Marvel writer determined to not do ‘the sitcom version of pregnancy’ for new mom Spider-Woman

02.17.16 1 year ago

Marvel Comics

Spider-Woman: She”s a superhero who”s kicking ass and taking names… and bearing a child?

Yep, Jessica Drew is expecting. In Marvel”s current Spider-Woman run, the former Avenger is eight months pregnant when we catch up with her in issue #1, which hit shelves in October. Issue #4 arrives on Wednesday.

It”s not the first time we”ve seen a pregnant Marvel superhero – Sue Storm gave birth to her and Reed”s son in a 1968 Fantastic Four Annual – but what”s noteworthy here is how much Jessica”s motherhood is at the forefront of this Spider-Woman run and how much series writer Dennis Hopeless strove to make her new mom experience real and relatable.

“I didn”t want to do the sitcom version of a pregnancy,” Hopeless told HitFix. “I wanted to make sure it was as legit as we could do.”

That means Jessica realizing “with great baby comes crushing weight of parental responsibility” (as she says in issue #2, echoing another hero with spidey sense).

Motherhood isn”t something Jess had in mind. “I like grown people. I like baby animals. I watch that bouncing Internet goat video, like, three times a week,” she tells us on the first page of the new series. “I just… never wanted to be a mom. You know?”

In the previous run of Spider-Woman, Jess quit the Avengers, leaving behind her days of saving the world from apocalyptic danger with Marvel”s premier super squad. She went back to her P.I. roots, trying to build a normal life for herself while fighting street-level criminals.

Hopeless talked to HitFix about what Jessica”s pregnancy means for her attempts to have a more normal life, how she still manages to get some badass moments while she”s pregnant (turns out prenatal yoga and venom blasts make for a formidable combo), and why we have to wait to find out whether her kid is a boy or a girl. (And don”t look for clues on the already-revealed cover of issue #5 – Hopeless says “you can”t tell!” by looking at that baby.) The writer also opened up about how his own experiences as a new dad guided Jess” story.

SPOILER WARNING: There are spoilers ahead for issues 1-3 of this Spider-Woman, which has Jessica Drew encountering danger in the maternity ward of an intergalactic hospital.

HitFix: What inspired or interested you in writing a series that has Spider-Woman as a new mom?

Dennis Hopeless: The simplest answer is I have two 15-month-old twins who were about five months old when we started talking about whatever the post-Secret Wars plot was going to be. All of the books coming out of Secret Wars that were being launched with new #1s, the idea was that we would jump forward in time eight months and mix up whatever the book was prior. The book had ended, and something had changed in those eight months. I was deep in the weeds of dealing with twin infants, and I kinda just made a joke – [editor] Nick [Lowe] asked me what we would change, and I said “Let”s make her pregnant!” Nick had recently had his second child, and I was dealing with my two first ones. He laughed, we moved on, and then it stuck in my head.

One of the themes of the previous volume was Jessica Drew trying to figure out what normal is. And this idea that this character that never wanted kids and never had any dreams of motherhood her entire life now wants a normal life – let”s hit her with a tidal wave of normal. There”s nothing more difficult and terrifying and normal than having a child and becoming a parent. It changes you in ways that you have no idea ahead of time. It”s impossible to even describe all the ways it changes your life. I was in the middle of that. She seemed like an interesting character to take down that path and a character that shared some of my feelings on this before I had kids that I could kind of take on the same journey that my wife and I had been through.

How did you approach this task of staying true to what fans love about this character while also showing how becoming a parent changes her?

Jess has out-and-out stated she doesn”t want kids, which is exactly where I was. My wife and I got married at 23, and for the first 10 years of our marriage, we had zero interest in children. No plans. I never wanted kids, I never thought I”d be a good parent, I wasn”t interested in it, and my wife was in a similar place. Then at some point we just started looking at our life and our future. We were settled in our careers. We were going in a different direction. And we evaluated that stuff and started to think about it differently. And then made the terrifying decision to have a child, which ended up being two children.

Jess was already on this journey to recreate herself as a person who has life and a job. She still wants to be a superhero. She still wants to help people. But she”s not going to live in Avengers Tower and spent 24/7 battling Thanos. We had sort of organically gotten her to a place where she could make a decision like this having no idea how it would affect her and where it would take her. So I did think it was true to the character even though, on the surface, it does seem like an odd direction to go with Jess.

Are there any women in your life who have given you input on the experience of being pregnant that”s been helpful for this book?

Absolutely. First and foremost my wife. I work from home, so I was here a lot when she was on maternity leave. I went to every doctor”s appointment. I obviously didn”t experience [being pregnant] though, so it was very important to me to get her perspective on it. Once we were all in on this story, I sort of interviewed her and asked her questions. I didn”t want to do the sitcom version of a pregnancy. I wanted to do at least her experience of pregnancy. Everyone”s experience is different. I”m not going to nail exactly what everyone goes though.

I”m also really close with my mom. It”s been a long time since she was been pregnant, but she had some interesting insight. And I have a sister who I”m close with who”s a single parent, and I talked to her. My family helped a lot. I wouldn”t have even attempted to do this without them because obviously I”ve never been pregnant. The insincere version of this story could have been pretty awful, so I wanted to make sure it was as legit as we could do.

Were there any specific experiences your wife or mom or sister related to you that were helpful in writing the comic?

The thing that my wife said – this actually plays a big role in the 10-page short story we did in Amazing Spider-Man #1 that kind of sets the story up – was how uncomfortable strangers are seeing a pregnant woman do anything. People think pregnant women are made of glass and are going to shatter if they try to change a lightbulb. That frustrated my wife. 

