In the last of our exclusive interviews, ahead of the Marvel’s Spider-Man premiere, I spoke to Marsh Griffin about taking Peter Parker back to basics.
There are several incredible women working at every level on Marvel’s Spider-Man. I spoke to both Melanie Minichino and Laura Bailey about their roles, as Anya Corazon and Gwen Stacy respectively, but I also got to sit down with Marsha Griffin: VP of Animation Current Series and Development at Marvel.
We had an incredible discussion about everything from how Marvel’s Spider-Man stands apart from its predecessors, to utilizing science as its own superpower.
The Peter Parker of it all
Much like Spider-Man: Homecoming has done for Peter Parker in the MCU, Marvel’s Spider-Man has likewise taken Peter back to his origins. Well, mostly. While we’ve yet to see the fateful bite in either property, that Peter is in high school was a deliberate choice to set Marvel’s Spider-Man apart from Ultimate.
“What we wanted to do, story-wise, is we wanted to go back. We wanted to go back to [the] things that we all loved most,” Griffin said. “I mean, listen, we loved the the various suits, we loved the technology, we love all the big action stuff. But I think what all of us and I think anyone who reads Spider-Man, loves the most is — we always ask ourselves, what’s the Peter Parker story? What is the Peter Parker of it all?”
The Peter Parker of it all, according to Griffin, was taking the core elements of the character from the early days of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, and giving them a modern twist.
“That was really our goal, that we go back to the beginning, to the very beginning, and we retell the story of how Peter Parker became Spider-Man but set it in the 21st Century,” Griffin continued. “So, how would Peter and Spider-Man deal with what they have to deal with in the modern world?”
That updated origin and bringing Marvel’s Spider-Man into modernity, also meant updating the technology. But while Peter was surrounded by shiny new toys, Griffin wanted to be clear that wouldn’t define him as a hero.
“Peter relies on new technology, not instead of his powers — we don’t rely too heavily on the tech. The powers and the tech work hand in hand, but we try to get him updated technology, [like a] HUD view-screen within his costume, so he can analyze any number of situations,” Griffin said. “We also wanted to lean very heavily into the science, that was another way that we wanted to make the show different.”
Science, of course, is another defining part of any Spider-Man story. Or, at least, it should be. But, as Griffin pointed out, that’s not always the case.
“Peter Parker is a genius, he’s a science nerd, everybody knows that,” Griffin said. “But in a lot of the series, or a lot of the incarnations of Spider-Man, science is always there, but might not necessarily come to the forefront.”
Strong, independent Spider-women
The science of Marvel’s Spider-Man isn’t limited to just Peter Parker. Both Anya Corazon and Gwen Stacy are forces to be reckoned with, when it comes to their intelligence. Something that was important to Griffin — for the series, and for little girls watching everywhere.
“I think that Marvel has always done an amazing job of presenting strong, independent women,” Griffin said. “I can’t even think of a woman that basically takes a backseat in the Marvel universe, so that’s the good thing. We’re coming from a great history of that.”
But with Peter Parker as, understandably, the central figure of the story, what did that really mean for Anya and Gwen’s roles?
“What we really wanted to do with Anya and with Gwen is, number one, make them strong and independent,” Griffin continued. “Number two, make them just as smart as anybody else, and number three, eventually give them powers, in order to give them [a] heroic turn in their own right.”
There was no doubting, even from the first moment that we saw Anya Corazon and Gwen Stacy in Marvel’s Spider-Man trailer, that they were both going to give as good as they got. A fact that Griffin assured us of.
“Neither one of these women ever takes the backseat to any of the male characters. We rely heavily on their intelligence,” Griffin said. “These are never damsels in distress. They become heroes, but it’s again their brains and their boldness that makes them formidable, not just the fact that they will eventually get powers.”
F is for friends who do stuff together…
One thing that is absolutely certain in Marvel’s Spider-Man is that Peter isn’t alone. Not only does he have Anya and Gwen on his side, to guide and influence him, but he also has Miles Morales on board — though that isn’t as straightforward as it might first appear to be.
“Miles and Peter are polar opposites,” Griffin said. “Peter is like, ‘Tell no one and keep it under your hat,’ and it’s all about responsibility, and Miles [is] completely the opposite. Miles is brash, and bold, and impulsive and would tell the entire world if he had his own way. And, in fact, tells a lot of people that he’s not supposed to.”
“They’ve both got something to learn from each other, so I think that relationship’s been key between Peter and Miles,” Griffin continued. “Because Harry [Osborn] is really the caretaker for Peter. Harry is the one who wants to make sure Pete’s okay, wants to make sure Pete’s safe. He tries to help him through awkward social situations and everything. So Peter’s sort of used to being taken care of in that way and now he has to take care of Miles.”
That idea of with great power comes great responsibility is no stranger to the Spider-Man mythos — but it’s certainly something that Griffin and her team are exploring in a much different way than they usually do.
“It’s an interesting moment of growth for him, when he has to sort of take a leap forward, becoming a little bit more responsible, being more of an adult.”
But his friendship and relationship with Miles won’t be Peter’s only interpersonal struggle. As he takes on more responsibility as Spider-Man, his friendship with Harry Osborn will be put under incredible strain.
“The story between Peter and Harry is what formed the emotional core of the entire season,” Griffin said. “We set them up as the best friends who were having coffee every morning. That’s their ritual. That is their thing.”
It won’t just be the pressures of going to separate rival schools, and the Spider-Man shaped secret hanging over them, that will continue to push the limits of their friendship. Harry Osborn’s relationship with his father will also come into play.
“We have a moment, at some point in the season, where Harry says, ‘You don’t know what kind of pressure I’m under with my father. You don’t know what it’s like.’ And of course that cuts Peter to the bone, because he doesn’t know what that’s like. Would Peter trade places, would he give anything to have a father figure in his life?”
You’d be hard pressed to believe that Peter wouldn’t do anything to have Uncle Ben back in his life, so it’s not a stretch to see how that exchange might cause some cracks to show on the surface of their once-solid friendship.
“It keeps driving a wedge,” Griffin said. “Over the course of the season that relationship, which starts off so strong and so solid, and might seem as though nothing can break them apart, literally gets tested, and tested, and tested, and taken to the brink.”
“Peter is desperately trying to figure out what being Spider-Man means, and trying to figure out what it means to be a hero,” Griffin continued. “He’s also trying to figure out what it means to be a friend. And the one person who might be able to understand, he can’t tell.”
‘MARVEL’S SPIDER-MAN’ PREMIERES SATURDAY, AUGUST 19 ON DISNEY XD
Additional reporting by Maj Elisabeth.