Writer-artist Chip Zdarsky breaks down the special variant series!

Evoking what was once a standard of comics past, a collection of How-To-Draw variant covers will be available across 20 different issues this October—including BLACK PANTHER #166, CAPTAIN MARVEL #125, ALL-NEW GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #11, DAREDEVIL #27, and GWENPOOL #21!

Via the artistic tutelage of Chip Zdarsky (writer of PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN, STAR-LORD, and HOWARD THE DUCK), readers will get a step-by-step guide to illustrating their favorite characters. How “expert” that artistic tutelage will be…is less certain.

We sat down with Chip and Editor Nick Lowe to chat about how these covers came to life.

Marvel.com: Nick, when was the first time you ever came across a how-to-draw featurette in a comic—and what did it mean to you? And then how did this project come about?

Nick Lowe: The book How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way was huge for me back in middle school and high school—and still is today. Let’s be honest: John Buscema is one of the most underrated artists in comic history. He could draw anything and you’d hear these amazing stories about him, but you see how he approached the work and it’s just stunning.

We generally do Sketch Variant covers for our big launches and when PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN came around, it hit me that we could do something a little different…especially with someone as truly bizarre as Chip, our writer. So I emailed Chip and before I knew it he sent in the hilarious How-To-Draw Spider-Man cover. [Editor-in-Chief] Axel Alonso saw it and loved it and he had the idea to roll it out into all these variants.

Marvel.com: Chip, what did you think when they approached you about this?

Chip Zdarsky: Well, like Nick says, we were gearing up for issue one of Peter Parker and, you know, launching a Spider-Man book is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so I told Nick that I’d love to do one of the variant covers.

Marvel.com: Nick, what made Chip the go-to man for these covers? What are his strengths with this kind of work?

Nick Lowe: He’s a very troubled individual, so I knew I could exploit those troubles here. His strengths certainly aren’t art, that’s for sure, but I guess he’s pretty funny.

Marvel.com: Chip, there’s got to be more to this story. What do you remember about the Spidey editorial team’s reaction to your interest in doing a variant for the book?

Chip Zdarsky:  Never heard back. Which, you know, stung, since they had 80-90 variants for issue one. But, I forgave Nick, ‘cause he’s a really busy guy, spending most of his day telling me “no” to my story ideas. So it probably slipped his mind to tell me “no” for my variant.

Then, just before they were sending the covers to the printer, Nick contacted me. He said they were doing one of the blank sketch variants, but that I could maybe write a fun little thing on the back cover before they sent it to the printer. Was it out of pity for me? Probably. Would I exploit that pity? Yeah. Yeah, I would.

So I sent him a How-To-Draw guide for Spidey instead. It seemed to fit in with the theme of the blank covers. Nick loved it and told me I’m his favorite person at Marvel; more than Mark Waid, Dan Slott, his assistant editors Alison and Devin, etc., which was really nice to hear.

So, the Spider-Man cover came out, and people seemed to like it! I figured at that point Marvel would greenlight a How-To-Draw movie and I’d be set for life. But instead, I got a text message from Axel Alonso, Editor-in-Chief—I call those Axts—telling me that I was now drawing twenty of those covers.

Marvel.com: Nick, do you have a favorite cover?

Nick Lowe:  I love the Lockjaw one a lot. I love the DAREDEVIL one, too. But they’re all so great.

Marvel.com: Chip, do you have a personal favorite?

Chip Zdarsky: I’m pretty happy with the DAREDEVIL one, which has made its way online already. But so far my favorite is the PUNISHER one, ’cause it’s really tricky to capture the soul of a killing machine. But I think I succeeded.

Marvel.com: How long did a typical cover take you to create from beginning to end?

Chip Zdarsky: In a lot of ways, my entire life has been leading to this job, so I would say each one takes a lifetime. Or, like, half an hour. Depending on how you look at it.

Marvel.com: Nick, any chance that something like this could be expanded upon in the future?

Nick Lowe: I sure hope so! I think they’re so fun and I can’t wait for a generation of burgeoning artists to be led down the wrong path! These are the complete inversion of my beloved How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way!

Marvel.com: We’ll give the last words on these variants to the writer-artist—Chip, given a hypothetical chance to do more of these, which other characters would you love to do?

