The headline don’t lie! Don’t read this interview unless you’ve read Spider-Girl #2, as it’s chockablock full of spoilers for that issue!Last week’s Spider-Girl #2 contained a major development in the life of Anya Corazon — the death of her father, journalist Gilberto Corazon, apparently killed as collateral damage during the disoriented Red Hulk’s rampage. (But, being comics, it looks like there’s much more to it than that.)
It was a shock to readers, not just because of the warm relationship established between Anya and her father in previous appearances, but also the nearly 2,000 followers of the character’s @The_Spider_Girl Twitter account. Just one day after innocently tweeting about building snowmen, followers to that account saw distraught tweets taken directly from the pages of issue #2, expressing the character's reaction to the death of her father.
Newsarama talked with Spider-Girl writer Paul Tobin via e-mail to learn more about the decision to kill Gilberto Corazon, Twitter timing, the role of the Fantastic Four in the title, and what to expect in upcoming issues.
Newsarama: Let's get right to it with something that surprised me a bit — the Spider-Girl Twitter account kind of spoiled the developments of issue #2. I know Anya's dad looked pretty rough at the end of issue #1, but I imagine most readers expected him to pull through, and people following the account who hadn't read the book within the first day or two of release would essentially have the fact that he didn’t revealed to them. (The preview pages released two weeks ago did have Spider-Girl telling Red Hulk he killed her dad, but that could have been construed as a fake-out.) I'm sure you didn't do that lightly — and I know it follows in the practice of the "real-life" tweets mirroring the ones in the book — but I was just kind of curious about the decision to do that. Was it, perhaps, to motivate people who might have been on the fence about picking up #2; tipping them off that something major happened?
Paul Tobin: The timing of when I do the tweets is a constant and conscious decision on my part. With this issue, I posted some of the tweets on the first day, but waited until the 2nd day for others, the ones that were more "clue" heavy. As you say, I want these to be "real life" tweets, and so they have to unfold as the story unfold. It causes all sorts of interesting problems for me, and it's a whole new way of storytelling. I received a fair number of messages the other day from some emotionally distraught readers that had the story affect them way more than just a simple reading. Anya's story is more personal, now. As far as any "motivation" decision (grabbing those people who may have been on the fence about # 2), that really didn't come into play. Marvel has a really solid department full of people who do their magic in that area... I always see my job as to simply tell the best story I can. In this case, I was able to tell the story in a new way.
Nrama: And on that subject, I wanted to ask about the death itself — after reading issue #1, I was struck by the fact that it seemed like a relatively rare occurrence of a superhero having a nice, normal relationship with a biological parent. She wasn't an orphan, her dad wasn't secretly evil, etc. Were the motivations behind his death perhaps to give Spider-Girl a sense of purpose she didn't necessarily have before — her own Uncle Ben moment, essentially?
Tobin: In some ways, I think you've hit on it. Her own Uncle Ben. Anya has always been a girl that's been thrust into situations, a reluctant hero, if you will, and it's affected her drive. We wanted something more compelling... a defining moment... something that gave Anya a need to help. Gil's death was something that evolved over a few months of planning, and wasn't something that we entered into lightly. The fact of the matter is, I really like Gil. It tore me apart to write that second issue, and to sculpt the first issue knowing the 2nd issue was waiting in the wings. In the end, though... we feel it was the best for the character, and for the direction that the book needs to go.
Nrama: From a writer's standpoint, how difficult is capturing a tragic event like a teenage girl losing her father, and making it genuine? Seemed like that really showed the value of the tweet-box narration — where a reaction to something like that could potentially be depicted as overwrought, it came across as spontaneous.
Tobin: I think this kind of event is best portrayed as segments of thought... bursts of incoherency... explosions of rage, of helplessness. I think where a writer can go wrong is in trying to make it dramatic. I've had some really horrible things happen to me in my life, and I did not race up onto a rooftop, shaking my fists at the skies above, silhouetted by lightning strikes while making bold statements. Instead, I huddled in corners, and I sat rocking back and forth, speaking occasional inanities, and now and then lashing out to break anything (anything) that was near. There were times I probably didn't have a complete thought for hours on end. THAT'S what needs to be captured.
