Marvel Comics' Spider-Man possesses super human strength, but his punches don't pack the wallop of someone like the Hulk. That's okay though, because Spider-Man doesn't just hit his foes with physical punches; he socks them with verbal jabs as well. In fact, no one in the Marvel Universe is as good as Spidey when it comes to quips and zingers -- well, almost no one. It takes a special breed of Marvel character to be even more chatty, annoying, and over the top than Spider-Man, and Wade Wilson AKA the Merc With a Mouth, Deadpool, is just such a man.
This September, much to his chagrin, Spidey will be forced to team up with Deadpool in a story that begins in "Avenging Spider-Man" #12 by writer Kevin Shinick and artist Aaron Kuder ("The Amory Wars," "Legion Lost"). The issue marks the Marvel Comics debut of Shinick who works as a writer, producer, director, and voice actor for shows like Cartoon Network's animated adaptation of "MAD" magazine and their Adult Swim program "Robot Chicken." CBR News spoke to Shinick about the story and the ties between his television and theater work and comics.
CBR News: Kevin, you've recently started writing comics, but your earliest work was in acting and the theater, and since then you've gone onto produce, write and direct programs like Cartoon Network's animated version of "MAD" magazine and "Robot Chicken." Your theater work includes a Spider-Man stage production that predates "Turn off the Dark" by several years and shows like "Robot Chicken" routinely involve super heroes. Your love for super heroes and comics has always been clear, but when did that love start? And why do you think it continues to do this day?
Kevin Shinick: The very first comic I remember reading as a kid was "The Untold Legend of Batman," which was a great story about Batman's costume intertwined with the origin stories of everyone else in the Batman family. By the end, I was not only hooked, but desperate for my parents to be murdered in an alleyway.
After that, I found that although the majority of my reading was DC, the main guy I followed was Spider-Man! (Except for a brief stint in the '80s, when I was tired of hearing him complain all the time.) Since then, I have just been very fortunate to work with similar-minded people who love comics, enjoy poking fun at them or are smaller than me so I get to do what I want.
On both "MAD" and "Robot Chicken," we spend a good amount of time parodying superheroes because we love them, but also they've become such a staple in society nowadays. Like many people, when I was a kid, I didn't have a local comic shop to go to so everything I bought was off those revolving racks at stationary or drug stores. Today, even though I go to comic shops for my weekly Wednesday pick-ups, I still smile when I see a revolving rack someplace where I didn't even realize they sold comics. Like the car wash.
Obviously, they're more mainstream now, which is one of the reasons we can have fun doing, here comes the plug, our Robot Chicken/DC Comics special which airs this Fall on Adult Swim. I'm a co-producer, writer and voice actor on it, but an additional highlight for me is that I get to recreate the role of the "Superfriends" Narrator, whose lines of "Meanwhile, at the Hall of Justice" were made famous by comic genius Ted Knight. So my childhood dream of imitating a white haired, middle aged man is complete!
As I mentioned, you wrote and directed 2002's "Spider-Man: Live," which was the first full-length stage production starring a Marvel Comics character. What was it like adapting Spider-Man for the stage back then? How did it feel to write something starring Marvel's flagship hero?
That experience was phenomenal. I had never tackled anything like that before (nor did I admit I had never done anything like that before), but being a huge fan of Spider-Man and a Broadway veteran, I knew that I had the rare opportunity of combining everything I loved about both worlds into one show: Superheroes, acrobats, drama, multi-media, special effects and, of course, comedy. I felt a responsibility not only to Marvel and its fans, but also to the people who were coming out to experience theatre for the first time, because I know how much of an impact it can have if done right. And this was right before the original Tobey Maguire Spider-Man movie had come out, so people weren't as well versed in Spidey as they are today.
I remember working with the special effects team and having them ask, "What exactly is a 'pumpkin bomb?'" So after our first production meeting, I took the entire crew over to Midtown Comics in Times Square and had them purchase a lot of "research." Then I went ahead and cast actors, acrobats, Cirque du Soleil folk and even a 7' tall ex-Jets football player to be Crusher, the wrestler Parker beats.
By the time we opened at Radio City Music Hall, we had sold out our entire run, which was a great way to begin our 40-city US tour while also kickstarting our superhero careers. In fact, the person I cast as Peter Parker/Spider-Man was this incredibly talented Cirque du Soleil performer named Colin Follenweider, who then went on to be an actual stunt double for Tobey Maguire in the Spider-Man movies.
Personally, my superhero moment came just before the show each night. Since I was the writer/director, they always reserved two seats for me in the seventh row center, but I can't ever sit still during one of my own shows so right before the curtain would go up, I'd go to the last row of the highest balcony in Radio City Music Hall and give my tickets to a parent and their kid. Granted, it didn't involve heat vision, but it was definitely my superhero moment.
You'll get your chance to revisit Spidey this September with "Avenging Spider-Man" #12, but it won't be your first comic script. You previously penned Batman stories featuring Mister Freeze and Clayface. So how was it moving from scripting film and television to comics? How does it feel to be one month away from the release of your first major Marvel comic?
As I said before, I have always loved comics. Why I never thought to pursue writing comics earlier I'll never know. Oh wait, that's right! I didn't know they paid. But after being encouraged to do so by my friend Geoff [Johns], I felt I should've been doing it all my life.
The best part being that since I've spent most of my TV and film career writing comedy, it was a thrill to embrace my darker side, and wrestle with the personalities of conflicted characters in desperate situations. And if that's what you're aiming for, who better to start with than Batman? I still have a fondness for that first Mr. Freeze story I did for the "Batman 80-Page Giant," because I felt it really just boiled down to two individuals. Yes, one was a super villain and one was a police commissioner, but really they were just two people who, in this particular moment, were not that different from one another. It's the same with Clayface.