Chip Zdarsky: [Redacted], I guess.

Marvel.com: *sigh*

Keep an eye out for Chip Zdarsky’s How-To-Draw variant covers in stores this October!

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Peter Parker picks allies like Ironheart with help from Chip Zdarsky!

There’s no place like home and for Peter Parker, that’s New York City. Thanks to writer Chip Zdarsky and artist Adam Kubert, Spider-Man’s back in town, but he can’t just put his feet up and relax; it’s the city that never sleeps after all.

As if a tech-crime ring didn’t provide enough of a challenge, Spidey will also be facing an unlikely foe in issue #2 of PETER PARKER: SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN—Riri Williams, aka Ironheart! Why would two such heroes spar with one another instead of joining forces? Luckily, you won’t have to wait for the next edition of the Daily Bugle to get the inside scoop because we already spoke with Chip about pairing up these characters for the first time in Marvel history.

Marvel.com: Peter is already facing threats from both villains and heroes, the latter being in the form of Ironheart in PETER PARKER: SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #2 on July 19. Why is she beating up on Spider-Man and more to the point, what’s driving her in this series?

Chip Zdarsky: I don’t want to spoil anything, but Riri has information Peter needs as he unravels a mystery. Unfortunately, his interrogation tactics leave a lot to be desired. So right now what’s driving her is Spider-Man: Threat or menace?

Marvel.com: I’m getting a buddy cop comedy vibe of two do-gooders with similar end games who don’t initially see eye-to-eye. Not to mention that Peter just got back to New York. What’s going through his head and how will the two complement one another once they get past their differences?

Chip Zdarsky: The beauty of writing Spider-Man is that every team-up is like a buddy cop comedy! Riri’s in a situation reminiscent of a teenaged Peter: a young super hero tech genius dealing with the loss of loved ones. But, unlike Peter, she has a maturity to her that he may still be lacking, at least superficially. I think he’s super pleased with this new batch of teen heroes, as it kind of symbolizes his position as well, not as one of the wise elders of the Marvel [Universe], but at least somewhat of an authority figure.

Peter Parker: Spectacular Spider-Man #2 cover by Adam Kubert

Marvel.com: What was it like being able to introduce these characters for the first time?

Chip Zdarsky: Great! You only get to introduce characters like these once, so I’m really happy I got to do it before [INVINCIBLE IRON MAN writer Brian Michael] Bendis did.

Marvel.com: Riri is a fairly new face to the Marvel Universe while Spidey’s been around for a while. Do you explore this dichotomy between them either literally or sub-texually?

Chip Zdarsky: A bit, yeah. Peter’s been doing this for a while so there are some things he’s forgotten about being a new hero. And it’s true that there’s over a half century gap between their first appearances, but in terms of the Marvel Universe it’s just over a dozen years, so it’s not like Spidey is ancient!

Marvel.com: How will Peter’s repartee with Ironheart be different from with Iron Man? Any jokes in particular that we should expect?

Chip Zdarsky: Luckily we also have Tony’s A.I. in the mix, so we can see how the three of them interact! Spidey can be an acquired taste for some heroes, and A.I. Tony’s had some artificial time to acquire it.

Marvel.com: How will Riri’s involvement in issue #2 set the stage for future guest appearances by other heroes?

Chip Zdarsky: Issue #2 definitely sets the stage for a whole host of heroes and villains. Things are going to get pretty complicated for Spidey really soon.

Web-swing your way into excitement with PETER PARKER: SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #2 from Chip Zdarsky and Adam Kubert, coming July 19!

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Writer Chip Zdarsky takes us downtown for the brand-new Spidey series!

The Webhead in the Big Apple! The Wall-Crawler in The City That Never Sleeps! The kid that lives with his aunt in the place that has really good bagels!

Spider-Man in New York City!

On June 21, Spidey returns to his Friendly Neighborhood roots with the brand-new series PETER PARKER: SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN! Led by the all-star creative team of writer Chip Zdarsky and artist Adam Kubert, this Spidey story returns to where it all began: a high school kid living—and fighting crime—in New York, New York.

We spoke with Chip about the Spider-Man books that he read growing up, the dynamic that New York contributes to a story, and the real-life inspirations for this new take on an old favorite.

