Gerard Way and Jake Wyatt apply Eastern influences and more to the story of Peni Parker!
“Our Spider-Man is a spider-girl.”
That’s the short answer at the heart of the story in EDGE OF SPIDER-VERSE #5, a collaboration between writer Gerard Way and artist Jake Wyatt. As it turns out, the spider-girl Wyatt refers to represents the human element of a very complex mechanism, the soul of a spider-machine.
Way elaborates: “In a futurist city fairly different from the New York we are familiar with, our version of Spider-Man takes the shape of a government project: SP//dr. SP//dr is comprised of three vital components: a pilot, a machine, and a radioactive sentient spider acting as one half of the brain that makes it all work. Peni Parker is a young girl, who, left parentless, is adopted by her Aunt May and Uncle Ben, the two heads of the SP//dr project. When they realize Peni is the only one who can successfully pair with SP//dr, they make the unorthodox decision to train her as SP//dr’s newest pilot.”
“We’ve been talking about a young lady of Japanese heritage, early teens, piloting a spider-interfaced mech suit,” says Wyatt. “On the surface she’s very different from Peter in a lot of obvious ways. But Spider-Man comics, for me, are all about maintaining a sense of self and values against the disruptive influence of power. From MJ’s celebrity to Otto’s genius, to Peter’s abilities, it’s about this struggle to control these things, to temper them with a higher purpose, lest they control you. And our girl’s gonna have to fight that same fight. It’s a universal, very human struggle, and it’s what makes Spider-Man resonate.”
Way drew inspiration from mangaka Katsuhiro Otomo as well as writer and artist Paul Pope.
“I started with the work of Otomo, and drew from his books Domu and Akira, for the overall feel of everything,” he explains. “Being a big Paul Pope fan, I also drew from his work from THB and Batman Year 100. I started with the visual concepts and then built the story around that. I knew I wanted a little girl piloting a machine, and a psychic spider friend. I wanted to keep the aspect of the radioactive spider ‘bite,’ and make it work in a new way, and that provided the glue of the concept.”
“Working with Gerard is great so far,” says Wyatt. “We really jive in terms of what we want readers to see and feel when they pick up this book, and we’re trying to make it something they haven’t quite seen or felt before. I’ve been a fan of his work since I picked up Umbrella Academy in college, and from what I’ve seen this is gonna bring the same energy, the same unique perspective, that drew me to his writing in the first place.”
‘When [editor] Nick Lowe showed me Jake Wyatt’s art, I knew he was going to be perfect for the project, as I feel we both draw on similar influences,” says Way. “I think there may be a lot of things in the book he’s wanted to draw, and I’ve wanted to write. I am truly blown away by what Jake does, and was thrilled by the fact that he uses hand-cut duo-shade.”
“This story is going to look and feel enormous, and really different from a standard superhero comic,” Wyatt adds. “We’ve been talking about Otomo a lot both in terms of urban texture and environmental scale, and we’re planning a few shots with a really knock-out sense of space, of vastness, that’s I’m really excited about. As for the character herself, I’m still getting to know her, so the design is still coming together. But she’s a kid in school, so what I’m playing with right now is a futurist, sort of minimalist take on a traditional school uniform for her civvies.”
“Because this is a new take on the Spider-Man mythology, both structurally and visually,” says Way, “I wanted to create new versions of some classic villains for SP//dr to face.”
“Spider-Verse is so exciting from a creative standpoint,” says Wyatt, “Because it pairs the limitless possibility of any ‘new’ story with the rock solid foundation of the Spider-Man mythos. You’ve got this resonance, these characters and themes that readers connect to, but you aren’t bound to any fixed point in space or time; everything that makes the concept great without 50-plus years of continuity weighing it down. So readers will get to discover this radical world Gerard and I are building, this fresh, unspoiled place, but they’ll have the added pleasure of finding artifacts, remnants of the original story poking up through that new ground.
“Personally I have a deep and abiding love for Spider-Man. Peter Parker and his story led me towards happiness at a time when I had closed myself off to most of the good things in my life. He helped me grow up. So I’m thrilled to be able to contribute to the ongoing history of Spider-Man in any small way.”
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