I try to find the human side to some of these "monsters" because I think they all share feelings we can relate to. For me, that's what it's really about in either drama or comedy. And since I like to keep things in balance, I jumped at the chance to work on Spidey because I was ready to work those comedy muscles again.
How did the opportunity to write "Avenging Spider-Man" come about for you?
I met Marvel Editor Steve Wacker at Comic-Con about year ago. I think he was dressed as Mystique. Anyway, he told me that he and his family were big fans of my show "MAD" and we talked about possibly doing a comic together. I told him I was a huge fan of Spider-Man, that I had done this immense stage show and that I would absolutely love to write an actual Spider-Man comic. So of course he gave me… Deadpool! He said, "I have an idea, Deadpool in high school!" I said, "That's great! I have no idea what that means."
My problem being A) Deadpool wasn't Deadpool in High School and B) Part of Deadpool's mystique is not quite knowing his origin and I didn't want to be the jack ass that changed that. Grasping at straws I said, "Can I at least put him in Peter Parker's High School to ground it someplace?" He said, "Yes, but Peter is not working there anymore." (As if I didn't already know that, Steve!) But I said, "Let me think about it."
Well, fortunately for me, I took so long to think about it that by the time I saw him again he said he had an opening on "Avenging Spider-Man" and would I be interested? After doing a spit take with my sushi, I agreed. He said, "Great. How about that Spidey/Deadpool idea we talked about?" Thankfully by now I had come up with an idea that I really liked and thought would make for quite a ride. So I said, "Yes, but you're going to have to go with me on this one because it's gonna blow your mind!" And if you know Steve, you know his mind is already blown so there's not much left to worry about.
Deadpool and Spider-Man are an interesting combination. How would you describe the dynamic between the two characters? If they were a comedy duo who would be the straight man?
As much of a cut-up as Spidey is, and he definitely has his moments in these two issues, I'd have to say that he would probably be considered the straight man to Deadpool. But that's like saying Patton Oswalt is the straight man to Charles Manson. The man is crazy! I mean, I know in the movies he's portrayed by Ryan Reynolds, but really don't you think he'd be more like Gary Busey? In fact, wouldn't you love to see Deadpool on "Celebrity Apprentice?" Hang on a second, I'm going to go pitch that to NBC.
What is the story that begins in "Avenging Spider-Man" #12 all about? How many issues will it run and where does it take place?
One of the things I love about Deadpool is that you're never quite sure what you're going to get with him. Sometimes he plays on the good team, sometimes the bad team, sometimes he wears garters. So I wanted to take that feeling of always questioning oneself directly into the story. In issue #12, Spidey finds himself in a vulnerable position -- when are we more vulnerable than in high school? -- uncertain if his spider-senses can even be relied upon, and stuck having to put his faith in a schizophrenic mad man. What higher stakes are you going to get than that!? The story then unfolds over two issues and concludes in "Avenging Spider-Man" #13, because your mind couldn't take it if it went three issues.
Who are the antagonists in your story? What makes them good foils for Spider-Man and Deadpool?
I don't want to give away too much, but let's just say that Spidey goes up against the worst villains he's ever imagined. And if you think that sounds like the awesome work of the master manipulator known as Mysterio, well, you'd be wrong because we couldn't afford him. Instead we got his cheaper, non-union, super-villain equivalent. But in the end, the results are just as awesome!
What can you tell us about the supporting players in the story? Did you have room to include any regulars from Deadpool or Spider-Man's supporting cast like, say, Bob, Agent of HYDRA or J. Jonah Jameson?
Yes and no. Yes, a lot of familiar faces will appear in "Avenging Spider-Man" #13, but no, none of the ones you've mentioned. Unless of course you mentioned Spider-Ham when I wasn't listening.
Nice! We've talked about story so let's start to wrap things up by chatting about art. What's it like working with Aaron Kuder? What do you feel he brings to the book as an artist?
Without even knowing it at first, Aaron wound up being the perfect artist for this book. He has this truly inventive style that works perfectly in portraying the bizarre, unstable world I was trying to create. His characters seem to have this fantastically faceless quality to them which at the same time leaves an unsettling imprint on your memory. Plus I think he had just as much fun on this one as I did. As I mentioned, I tried to write in as many odd characters as I could like Spider-Ham, but Aaron made his own contributions by adding, among other things, Forbush Man, Marvel's answer to Alfred E. Neuman in their short-lived "Snafu" magazine from the '50s, so I thought that was a nice touch considering my involvement with "MAD."
Also, when I know who my artist is I usually try and write to their strengths to make it more of a symbiotic relationship. When I worked on "Clayface," for example, I knew Kelley Jones was going to be my artist so I gravitated towards more of a haunting/horror type story, and similarly once I saw the amazing work Aaron was doing with "AVSM" #12, I knew what kind of fun we could have with the following issue. I think we worked well together.
While we're discussing art I also want to mention that the covers of "Avenging Spider-Man" 12 & 13 were done by Shane Davis, and #12 is particularly awesome because it's a re-imagining of a famous Norman Rockwell painting.
Finally, do you have any other Marvel work lined up after your "Avenging Spider-Man" story? If the time and opportunity presented itself would you like to revisit Deadpool and/or Spidey? Are there any other Marvel characters you'd like to tackle some day?
Nothing I can officially announce at the moment, although I would happily come back to a Spidey and/or Deadpool stint. The Avengers or X-Men would also be a lot of fun. But for the moment I think I have to get back to that "Deadpool: Celebrity Apprentice" pitch.
"Avenging Spider-Man" #12 is on sale September 12.