Marvel.com: Hey Chip! Tell us, what are a few of your favorite Spider-Man runs? Have you drawn inspiration from any of them for the new series?

Chip Zdarsky: I don’t want to play favorites with Spider-Man runs! They’re all precious children to me, beautiful in their own way. I will say that the period that imprinted on me the most was when I first got into comics: the mystery of the Hobgoblin’s identity! I loved it so much, especially that it featured a Peter very much down on his luck, trying to make ends meet, which felt so different to me as a kid, thinking that adults all had it together. The feel of those issues really imprinted on me, I think.

I followed Spidey after that, through his marriage to MJ, all the way to the infamous Clone Saga, before I went to college and ran out of money, never actually finding out who ended up being the actual clone—don’t tell me! But a few years after college ended I got sucked right back into the books.

So, it’s hard to pinpoint direct inspirations, really. There have been so many great runs, including now with [writer] Dan Slott on [AMAZING SPIDER-MAN], that you can’t help but be inspired by all the takes on the character.

Marvel.com: Do you have a favorite Spidey story that takes place in New York? What’s the most enjoyable part of the dynamic that NYC brings to a classic Peter Parker/Spider-Man story?

Chip Zdarsky: It’s the smaller moments in comics featuring New York that stick with me, really. His interactions with its jaded citizens, half of whom see him as a hero, half of whom see him as an annoyance.

Peter Parker: Spectacular Spider-Man #1 cover by Adam Kubert

I love the stories where he’s up against an unbeatable foe, trying to save the city and himself simultaneously. Two notable ones for me are his encounter with Firelord in the mid-80s, which has Spider-Man up against a herald of Galactus! He enlists help from citizens, saves citizens, uses the city against Firelord, and then manages to eke out a win just barely, proving himself to be a force to be reckoned with.

There’s a similar feeling when he encounters Morlun in the early 2000s. A truly unstoppable being who has one goal: to feed off of Spider-Man. A desperate Spidey is my favorite Spidey as Morlun lays waste to New York City, endangering people in order to get what he wants. It’s so big and crazy and beautiful, especially thanks to John Romita Jr.’s art, that it feels like the damage to New York is damage to Spider-Man and vice-versa.

Marvel.com: Are there elements of your own life that have inspired you with this new series? High school Chip? Newspaperman Chip?

Chip Zdarsky: I think everyone, when writing Spider-Man, taps into their own sense of guilt and responsibility. And in the [Free Comic Book Day] issue I tapped into my relationship with my ex, who’s my best friend in the whole world, to write Peter and MJ. Besides that, my dozen years working for a national newspaper is coming in handy when writing “Daily Bugle“ scenes, and especially J. Jonah Jameson! He’s one of the greatest fictional creations of all time as far as I’m concerned.

PETER PARKER: SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #1 by Chip Zdarsky and artist Adam Kubert, goes on sale in your neighborhood on June 21!

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Join Peter Quill for one final adventure under the pen of Chip Zdarsky!

So long precious Earth, hello unforgiving vacuum of space!

Peter Quill aka Star-Lord aka one of the galaxy’s—self-dubbed—greatest heroes will no longer flop around New York in the character’s final story under writer Chip Zdarsky. He escapes his earth-bound exile in the upcoming STAR-LORD ANNUAL #1 on May 24 only to crash-land on a desert planet and protect a small town from being terrorized by an otherworldly outlaw, “Magnificent Seven” style!

And it only gets more meta from there.

As we learned from our chat with Mr. Zdarsky, this iteration of Star-Lord is a chip off the old block. Read on for a fun and exciting exploration into Quill’s long awaited return to the stars.

Marvel.com: While he was “grounded” on Earth for the duration of your run, STAR-LORD ANNUAL finds Peter back in space. What was it like freeing him from his earthly bonds for your final Star-Lord story?

Chip Zdarsky: Great! It was a lot of fun dealing with Peter on Earth, but as we went on, I kept getting the itch to have him live up to his name, y’know? So it was nice to have him let loose a bit in the cosmos.

Marvel.com: Just by reading the description for this annual, I’m getting an exciting “Magnificent Seven” sort of vibe; were you influenced by Western movies and TV shows?

