Marvel Debuts Spider-Woman Comic 'Single Mother' Storyline: The Creators Fill Us In
Get a sneak preview inside the new issue
For Marvel’s Spider-Woman, everything she’s ever faced has been leading up to her new storyline: Becoming a single mother. As the comics juggernaut prepares to launch the new storyline for the character, we spoke to the comic’s writer, Dennis Hopeless, editor Nick Lowe, and Marvel’s director of content and character development, Sana Amanat.
For the uninitiated, bring us up to speed on Jessica Drew’s journey thus far.
Dennis Hopeless: Spider-Woman spent the last several years as a full-time Avenger, fighting massive world-ending threats 24/7. That’s obviously a wild life, but Jess was all in. Then one day Jess got home from an inter-dimensional war and decided enough was enough. She didn’t want to do it anymore.
Spider-Woman has now quit the Avengers. She got herself a new “street practical” costume and went out looking for normal. Fortunately for our readers, normal for Jess is still pretty cool. She’s a super-powered PI fighting injustice at the street level and helping people more or less one at a time.
How closely did you work on the Spider-Woman pregnancy/single mother storyline? What was its genesis like?
Sana Amanat: This was very much Dennis Hopeless and Nick Lowe’s brainchild. Nick has looped me in on any queries he had about the authenticity of the story, if Jessica’s motivations and feelings were relatable, etc. I consulted here and there, but this story was really the creators’ desire to share their journey as parents. When it was pitched in a creative meeting, I immediately became excited. This is the kind of story that is very much in line with the Marvel mission and motherhood is probably the most important and relatable experience we can share. After all, aren’t mothers the real super heroes?
This storyline is inspired by your journey as a parent?
The beautiful thing that Marvel Comics does is take real world experiences and translate them through big super hero epics to shine a light on them. When Dennis pitched this story, I scoffed at first, but when I thought about it more and as he fleshed it out it hit me that I’d never read a comic that dealt with pregnancy and childbirth in any way that resembled the experience my wife and I had with either of our two kids. Characters had been pregnant before but it was usually in the stereotypical TV/movie fashion that skims through it. So the thought of digging into that here with a couple of creators who had recent (if second-hand) experience seemed too good to pass up.
Dennis Hopeless: My wife and I got married at 23 with zero intention of ever having kids. Then after ten years of marriage we… changed our minds. That may sound like a small thing, but it was huge. I write super hero stories for a living. My wife is a tattooer. When we made this decision, we had spent maybe a week of our lives feeling like real grownups. All of the sudden we were making a baby. It was overwhelming in every single way. I was terrified from the start. My wife was the incredible level-headed badass she always is… And then we ended up with twins. Want to feel like an adult 24 hours a day? Have two newborns at the same time.
My kids were maybe five months old when Nick Lowe asked me what big change we should give Spider-Woman for our new #1. I was joking when I asked if she could be pregnant. Nick laughed. But the more we thought about it, the more it just made sense. Jess was a lot like I had been. She never wanted kids. Not even a little. But we had just done ten issues on Spider-Woman’s pursuit of normal. Now we could hit her with a tidal wave of normal. Write what you know, right?
What has the feedback been like for Marvel’s diversity and female empowerment storyline push?
Overwhelmingly positive. Our intention has always been to tell relatable stories that are representative of the world, so when you do that in a way that’s meaningful and honest, people respond. Pregnancy is a pretty fraught topic. Were you worrying about treading lightly with this storyline?
Nick Lowe: Oh yeah. We wanted to make sure we hit it just right, but the fact that both Dennis, series illustrator Javier Rodriguez and myself were either still on either the pregnancy train with our significant others or on the diaper train at least helped.
Dennis Hopeless: Not too worried. This wasn’t a gimmick cooked up to try and sell books. We pitched it because we had a story to tell. A sincere, personal story based on this very human experience. I felt like we’d be fine. We did talk a lot about how to tell an action-packed super hero story that didn’t make Spider-Woman a wildly irresponsible parent. In the end I think we found a good balance. It seems to make people very uncomfortable to watch pregnant women do almost anything physical (a fact that drove my wife nuts her entire pregnancy) but in my experience there’s no one stronger. Instead of shying away, we made all of that part of the story.
As a guy in charge of this story, were you worried at all about being able to reasonably depict/describe pregnancy?
Like Dennis, I asked my wife a lot of questions. And I foresee annoying series editor Devin Lewis with a lot of potty training notes as my daughter Lois is currently in the struggle.
Dennis Hopeless: Oh, absolutely. I never would’ve attempted it without my wife’s help. Jessie helped me work through everything from the initial rough plot to the final dialogue passes. It would’ve been a real shame to mess this up. An insincere version of this story wouldn’t work at all. We have to get it right or what’s the point?
Fortunately our amazing illustrator Javier Rodriguez is a new father as well. His wife was actually eight months pregnant when he was drawing issue #1. They now have a beautiful baby girl. These two amazing women are definitely helping us navigate this. Hopefully it shows.
With female Thor’s battle with breast cancer and the new Ms. Marvel storyline, you’re tackling a wide range of experiences with these characters. What would you like to explore next?
Sana Amanat: Issues of disability, gender-identity struggles, to name a few. We’ve tackled a lot at Marvel, sure, yet there are still so many more experiences to better understand and explore through the lens of the super hero story. We just have to make sure we take the care and consideration to tell those stories honestly – which means getting the most qualified and thoughtful voices to develop that kind of content.