There's big characters in comics, and then there's giants - and Spider-Man is one of them. 2022 is the Marvel hero's 60th anniversary, and the company is bringing the year's 'Beyond Amazing' celebration to C2E2 - led by Marvel editor-in-chief C.B. Cebulski.
Cebulski and Marvel talent scout Ricky Purdin are here to talk about Spider-Man, and we imagine we'll have a few surprise friends as there's some notable Spider-Man creators over in C2E2 Artist's Alley who could have a lot to say about the hero.
Popverse is going to be liveblogging the whole thing from start to finish, so stay tuned to get up to date on the latest from Marvel, or come back after the panel is finished to read a recap from start to finish.
We're preparing for our second of two Spider-Man panels here at C2E2, and even before things get started, CB Cebulski and Ryan Stegman are already having a quiet chat onstage.
And now we're off! "Heeeeeeey," says Cebulski. "How we doin', Chicago?"
"We really have no idea what to talk about," says Cebulski. "We had a couple of other things planned, but a couple guests dropped out," he explains. This will be an interactive fun panel, but there may be some news, he teases.
"The only constant in Spidey's life is change," Cebulski says, saying that everyone has their favorite villain, love interest, and more. (It's almost as if he was paying attention to our liveblog of the earlier Spider-Man panel.)
Cebulski's talking about a new Spider-Man series serialized in Jump, called Spider-Man Kazuna. "It's in Jump? My son's finally going to think we're cool," Stegman joked.
"One of the things that has always defined Spider-Man are the artists who have drawn him," Cebulski says. "So many defining artists who have taken on and changed Spider-Man."
What was Stegman's first Spider-Man comic? A friend when he was a kid had the Wolverine/Wendigo issue of Todd McFarlane's Spider-Man series, and he got obsessed. "I got really into that, and I went and bought the entire Spider-Man run." After he did that, his dad revealed that he had "a ton of old Spider-Man" in the attic, including the early Steve Ditko issues of Amazing Spider-Man. "Turns out, he loved him too."
Beyond McFarlane, did Stegman have a favorite Spider-Man artist, who was particularly influential? "I always loved the way that Michael Golden drew Spider-Man... and [Mike] Zeck, for sure. I feel like he's a little under-appreciated now." (He is!)
Stegman also says that Ross Andru is someone he's rediscovered the work of.
"Some of my favorite stuff was in the #230s and #250s, when John Romita Jr. was on the book, the Hobgoblin stuff," Cebulski says. He's talking about going through the Comic-Con Museum exhibit, Beyond Amazing, and finding cover roughs from that run of comics. "It's fascinating to see how comics were made."
Cebulski asks for the crowd's favorite Spider-Man artists, and there's a lot of suggestions: Mark Bagley, Ron Frenz, Paolo Rivera, and more are yelled out from the audience to his enjoyment.
A new slide comes up, spotlighting The Clone Saga, which gets the crowd applauding. Stegman talks about catching up on the storyline in collected editions, and thinking that it was enjoyable if maybe a little slow. Cebulski is sharing with the crowd about the storyline's original intent: to kill off Peter Parker. "The intention was to bring in the media attention on it, get a whole new readership on it."
It was fan demand that led to creators to decide to bring Peter back. "I wonder if they thought it would really work," Stegman muses. "Did they think we'd be reading Ben Reilly comics today?" Cebulski remembers 1,001 Ways The Clone Saga Should've Ended, a one-shot making fun of the editorial drama behind the comics. "Was that a comic?" asks Stegman, surprised.
"There are no bad characters, there are only characters that have not been written well, yet," Cebulski says, offering up Bullseye as the primary example: a joke character that was made over by Frank Miller to become a fan-favorite. The Clone Saga was responsible for the creation of a number of fan-favorite characters, Cebulski says, including Scarlet Spider.
Stegman calls the Scarlet Spider series he was on with Chris Yost "his break-out moment." "I remember when that was announced, it was a New York Comic-Con, and I came back to my table after the panel and there was a line for the first time." Says that Yost may be one of the most underrated writers in comics.
A fan yells out that he loves Stegman's Scarlet Spider design. "I have to admit, Skottie Young helped me design that," he says in response, asking Cebulski, "Remember when I did 30 designs for that?"
"Ben Reilly is Chasm now, but we'll ask people how they feel about that later," Cebulski says, to which someone from the audience boos.
A Superior Spider-Man slide comes up, and people applaud. "This would be my highest-selling book," Stegman says. "This is one of my favorite things I've ever worked on. I think Dan Slott is, if not the best, one of the best Spider-Man writers ever." The applause suggests the crowd agrees.
"We worried this was going to be another Clone Saga," Cebulski says, saying that this was one of the first time that Marvel realized that the fans complaining hadn't actually read the story itself. "They didn't even read the comic. Come issue 3 or 4, when people started reading the comic, things started going up again."
Stegman jokes that, when Superior Spider-Man was adapted into a storyline on the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon, his kids really got into it but they weren't bothered that he drew the original comic.
Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows comes up, and Stegman says that he even wrote some of that series when original writer Gerry Conway had to step away.
"I think that I'm always trying to make progress and get better," Stegman says about his style, saying that he thinks Renew Your Vows was better than Superior Spider-Man. "I think it's just some natural progress."
Cebulski is asking if there are specific artists Stegman draws inspiration from when it comes to covers. "I'm super proud of the Superior Spider-Man cover. I feel like it's hard to do something as iconic as that cover ended up being." Says that he challenged himself to come up with something as cool as Todd McFarlane's Spider-Man #1 cover from 1990.
