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Tom Taylor and Juann Cabal on Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, De-aging Peter Parker, finding room for MJ, and more

Featuring an exclusive look at issue #10!

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.

In a recent review, I called Tom Taylor and Juann Cabal’s Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man the Spider-man comic to be looking out for today and I stand by that still. It’s easy to see why with just one issue (but read the sixth if you haven’t): equal parts heartfelt, hilarious, and harrowing, it is a story not about Spider-Man on a macro scale, but rather a much smaller, more relatable one. This isn’t the story of Peter’s time with the Avengers, or at X-Manor, or any of those big, unwieldy superhero things — that story is being done well enough in Nick Spencer’s Amazing Spider-Man. Rather, it’s the story of one man trying to do the best for his small city block and its people, about Spider-Man’s web of responsibilities on a day-to-day basis.

But how do you narrow the focus of such a big, monumental and important character? What stories inspired the characters, plot beats, and look of a very different Spider-Man story? Most importantly, just how much can Friendly do when it’s a sister story to Amazing, and how do its creators work through those hurdles? Lucky for you, we’ve got Tom Taylor (interviewed live at SDCC by content manager David Brooke!) and Juann Cabal here to answer that themselves with a very special preview look at issue #10. Check it out below!

What draws you to writing Spider-Man?

Taylor: I love the character. He’s probably one my favorites – I mean Gabby and Laura have surpassed him – but he’s always been one of my favorites. He’s just the guy who stops and talks to and looks out for the guy selling bagels on the street. I was at a point where I had more job offers than I’ve ever had in my life and then an email came in that said “Spider-Man” and it was like “Zoom! Goodbye other jobs” I’ve also gotten to write some of my favorite stories with him, like Spider-Bite, that’s going to be a book I’m proud of forever and people around the world have contacted me and said that one meant a lot. He’s the most approachable, he’s the epitome of that, he’s the guy you can walk up and down the street and chat to. 

Cabal: The challenge of creating new stories for such an important character. As an artist, it’s always tempting to experiment, give your “vision” and all that stuff. In this case, I tried to focus on Spidey’s iconic nature instead. I didn’t want it to say anything about me as an artist, I wanted my Spidey to say everything about what makes him a great character. I wanted to create the Über-Spider-Man.

Credit: Marvel

 What are your favorite Spider-Man stories?

Taylor: I’ve got lots. I don’t know if I can say this but I definitely voted for Peter Parker: Spectacular Spider-Man #310 for the Eisner, what Chip did in that is such a good story. I’ve got picks on picks. Ultimate Spider-Man, that might’ve been the first book that I read like that, all 100 issues. And I have to say Spider-Verse has to be in the top 10 favorite stories. 

Cabal: I love the original Clone Saga. I remember it being so unintentionally weird and funny. Also, anything drawn by Marcos Martin or Gil Kane.

There’s a lot of thematic duality in the book – Peter’s block vs. Under York, his relative youthfulness vs. May’s inevitable aging, how hard it is to do the right thing vs. the quick and easy path of doing it the “wrong” way. What’s the philosophy behind bringing to life the extremes of Peter’s world — the good and the bad?

Taylor: One of the things I really wanted to do was catch on something with Peter aging up and everyone still thinking of him as a young guy. So, there’s Marnie his neighbor who’s actually a super hero – someone who’s older and wiser than him to be right there. That instantly de-ages him. It was done on purpose, just to have somebody who is in their 90s. I’ll tell you this, and I don’t think I’ve told anyone this: she’s named after my grandma. My grandma is Marnie, she’s in her 90s, and she’s amazing. Her empathy, and her love, and everything she’s been through in her life. We’re about to do the origin of The Rumor [Marnie’s super hero name] and you’ll hear about her.

Cabal: We didn’t talk about this specifically, but this duality seemed very evident in the script from the beginning. I tried to boost it visually in panel and page composition, and Nolan [Woodard] played his part too with his wonderful color design.

Credit: Marvel

Until the upcoming issues, we haven’t seen much of MJ in Friendly. Were you intentionally keeping her kind of sequestered from the story for a bigger impact when she inevitably came back, or did it just feel natural to home in on other elements for a bit?

Taylor: We didn’t know what Nick [Spencer] was doing with her and then I heard what he was up to and it was like “okay, we can do THIS.

Speaking of MJ, there’s some serious competition for Peter’s heart with Jed MacKay and Travel Foreman’s Black Cat around. Who do you feel is the right pick…the one true love?

Taylor: MJ! There’s no other answer there and if he [MacKay] thinks there is he’s wrong.

Who do you think is the perfect villain for Peter Parker? For Spider-Man? Are they one in the same? Can we expect to see them soon or are they all snatched up for Amazing?

Taylor: The Green Goblin is fantastic. He’s the quintessential Spidey villain, yeah, but I see him that way too. Same with Kingpin, they’re great together. I love Boomerang and what Nick’s [Spencer] done with him. 

Credit: Marvel

Speaking of Amazing, how does the…symbiotic relationship between these two stories work? Are you in contact with Nick Spencer and Ryan Ottley regularly or do you have a bit of free reign?

Taylor: We talk sometimes and Nick Lowe makes sure I don’t do anything too similar or off the rails. There’s been a lot of characters I want to use and they’re like “no, sorry” [laughs]. And Nick [Spencer] actually came to Australia together and we did shows together so that was a lot of fun.

Spider-Man’s physicality and the general flow of his fight scenes are a lot different than the fast-paced aggression of someone like Laura Kinney or Honey Badger’s. How do you approach writing and drawing an entirely new paradigm as a team?

Cabal: Working with Tom is really easy in that aspect. We both share the same love and respect for the characters. We have their idiosyncrasies very present, so at the time of creating a scene I don’t need him to be too specific.  I’m usually pretty sure about what Tom wants and how the character would adjust physically to it.

In your minds, does Friendly exist as long as Amazing does or is it a more finite story with a definite end?

Taylor: Friendly will go as long as it goes but it’s small stories. It’s a local story about Peter. It’s not about giant explosions – except for you know, creating a giant city under New York [laughs]. And to keep working with Juann Cabal, that man he’s…just a genius. He’s such a great person to work with – I asked him to be on the book. What he did with issue #6, actually drawing the Sinister Sixty like that is amazing. 

That’s a wrap! Thank you for the continually exciting and impacting stories about Spidey’s life on the small scale, Tom and Juann. And thank you, true believer, 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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