In "Weavers," comics readers will find a different type of tale of people with super powers. Instead of building a world where folks from all walks of life can find themselves endowed with meta-abilities, the duo will present a reality where only those infected by supernatural spiders gain special powers. Further, those with powers find themselves interested in helping only themselves and each other, while the rest of the world can rot.
The six-issue series, launching in May from writer Simon Spurrier, artist Dylan Burnett and BOOM! Studios, focuses on a young man named Sid who becomes immersed in the world controlled by the Weavers, a nefarious crime family. But while his symbiotic spider attempts to take over and fully bond Sid to the syndicate, the young man attempts to keep his own free will so he can finish a personal quest.
CBR News has the exclusive first interview with Spurrier about the series, plus the first look at the covers for "Weavers" #1. The writer answered questions sent by email, but recorded his answers (embedded below) for those interested in hearing the details straight from his mouth.
CBR News: "Weavers" stars mobsters that are controlled by spiders. What aspects of those individual groups made them work well together in your mind? Did you do much research on either spiders or mobsters? Were there facts you dug up that made them even more related than you expected?
Simon Spurrier: I guess I should probably splurge the elevator pitch up top here, so we all know what we're talking about. So, yes, here's "Weavers." When a glittering, ghost-like spider leaps from the wreckage of an explosion and forces itself down his throat, an angry, punky young idiot suddenly in possession of some very creepy, grotesque abilities, is inducted into the most exclusive gang in the world.
The Weavers are an organized crime mob jealously and violently defending their turf and their trade in the noir-ish Mesic City, known as Sicktown to its beleaguered inhabitants. The Weavers are meant to be the tightest knit group of morally devious players in the world, linked by these astral creepy crawlies living inside each of them, but they're riven by simmering secret internal divisions and desperately trying to investigate the murder of one of their one. And Sid, our angry young rookie, has some secret agendas of his own.
Alright, so how do you end up with a story mixing psychedelic spiders and mobsters? As usual, with me and if you've read any of my previous work, will know that I'm a big fan of the controlling idea rather than trying to cram things into genre pigeonholes. So, as usual, the idea evolved upwards from some very simple starting blocks. I won't go too far into all this stuff, and it's worth saying up front that I really do love superheroes, but I've always been slightly iffy about the seemingly obvious link between "get super powers and fight crime" or in "get powers and conquer the world." It all seems to rely on people having an unshakable faith in notions of right and wrong which is manifestly not the case when you look at the real world otherwise we wouldn't have courtrooms full of people arguing over where right ends and wrong starts and vice versa.
I got to wondering how it would be if all the super-powered people in a particular world were unshakably loyal to each other rather than all these fuzzy notions of justice and salvation which tend to define spandex books. I quickly realized that when you start to look at that sort of internal loyalty, you get a group of extremely dangerous people operating just outside the system who are solely concerned with pursuing and protecting their own interests. In other words, not unlike a classic criminal organization, you know Mafia, Cosa Nostra, that sort of set-up.
And yeah, I did quite a bit of research about that, mostly to do with top-down hierarchies versus syndicate operations. For the record, the Weavers gang in our story appears to be a perfect example of the latter, but is in fact of course a corrupt version of the former.
We've seen superhero comics doing gang crime before, but it's usually brightly colored henchmen, over-the-top assassins and mustache-twirling villains. "Weavers" is a million miles from all that. It's kind of part noir, part crime tale, part conspiracy thriller, part body horror. I like to say, "Imagine 'The Wire' as co-directed by David Cronenberg and Guillermo del Toro based on a script written from beyond the grave by H.P. Lovecraft." Well, that's "Weavers."
As for the spider motif, again, it came from various inceptions. I'd been casually reading about various magical practices. And it's interesting actually, as an aside, that there are quite a lot of similar practices historically in east Africa and in China, which have to do with people of power swallowing poisonous animals in order to gain power from them. And then, of course, I stared thinking about that, I started thinking about people swallowing spiders. That put me onto the track of thinking abstractly about Spider-Man. What would it be like if Peter Parker had grown up on the wrong side of the tracks? Or fell in with the wrong crowd? Or if the embodiment of his moral compass, Uncle Ben, had been a very different person?
