Gerard Way is no comic book dilettante. Already internationally famous as the lead singer of My Chemical Romance when his series "The Umbrella Academy" debuted from Dark Horse Comics in 2007, Way has continued to work in the medium, most recently 2013's "The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys."
Now, Way is embracing another comic book writer rite of passage -- writing Spider-Man. Well, sort of. He's writing "Edge of Spider-Verse" #5, introducing a new Spider-character named Peni Parker, a teenage girl of Japanese heritage who co-pilots a machine called "SP//dr." The issue is scheduled for release in October, and is illustrated by Jake Wyatt -- last seen at Marvel on last fall's "Incredible Hulk Special," and described by Way as "perfect" for what the writer had planned for the story.
It's a final part of the build to "Spider-Verse," the November-debuting Spidey saga from Dan Slott and Olivier Coipel billed as bringing together "Every Spider-Man Ever." CBR News talked in-depth with Way -- now embarking on a solo music career, plus working on a third and fourth volume of "Umbrella Academy" -- about his "Edge of Spider-Verse" issue, his enthusiasm for Spider-Man and what helped inspire his unconventional take on the Spidey mythos.
CBR News: Gerard, your comic book body of work thus far has been focused on your own creations, and there's more of that to come. What was it about "Edge of Spider-Verse" that was attractive to you? Have work-for-hire projects -- and Marvel specifically -- always been a goal?
Gerard Way: There were a number of things that appealed to me about the project. A lot of times I will take on a project based around who I want to work with, and editor Nick Lowe was someone I got along with and he has a great understanding of what it is I do. We had been talking for years, since he was editing X-Men, and he's always been a big supporter of my work. I thought it would be fun and it has been.
When Nick said the words "Spider-Man," my brain automatically started coming up with things, so it also hits a point for me where I see no reason not to do it. When he started sending artists over, I saw Jake Wyatt's art [and] I knew I wanted to work with him. So the whole thing was a combination of having a bunch of ideas and a fun team. Work-for-hire projects have never been the goal or aim -- for me it basically happens because I get an idea, or something about a character triggers a response, or something I want to say. It's purely for fun.
Additionally, when Nick told me I could pretty much do what I wanted for 20 pages and make up my own Spider-Man, I thought that was a cool opportunity.
It's difficult to find someone -- especially a comic book creator and fan -- who doesn't have affection for Spider-Man. How big of a Spidey fan are you? What does the character mean to you?
I've always loved Spider-Man as a character. My exposure to him at a young age showed a very human character, despite having greater-than-human powers. He had real teenage problems and I liked that. A running theme I noticed in Marvel books when I was a budding reader was the severe lack of congratulations they received for risking their lives. They had this real underdog quality, especially X-Men and Spider-Man. I think Spider-Man said famously, "Save the world, lose the girl."
"Spider-Verse" is set to launch in the midst of what's been an interesting couple of years for the character, between the "Superior Spider-Man" era and the return of Peter Parker. How closely have you been following these recent Spider-developments? What's your take on this eventful period?
I have not followed what has been going on with Spider-Man, but the one thing I'll say, knowing the basic concept of what happened and the response that followed, was that it absolutely pushed the boundaries of what you can do with a beloved character. It seemed, as an outsider, to have such a polarizing effect, that it was the mark of someone doing something great, really shaking things up and doing something right.
The "Spider-Verse" event has been one of the rare things in comics where as soon as it was announced, the reaction was nearly universally positive, likely due to the undeniable appeal of "every Spider-Man ever." What do you like about the creative opportunity the story it provides?
It gives you a blank canvas, with just the basic notion in mind, the "feeling" you get from a character or concept -- and you act on it. It makes you ask, "What is this character really about?" And I always feel like experimentation should exist within a continuity -- no rules. If a continuity limits you, then you aren't making progress, and it's not very much fun for a creator or a reader.
Let's get into your issue, as very little has been revealed so far. What can you share at this point about your Spider-Man, "SP//dr"?
Hmmm... what I think I can share is that it centers around a 14 year old girl, Peni Parker, whose father was the co-pilot of a machine called SP//dr. He dies, and then for genetic reasons, she needs to take his place. The other pilot of SP//dr is an actual radioactive spider that lives in the head of the machine, and the pair share a psychic link to operate together.
The "Edge of Spider-Verse" series as a whole seems like a unique challenge for the creative teams involved, as it inherently involves a lot of world-building in just one issue. What's the process like of introducing a new character and new universe in 20 pages?
World-building is my favorite thing to do, and I can dangerously spend too much time on it, but I feel like it is one of my strong points as a writer. I did some concepts of the SP//dr machine where I really challenged myself in terms of what I had done before, and nearly knowing that Jake was going to be the artist -- or hoping, as it were -- I kept his design sense in mind. His work informed some of my design decisions, rhythmic decisions. I went as far to design what Daredevil looks like in this world, even though I knew he might only be in one or two panels, if at all. I don't see world building as a challenge so much as an opportunity to try something new. It's probably the only way I can write a licensed character, by starting over.
Jake Wyatt is a relatively new name to comics fans -- what has you excited about collaborating with him?
It was one of those things I knew instantly from seeing his work, that he was perfect for what I had envisioned for SP//dr. He has an extremely unique perspective when it comes to art, what he sees. His line is unmistakably his -- it has a youth to it, and an energy. He is an exciting new voice and I could tell right away he was going to be very important in comics. I saw a lot of things I love in there, from Katsuhiro Otomo to "Chrono Trigger."
Not to get ahead of ourselves, as this is still months away and you've got the return of "Umbrella Academy" and more on the horizon, but do you have any plans at this point for more work at Marvel?
I don't at the moment. I'm really excited to get back into "Umbrella Academy," but I enjoy excursions when they can happen, as my work on "Umbrella" has afforded me. I am very lucky in that my other line of work as a musician allows me to be very free in comics. I don't have to choose sides, which to me is a big benefit, and publishers understand this about me. The whole experience is very transparent and doesn't involve politics -- so I can truly focus on the art, or why I'm doing something. I feel like I am in a unique position and I am grateful for that.
Writing any of these characters is an honor, and I treat them with a lot of respect. I try to further respect them by doing something with them that challenges them as a creation, really tests what their integrity as an idea is.
"Edge of Spider-Verse" #5, written by Gerard Way and illustrated by Jake Wyatt, is scheduled for release in October.