As part of Kids Comics Month in December, we’ve been able to do some pretty cool interviews, including one with Spider-Girl and Marvel Adventures writer Paul Tobin! Sit down and relax as Tobin tells us about the evolution of Spider-Girl, why he loves writing kids comics, and more. Plus, learn how to create a kids comics subscription and save 20% at TFAW!
TFAW.com: Hi Paul, thanks for “chatting” with us today! After years of publishing comics for an older audience, Marvel and other publishers seem to be trying to create more comics specifically for kids. What do you think kids want to see in their comics?
Paul Tobin: Honestly, I don’t think it’s any different than what adults want to see: engaging and well-thought out characters, a storyline with action and depth. A sense of adventure . . . that anything can happen. I think a clear division of all-ages / adults comics is what hurt the all-ages market in the first place.
TFAW.com: What do you like best about writing all-ages comics?
PT: The freedom of being able to completely world-build. The all-ages material isn’t as bound by the Code of Continuity, so if I feel like bringing in some disparate elements, it’s all up to me.
TFAW.com: I wanted to say how much I enjoyed Spider-Girl #1. How much input did you have in developing the character and her storyline?
PT: Pretty much 100%. I was given the character, and beyond that I was able to go wild. It’s such a fresh start for Anya Corazon that no matter which way I wanted to jump, then-editor Nate Cosby just got out of the way. Nate has left Marvel now, and the rumor at least is that he’s amassing an army of bulldogs for some sort of world dominion quest, but until he takes over the world, my current editor Tom Brennan is taking a similar stance of trusting me to do what’s right for the story and the character.
TFAW.com: The @The_Spider_Girl tweets in the comic are an interesting touch aimed at tech-savvy younger readers. You are the man behind the actual Twitter profile too, right? When and why did you decide to do that?
PT: I run the Twitter, but Colleen Coover does help me from time to time when I’m avalanched by deadlines. As far as why I do it, I’ve written some 150 books for Marvel at this point, and pretty much every time I’ve had more story to tell when I run up against the 22-page wall. So, I’ve been thinking of ways to expand the storytelling . . . work in some more characterization, give the reader more of a feel for the characters. The expansion of Twitter allows me to do that. It’s an experiment that’s been working very well.
TFAW.com: Is this the first time there’s been an official, in-continuity Twitter feed connected to a comic book? Do you see this continuing indefinitely?
PT: I think Marvel has played around with it in smaller ways, but this is the first major one, yes. And how long will it continue . . . ? I supposed I’d have to cross-index that answer with “how long it continues to be an effective means of storytelling” with “how long I continue to hold on to my sanity.”
TFAW.com: Spider-Girl is an all-ages comic that can really be enjoyed by readers of any age–much like Thor: The Mighty Avenger. How do you create that balance when you write?
PT: I write every story so that it appeals to me, actually. If I’m having fun writing a story, if I feel there’s characterization and action that’s exciting and thought-provoking, then it can work for any book, whether it’s all-ages or not. Writing the Adventures line, I don’t have murders, or sexual situations, but I certainly don’t gauge the stories for younger audiences . . . I just make them accessible. Most of the books that I read when I was a kid were what we’d consider as mature stories today, and I enjoyed them immensely . . . so I suppose in some way I’m also writing for the young Paul Tobin, as well as the bald version in today’s world.
TFAW.com: Unlike past Spider-Girls, Anya Corazon doesn’t have any powers (she lost her powers after The Grim Hunt). What are the challenges/benefits to having a superhero without any “super” powers?
PT: I think the benefits are that readers can identify with her a bit more, and also that it makes me think more as a writer. I can have people shooting at her, because she’s not invulnerable, and that in turn makes me consider how Spider-Girl will handle a given situation. With some like Luke Cage or the Hulk, they can just say, “I think I’ll just waltz into that warehouse and see what’s up.” Spider-Girl can’t do that . . . there’s more risk involved, and that makes her more compelling in many ways.
TFAW.com: Anya’s relationship with her father kind of reminded me of the dynamic between Veronica Mars and her dad: scrappy, streetwise girl helping out (and being supported by) her father. Any chance you’re a fan of the show?
PT: I haven’t seen it. I watch very little television. There’s an extremely thin line of entertainment for me. The show has to be good enough to hold my interest, but not so good that I start to trigger my own writer impulses. I only watch television on Netflix when I’m working out, and often poor Colleen Coover is thereafter subjected to me on a tirade about this-or-that idiotic plot point in some poor helpless television show.
TFAW.com: Anya also has a mentor/mother-figure in Sue Storm. Can you tell us how their relationship will develop? Will Spider-Girl be interacting with the Fantastic Four on a regular basis?
