Chip Zdarsky has carved out a niche for himself as a creator with a sense of humor - a reputation that's led him to work on titles such as Sex Criminals, Howard the Duck, and Jughead. Now, he's well into his run on Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man, which will transition back to its classic numbering just in time to reach #300 later this year.
With artist Adam Kubert, Zdarsky relaunched Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man with a new #1, and brought back long-lost elements of Peter Parker's life such as his friendship with Johnny Storm and his supposed sister Teresa Parker - as well as introduced new characters such as Hophni Mason, the brother of the Tinkerer.
Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #4 is freshly out on shelves - and it brings back classic Spidey villain the Vulture. Newsarama caught up with Zdarsky before the title reverts to its classic numbering in "Legacy" to find out what's in store when Spider-Man's old rivalry with J. Jonah Jameson kicks back up, what it's like demanding pictures of Spider-Man from Adam Kubert, and why it's hard to write Peter Parker and Johnny Storm when you have no friends.
And oh yeah, Marvel says there’s a "huge twist" coming up in issue #6 (the JJJ issue, cover above & below) that will "affect Spider-Man across all his titles," but Zdarsky couldn't talk about that.
Newsarama: Chip, it’s hard to believe Marvel was brave enough to let you write Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man. How’d you land the job?
Chip Zdarsky: There was a pretty specific idea for the book when Marvel conceived of it, which was a back-to-basics, new and returning reader friendly series. I think Nick Lowe, the editor, saw that I could write a fun Marvel U book with Howard The Duck, and that I clearly enjoyed writing Spider-Man since I had him pop up several times in it, so that helped. Also, maybe my Jughead re-launch with Erica Henderson helped? That was a job where I tried to reintroduce familiar elements of old Jughead comics while keeping things a bit more fresh and modern.
I mean, that’s the long answer. Short answer is that I’m extremely lucky.
Nrama: Your first arc of Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man has introduced several new characters, including the brother of the Tinkerer. How does it feel knowing you’re already adding to Spider-Man’s world? Was that a goal when you took on the series?
Zdarsky: It wasn’t as much a goal as it was a nice side effect of the story I’ve planned out! I feel like Hophni Mason works well as Tinkerer’s opposite, and helps show the downside of having siblings as Peter is confronted with his maybe-sister Teresa. But yeah, it’s a fun feeling adding to his world.
Nrama: What can you tell us about the “classic villain” that returned in Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #4?
Zdarsky: Well, in issue four Vulture has The Mason in his sights. And since he received an upgrade in our FCBD story, it’s going to be a lot harder to stop him. I love writing characters who have a long history with Spidey, cause they really know each other and can tell what the other’s thinking. I’m pretty excited for people to see what Adam’s done with the action sequence in that issue! It’s pretty wild.
Nrama: Your well-established sense of humor really comes through in Peter Parker’s voice. Is writing credible Spider-Man banter something that comes naturally for you?
Zdarsky: It’s fun, but tricky! I feel like Spidey’s wisecracking has to be on the border of cheesy. He’s funny, but it’s a distraction element when he fights, so it has to feel like a guy making jokes on auto-pilot while avoiding killer metal octopus tentacles. If you think about the jokes too long, they feel like a prepared thing. I don’t know, I stress about stuff like this a lot.
Nrama: You brought back Spider-Man’s friendship with Johnny Storm, something that’s been on the backburner for a few years now. Are you drawing on a real-world relationship to depict that camaraderie?
Zdarsky: You’re just trying to get me to admit I have no friends and I’m not going to fall for it.
Nrama: How often have you demanded pictures of Spider-Man from Adam Kubert like J. Jonah Jameson?
Zdarsky: Ha! I have not done that, but when I worked for a newspaper, once in a blue moon I would have to draw Spider-Man for an illustration and I made sure the editor pounded his desk and told me to get him pictures of Spider-Man. It sadly thrilled me to no end.
Nrama: Seriously though, you’re a working artist yourself. Does that affect how you write for Adam? He’s a master – what does he bring to the process beyond just pencils?
Zdarsky: Well, you said it - he’s a master! And the best way to work with a master is to just get out of their way. The pages that come back from Adam are so full of life and invention that I sometimes worry my scripts limit him. He’s genuinely up for anything, which is the best trait you can have in a collaborator.
Nrama: Later this year, Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man is reverting to its classic numbering for “Legacy.” What does “Legacy” as a concept mean in relation to Spider-Man?
Zdarsky: I think beyond our initial back-to-basics mandate, we’re going to be looking at it from a familial perspective, with Teresa playing a larger, more concrete role in Peter’s life.
Nrama: Before “Legacy” hits, you’re sitting Spider-Man down with J. Jonah Jameson, Frost/Nixon style. How does that play into the “Threat Or Menace?” story that’s starting with #297?
Zdarsky: Jonah is the origin of the “threat or menace” phrase and sentiment, so it felt like a great prelude to the arc, having him and Spidey hash it out. It’s an intense issue with a lot of history being flung about. I’m pretty excited about it. Also, we have the amazing Mike Walsh on art for it! Two Canadians, desecrating an American icon.
Nrama: Obviously, Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #300 is on the horizon. What can fans expect from that milestone?
Zdarsky: Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #300 is going be massive. Huge battles, great guest stars, and some fun twists and turns. It’s pretty great that I got to experience launching a Spidey book with a new #1 and now just a few months later get to celebrate a milestone of an issue 300! Thanks, Marvel’s Math Department!