Nrama: Another dead dad question — was his death always part of the plan since the original pitch for the book, or was it maybe something that developed along the way as your direction for the title cemented?
Tobin: Definitely happened a ways onto the path. We (original editor Nate Cosby and I) talked for a few weeks, off and on, about issue one being a departure for Anya. She was Spider-Girl now, no longer Arana, and she was becoming her own person. We wanted a radical departure... something that tossed her in the deep end long before she was truly ready. We wanted to take away her safety net. It began to be clear to me that Gil couldn’t be a part of long-range plans, but I fought against it at first. I wanted him around. But... every time I planned for him, there was this tethering cord that made it hard for Anya to mature in the Marvel Universe. Then, Nate called me up one day, out of the blue, and asked how I felt about Gil... specifically Gil's death... being part of our departure point. It was the first time we'd both talked about it, and by the end of the phone call I had the specifics fairly worked out in my mind. I hated myself a little for it... honestly... because I've grown to really like Anya, and I knew it was going to be horrifically painful for her.
Nrama: OK, one more. The first issue, for the most part, had a pretty light-hearted tone. Given such a traumatic event happening in Anya's life, it seems like it would be pretty impossible to get back to that any time soon. As I kind of alluded to (or tried to) earlier, was it sort of a deliberate move in #1 to essentially lull the reader into a false sense of security, so the death thus had even more sting? (Even with the Twitter account, which went from snowman talk to grieving.) And given the story that Rocky's tells, can we go ahead and assume that one of the major themes of the book is how living in the Marvel Universe effects non-powered humans — which Anya is one? (That's actually two questions. Whoops.)
Tobin: I think almost every comic has a false sense of security... chiefly because comics have verified that false sense again and again. Nothing bad really happens, right? The hero is always okay in the end, for sure! Well, with this first storyline, we wanted it clear that we are not playing it safe, that Anya lives in a world where terrible things happen, and that there are massive consequences. I wanted to write a book without a safety net, and... to do that... I needed to take Anya's safety net away. And yes... living as a normal human (like Anya, or Rocky) in the Marvel Universe could be very trying at times. There are these whole levels of forces that a normal human couldn't even comprehend. It's like you don't even get to be a pawn. You're seriously not even on the board. That's going to be a theme, yes.
Nrama: Here's a non-death question! Well, non-Gilberto Corazon's death, at least. With Fantastic Four #587 out in late January, promising the end of that team as we know it, it looks like Spider-Girl #2 will be one of the last appearances — for now, at least — of Marvel's First Family as a unit. Were you aware of that while writing their scenes? (And, if it is in fact Susan Richards who perishes in that issue, that would sure plunge Anya into an even darker place, huh?)
Tobin: The upcoming events in Fantastic Four have been on my mind for a handful of months. Anya has a good relationship with all the members of the team, so it's inevitable that she's impacted. Beyond saying that... mutter mutter, whistle whistle, oh look... there's another question down below! Let's move on, shall we?
Nrama: I noticed that in the recap box, much like in Amazing Spider-Man, the iPad-like device was produced by Horizon Labs, Peter Parker's current employers. Can we look forward to more like nods back and forth between your book and Dan Slott's work on Amazing Spider-Man?
Tobin: Absolutely. Dan and I have similar bents when it comes to writing (our insanities mesh quite well) so the books will definitely be acknowledging and working with each other. Dan's a writer I've followed for ages, so it's been monumentally fun to be a part of his vision for Spidey. I even nabbed one of the villains from Spidey/Dan's world for the issues following Ana Kraven's appearance.
Nrama: Finally, what can you hint us towards in the near future? Looks like we've got more Red Hulk in #3, plus the inevitable Ana Kraven appearance in #4 and #5. How long can we expect the mystery behind the creepy dude at the end of #2 to unfold?
Tobin: The creepy dude will be around for some time. And he is creepy indeed. He'll become a far bigger part of Anya's life than she would like. And yes... the Red Hulk will be around for a time as well, as Anya begins to unravel what really happened in the library where her father died, and what the Red Hulk was really saying during the fight.Have you been keeping up with SPIDER-GIRL?