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Seanan McGuire talks Spider-Gwen’s name change, evil Peter Parker, and representation in the Spider-Verse

Plus a little clarity on Gwen’s place in the upcoming relaunch.

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In celebration of everyone’s favorite web-head, July is Spectacular Spider-Month at AiPT!. We have a series of amazing articles in store for the month. Movies, television, gaming, and of course comics will all be covered with great responsibility as we honor one of comics’ greatest heroes

Seanan McGuire hardly needs any introduction. A Nebula, Hugo, and Locus award-winning novelist, she has penned some of the most popular and acclaimed urban fantasy, horror, and youth apocalypse stories in recent memory including a Alien YA novel, Alien: Echo under her pseudonym, Mira Grant, and Middlegame under her own name. A strong queer voice, and a huge Marvel and X-Men fan (just check out almost any interview with her), I would be hard pressed to think of a better writer for Spider-Gwen. But Gwen Stacy of Earth-65 will no longer be Spider-Gwen as of August, as Marvel officially shifts the characters name to Ghost-Spider as hinted at in both Spider-Geddon and Marvel Rising. How does one oversee the change of a character’s identity? How do you launch a book in the middle of an event? Is up still up and down still down?!

Answers to all that and more in our Spectacular Spider-Month interview with McGuire below!

AiPT!: Hi Seanan, thanks so much for joining AiPT! during Spectacular Spider-Month! First off, what draws you towards writing Spider-Gwen / Ghost-Spider?

Seanan McGuire: Being allowed to do it?  I mean, honestly, we don’t get to pick our gigs.   There are titles I’m more immediately drawn to the idea of writing, although I’m a contrary creature; part of the appeal may well be that I don’t have those titles right now.  But as to what draws me to Gwen Stacy…she’s the liminal Spider.  Not an adult, not a teen, still trying to sort herself out.  I can relate. Great Pumpkin, I can relate. She’s the perfect balance of cocky as hell and a little bit lost, and that makes her incredibly fun.

AiPT!: What are your favorite Gwen Stacy or Spider-Man stories?

McGuire: Obviously, I have a huge fondness for Into the Spider-Verse, for giving us Gwen in the first place, and for The Death of Gwen Stacy, for turning her into everyone’s poster girl for “didn’t get treated fairly.” But my re-entry to Spider-Man was very much with Ultimate Spider-Man, after quite a few years away from Peter Parker and pals.

Credit: Marvel

AiPT!: Spider-Gwen: Ghost-Spider #4, dealing with the aftermath of Spider-Geddon, gave a pretty good look into the reasoning behind Gwen’s upcoming name change and relaunch, and certainly everything since seems to be pointing towards it as well, but can you give us a little more insight into the renaming process? Was it part of your pitch for the character?

Spider-Gwen: Ghost-Spider #4 | Credit: Marvel

McGuire: Gwen had already been re-named Ghost-Spider by Marvel Media, for the Marvel Rising series, before I was hired.  So I was given the conclusion, and had to start building the foundation to support it.  For me, the most important thing has always been that it had to feel realistic for her to make the switch.  Realism counts even in an all-spandex world.

Ghost-Spider #1 out in August. | Credit: Marvel

AiPT! Speaking of Spider-Geddon, you joined the Spider-Verse during an event! How was that, in hindsight? Did it feel easier to get a wrangle on a character with specific stakes already set?

McGuire: It was both great and terrible.  Great because it gave me this already-approved plot incident to play against, terrible because it was incredibly limiting in some ways.  But incredibly freeing in others.  I think it hurt us, sales-wise–I’ve had quite a few people say they thought it was a limited series, and ended when Spider-Geddon did.  That’s been frustrating.  If my sales fall, I want it to be because people don’t like what I’m doing, not because they don’t realize I’m doing anything at all.

AiPT! That’s to say nothing of the transition you’re making from writing your commercially and critically successful novels to comics. You’ve spoken at length before about your childhood reading comics, and your Nightcrawler series makes it apparent you’re quite the fan, but is it a pretty significant shift in gears to go between writing Gwen to say, the recently released (and appropriately acclaimed) Middlegame?

McGuire: Comic scripts are a form of structured poetry, and I’m still writing my novels.  It’s not as big a shift as people assume it’s going to be.  I just have to schedule what happens on what days.

AiPT!: Gwen has really blown up in the time since you have started writing her, too, with Into The Spider-Verse‘s massive success and Oscar win. Did you see the movie? Did it impact how you felt about the character or how you might approach her at all?

McGuire: I hadn’t seen the movie when I got the job, and I chose not to after I got the job, because that’s a different version of Gwen.  I didn’t want her seeping in where she didn’t belong.  But wow, is it nice seeing all the cosplayers.  I keep wanting to tell them “You’re dressed as my girl!” and have to hold myself back from getting creepy.

AiPT!: What do you think sets Gwen apart from Peter or Miles or any of the other Spiders?

McGuire: Death loves Gwen Stacy.  She lacks the “with great power…” motivator; hers is “only the right hands.”  She has a calling, but it’s not the same as the calling most of the others have shared.  She’s also better on the drums than they are.

Credit: Marvel

AiPT!: Compared to those other characters, Gwen has a lot less material to work and bounce ideas off having only debuted in 2015. Is it exciting to have a character you can kind of develop from whole cloth or a little intimidating?

McGuire: A little intimidating.  Her whole thing has been that Earth-65 is almost but not quite 616, so a lot of her villains are parallel, and I get people complaining that she doesn’t have her own Rogue’s Gallery, which is both fair, and I know that if I start making new villains for her, I’m going to get yelled at for that.  She walks a thin tightrope sometimes.

AiPT!: You’ve mentioned previously on the This Week in Marvel podcast and elsewhere that you prefer Emma Frost to Jean Grey partially because Jean often gets boiled down to the dangerous and definitely diminutive “girl on the team” trope. Do you think there’s an inherent risk there with Gwen or is it a little easier to avoid with characters like Annie May Parker, Silk, and Spider-Woman around?

McGuire: I think Gwen has a personality, and original Jean was only allowed to have “girl”.  She got a personality as time went on–it can’t be avoided–but that root is always there.  Whereas Gwen has been allowed to have a personality from the beginning.  I think she draws focus right now, because she’s the most popular female Spider, but most popular isn’t the same as “we need to reduce the other female characters to allow her to exist.”

AiPT!: Who do you think is the perfect villain for Gwen Stacy or for Ghost-Spider? Are they one in the same? Can we hope to see them any time soon?

McGuire: I don’t think she’d be able to cope with a villainous Peter Parker.  I think that would just stop her in her tracks.  Barring that, the Jackal has a long history with Gwen Stacy, and is always an option.  As to any time soon, spoilers are more than my job is worth.  And I really like my job!

Credit: Marvel

AiPT!: Is there anything else you can tell us or would like to share or tease about the Ghost-Spider series?

McGuire: Despite some confusion, Gwen is not moving to Earth-616.  She’s just going to school there, thanks to a pan-dimensional exchange program they don’t advertise very loudly that will allow her to get a degree without having to deal with her own lack of a secret identity.  I’m excited!

That’s a wrap! Thank you to Seanan for her stellar contributions to Gwen’s story and to the Spider-Verse at large! Thank you, dear reader, for joining AiPT! during Spectacular Spider-Month! Be sure to check back in every day for more Spider-Man content including interviews, features, opinions, and more!

Credit: Marvel


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