What happens when your childhood dream of writing for Spider-Man comes true?

Toronto comic book artist Chip Zdarsky takes on his biggest project of his life with Peter Parker: the Spectacular Spider-Man.
The only image to be released so far from new comic book Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider Man. (Marvel Comics)

By Melody Lau

When an editor at Marvel told comic book artist Chip Zdarsky that he was about to get a phone call, his brain immediately raced to the worst possible thing. "'Hi, it's Stan Lee and we hate you,' — something like that," he predicted.

Fortunately for the Toronto-based Zdarksy, whose real name is Steve Murray, it was the complete opposite. Not only did Marvel enjoy working with Zdarsky (he has worked on a number of their titles including Howard the Duck and Star-Lord), but they wanted to offer him a new project: Spider-Man.

This was a childhood dream of Zdarsky's. Spider-Man had been a constant presence in his life, whether it was reruns of the '60s animated series, which led him to the comics, dressing up as the character for Halloween or even receiving a themed cake for his fifth birthday. In fact, he even admits to sneaking Spider-Man into his Howard the Duck comics as a form of "auditioning for the title," he says. It worked.

Spider-Man makes an appearance in Chip Zdarsky's first issue of Marvel's Howard the Duck. (Marvel Comics)

As the well-known adage goes, with great power comes great responsibility, and for Zdarsky, "great anxiety." Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man is Zdarsky's biggest project to date, working side-by-side with longtime artist Adam Kubert, and that pressure sunk in as soon as he accepted the job. "I basically didn't do anything for a week, I just sat there and thought about it," he says. "There was a part of me that almost called and said I couldn't do this because it just seemed too big."

With some guidelines, Zdarsky was able to find a focus and zero in on a version of the multifaceted character that would work alongside the main Amazing Spider-Man comics by Dan Slott, as well as the new film, Spider-Man: Homecoming, out today. While the former looks at Peter Parker's life as a globetrotting CEO, and the latter builds on a relationship between a young Parker and Tony Stark, a.k.a. Iron Man, Zdarsky's series aims to go back to the basics.

Chip Zdarsky and Adam Kubert's The Spectacular Spider-Man. (Marvel Comics)

The Spectacular Spider-Man looks at Parker's life in New York City, dealing with more everyday problems and people (that, of course, will eventually spiral into bigger conflicts). Here, Spider-Man has time to catch up with the Human Torch over lunch, fight thieves instead of supernatural supervillains and even go on a date with a new character named Rebecca London — as Spider-Man.

"I wanted to introduce somebody who calls him on the problems of being friends with Spider-Man," Zdarsky explains. "Comics are like soap operas that span over 60-70 years; everyone in his life has either become a supervillain, died, been reborn or gone through psychotic breakdowns. ... Anyone associated with the main character always has problems but I wanted Rebecca to be like 'Oh no, that's not going to be me.'"

The first issue also introduces Mason, the good brother of classic Spider-Man villain Tinkerer. "He's going to play a big part as the storyline goes on because of his adverse relationship with his brother," Zdarsky teases. And that's not the only sibling who surfaces: Parker's sister Teresa (who was only introduced three years ago in the Amazing Spider-Man) also shows up at Parker's doorstep, setting up bigger things to come in issue number 2.

Teresa Parker, Peter Parker's sister, was introduced in the Amazing Spider-Man in 2014. (Marvel Comics)

Classic characters also stop by this series, though, including the aforementioned Human Torch, Ant-Man and Black Widow. For Zdarsky, it was important to balance the well-established idea of Spider-Man and its well-known universe with his own signature wit and style: "You want it to sound like the character, but you also want to put your mark on it as well."

The first issue was released last month with the second coming out on July 19. While the surreality of this opportunity still isn't lost on Zdarsky, he is most excited for the ability to possibly contribute to a future comic artist's dreams.

"The idea that a kid out there, reading my version and maybe getting hooked, and maybe one day writing his own version — that's a weird, strange feeling," Zdarsky says. "Good, but strange."

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