and cosplays as him. She loves the Web, and his crazy history.
Meanwhile, her dad is trying to get her out of her "sit around the house" doldrums and to start stuffing her college resume. He's playing both Mom and Dad in the family which drives Jane nuts. Jane is kind of a blabbermouth, and while there's tension with her dad, she's great with her classmates--kind of a mayor-type at school.
And, while I don't want to give the story away, she gains super powers after injuring herself and trying a crazy, out there way to heal. How does she deal with those powers? And can it fill the hole in her life that was created after her mom died?
One of the big ways in which the name The Web rings very differently today than it did in 1942 is that we have this little thing called the Internet. When telling your first big story about a young adult Web, how will the modern world and its technology factor into the series' DNA?
Well, like I said, Jane is a superfan of the Web. She takes to the Internet to create her own fan fiction about the character. Her friends read it, and they talk and text about it at school. This is very much the modern teen. Tumblr, smartphones and memes. She's a convention goer, and the kind of girl who creates all sorts of awesome gifs for her favorite shows and comics. But her main obsession is writing about her favorite hero.
And then she gets to become a version of The Web. She's no criminologist like the original, but be sure she'll use the tools all teenagers have to help her be the best superhero she can.
People have been really taken to the street-level vibe of "The Black Hood" alongside the wild adventure of "The Fox," and then there's the incoming political thriller tone of "The Shield." As someone with a crime background, what do you want to strike as the tone of "The Web," and how will this book work to feel unique in its presentation?
Jane's age will absolutely set this apart from my novels, and the other Dark Circle books out there. There's no world weary private investigator here. No dark corners of Philadelphia or Washington DC. This is side roads and two family houses in Nutley, New Jersey. And since this is about a freshman in high school, this is a book about learning. It's about learning who you are and who you can trust to help you become the person you want to be. It will be a bright kind of book, but that doesn't mean there won't be any dark grittiness.
In fact, Jane will be facing some very nasty villains, including a brutal gang leader named the Wild Dragon. But as a teacher, I can see that even on bad days, teens can usually find something humorous to latch on to. I think that's what I'm shooting for with Jane, she wants to find a way to be happy, even in a dark, gritty crime fiction world. Her reactions to that dark world are going to be a lot of fun to explore.
Obviously, Szymon Kudranski plays a big part in setting that tone. Since Szymon has a strong background in dark, crime-tinged superhero comics, what did you look for in his designs for the new Web? And how have his early pages delivered on what you wanted to do with this story?
Szymon is doing some awesome work. I think he's really going to balance the light and the dark in this one. The first designs I saw of Jane as both herself and dressed as the web blew me away. Jane's look really helped push her attitude in the first few issues. And, since Jane's version of The Web costume is her cosplay costume she wears to comic book conventions, it has to be both superhero functional and look like it was made by a teenager. Szymon has really captured that.
Szymon Kudranski: Hearing the title and looking through the history of Archie's characters, my first impression was to go with a more mainstream and "clean" art style. After learning that talented crime writer Dave White would be writing, my vision went to a dark noir art style. After discussing it with Dark Circle Comics editor Alex Segura, we decided to keep a nice, clean, superhero feel to the characters and add in a noir/dark atmosphere.
My first sketches were two different approaches to the same character. The first was more mainstream superhero and the second one was a more dark noir style.
Speaking of story, what can you say about your plan for the first arc on the book? Is this set to be an origin of Jane? Is there a connection of any kind to the previous Webs (whose names were also Raymond)? Any villains new or old jumping into the mix?
The first arc is about Jane becoming the Web. Yes, it is an origin story. And, while she's not related to the original Raymonds, the coincidence of their names being so close is what originally drew her toward becoming a fan of The Web. Jane's story revolves around learning about her powers and about her brother, Tim's, life as a college pre-med. And soon Jane starts to discover that not everything in her family is what it seems to be. Like any teenager, Jane is going to start learning the skeletons that are in her family's closet just as she's gaining the power to do something about it.
As for villains, in this arc, she's going to take on the Wild Dragon, a gang leader out of Newark who's about ready to make a name for himself. And he is a nasty son of a gun, who happens to also love baseball.
Looking at the long term, what kind of place do you expect "The Web" will hold in the Dark Circle line? Any interest in collaborating with the other creators working on the rest of Archie's growing superhero universe?
As with any piece of fiction, the characters are what makes a book stand out. I think Jane is different from everything else Dark Circle is putting out. Jane is going to be a lot of fun to follow, especially because she's a fan of The Web. Her friend likes the Shield. They're aware of the other heroes out there. Now Jane has to make a name for herself.
As far as collaborating, I wouldn't ever say no to anything that makes sense. As I said earlier, I'm a huge fan of all the talent involved in Dark Circle, but it's really Alex Segura's long term vision for the line. Alex is such a great editor, and he and I have really been working on Jane. I'm worried about Jane Raymond becoming the Web and facing her own challenges. That said, I think it'd be fun to team the Web up with the darkness of Black Hood or the patriotism of the Shield. It'd be an odd couple match-up, for sure.
"The Web" arrives early 2016 from Dark Circle Comics.