The first issue we deal a lot with the things you have to give up that you didn”t think about having to give up. Jess has to put her motorcycle in storage and go on maternity leave. That all very much came from my talks with [my wife] Jessie and her experience.

In issues #2 and #3 we see a very pregnant Spider-Woman take out a bunch of Skrulls. How did you figure out how to give her badass moments without injuring her baby?

Yeah, a lot of that came early. We had lots of talks with Axel Alonso, the editor-in-chief at Marvel and Devin Lewis and Nick Lowe, who are the editors on the book, and we talked through “how do we make a fun superhero book with this badass lead without making her look like an insane, irresponsible parent?” What it came down to is the story is about Jess not having any choice. She”s not going out there and deciding to be a superhero when she”s eight months pregnant. She”s in a situation where both her child and a bunch of other innocent people are put at risk, and she”s the only one who can do anything about it. So throughout issues 1-4, she”s done everything she can to avoid putting herself in danger, and she”s trying to get Carol in. She”s trying to do all of these things that will alleviate the danger, and it”s just not working. Which is frustrating for her, and it”s where we get a lot of the drama of the book. Of course, best case scenario you want to be taking it easy when you”re about to have a baby and not kicking Skrulls in the face.

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I loved the end of issue #2 reveal that the hospital is in a black hole. And all the underwater stuff and just the collection of aliens we see in this is great. Tell me about the process of designing and creating this hospital.

The vast majority of everything cool in the visuals is Javier [Rodriguez] – my artist is the most brilliant person I”ve every worked with. He”s amazing. I don”t have to give him very much to get back the really cool stuff. I say, “It would be cool to see Jess working her way through the underwater level of this hospital where all the water-based aliens are being taken care of,” and that”s what I got back – the amazing spread that he did. The inspiration for the hospital – my wife and I had a very trying and difficult hospital experience. The birth was really long and drawn-out. The boys are fine, but it was surreal and hard to explain to other people. I wanted to do the superhero version of that. A crazy alien hospital that”s stuck in the middle of a black hole was kind of my way of telling that through superhero metaphor.

Tell me about how you approached the friendship between Jessica Drew and Carol Danvers in this series.

The friendship was already set-up really well in. Kelly Sue DeConnick did a fantastic run on Captain Marvel, and she did some stuff in her Avengers Assemble run where she built this friendship between Jessica Drew and Carol Danvers. They are two people that completely understand each other and are alike in a lot of ways and therefore drive each other crazy in a lot of ways, but they hold each other up. It was a really interesting friendship that I had to work from. And then one of them goes though something that completely changes everything about her life. So I wanted to use that – Carol really wants to know what Jess is going through and understand what is going on and help as much as she can, and then she sort of accidentally is involved in setting up this nightmare scenario, and she wants nothing more than to save the day but can”t. And Jess, on the other side, is still Spider-Woman. She”s still a badass. She understands, “You can”t help. You can”t come here and do this for me, so help me do it.” In the issues that we have to come, we play with that friendship more and show where they end up on the other end.

Tony Stark isn”t the only one wondering who the dad is. We readers are admittedly curious too. Any hints?

You find out in issue 5. It”s not so much a mystery that I”m trying to drag out. It doesn”t make that much difference to Jess. To Jess, it”s nobody”s business. Her answer to that would be that it”s her child. I think the way that we eventually reveal what”s going on with that puts it in the right spot for the story. But it was never intended to be the big, burning question. To me, it”s a story about Jess” child and Jess” pregnancy and not who the father is.

In all your time writing Jessica Drew, what”s your favorite thing about writing her dialogue?

Frustrated Jessica Drew”s my favorite thing to write. Frustrated Jessica Drew and Carol Danvers together is even more fun. She is a person who is very kind and very heroic and wants to do great things, but she”s also impatient and irritable and does not suffer fools. It”s really fun to write her with her friends and her colleagues and with Porcupine, who is a fool more often than not, but she also kind of loves him. I love writing Jessica getting irritated with the people she loves and realizing why she loves them in the end. That”s what makes the book my favorite job I”ve ever had.

What can you tease for us about upcoming issues?

Issue 4 and 5 are overwhelming. They were overwhelming to write, and I suspect they will be overwhelming to read. You”ve been ramping up to a crazy resolution to this arc. We then jump right into Spider-Women – issue 6 starts a crossover with Spider-Gwen and Silk and telling a big universe-hopping crossover story that”s a lot of fun where Jess has to deal for the first time with being a superhero and a mom at the same time and how that can be really upsetting and really difficult. There”s a lot of intensity coming in the next three or four issues.

Once Jessica”s child is born, will we get to see her kid in the pages of the book a lot? Or is it more “okay, the babysitter”s on duty while Spider-Woman”s fighting crime”?

Spider-Women is a little bit weird cause she”s in different universes sometimes, so that”ll be a plot point: whether or not she can get home. But going forward, it”s going to be about Jess the superhero, Jess the mom, and what it”s like to try to balance those things. It”s not easy to put yourself in danger every night when you”ve got a child at home and you gotta come back home and be mom. Don”t expect to see the baby involved in a lot of fights. But the baby will definitely be there in the quieter moments and the character moments of the book.

Can you tell us if the baby is a boy or a girl?

My wife and I did not know when we were pregnant, so I”m not going to say until the baby”s born.

So Jess doesn”t know either yet?

Right. I don”t think I actually wrote that line of dialogue, but yeah, Jess does not until the child is born.

Have you thought about the day your boys will read this comic?

Yeah, this may be the best way to tell them the story of how they were born when they”re not old enough to deal with the reality of it.

Issue #4 of Spider-Woman is now available in print and digitally. Issue #5 will be released on Wednesday, March 16.

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