Sometimes, regular ol’ Peter Parker just wants to step out from Spider-Man’s shadow. In W.E.B. of Spider-Man by Kevin Shinick and Alberto Albuquerque, Peter tries to do just that when Iron Man invites him to join W.E.B., or the Worldwide Engineering Brigade. There, he joins several other brilliant young minds, including Lunella Lafayette, Onome, Harley Keener and Doreen Green, aka Squirrel Girl. But when calamity strikes W.E.B. headquarters, Peter just might need a little help from Web-Head, putting his secret identity — and his new friends — at risk.
Speaking to CBR, W.E.B. of Spider-Man writer Kevin Shinick explained how he separated the new comic from his previous work on Marvel’s Spider-Man and Spider-Man Live. He broke down Peter’s core characteristics, which make him consistent across all the universes, as well as how he tied it into the Disneyland experience Web-Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure. He also shared what it was like to introduce Iron Man 3’s Harley Keener to the comics, teased a bunch of Easter eggs from the Disneyland attraction and more.
CBR: You’re no stranger to Spider-Man, obviously, but W.E.B. of Spider-Man takes place in the Marvel Comics Universe as opposed to the world of Marvel’s Spider-Man. How challenging do you find it to bounce in between?
Kevin Shinick: I’m the only person I know who’s written Spider-Man for the comics, the stage and the screen, being Marvel’s Spider-Man on Disney XD, which is now Disney+. I did Spider-Man Live, which was at Radio City Music Hall. I’ve written Spider-Man comics. People ask me, “How do you approach it differently?”, which is similar to the question you’re asking. The great thing about this is the seeds have implanted for me.
No matter what medium I’m in, no matter what age group I’m in, no matter whether it’s a graphic novel or whatever, Peter Parker is Peter Parker. He’s true, and we love him for the same reasons. So whether I change his age, or I change the multiverse he’s in or if I need to do something like that, his core being stays the same: not to just throw it back to Stan Lee, but with great power comes great responsibility.
Knowing Spider-Man as well as I do, it’s nice to be able to focus on Peter, because — as we say in the first issue — Spider-Man gets a lot of the limelight, and Peter was like, “Wow, I’m being invited into W.E.B. for Peter, not for Spider-Man, because Peter Parker has the brains!” I think he takes joy in that.
You’ll see through the trade paperback that it has its ups and downs. He has to take credit and also the blame for certain things as well as Peter, but I think that’s the great thing about it, is Peter Parker is Peter Parker. For W.E.B. of Spider-Man, I got to focus on him and also bring out those attributes even more.
Spider-Man is almost like an antagonist for Peter in W.E.B. of Spider-Man. How did you set out to pit both sides of this coin against each other?
Well, honestly, it comes down to the way I write comics. It’s almost like a puzzle. I know I’ve got 20 pages to tell a great story. I know that I shouldn’t go more than seven panels a page. I know I’ve got to do it with as efficient dialogue as I can. I also know I want to give the artist something great to draw. I know, even though it’s about Peter, audiences want to see Spider-Man; readers want to see Spider-Man. So it’s really a question of balancing all of that and finding the way, like a Rubik’s cube, to align that all up.
So story-wise, like you said, Spider-Man is his antagonist in many ways, and it also makes his life more difficult, because also you’ve got these friends he’s meeting and becoming close with, and yet, he’s not close enough where he can share his secret. I know people are sometimes like, “Oh, I’m tired of him always having to keep his secret!” I was like, “Yeah, but you know what? He does! For the time being.”
Maybe, if we do more, I’d like to think he would open up to them, but this was their first outing and I wanted to keep the fun of Spider-Man, the action of Spider-Man, the smarts of Peter Parker and the message of collaboration in this group.
We’ve got some of the smartest kids in the Marvel Universe coming together and they’re all brilliant, but sometimes smarts doesn’t mean you’re going to make a good partner or there’s not going to be infighting. Sometimes it’s the opposite! Sometimes your egos are so big, it’s like, “Good god! This is a tough room to put together.” So it’s just the fun of trying to see them all work that out.
How did you narrow down which characters you wanted to use in the series, to provide a supporting cast for Peter?
Well, it’s funny, because they gave me a very extensive list, and I chose five — ultimately, it became six. For the most part, I chose all of them. There were two — I’m trying to think. There was one that I didn’t include; I want to be accurate about this. That’s when they came back and said, “Actually…”
It was funny, because I chose what characters to use based on this list, but then as the — you know, the whole point of this W.E.B. of Spider-Man is to almost be a companion piece to the Marvel event at Disneyland. So it’s like you can experience it before going to it, and you can also take it home with you. It sets you up, but it also goes beyond places you couldn’t go in just the event — although Disneyland Paris does exist. So hopefully, he can go there and actually find a W.E.B. headquarters there as well…
So I chose them all, and it just happened to be that when they came back, they were like, “Oh, yeah, this is who’s in the event, except for these two. So now you got to go back and put these two instead.” So I was like, “Oh, okay.” So I moved things around, and luckily, it was early on in the process. It wasn’t cut and paste, because obviously you can’t do that.
