At Sunday's Mondo Marvel panel at the New York Comic Con, the publisher announced that "Saturday Night Live's" Seth Meyers and Bill Hader would be writing a one-shot titled “Spider-Man: The Short Halloween,” with art by Kevin Maguire. The issue will hit stores in May. Marvel hosted a conference call with the writers, along with editor Steve Wacker and moderator Jim McCann. CBR was there to bring you all the latest details on (and a good number of jokes about) the project.
“I wanted to point out that we pitched a Spider-Man story not knowing that Spider-Man was a hero that existed,” Meyers began. “We had this idea for a guy named Peter Parker--”
“And somebody said, yeah, that's already been done,” Hader jumped in. “The Peter Parker bit? Ok, it's Peter Barker, then, whatever you want.”
“We decided to just slide it in under your Spider-Man,” Meyers continued, before Wacker said that the duo had “randomly pitched all six hundred issues of Spidey.” Meyers quipped that this wasn't quite true: “We left out the wedding stuff.”
Joking aside (at least for the moment), Meyers explained that his and Hader's move to comics was partly a result of the recent writers' strike that lasted from November 2007 to February 2008. “We had a lot of time on our hands,” Meyers said. Wacker had invited the pair to Marvel's Christmas party and asked if they had any ideas for a one-shot. “We ultimately came up with the idea of Spider-Man on Halloween, and what would happen if he got mixed up with a guy who just dressed like Spider-Man for Halloween. Which is basically as much as you have when you pitch a sketch at 'Saturday Night Live.'”
“Yeah, that's enough to get on-air right there,” Hader chimed in.
Given that this is a Halloween story, Hader came up with the in-joke of naming the issue “The Short Halloween,” after Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale's “Batman: The Long Halloween.” Wacker joked that Jeph Loeb approved the title, but “he says you owe him a beer.” Hader then asked, “Does he know we're doing a Blue Hulk?”
The team also joked about the timing of releasing a Halloween book in May, with Meyers noting that “ by Halloween everybody has Halloween exhaustion” and “it so blows your mind” that readers will need five months to recover before the holiday. “At the very least, we're going to be the best-selling Halloween one-shot in May. I'm feeling pretty confident about that,” he said.
“The first impulse was to get it ready for last Halloween and just have Kevin do the cover,” Wacker explained. “He knows Seth personally, and I've worked with Kevin for many years. The sales window for Halloween is just so short anyway, the idea of having this comic done right by Kevin made more sense.”
Both writers expressed admiration for Maguire, who is best known for his work with Keith Giffen and J.M. Dematteis on “Justice League International,” which was also a humorous take on superheroes. “He's always been my favorite artist, and Bill is a huge fan of his, as well. So you just knew that, as far as what you were writing, Kevin could do,” Meyers said. “It's sort of like doing a sketch on SNL and, say, you put it in an old English manor. You write that Tuesday night and then on Thursday you go see the set, and people that are better at that sort of thing than you have built this amazing English manor. That's what it's like when we first got pages from Kevin, it's just so much better than what we thought it would be.”
He said that Wacker had asked the writers who they would like to illustrate their story. “I kind of didn't even think it was one of those things you could ask for,” Meyers said. “But I think Steve said, 'would it be ok if we asked Kevin,' and we were so happy that he would even suggest it.”
The writers explained that their Spider-Man would be “sort of a universal take” rather than drawing on any particular era or incarnation of the character. “I think you'll see that this is more of a premise issue rather than going inside Spider-Man,” Meyers said. “Spider-Man is unconscious for a good part of this story. It's more about the other people in the piece than it is about Spider-Man. Being guys that read comics, I think we're aware that when people take a character you love and do crazy stuff with it--”
“You always go, wait, nononono hey,” Hader continued. “So we were very conscious of that when we were coming up with the story.”