Chip Zdarsky: It’s definitely Western-themed—you’re totally right about [a] “Magnificent Seven” vibe!—but the core of a lot of Western stories are about the “Big Bad” terrorizing the small town, which is an idea that extends beyond the genre. It’s one of my favorite story tropes, so it was fun to mix that with some cosmic and alien elements. I was also inspired by the Dark Tower series, laying the fantastical elements over a Western framework. Travelling the cosmos doesn’t just mean sci-fi, especially considering the variety found in the Marvel Universe.

Marvel.com: The mix of the ol’ West and science fiction is a fun prospect—pun intended. How did you settle on this story for your last Star-Lord hurrah, particularly when he’s been on Earth all this time?

Chip Zdarsky: Well, we wanted to have at least one story setting Peter up in space again, but the transition could have felt jarring going from bartending in New York to high-flying space adventures. So with this annual, we set this story on a planet familiar to ours, so it would feel like a nice way to ease readers back into space.

Marvel.com: We saw familiar faces like Daredevil and Abigail Brand pop up over the course of STAR-LORD. Can we expect more epic cameos in this annual?

Star-Lord Annual #1 cover by Kris Anka

Chip Zdarsky: Yeah, I don’t want to spoil anything, but there will definitely be some cameos, especially from Peter’s teammates in the Guardians.

Marvel.com: What percentage of the time will Star-Lord have his shirt on?

Chip Zdarsky: [Laughs] Uh, all the time? But not really? He’s kind of rocking more of a dusty, open shirt thing in this one. I mean, shirtless on a planet with two suns? That’s just a recipe for sunburn.

Marvel.com: What will you miss the most about Star Lord’s world?

Chip Zdarsky: I’ll miss Peter! He’s a good guy navigating relationships and his place in the universe. My favorite things about any character I’ve had the chance to write are seeing how they react around others. Getting the chance to have him tangle with Daredevil, Logan, and the characters I got to create for the “Grounded” arc really helped me reveal how Peter needs the Guardians in his life.

Marvel.com: If you had to nail down your biggest contribution to the Quill mythos, what would it be?

Chip Zdarsky: [Laughs] Uh, that’s a tough one. I think [artists] Kris Anka and Matt Wilson did more to the character that will continue on beyond our run, really. A great costume redesign, that beautiful beard, those spectacular abs.

Marvel.com: You’ll be taking on a slightly different Peter this summer with the SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN series. What lessons from your Star-Lord run will help dictate your take on Peter Parker?

Chip Zdarsky: I’m not sure about lessons; I think each book should stand as its own thing. So SPECTACULAR will be as different from STAR-LORD as I can make it. The locale is the same, but instead of the maybe seedier New York of Quill’s time there, Spidey’s will be bright and filled with rooftops and bigger danger! Maybe I’ll have the Peters meet in a new series: PETER PACK.

Tag along with Chip Zdarsky and artist Djibril Morissette-Phan on STAR-LORD ANNUAL #1, coming May 24!

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Chip Zdarsky launches Peter Parker into a new ongoing series!

This May, your friendly neighborhood Wall-Crawler will no longer be satisfied with merely being Amazing; fans better get used to him being Spectacular as well.

Writer Chip Zdarsky stands the helm of the new PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN title with artist Adam Kubert aboard for art duties. We found Zdarsky climbing trees in an NYC suburb and persuaded him to come down and tell us all about his love of Spidey and where he plans to take the hero.

Marvel.com: One selling point for SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN is the promise of a “classic” Spider-Man feel. To you, what is essential for that?

Chip Zdarsky: When I think of “classic” Spidey I think of him being, y’know, misunderstood and underestimated, like me. He’ll swing by and get your cat out of the tree, but someone will snap a photo that makes it look like he’s putting cats in trees, like me—I put cats in trees. He feels things the strongest out of all the heroes, carries the most guilt, and covers it up with humor, like me. Also, he was bitten by a spider, like my brother Dave—he had to go to the hospital.

He’s also a New York City street-level hero who happens to be powerful enough to take on Avengers-level bad guys. He’s the greatest hero and the biggest thing in his way is himself.

What [writer Dan Slott has] been doing in [AMAZING SPIDER-MAN] is classic Spidey, but transposed into a different world, to see how Spidey plays against it. With this book we’re aiming to shift the focus back toward his life in NYC and exploring his roots and relationships.

