Spoilers ahead for this week's Spider-Man #1.
This week’s Spider-Man #1 began the exploration of a new era for the titular character, with co-writers J.J. Abrams and his son Henry flashing forward to the death of Mary Jane Watson – and the apparent inheritance of the Spider-Man mantle by MJ and Peter Parker’s son Ben.
Creating the five-issue Spider-Man limited series alongside the Abrams is artist Sara Pichelli – herself a longtime Spider-Man artist who co-created Miles Morales.
Now co-creating a new new Spider-Man in Ben Parker along with a new villain (Cadaverous) and supporting cast, Pichelli speaks to Newsarama about the process of creating comics with one of the world’s most accomplished film directors and putting a new twist on the tale of Peter Parker.
Newsarama: Sara, you’re no stranger to drawing Spider-Man, but this story and this title are different. What’s it like taking on the adventures of Peter Parker for this high profile new series?
Sara Pichelli: I guess I can say it’s a brand new adventure of a very familiar character. The most difficult part was that I needed to figure out how to build a new take on the character, especially visually... again!
Artistic exploration helps a lot to give different and recognizable personality to an icon who so many great talents already put their signature on. So I tried. A new Peter and the rest of the cast: new visual personalities. The readers won’t find anything they’ve already seen in my previous book. I keep my fingers crossed I was able to create an affection and connection this time, too.
Nrama: Without being too spoiler-y, what’s on your drawing board today?
Pichelli: Webs and spray paint!
Nrama: Many know you as the co-creator and longtime artist of Miles Morales. What’s different about drawing Peter as opposed to drawing Miles?
Pichelli: They are two different worlds. In all the interviews I did in these past years about their differences, I’ve always loved to say that they wear the same mask, fight for the same reasons, and have the same heart.
But they are two different people, with completely opposite backgrounds, family relationships, struggles and so on. So it’s like in real life, that’s why I love them so much.
Nrama: There's another potential Spider-Man in this story - Ben Parker, Peter and Mary Jane's son. What can you tell us about your approach to Ben? Will he wear that tattered costume?
Pichelli: Ben inherited Peter’s powers and so much more from MJ and Peter. He feels all the pressure and the unsaid pain of what once was and isn’t anymore, the grief, the rage, the abandonment. I guess there is much more than wearing his dad’s costume when it comes to Ben.
In my opinion he’s a strong symbol of the young generation who face the expectations of the future without having received a strong guide to be prepared for all of this. When pain, depression and losses get in the way children are left alone to slowly build their own tools to survive and face life.
Nrama: Speaking of MJ, her tragic death is a major twist in Spider-Man #1. You've depicted heavy moments for Spider-Man in the past. What sets this scene apart, both thematically and artistically?
Pichelli: I drew Miles’ mom dying in his arms, I also drew Ultimate Peter Parker dead and Ultimate Aunt May hugging her grown nephew from another dimensions because she never could say goodbye to the nephew of her own dimension.
And now it’s another time of tragedy… MJ, leaving the love of her life and their baby. Every moment has its own emotional strength, including MJ’s death. The funeral scene is much more powerful and sad to me.
Nrama: What can you tell us about Cadaverous, the new villain that’s apparently behind MJ's death? What was your thought process in designing his look?
Pichelli: Designing Cadaverous was a very long process. J.J. and Henry Abrams, Nick Lowe and I did a lot of brainstorming about the feeling that the villain should convey. The look should reflect his personality.
His appearance is a mess of cable and pieces of melted or shattered metal. He did it all by himself, that was what we wanted to achieve. Nothing too slick or modern. It’s like you can smell his grief and rage when you look at him. We worked hard on that!
Nrama: You’re working alongside J.J. Abrams and his son Henry, who are co-writing Spider-Man. Does J.J.’s cinematic eye come through in how he and Henry frame the script for you to draw?
Pichelli: Absolutely! I was so surprised when he spoke about beats of the sequences to refer to the rhythm. I was used to comic writers who speak about moments and panel descriptions, but that was my first time I was working on a script with cinematic technical words. But we figured everything out, in the end!
Nrama: What’s it like working with someone who is renowned as a filmmaker, but is relatively new to writing comic books? Have you had a hand in guiding that process as the story’s co-creator?
Pichelli: Nah, senior editors usually take care and become the mediator, I only suggested solutions of storytelling once in a while when maybe the script/sequence wasn’t clear or strong enough.
Nrama: What’s your favorite thing you’ve drawn for Spider-Man so far?
Pichelli: The girl of Ben’s supporting cast, Faye Ito!