Spider-Man's on the web in more ways than one.
Today, Marvel.com is premiering original online Spider-Man stories that tie into current Amazing Spider-Man continuity. Subscribers to Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited will get an extra peek into Spidey's world as new, in-continuity Spider-Man comics by writer Bob Gale and artist Pat Olliffe will be posted every other Monday on the website. The first issue is up and can be found right here.
Marvel announced last year that it would begin publishing original content on its website, including Spider-Man stories. But these Spider-Man comic tie-ins are among the first to tie specifically into a current, ongoing print comic book.
For today's Weekly Webbing, we talked to Gale about his stories, asked editor Steve Wacker a few questions, and got some insight into the decision from John Cerilli, vice president of content and programming for Marvel Digital Media Group.
Newsarama: Bob, when you were planning these comics, your hope was to have the story be automatically presented one panel at a time. Is this week's comic going to have that feature?
Bob Gale: The first installment will not, but I'm hoping future installments will have that feature.
Nrama: What's the story about?
Gale: It's one, long, continued story with a whole bunch of different, interwoven subplots. Spider-Man will be dealing with Jonah and the Anti-Spider Squad. And we'll be introducing a new character who is sort of the Marvel Universe version of Paris Hilton named Teri Hillman. She has interactions in the first installment with J. Jonah Jameson. She'll play a big part in this arc. And we'll introduce three high school girls named Eila, Emma and Becky, and they're nerd girls in high school who are having the types of problems that nerd girls have with the mean girl contingent. And so they are going to play a major, major part in this arc.
We intercut these different stories so that we can see the impact Spider-Man has on the three nerd girls, and vice versa. And that gives the whole story a really different feeling, showing what Spider-Man is like from an average kid's point of view.
Nrama: So with characters like J. Jonah Jameson showing up, does his status and everything match up with what's going on in the usual series? And other characters too?
Gale: Yes, Jonah and the Anti-Spider Squad go right along with what's happening in the print stories. What we're doing with that will impact everything else eventually. And Michele, Peter's roommate, has a good role in this series too.
Nrama: Is there a villain in the series?
Gale: Yeah, at the end, we introduce a new villain whose name will be revealed in Part Two, but he's called Spectrum. When you get to the last page, you'll see the demonstration of his powers. He's kind of a mystery villain, and we won't know what he's up to for quite awhile.
Nrama: Steve, how do the online comics fit with the current continuity on the print side?
Steve Wacker: Pretty well. While Bob and Patrick's story doesn't take place in the exact same timeframe as the issue of Amazing on-sale in a given week, they've taken pains to fit it in around the edges of what's been going on with Spidey since #600.
Nrama: Is it at all necessary to read the print stories in order to understand the online version? Are they totally separate? Or do they at least refer to each other?
Wacker: You’ll get some mentions here and there to things like Aunt May’s honeymoon and Pete’s roommate, but all of that’s explained within just the digital comic. Any new readers we get from the digital side should understand what’s going on just fine.
Nrama: What does this mean for Bob Gale's role in the "Web Heads" team? Is he still part of the group?
Wacker: Absolutely. He’s a charter member. With his movie job taking time from his schedule, Bob’s had to take more of an advisory roll in the Web-Heads — giving his thoughts on every script and looking at all the lettered art. But he’s still coming at every retreat and conference call, throwing out a million ideas a minute. The guy is really fearless about just tossing something out and seeing where it goes.
I offered him the digital comic because I wanted him involved in writing the books in some capacity and this was an option that was a little more manageable to his schedule. I’m just glad he could do it.
Gale: Yeah, I read all the scripts and know what's going on. The hard part with this was, when I started writing it, it was originally supposed to hit the internet back in August. There are certain aspects of it, for example Aunt May's on her honeymoon, and she will be coming back in the main book while she's still in her honeymoon in this. But we're pretty close to the main story.
It's going to be coming out bi-weekly for awhile. Right now, my first story is 11 parts, and I'm already up to scripting Part 7.
Nrama: John, what makes these Spider-Man stories different from other Spider-Man comics we've seen online?
John Cerilli: The Amazing Spider-Man digital comics are all-new, all-original stories that are in current continuity. We haven't ever done that with Spider-Man in the digital space. In addition to the three monthly issues of Amazing Spider-Man, now there's Amazing Spider-Man Digital. These stories count!
Nrama: How does this fit with Marvel's overall digital plan? And will we see more in-continuity comics like this from Marvel?
Cerilli: The release of Amazing Spider-Man Digital has been part of the overall digital plan for some time now. In late 2008, when we announced our plans for exclusive comics for the Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited product, these Spider-Man comics were part of that announcement. It's fun to see it come to fruition! As for more in-continuity digital comics like this, anything and everything is possible. Between our launch of Marvel Motion Comics and are expansion of digital comics offerings for the likes of the Sony PSP and via several iTunes apps, I don't think it's any secret that we here at Marvel are very serious about our digital endeavors. As we're apt to say, stay tuned True Believers.