Sometimes people think you can; they’re like, “Oh, by the way, we changed so-and-so, so just swap them out.” It’s like, “This character, there’s seeds here! There’s personality! You can’t just change these things!” So luckily, it happened early on, but it was just a happenstance of me picking a lot of the ones that were already going to be used in the event.
This is the first time Harley Keener, who debuted in Iron Man 3, has ever appeared in a Marvel comic. Tell me a little about bringing him into the comics and adding a little more definition to his character.
Yeah, you know what’s so funny, to be completely honest, it didn’t hit me at the time! I don’t think I realized it was going to be his first time in print. I mean, I knew he existed. I knew him from the movies. So I took my reference points from that, and I knew if I tweaked him a little bit, it was to make him fit in more with the smarts.
I just figured they’re all around the same age; there’s probably going to be a little bit of animosity towards each other in the beginning to show who’s smartest or who knows Iron Man or whatever. But it wasn’t until later that everybody was making a big deal about it that I was like, “Oh, wow!” I didn’t totally know.
But that being said, I never take these things lightly. I didn’t know that Harley Keener hadn’t been out in print before, but I also hadn’t seen any Harley Keener in print, so I was just creating this character as we went.
In some ways, I guess it was good, because there wasn’t the pressure of, “Ooooh, this is gonna be his first time! Everybody’s gonna know it, and they’re gonna scrutinize it!” I just did like I did with every other character. I gave him a heart and soul, and I gave him a purpose, and I tried to give him some attributes that people can relate to.
What is your personal tie to the Disneyland experience? What did you do to prepare for that aspect of the comic?
I’ve been on the ride, but not at Disneyland. I went to the prototype, which at the time was here in Glendale, and it blew my mind. I was like, “This is fantastic!” I have gone to Disneyland, but we didn’t go in at the time to see the actual ride — or I shouldn’t say ride; they like to say experience.
But that being said, I did do it here, and they showed me — I forget how they do it — but the robots that they’re using to bring Spider-Man to life, and it was just incredible. So to be able to be literally in the W.E.B. headquarters really influenced my writing, because I knew what it looked like.
In fact, I would always say to them, “Do you have any other things that will inform this?” and they sent me whatever they had, but to be there in it and look around and see the lockers and see the bulletin boards, I was like, “Oh, that’ll be great for, again, some Easter eggs or some whatever you want to put!” So it was a lot of fun to actually experience that. It definitely helped in writing it.
Like animation, comics is a collaborative medium. What was it like to work with artist Alberto Albuquerque on this project?
Alberto was phenomenal. He was so great. When I work with artists, I always try and write something that they’ll be happy to draw, but I also want them to bring something of their own that surprises me, and Alberto always did. He was a great collaborator…
Every time I do a comic, I try and save a page because it’s also becoming rare, because so many artists now work on tablets. They will do commissions, but there are not actual comic book pages. So I said to Alberto, “Oh my God!” I said, “Alberto, how do I choose? I want this one! I want this one!” So he really brought it to life.
We had a very close relationship on this one. It did have its — not its bumps, but COVID came in, and so there was a lot of stop and start with this, but we kept it alive by talking and communicating and saying where we thought they should go and the fun of going to Paris and all this stuff. So I would work with him again in a heartbeat. He was wonderful.
Coming off of Beebo Saves Christmas and W.E.B. of Spider-Man, you’ve had your hands in many collaborative projects. Do you find animation more challenging than comics, or vice versa? What are the joys of working in such collaborative mediums?
I love animation because there are so many elements to it, but there’s so many elements to all art. I think if I learned anything, it’s — I work very hard on every aspect of these things, but you don’t do it in a vacuum. There are so many people — people whose names you always see, people whose names sometimes get buried at the bottom.
I will say and, this is in the air right now, that I do think animation guilds, they should be represented better, meaning the pay for animation should go up because it’s equally difficult to write a script, whether it’s animated or live action. There’s no difference. So it’s all about communicating an idea.
Again, whether it was Beebo, or whether it’s Spider-Man, or W.E.B. of Spider-Man, all that stuff, it’s all about collaborating. There are a lot of people you have to thank. For W.E.B. of Spider-Man, we’ve got colorists, letterers and artists and all that stuff. The same thing with Beebo! So many talented animators and producers and everything. So everybody should be represented equally and properly. That has always frustrated me a lot, because when people say, “Oh, it’s animation,” it’s like, yeah, that’s incredibly difficult! [laughs]
But yeah, I’ve been very fortunate in my career. I’ve always been able to — knock on wood — work on things that are very close to my heart, that I feel passionate about. I also happen to like the same things today that I did when I was 10. [laughs] It’s not a far cry from where I started.
W.E.B. of Spider-Man by writer Kevin Shinick and artist Alberto Albuquerque is now on sale.
from Ultimate Comic Blog