Robbie Thompson is no stranger to the fantastic. As a writer/producer for The CW's "Supernatural," it's a regular part of his day job. He routinely concocts strange and otherworldly situations for brothers Sam and Dean Winchester to investigate and remedy, but this fall he'll venture into a new fantastic realm, the Marvel Universe, with a short story in November's "Spider-Verse" #1 anthology.
The short ties into the titular event, which features "every Spider-Man ever," and introduces a Spider-Woman who hails from a steampunk style reality. CBR News spoke with Thompson about the story, working with Marvel, and some of the plans for the 10th season of "Supernatural," which begins in October.
CBR News: Robbie you're probably best known for your work on "Supernatural," but you're no stranger to the world of comics. I understand you're a longtime fan of the medium?
Robbie Thompson: Yeah, I've been a lifelong fan of comic books largely due to my brother, Michael. He introduced me to comics at a young age and used them to help teach me how to read. When we were growing up in Michigan we'd regularly visit the stores Pages and Pages and Classic Comics. These days I go to House of Secrets, a comic store that I've been hitting up every Wednesday for the past 15 years.
The one comic that I look toward as sort of my lightning rod is "Fantastic Four" #243, which had the "Everyone Vs. Galactus" cover. I remember reading that and thinking, "I'm going to read every single Fantastic Four comic book for the rest of my life." [Laughs] And I have a shelf full of Galactus figures and Doctor Dooms here in my office. So I guess I've accomplished my goal.
I've always loved comic books. I'm probably more of a Marvel guy than a DC guy. Growing up those were the two venues that we had.
I understand you also have some experience writing comics.
Yes, when I worked on a television show called "Human Target" I basically begged and begged and then demanded [Laughs] to write some of the comic backup stories with Peter Johnson who was the producer on the project. I ended up writing half of the backup stories for that. That was pretty amazing.
Then after that I worked on a television show called "The Cape," which wasn't based on any existing comic book, but there was a made up comic book within the show. Tom Wheeler, who created the show, he and I ended up ghost writing a comic that only appeared digitally. That was a ton of fun too. Alex Ross did a cover and Michael Gaydos did the interiors!
You're also part of the "Supernatural" writing staff, which includes several long time comic fans, and creators as well.
That's right. We've got Adam Glass, Andrew Dabb, and a lot of comic fans here. It's interesting. I think for a lot of the writers of my generation a combination of comic books and playing "Dungeons & Dragons" was sort of our film school. [Laughs] We all learned a lot from those two outlets.
You mentioned you're a big Marvel fan. How does it feel to be tapped to write your first Marvel story?
It's one of those pinch myself every single day situations and has been the entire time. Editor Ellie Pyle has been kind enough to introduce me to this world and has been a fantastic collaborator. Every once in a while she has to remind me that it's okay to fanboy out, "This is a safe place. You can freak out." [Laughs] And then I'll freak out for a while. So to be a part of the Marvel Universe, but also very specifically to be a part of "Spider-Verse," which is something as a fan I'm really excited about is a 100% dream come true.
Since your first Marvel story ties into "Spider-Verse," it seems you're sort of jumping into the deep end of the pool with a big Marvel event.
Yes, I've been dropped into the deepest end of the pool. It's exciting. I met Ellie through a mutual friend. She's a fan of "Supernatural" and she found out I was a fan of comics. So we struck up a friendship and this opportunity presented itself. Obviously I was like, "I'll write anything for you guys! I'll write a panel! I don't care. I just want a shot!" [Laughs]â€¨There was this unique opportunity because of the nature of "Spider-Verse" and how many Spider peeps there are that I got a shot. I had heard about the story and I had been reading about it. I've been catching up on Dan Slott's Spider-Man run for a while now. I got a subscription to "Marvel Unlimited" and my sort of gateway into the book was once again my brother.
He mentioned what was going on with "Superior Spider-Man" and like a lot of fans when I heard about it I was like, "That's ridiculous." Then by the end of the series I was like, "Don't end it! Please!" So I was really dialed into that world beforehand. Then when the opportunity arose I was really excited.
On top of being your first Marvel story and a tie-in to a big event, I understand that "Spider-Verse" #1 also allowed you to introduce a new character into the Marvel Universe, correct?
Yes, this is a new character that came out of conversation with Ellie about possible alternate spider-women. This storyline involves every single Spider-Man ever, and some new ones too. So we're introducing a character called Lady Spider who exists in New York City, but it's 1895 and it's a steampunk city. This short story is sort of her coming out party, if you will.
What else can you tell us about the world Lady Spider hails from?
