J. J. Abrams is adding another credit to his storied career. But how do you top newly minted media mogul (with a reported $500 million partnership in the works with WarnerMedia), Broadway producer (“Derren Brown: Secret”) and film director (“Star Wars: The Rise of the Skywalker”)?
Clearly, it is time to write a comic book.
And that is what Abrams — and his son Henry, who is 20 — are doing for Marvel Entertainment. They are introducing a new villain, Cadaverous, who will cause problems for Spider-Man, his alter-ego, Peter Parker, and his beloved Mary Jane Watson, in a five-part series arriving in September. The Abramses are writing, and the comic will be drawn by Sara Pichelli and colored by Dave Stewart.
[Read more about J. J. Abrams’s deal with WarnerMedia.]
In a phone interview this week, the Abramses talked about working together and their first exposure to comics. They were coy about sharing many plot details. But, J. J. Abrams said, “The story shows Peter Parker in a way you haven’t seen him before.”
These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
How did the two of you writing this comic come about?
J. J. This is Henry Abrams’s first interview ever.
HENRY I’m nervous, but I will do my best. Nick Lowe, the editor of this comic, reached out about 10 years ago. More recently we began to develop an idea: a new and different and exciting take on Spider-Man.
J. J. Nick had been pressing me to do a book with him. A year or so ago, I started talking about it with Henry and it sort of happened organically. And that has been the joy of this. Even though I’ve been talking to Nick for a long time, weirdly, this feels like it just sort of evolved from the conversations of Henry and I, having ideas that got us excited and Nick being open to the collaboration.
Were you both comic book fans growing up?
HENRY Most of my exposure to comics came when I was super young: Calvin and Hobbes, Tintin, Spy vs. Spy. I did have a Marvel compendium when I was 6 or 7 that I adored and I would always land on this page of Spider-Man, not knowing anything about the character or the back story or the powers, but connecting with the visual designs of Steve Ditko. I didn’t really start reading him until I was 11 or 12. And at that point, I realized that this is a character that I see myself in and that was probably the first time I ever felt that way with any fictional character.
J. J. I remember working in a comic store in high school and there was the Amazing Fantasy comic that Spider-Man first appeared in that they had under glass. It really wasn’t until that job that I started to get into comics. And while I’ve never been the die-hard comics fan that Henry is, I’ve always appreciated the way that an emotional and weirdly relatable story is being told through this extraordinary circumstance.
How was it to work together on this?
J. J. I told him he has to say it’s great!
HENRY I feel like I’ve developed not just as a writer, but someone that can appreciate stories more. Spider-Man is one of those superheroes where the more you read about him, for me at least, the less I understand him. He’s so anti-everything that you’d expect from a hero. I think Stan Lee said something about putting the human in superhuman. That is what we’re trying to do.
J. J. It’s been wild for me from having worked with writers for many years to work with my son on something and to get pages back after we’ve talked through an outline. To be honest, I wasn’t sure going into it what it would be like — neither of us were.
What was it like seeing the artwork come in?
J. J. I would equate the experience a bit like working on a movie. You have an idea for what Maz Kanata’s castle will look like. [Maz Kanata is the “Star Wars” bar owner who claims Chewbacca is her boyfriend.] It’s theory for months and months, and then you go through phases and design. Then one day you walk onto the set and you’re standing there. You might not be shooting, but you’re just standing on the set. And to get Sara’s artwork, the black and white early renderings, to get those, it’s weird because you’re suddenly looking at a brilliant artist’s interpretation of work that you’ve been talking about for a long time.
Would you want to do more comics, time allowing?
J. J. Sure. It’s been fun working with Henry. I know that Henry has some other ideas for some. I can imagine working with Dad has its advantages but I can imagine wanting to do things on his own.
HENRY Obviously, there is an undeniable privilege here, and I’m not ignorant of that. I think part of creating is creating on your own. My hope and my goal is to do that after this. I can’t believe this opportunity was afforded to us. It’s been a great excuse, especially during the year when I’m in college, just to call and talk about the story.
George Gustines is a senior editor. He began writing about the comic book industry in 2002. @georgegustines • Facebook
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