Then, of course you've got all the connotative stuff. You start thinking about spiders, you've got notions of webs, interlinking, scuttling, manipulating, tying things together. There's a reason it's called "Weavers," you know? Anyway, you add it all up and you somehow end up with a super-powered mob held together by the whispering, hissing Machiavellian spiders living inside each member, QED.
The Weavers is one of those great names that works on many levels. Did that come right away or through the process of figuring out the story?
Pretty much right away, I'm afraid. That's a very short and boring answer, but I think, based on all my previous waffle, it probably was the only title we could have chosen.
What can you tell us about Sid and the life he's leading before he's brought into the Weavers family?
Actually not very much, sorry. One of the narrative devices in the story is that we join Sid on basically his first week in the new mob, so we sort of learn about this world through his eyes, which is, of course, a narrative trick as old as time. Interestingly, in this case, part of that is also learning about how he came to be involved in the gang, and more importantly, who he was before.
It's sort of part of the mystery, and, by the way, that's why there is so much suspicion aimed at him from members of the gang, because you don't get to be a super-powered criminal without having a healthy dollop of paranoia squatting in your soul. The obvious twist, of course, is that he's an undercover cop infiltrating the gang, which, I won't say too much more, but we address that pretty much straightaway, so don't worry about that being any sort of obvious twist.
The trick is to make Sid a likable kid whose lost-ness and out-of-depth-ness makes us relate to him straightaway, so that it doesn't matter to us entirely that we don't know literally everything about him when we first meet him. That will be eked out slowly, so we get to see the gang through his eyes and learn about him through the eyes of the gang which is a really interesting dynamic which I don't think I've ever seen before, but it seems to work. It certainly doesn't make you feel alienated from the guy because he's just so lost that you can't help worrying about him. And, of course, this is the sort of story, let me assure you, where you can expect a great many twists as we rumble along.
Can you walk us through how the spiders living inside the individuals work? Is it a symbiotic relationship, or is one consciousness really taking over the other?
The idea is that once you join the gang by swallowing one of these spiders, or actually more often by having one of them force itself down your throat when it's previous host has died, it very slowly kind of erodes your own desires and your agendas and your motivations. That would start as a whispering, prodding presence. Then, it asserts itself slowly, more and more.
Sid, who's trying his damnedest to cling to certain preoccupations and goals which pre-date his investiture in the gang, he constantly struggles against that. So, this is very much a book in which the external conflicts, which generally revolve around the gang and its attempts to defend its own turf and expand into its rivals' turf, are paralleled and reflected in a black mirror by the internal conflicts which Sid is facing within himself as his sense of identity, his sense of free will is gradually assaulted by this hissing, disembodied voice which insists that he be purely loyal to the gang which has claimed him.
How does Sid's newfound power change his outlook on life, or his priorities?
I guess, slowly, subtly and very violently. This isn't the sort of story where everyone is either a goody or a baddie, even within the confines of the gang, which I suppose, if you're going to be technical about it, is an organization made up of criminals. But within that context, within that framework nonetheless you've got folks whose hearts are broadly in the right place who are likable or at least trustworthy. And I think predominantly in that category is Frankie, the big boss's daughter. She has kind of a shitty super power and hence, she doesn't really seem important enough to be a threat to her dad. She's left broadly alone, outside the circle of intimidation and fear that secretly rules the inner-workings of the gang. She takes Sid under her wing.
At the other end of the spectrum, you've got the sorts of dyed in the wool psychopaths who are really the last people in the world you'd want getting their hands on super powers. There I'm thinking mainly of Ms. Ketter who's a buttoned-down Mary Poppins type, whose absolutely terrifying. There's every shade of gray in between, and all sorts of really interesting characters and completely unique powers.
By the way, I really hate the term "super powers," and there's a little bit of an aside about that in the first issue of the comic. As Frankie puts it, "There's no such thing as powers, there's only power. It's something you've either got or you haven't." But, yeah, there's all sorts of exciting characters. Sid, as our entry-level eyes into this world, is a broadly normal guy. He's not super bright. He's not super together. He's not super ambitious. But he is concealing and clinging to a very important kernel of humanity or truth deep down inside him which will slowly bubble out to the surface.