It's a New York where the "Difference Engine" made a difference overseas and then made a difference here and took off. The villains that appear in this world are more Spider-Man centric. So it's not the entire Marvel Universe. It's just this one character named May Riley. She's this absolutely brilliant, capable person, and as much as there's been advancement in all this technology in 1895 New York, it's still unfortunately the same situation for women at that time as it was in our history. So this is her pressing up against that sort of historical glass ceiling and adventuring into this world for the first time as Lady Spider.
Is this an origin story? Or is this more of a way of introducing a character we haven't seen before and bridging her over into the reality-hopping action of "Spider-Verse?"
It does introduce her character into the world, but it is not exactly an origin story. There's more to that story that I would certainly love to tell. Then readers will see Lady Spider again in the "Spider-Verse" tie-in issues of "Spider-Man 2099." What her fate is past those issues though is not something I can talk about.
I was in the audience at Comic-Con when Dan Slott was talking about "Spider-Verse" and as he said, "Nobody is safe." So who knows what will happen past those "Spider-Man 2099" issues, but there is more of Lady Spider's story to tell if there's an audience for it.
Denis Medri is drawing Lady Spider's initial outing and, based on the designs he did that reimagined the cast of Star Wars as characters in an '80s high school comedy and a Rockabilly-style Batman, I can't wait to see the characters in this story.
Yeah, this story looks fantastic. When Ellie and I were discussing the idea she sent me a link to Denis' artwork. I actually own one of his t-shirts. It's a design for an alternate universe "Wizard of Oz" and it's super cool.
His work is really dynamic and exciting. I think he takes a lot of stuff that's sort of the essence of those ideas and mashes them up into these other worlds, and yet as much as it's a really great combination he really makes it his own. It's been fantastic watching him take the script pages and really bring them to life. He's an amazing story teller.
I went total fanboy when I saw his art. I was like, "Oh my god! This is gorgeous!" I hope this draws more attention to his work. His work is really dynamic and fun. Plus his design work is incredible. It's not just Lady Spider that's brought to life. It's also her villains and the city of New York is a real character in his design work. It's just amazing.
The story you and Denis are doing is just a short, but from what you've said it sounds like you'd love to do more stories with Lady Spider if she survives "Spider-Verse" or really any Marvel character you can get your hands on.
[Laughs] Well, I am doing another project for Marvel that hasn't been announced yet. I can't say what it is yet, but I think it might be announced at New York Comic Con and I'm super excited about it. Working on it with Ellie and everyone has been really exciting.
To answer your question though, yes, I would love to revisit Lady Spider if she survives or if we can find a way to tell the events that happened before "Spider-Verse." I love writing that character. And as far as more Marvel work goes? I'd write anything for them. There are so many characters in that universe that are so dynamic. To be a part of that universe in any way, shape, or form would be incredible.
Comics aren't the only thing keeping you busy these days. Production on "Supernatural's" 10th season has begun, correct?
Yeah, right now we are shooting the 200th episode of "Supernatural," which is amazing. I was lucky enough to write the episode and we're a little over halfway through breaking the stories for the season. So yeah, we're knee deep into Season 10, which for any show is phenomenal, but to see this show keep going and see the increase in ratings last year has been pretty incredible. I'm really lucky to be part of the show.
This season finds the show with a different dynamic because Dean has become the very thing he and his brother have fought so hard against -- a demon. What's it like writing a demonic Dean?
I was thrilled when I heard about that last year. I remember Andrew Dabb telling me that we were heading in that direction and that specifically the very last shot of Season 9 was Dean opening his eyes and they're black. I was really excited hearing that and I remain really excited.
It's fresh territory for us to go into specifically with regards to Dean's character and Jensen [Ackles] and Jared [Padalecki] are absolutely killing it in the dailies. It really is a lot of fun to watch them act. Jensen has said in interviews, and I think he's right, that it's a different kind of character for him to create within a character he's already created. That's because typically demons are beings that possess people, or as they call them on our show, a "meat suit." This is still Dean though. It's just a darker version of him and to see the work that Jensen has brought to it is really inspiring.â€¨Then to watch Jared's interaction with that as well and the work he's bringing to the table is also really inspiring. Then obviously Misha [Collins, who plays the angel Castiel] and Mark [Sheppard, who plays Crowley, the demon king of Hell]. We're really fortunate to have a really great cast.
You mentioned you're writing the show's 200th episode. Can you give any hints or teases as to what we might see in this episode?
It definitely is musical-ish. That's the term we've been using; musical adjacent, maybe. It's designed to be a love letter to the show and the fans, which is why I was really excited to get a chance to write it. It's impossible to cover or include every aspect of the show and its fandom, of course, but I certainly hope folks see the intention and love. You don't get to 200 episodes without an incredible fan base like the fan base we have, and we really wanted to do something to celebrate the show. We also wanted to have a little bit of fun too.