PT: I definitely like having Sue around, so she’s going to be making an appearance here and there. As much as Anya idolizes Spider-Man, Sue Richards is in many ways her role model. Strong, fierce, powerful, and yet caring and feminine at the same time. For all that, I see their relationship as more friend to friend rather than mentor. I think Sue is smart enough to stand back and let Anya develop on her own, but happy to have someone of that Anya’s generation to just talk with. They’re more likely to talk about politics, art and Anya’s dating habits than Doctor Doom’s latest mad scheme.
TFAW.com: I see that in Spider-Girl #2, Anya encounters Red Hulk. Can you give us any hints as to how that will go down?
PT: Oh . . . not very well at all for Spider-Girl. They are not destined to be friends.
TFAW.com: You also write the very popular Marvel Adventures series, which are geared toward a slightly younger audience. How have you made these characters, with their very long backstories and years of continuity, accessible to new readers?
PT: By telling a fairly complete story in each individual issue, and by starting fresh, in many ways. I want the books solidly connected with the past, but not mired in the past. You can pick up one of the books and it will not matter if you noticed Hades-Master-X lurking in the shadows of panel 7 page 5 of a book published 16 years ago. You don’t need to know an enormous amount of back story. It’s just, “Peter Parker is Spider-Man! Let’s go!”
TFAW.com: What’s it like to be able to play with all of these characters with relatively clean slate?
PT: A heck of a lot of fun. It’s interesting to pick a classic villain and flip him on end, make him a relatively good guy, and it’s interesting to have Captain Stacy around, and aware that Peter is Spider-Man, and having the two of them working together. It’s fun to let the story rule the character without running into any continuity roadblocks.
TFAW.com: I imagine you’ve kind of broken down these superheroes to their core personality aspects. Can you describe how you see a lot of these folks, such as Thor, Iron Man, Nova, and Black Widow?
PT: Thor just likes adventure, and wants to be a part of the gang, but his immortal life gives him a distancing factor that sometimes makes bonding difficult. Iron Man is driven. It doesn’t matter what the subject matter (inventing, sacrifice, flirting with the ladies, etc) he wants to really give it his best. Nova is all about not making a damn fool of himself . . . but at the same time he’s got this notion that he does fit in, and it can make his moods changeable. Black Widow? She just wants to do the mission. And she’s very aware that her sexuality plays a part in who she is, and she’s cool with that. And . . . having said she wants nothing more than to do the mission . . . it’s important to keep in mind that she enjoys the mission.
TFAW.com: Sue Storm seems very different in the Marvel Adventures: Super Heroes book–no FF costume! Do the Fantastic Four exist in this book?
PT: Sure. But Sue struck out partially on her own in order to be someone with her own life. She found herself playing the mother hen a bit too often, and wanted to break that habit. She falls into it a bit with the others, though . . . she’s a decisive leader, and also someone that genuinely cares about others.
TFAW.com: You’ve pretty much re-booted Spider-Man in your Marvel Adventures series. Are you looking forward to the movie reboot?
PT: I . . . don’t go to movies much. I tend to be too critical.
TFAW.com: What all-ages comics do you enjoy reading?
PT: A lot of the classics. Tintin and Donald Duck. The old Harvey comics. Asterisk & Obelix. Many of the comics that I enjoy and would consider all-ages aren’t what a lot of people would consider as such. Comics such as Okko and Hellboy fit my definition.
TFAW.com: How do you see the future of kids comics evolving?
PT: Predicting the future is too difficult for me. If I look back on my life and consider, at any point, where I thought X would be at five years in the future, I would have been consistently wrong. We’re starting to explore digital mediums in ways I would not have considered possible only 10 years ago.
TFAW.com: What else do you have coming up?
PT: Besides my work on Spider-Girl, and Marvel Adventures Spider-Man, and Marvel Adventures Super Heroes, I have an Arcade mini-series starring the Avengers Academy and the Young Allies. There are a couple small DC Comics projects in the works. I’m doing a regular webcomic for Dark Horse / Spielberg . . . it’s called Falling Skies and is a prequel to the upcoming Falling Skies television series. There are a few other surprises in store, and in the meantime, just to keep extra busy, I’m working on a couple of novels. Also trying to find time to skydive and learn ballroom dancing in a desperate effort to avoid melding to my computer chair.
Wow! Our thanks to Paul for carving some time out of his very busy schedule for us. While you’re here, make sure to check out his Spider-Girl and Marvel Adventures titles–they make excellent gifts for readers of all ages (hint, hint). Also, we hope you enjoyed the pages for Marvel Adventures Super Heroes #8 and Marvel Adventures Spider-Man #7 in this article–thanks, Marvel!
Have you been enjoying Spider-Girl and Marvel Adventures? Post your comments below!