I should probably mention Sid's super power -- again, for want of a better term -- just so we know what we're dealing with. Most of the special abilities that we see amongst the Weavers are kind of grotesque. They have to do with the reshaping of flesh and the malleability of the human form. I won't go too much into that, but there's are all sorts of interesting and pretty icky examples of that. In the case of Sid, he finds his hands in particular are the root of his particular abilities. When I first wrote the story, the idea was that they formed a sort of flesh gun. The hands would split open and peel back like the petals of a flower or like the flanges on the famous egg in the Alien movies allowing him to fire some sort of creepy, psychedelic, astral bullet.
In the event, Dylan has taken that already pretty gross idea and just turned it up to 11 and beyond 11 so that now Sid expels from his body these seething, tumorous masses of pseudo-pods and shrieking faces and frothing flesh which kind of burst and seethe like living tumble weeds and drag anything that they hit into a bubble of nothingness which winks out of existence. They're really gross. It's like if Lovecraft had designed a black hole bullet. That's kind of Sid's super power. You really have to see it to believe it, but it's one among many of similar truly icky, psychedelic, bad-trip versions of super powers. And this wasn't intentional, but of course, it's also a quite nice little subversion of the whole "guy who shoots webbing out of his wrists" motif, which, like I say, wasn't intentional, but I'll take it.
Can you tell us what these supernatural spiders want with a bunch of criminals? Are there other beings working with other mobs around the country or world?
Well, the spiders just want to protect and empower themselves, really. They have utter, unquestionable loyalty to each other. To make the most of that, to protect themselves, they need to invest host bodies, humans and try to make them serve the needs of the group. They're obviously not going to play by the rules of any sort of tawdry human abstraction like law, so before you even think about it, the mob is born, this outlaw fraternity. Which is not to say that there are not female members, because there are plenty.
The problem for the spiders, of course, is that the hosts aren't entirely enslaved. Humans are infuriatingly good at having ambitions and paranoias and agendas and bloody personalities of their own. So even though these spiders are nominally in control, their purity and gestaltism is forever getting corrupted in the wiggle room around the edges where their hosts get to exercise a small amount of agency.
And no, certainly in the first arc, there are no other organizations like this, and no superheroes flying around out there to come and try to stop these guys. We do touch upon the sort of origin story of how this phenomenon arose quite quickly. And again, that's a neat little, slightly mischievous, sideways subversive wink at classic superhero origin stories for me. It's quickly dealt with, and then we move on because it's really not important. It's not the thing that makes the story work.
Yeah, it just feels like the sort of story that requires people with extraordinary abilities to be quite rare. Specifically to show how the real world might work if these incredibly unusual people were able to manifest their own agenda, were able to deal in the world without being ruled by notions of moral two-tone behavior. You know, in order for classic spandex characters to behave the way they behave -- by rushing out and fighting crime or going and immediately deciding they're going to conquer the universe -- you would have to expect everybody in the universe to be guided by those same good versus bad principles. Whereas, in my experience, people are usually pretty convinced that they are good even if their measure of goodness doesn't tally with other peoples' or with the law or with foreign cultures or whatever it may be. So, yeah, I'm overdoing the answer here, but no, the short answer is that there are no other organizations. There are no other heroes. There are no other special, super-duper, spandex-wearing people out there. There are just the Weavers.
How did Dylan come to your attention, and what made him the right person for this particular story?
It's a very boring answer, I'm afraid: BOOM! found him for me. They are remarkably good at finding guys who are either just starting out or haven't yet started out. In Dylan's case, he'd done a few gigs beforehand, but when I was first shown his work, I was unfamiliar with it. But, honestly -- and this isn't just blowing smoke up his bum -- the samples he sent were perfect. I knew as soon as I saw them that he was going to be the right guy for this job. It's this brilliant blend of grimy noir and expressive icon-ism.
I'm not sure if it's entirely possible to think in these terms, but my first thought was that it would be what would be produced if you could imagine the bastard child of Jamie Hewlett and Frank Miller. Somehow he found a way to combine those two styles. And then maybe even managed to suck in a whole bunch of [Mike] Mignola in there as well. It's just that extraordinary mixture of familiar but really, really accessible vibes. It's always gritty, but it's not stagnant. It's always shadowy, but it's not murky. It's always expressive, but it's not overly cartoonish. Yeah, it's literally the best bet when it comes to mixing all these things together. And I think Dylan is going to do very, very well for himself indeed when the wider industry starts to know his work.
"Weavers" #1 creeps into shops this May thanks to Simon Spurrier, Dylan Burnett and BOOM! Studios.