Do I get the job?

Marvel.com: Evidently so. SPECTACULAR also promises a more personal tone. What elements will make that feel possible? Can you speak to how the new supporting cast might also help facilitate this tone?

Chip Zdarsky: Humor and heart are the two things I really want to instill in this book. And part of the way to do that is to enhance the supporting cast and make them feel like they matter as much to the book as Peter does. We’re working on big threats in this title with wide-ranging consequences, but the heart has to be Peter, his friends, and his family. We’re bringing back familiar faces, debuting some new ones, and springing some surprise appearances as well!

Marvel.com: Speaking to that, one of the most exciting things for fans of Spider-Man is his incredible collection of villains. Any hints about who the Wall-Crawler might be coming up against in your book?

Chip Zdarsky: Ah! This is the hardest question, ‘cause I don’t want to give anything away! Several classic Spidey villains pop up to cause him trouble in the first arc, and it’s all part of a plan. I will say that I’ve been able to achieve my dream of writing some Kingpin dialogue, so that’s been pretty fun.

Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #1 cover by Adam Kubert

Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #1 cover by Adam Kubert

Marvel.com: To continue with this theme, can you also speak to what heroes and luminaries of the Marvel Universe that Peter might run into?

Chip Zdarsky: Again, I don’t want to spoil too much, but there will be a ton of guest stars popping up, ‘cause I love the way Spidey plays off of others. Some of the heroes showing up are there to help Spidey, some to stop him. Ironheart, Black Widow, Black Panther, and Human Torch are a few. Anyone who’s read my HOWARD THE DUCK run knows how much I love to write Torch and Spidey. It’s one of my favorite friendships in comics.

Marvel.com: In addition to tackling an iconic character, you are collaborating with an iconic artist in Adam Kubert. How has the process been? How does his style inform your approach to the book?

Chip Zdarsky: Oh man, we’ve just started but Adam is a dream! His work is so full of energy and classic super hero dynamism, but he’s also so great at conveying humor! It’s a real thrill to have him on the book. There’s a storyline coming up that I created specifically ‘cause Adam is drawing it and I wanted to see his take on the characters and environments. I want to keep him entertained as much as myself and the audience. My philosophy is, if we love making the comics then hopefully that translates to people loving to read them.

Marvel.com: As SPECTACULAR takes place in-continuity, how close are you and your team working with the AMAZING team? How do the books inform and complement each other?

Chip Zdarsky: We’re following AMAZING’s lead 100%! I had lunch with Dan and the Spider-Editors in NYC a few months ago and got to hear everything they’ve got coming up, and it’s pretty epic and fantastic! Then I got to tell Dan what we’ve got planned for SPECTACULAR and he didn’t leave the restaurant, so I consider that a win.

Marvel.com: SPECTACULAR launches with a Free Comic Book Day issue. As a writer, what is the key to a good FCBD book? What did you want to make sure to do for this as both a Marvel FCBD title and a launch of the series?

Chip Zdarsky: It’s pretty crazy having this platform to pull in new readers! Our story in the FCBD book is with the fantastic artist Paulo Siquiera, and I think we’ve managed to set the tone for the main series and lay some hints at what’s to come! It’s, I think, a really fun short, and I got to write Peter and Mary Jane banter for the first time which thrilled me to no end.

I told Marvel I had another idea to make this really stand out from the other FCBD books being offered. The thing all these books have in common is that they’re free. So, to make ours stand out and be a little different and edgy, I told Marvel to make ours $9.99. Haven’t heard back about that yet, but fingers crossed!

Marvel.com: Anything else you’d want the fans to know about SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN, that you want to make sure they are aware of?

Chip Zdarsky: Spider-Man is my favorite character, and this book is absolutely a love letter to him and to fans of his. I’m overjoyed to get to launch this, something that’s super accessible and personal and—hopefully—filled with humor, but also aiming for an epic story that will have ramifications for Peter and his cast for years to come. We’re going to take Spidey on a pretty crazy ride, and I think people will dig it. And if they don’t dig it, I will walk into the ocean while screaming for Namor to take me away.

Join Chip Zdarsky and Adam Kubert in May for PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN, with a sneak peek on Free Comic Book Day featuring the art of Paulo Siquiera!

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