I think it will make a little more sense in terms of when it airs and the context of the fun that's being had once you see where it lands in the season. So it's a musical-ish episode where the boys stumble upon a musical version of their lives and there's of course a case that's brought them into it. And yes, there will be singing on "Supernatural." [Laughs]
It was a lot of fun to write and included things I don't have a whole lot of experience doing. Writing songs was a lot of fun and to collaborate with Jay [Gruska] and Chris [Lennertz] who do the music for our show has been so much fun; to hear the songs coming in and the demos and recordings has been great. Every once in awhile I have to pinch myself and say, "All right, this is 'Supernatural!' We're doing this! Holy smokes!" [Laughs]
You're probably most famous for the "Supernatural" episodes you've written featuring Felicia Day's fan-favorite character, Charlie Bradbury. Is there any chance we might see her show up this season?
We all love Felicia. We love the character of Charlie Bradbury. I have been fortunate enough to write all the episodes she's been in. I will consider it a career failure if I don't get the chance to write her character again.
I will also say, because I've had a few folks ask me about this on Twitter and at conventions, we never viewed her going off to Oz as the end of her story. One of the great things about casting Felicia and what Felicia brought to the character was that this was a character you could bring back because she was such a great actress and you can let the character grow. We always viewed her going off to Oz as another chapter in her life, but not the final chapter of her story on "Supernatural." We all love her and we're looking as much as we can to continue telling her story.
[Editor's note: A preview of the 10th season of "Supernatural" released on iTunes after this interview was conducted confirms that Charlie Bradbury will indeed be part of the upcoming season.]
Finally, as we talked about, this season of "Supernatural" is the show's 10th and from what you've told me and what I've read it sounds like the cast and crew of the show is as fired about the show as they have been in the past. Why do you think that is? What is it about the show that continues to excite its cast and crew even after a decade has passed?
That's a great question. I think it's a couple things. I think it starts from the top down. On the writers side with [showrunner] Jeremy Carver and [executive producer] Robert Singer it's a fun place to work. We have an amazing crew up in Canada and a lot of them have been there since Season 1. That really speaks to the quality and the character of the people working on the show. It also speaks to how much fun it is to make.â€¨Another big part of it is Jensen and Jared. They're such great guys. I think when you're the leads on shows like this it's kind of like being a quarterback. We all sort of follow their lead. Also being able to expand that cast to people like Misha Collins and Mark Sheppard grows the family atmosphere of "Supernatural" and it makes it so much fun to work on.
I love writing for those actors and working with this crew, but I think the biggest part of why the show has endured is the fans. We've had good years. We've had lean years. Last year we had an incredible increase in ratings. People are really finding the show on TNT and on Netflix, and if you go online to Twitter or Tumblr and you go to any convention, whether it's a "Supernatural" convention or a comic one, when you meet the fans and see how passionate they are about the show and how much it means to them on a personal level it's really hard not to be inspired by that and to want to continue that story.
I joined the show with season seven and I thought, "Well, maybe there will be another year or two and we'll see what happens." My joke now is, "Here's to 200 episodes, and here's to 200 more." I don't see any reason to stop doing the show. As long as we keep having the great cast and great crew that we have and as long as there's still good stories to tell. I think we should go for it. As we say around the office, "We should go for the 'Gunsmoke'" [record], or now "The Simpsons" I guess.
Another aspect, and one I've been thinking about a lot, is the core value of this show, these two brothers and their struggle against the world and the family that they have built, whether it's actual family or the friends and allies that they've built around themselves. There's just something incredibly universal about that. I've said it before and it will probably be on my tombstone, but I came to "Supernatural" for the monsters and I stayed for the emotion. I think that core value of the show still remains. I think there's a lot more story to tell and I hope to be around as long as I can to tell it.
I'm really excited about Season 10, and Seasons 11, 12 and 13. It's always exciting this time of year in particular because we're in production, but the show hasn't aired yet. Then little things start to leak out and people start to get excited about it. It's a really great thing and I feel fortunate to be a part of the show. My fellow writer Adam Glass says all the time, "This is one of those shows you'll look back on and you'll really be proud of the work and the show." I'm just trying to enjoy it as much as I can now.
So I'm really excited about the show and "Spider-Verse." I know a little more now about where it's going and I think it's just such a great idea. When I saw that poster with all the Spider-Men and Spider-People I was like, "This is great!" It's one of those ideas that are so pure it's like why hasn't this been done a million times?
It's so exciting. You could tell at the Spider-Man panel at Comic-Con that the whole team was really fired up about this story. It's like you were talking about with "Supernatural." They all seem engaged and really excited about it on the panel, and then having peeked behind the curtain you can see it's really true there as well. They're really excited about this story and I can't wait to read it.
"Supernatural" bows its Season 10 premiere October 7 on The CW; "Spider-Verse" #1 goes on sale November 12 from Marvel.