Hader and Meyers are both longtime comic book readers. “I remember the first comic I bought was 'Green Lantern' at a supermarket. It was when Hal Jordan had quit,” Meyers said. “I couldn't believe that it was my first issue and Green Lantern had quit. I thought I was getting in at the worst possible time. But then I read that and the 'Flash,' that's sort of where I started, and then I sort of got into 'X-Men' and stuff. But Kevin's 'Justice League' was the first comic run that I was truly in love with.” Moderator Jim McCann then jokingly threatened to remove all the DC references from the eventual podcast. Hader said his current favorites include the works of Ed Brubaker and Jason Aaron's “Scalped.”
“It's exciting for me right because we've been so busy lately working on all this stuff, I kind of get backlogged with my comics, and nothing makes me happier than going in and just buying a ton of stuff over a two-week period,” Meyers said.
“I always find I do it in L.A., when we go to L.A. for a week when we have time off, and I'll just go crazy and have to get a second suitcase,” Hader added.
Wacker chimed in on Hader's comment, saying, “there are not a lot of people in my life anymore that are that excited to talk about comics. It's like talking to a kid.”
“Yeah, that's what my accountant says--'Ah, shit, it's like talking to a kid!'”
“When Bill's sketches get cut, we go and tell him, 'Your sketches are on the moon now,'” Meyers added, to which Hader joked that the SNL crew sometimes delivered bad news about his sketches via his mother.
On the subject of comic book sketches on "Saturday Night Live," Meyers noted that he enjoys them, but his success rate is only 50/50. “My first year, I did a sketch with Horatio Sanz, where we did a comic book talk show which Ian McKellan came on as a guy who worked in the mall and did a really good Gandalf impression and a really bad Magneto,” he said. “It actually played ok, and then we did it again with Kirsten Dunst and it was I believe it died at dress [rehearsal] harder than anything I've ever done in my life. I've run into Kirsten Dunst a few times and she's like, 'remember how bad that went?' 'Yeah.' I really stand by that Ian McKellan, because he came in as this super-nerdy old dude.”
Although “The Short Halloween” is a one-shot, it does require somewhat more of a structure to sustain the story than some comedy sketches do. “It's fun to kind of plot things,” Hader said. “I mean, when you do a sketch, it's kind of contained. But I thought it was a lot of fun to kind of have no boundaries and just go, yeah, and then this would happen, and then this.”
“You can have sketches on SNL that are two minutes, you can have sketches that are six minutes. Here, obviously, we had a certain amount of pages to fill,” Meyers added. “I don't know how well we did this but just you want some pages to look different, and some to have a lot of information. And actually Ed Brubaker was somebody who was really good [helping] with stuff.”
“Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction were both super cool helping us with stuff,” Hader agreed. Wacker said that Meyers and Hader's script was very easy to edit because it did not have the typical problems TV writers usually have in adapting to comics, like too many actions in a panel. “Either you guys didn't do it, or it had been excised by the time I read it,” he said. But Meyers suggested that Brubaker and Fraction's assistance was related more to content.
“We didn't put a dash between 'Spider' and 'Man' and he was like, oh, you will get so burned,” Hader reported of Fraction's comments.
“It's like people who think 'Saturday Night Live' is one word,” Meyers continued.
Hader: “Yeah, it's like saying, 'When do you guys tape?'”
On the possibility of doing more comics, Meyers said “We'd love to do another one.”
“When you see this one, obviously it's a Spider-Man book but it's a crazy sort of sketch premise. It would be great to do that for other characters in the Marvel Universe.”
“The whole process is new to us, but every part of the process has been a blast,” Hader said. “Getting artwork back from Kevin, that was crazy. I felt like I was in a dream or something. 'Here's Kevin Maguire's artwork on your Spider-Man book!'”
“Also, we created villains that were not pre-existing, so it was this amazing thing to see what Kevin would do with them,” Meyers added.
Hader continued by saying that writing for Marvel is “ one of those things that anybody, no matter who you tell it to, they are insanely impressed.”
“I remember when we were coming up with the outline and Seth and I just typed 'Spider-Man — ' and then what he was about to say,” Hader said. “We got chills! Whoa, this is cool!”
Look for a video interview with Hader & Meyers soon, right here on CBR.