iFMagazine.com: Exclusive Interview: THE INSIDE SWING ON 'THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN' WITH PRODUCER & WRITER GREG WEISMAN - PART 1
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THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN
Exclusive Interview: THE INSIDE SWING ON 'THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN' WITH PRODUCER & WRITER GREG WEISMAN - PART 1
The new Kids' WB cartoon has more layers than any other animated Spidey project yet
By SEAN ELLIOTT, Senior Editor
THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN is swinging his way back onto Saturday morning television this Saturday on Kids WB at 10:00am PST. One of the men most responsible for bringing the webbed wonder back is Greg Weisman who is producing and writing the series with producer Victor Cook. This new version of Spider-man incorporates the best of forty plus years of comics in all of their various incarnations and we get a chance to see Peter Parker as a teenager again experiencing the wonder and fun of being Spider-man in his very early days. iF MAGAZINE interviewed Weisman who was gracious enough to step out of a sound mixing session to specifically do this interview and tell us about the foundations for a series that is so much more than just a kids’ Saturday morning cartoon.
iF MAGAZINE: When you set about deciding the character breakdown for the cartoon, how did you decide who was in and who was out from the various incarnations of Spider-man?
GREG WEISMAN: We started with Peter, and we also knew we were starting high school. We were going to do the original Stan Lee and Steve Ditko work; starting him in his junior year, so we knew that’s who we wanted him to be. He’s this guy that doesn’t yet have the weight of the world on his shoulders. Uncle Ben had died, and that was a huge motivational tragedy and force in his life, but he doesn’t have tragedy upon tragedy, upon tragedy, upon tragedy, upon tragedy. [Laughs]
iF: Not to the BACK IN BLACK Spider-man yet?
WEISMAN: Right, He hasn’t dealt with horrendous stuff yet. It’s about building Peter as relatively optimistic and Spider-man for him is not a chore or a burden, but a huge release. Life as Peter can be tough; it’s fun to swing around the city and it's fun to stick to walls. The irony of that and the catch 22 is the more he does that; the more complicated his life becomes as Peter Parker and the more he wants to go swinging as Spider-man. So you have a vicious cycle that plays into it, but we have a young guy we had to decide who would play off of him and what kind of dynamics we would build. Some of the characters are obvious, like he still lives with Aunt May because he’s in high school. We looked at the kids at his high school
iF: Which you did an interesting mix, it seemed like you pulled from regular continuity and ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN and even UNTOLD TALES?
WEISMAN: We pulled from everywhere. For me the starting point was Flash. I think we pulled Flash from Lee and Ditko, I don’t think we pulled from Brian Michael Bendis’ ULTIMATE version of Flash at all. Not to say that version isn’t good, it’s just not the version we wanted for this. We read through THE ESSENTIAL SPIDER-MAN and took copious notes. In AMAZING FANTASY 15, the first girl he asked out was Sally and she didn’t have a last name. You look in UNTOLD TALES and her last name, Avril, was there. We obviously brought in Liz Allen. We’re of course going to have the Daily Bugle and when you talk about the Bugle you are talking about Jonah, Robbie, Betty, Ned, and Frederick Foswell.
iF: Foswell. That’s really reaching back.
WEISMAN: Yeah it is. One thing we realized when we were looking back was that the cast was primarily white. We understood that it was 1962 and just having Robbie Robertson working at the Bugle was way ahead of its time. I think it was 1964 when Robbie was introduced. In 2008, that’s not ahead of its time and you’re living in New York City which is the most ethnically diverse city on the planet. Some of these characters are iconic, but there are some that are certainly more iconic than others. There are some you don’t want to mess with, but we decided we wanted a more diverse cast so we added some characters who show up later in Spidey’s life that would bring in more diversity. We did bring in some characters from the beginning like Randy Robertson, Robbie’s son and we took some characters and changed their ethnicity where we felt they weren’t that iconic. So, Kenny ‘King Kong’ McFarlane becomes Kenny Kong [who] is Asian, Need Leeds becomes Ned Lee, Liz Allen has the same name, but we made her Hispanic. We had Sally as a blonde, and Gwen as a blonde, and we really didn’t need three blonde characters. We decided Liz's look wasn’t so iconic that we had to stick with that. Marvel felt her name was iconic, and I had wanted to change the name a little bit, but Marvel wanted it kept the same. Although we haven’t met the characters yet, but we decided that Liz’s dad was Caucasian and her mom was Hispanic.
iF: What other supporting cast can we expect to see?
WEISMAN: There were a lot of other characters from the Lee and Ditko years that we wanted to bring in specifically the Osborns, and Mary Jane and Gwen. So what we did with Harry, Gwen, and Mary Jane was to focus on the Stan Lee and John Romita Sr. versions; not the movie versions and not the ULTIMATE versions, but to go back to Lee and Romita Sr., but realize that we met those three in college. So I was trying to be really true to those characters, but extrapolate backwards what those three would be like in high school. To slap their college personalities on the younger characters wouldn’t have worked so we really had to think what they would be like three or four years earlier. That gave us a real interesting mix.
iF: Any other familiar names for die hard fans to look for?
WEISMAN: This has been truly fun, because as we need characters, instead of making someone up, we go back and Principal Davis was the principal in the 1960’s and Coach Smith was the football coach. I borrowed the barista’s name from the comic even. In recent issues, the coffee girl in Harry’s Coffee House is named Trina, so our barista is named Trina in the scene where they go to the coffee house. I take great pride in the fact that we haven’t created anyone for this series. Literally, when we need somebody on the show we look back to the comics for source material. We needed a drama teacher for season two, so we looked and found this character named Deveraux who was this drama guy that Mary Jane had in a couple of issues of the comic. We’ve melded all of these different eras together, but we try to be true to the comics and be true to the core of these characters from the most important details to the least. We draw from this great wealth of material.
iF: Anything from past animated versions of Spider-man that you really wanted to avoid, besides the obvious "other Earth" where the High Evolutionary is master?
WEISMAN: [Laughs] For us, there are things we look to do and things we look to not do. Victor [Cook, Producer] and I were in complete agreement from moment one that this had to be a Spider-man that moved. The movies raised the bar on the thrill of Spider-man swinging through the city. So we wanted our cartoon to capture that, which meant we wanted the style to be very iconic, but it had to be clean enough that the animators could really make these characters move without the lines running all over the place. So we had to find a balance between the 1960’s cartoon where there was no web pattern on him and the 1990’s show where the designs were so dense that it was a struggle for the overseas animation to make him move and look good. It’s not a knock, it’s just a style. If you go with that style of animation, it makes it very hard to stay on model and make it move fluidly. We found a great inspirational artist who became our lead modeler, Sean Galloway who has this great style. It was important to us that all of the characters look iconic, but contemporary and clean, and that everybody moved naturally.
CHECK BACK HERE FOR PART 2 OF THIS EXCLUSIVE LOOK AT THE MAKING OF THIS NEW ANIMATED SERIES SOON!