"One of the first books I did was Marvel Adventures Spider-Man, and I remember when I did that job, and I got a check with Spider-Man on it," Stegman says. "I remember saying to my wife, 'I drew a comic with Spider-Man in it, and I got a check with Spider-Man on it. I think I did it.'"
A slide featuring Venom Inc., an event book is brought up, as the first time Stegman had drawn the character. It led to Stegman working on Venom with Donny Cates. "I think I was thinking of doing a creator owned [book] at the time," he says, but Marvel called and offered a Venom book. "It piqued my interest, but I wasn't sure, and [the editor] said, 'Just talk to Donny.'" Cates pitched the whole story with the Necrosword. "An hour later, I DM'd him and said, oh yeah, I'm in."
"I think it's my best work for Marvel," Stegman says of Venom.
"I wanted thicker webs, but I wanted them to look tattered," Stegman says of Venom's webs. Cebulski and Stegman say that how different artists draw Spider-Man and Venom's webs says a lot about what kind of artists they are.
The King in Black series was done Marvel-style, Stegman says, citing a time when he was given 15 pages with one line of description by Cates to develop.
"I got to have a lot of input into the story" of Absolute Carnage, Stegman says, adding that he was invited to the writing summit for that plan. "At the end of the [first] day, we'd started writing stuff up on the white boards, making things happen."
They're showing Stegman's artwork from Amazing Fantasy #1000, where he's working with Armando Iannucci, the creator of Veep and I'm Alan Partidge. "I'd gotten so used to doing stuff with Donny, and it was funny, it had been so long since I'd done a story like this," Stegman says. "By the end, I'd started drawing entirely differently."
Cebulski says that Iannucci's story is political satire. "It's got a message," Stegman says.
Stegman will be drawing an "X-Treme Marvel" variant for Amazing Spider-Man #13. It's part of a month of "X-Treme" variants, which will make over classic Marvel characters in 1990 stereotype style. "I just wanted to draw a lot of pouches," Stegman jokes. "And I mean, he's got to have guns, right?"
Now they're talking Dark Web. "It's going to be a big Spider-Man book crossover coming up at the end of the year," Cebulski says. It's Ben Reilly and Madelyne Prior teaming up, as "the two most-famously wronged clones" in comics teaming up to take on Spider-Man and the X-Men, a la Inferno.
Ryan Stegman did the promo piece for the crossover. "I just put as many characters on there as I could, but I think it worked out for the best."
Dark Web will run in November 2022 through January 2023. "Kamala Khan, Iron Fist, there will be other heroes getting involved in this in surprising ways," Cebulski teases.
The first question comes from a very polite young girl called Kara, who wants to know who everyone's favorite live-action Spider-Man. Stegman says that he likes all of them, but he names Andrew Garfield. "When I saw them all together, I was like, he's really got it." Cebulski says that he was never really a fan of Tobey Maguire, but his favorite Peter Parker is Tom Holland, but Garfield was his favorite Spider-Man. "The way he moved, I think he did the best job."
A Ben Reilly fan asks if Ben Reilly fans should give up hope now that he's Chasm. "There's a long road ahead that we've planned out for Ben/Chasm. It's comics. It's a long story. You can always find hope for the villains." Promises that Ben Reilly fans will find something to enjoy in Dark Web.
Cebulski tells a story about talking to a fan angry for thirty minutes about Ghost Rider at a convention, and the next day, he came back and shared that he'd had the best night's sleep he'd enjoyed in years because someone had finally listened to him.
Another Ben Reilly asks if Norman Osborn was originally planned to stay dead at the start of the Clone Saga. Cebulski says that he can't say for sure, "but I think he would have stayed dead much longer" if the story hadn't been reworked. "I know that one day, those stories are going to come out," he says.
A fan makes a claim for Peter's black suit as the best-looking Spider-Man, before asking if Marvel ever worries about Peter Parker's arrested development instead of letting the character grow and age. "We have this discussion all the time," Cebulski says. "Giving a character a family, giving a character kids, really does start dating them, because it makes them adults. As much as we as older fans want the characters growing with us, the other thing is that we really do need to keep a focus on the new readers."
"The thing with Peter Parker is that he always has to be relatable," Cebulski says. "With Peter, it's something we have to handle really delicately." Getting Peter married or having a family is something that Marvel has no interested in.
Chip Zdarsky's Spider-Man is called out for praise by a fan who asks how Cebulski and Stegman define Spider-Man. Cebulski says that the thing that he loves about Spider-Man is, "you get knocked down, you get back up." That he doesn't give up, that no matter what life does to him, he keeps going. Stegman agrees.
The Nick Spencer run gets a round of applause when a fan mentions it, but says that they felt a "sharp shift in direction" midway through the run. "I wouldn't say halfway through," Cebulski says, but towards the end, there were storylines that had to be adjusted. "There wasn't anything dramatic or anything we had to force down anyone's throats," he says.
A fan asks if there's any plans to officially bring over the Japanese Spider-Man live-action series. "You'll be seeing more of the Japanese Spider-Man soon," Cebulski says, teasing that the character is returning as part of the final Spider-Verse storyline. He thinks the episodes may be available on Marvel's YouTube channel.
A fan asks if there's hope for Peter and Mary Jane. "Spider-Man and Peter Parker is an inspriation for responsibility," they say, adding that there's no greater responsibility than being a parent. "Who here wants Peter and Mary Jane to be married?" he asks, and people cheer and applaud. "I can't give you the nice answer that you want, unfortunately," Cebulski says, adding that just because MJ may be Peter's true love, that doesn't necessarily means that it works out. "There's so much planned for them."
Mary Jane/Black Cat will be launched in December, to explore the relationship between the two characters, Cebulski says. "We will never disregard or disrespect Mary Jane," he promises.
And with that, we're done! Thank you for reading and following along.