The Spider-Verse, it turns out, is alive and well.
At the cinematic level, Phil Lord, Chris Miller, and the other creators of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse are already working on a sequel set for 2022. But the concept of a Spider-Verse (a multi-verse where every parallel world carries its own unique Spider-hero) originated in comics, and that is where it has reappeared most recently with the new six-issue miniseries Spider-Verse. Following Miles Morales’ journey through the Spider-Verse to repair the Web of Life and Destiny, each issue of Spider-Verse features a rotating team of writers, artists, and parallel universe heroes. In the first issue alone, Miles encountered an anime Spider-Man and a post-apocalyptic Mad Max Spider-Man. But in Spider-Verse #4, out in stores next week, a different hero takes the focus: Webslinger, a Wild West incarnation of Spider-Man. And the issue is written by none other than current Single Parents star and former Saturday Night Live star Taran Killam.
Spider-Verse #4 marks Killam’s debut as a Marvel Comics writer, but it is not his first foray into the format. That would be The Illegitimates, the six-issue series Killam co-wrote with Marc Andreyko in 2014 about a bunch of illegitimate children of a James Bond-like super-spy. The eventual move to Marvel came about thanks to Killam’s wife, Cobie Smulders, who stars as S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Maria Hill in the Marvel Cinematic Universe films. In Killam’s words, “I exploited my wife’s perks from the MCU as quickly as possible.”
“She had finished filming The Avengers and I think someone had floated an offer to tour the offices in New York. I spoke up for her and said yes she wants that!” Killam tells EW. “So that was something I got to when I was working out in New York. That was just one of the best days ever, touring the offices and meeting the staff and a few writers, artists, and editors as well. That’s the day I met Nick Lowe, the editor of Spider-Man comics among others. He very generously floated, ‘well if you’d ever love to collaborate on something let me know.’ And then was just consistent, diligent, and sincere in that offer. Out of respect and a little bit of fear, I kept brushing him off by saying, ‘I’m too busy, now’s not the right time.’ At the end of this past summer I reached back out, ‘you’ve been nice asking me to do a team-up or one-off, and I think I’m ready.’ When he came back and said it was a Spider-Verse issue, I was incredibly excited.”
Killam says that growing up as a comics fan, his two favorite superheroes were Batman (“when I wanted to feel grown-up”) and Spider-Man (“when I wanted to feel like myself”). In this issue, he’s tackling a very specific incarnation of Spider-Man, one rooted in something else he’s loved for a long time: Westerns.
“We’ve seen a little bit of Webslinger before. There was a short adventure in one of the previous Spider-Verse stories, and it was great, super fun, a really great throwback to Lone Ranger and Will Rogers adventures,” Killam says. “But he didn’t really have much of his own spotlight other than that, and Nick was saying they wanted to dedicate a whole issue to Webslinger and this western multiverse world. The western genre in general is one of my favorites: Magnificent Seven is in my top 10. That gave me confidence: I get to play in the Spider-Man world, I get to play cowboy, and it being its own thing means that I won’t screw up the continuity of anything else too much. It was a very exciting creative challenge while also having the safety net of there isn’t a lot of precedent and it can kinda be its own thing.”
Killam hails Into the Spider-Verse as a “perfect movie,” but since Webslinger isn’t one of the heroes who appears in that story, it wasn’t a huge influence on this comic. That said, there’s always that sequel…
“This is its own thing,” Killam says. “But if I had any thought in my head while writing, it’s that if Chris and Phil do use Webslinger in the sequel and don’t let me voice him, I might have to burn something down.” He adds with a laugh, “I know where they live.”
Spider-Verse #4 hits stores on Jan. 29. Check out preview pages from artist Juan Gedeon below, which hint at how Webslinger riffs on the classic Spider-Man origin: Here, the most important “Ben” in his life wasn’t an uncle but a brother he had to kill in the Civil War.
Stay tuned for Killam’s next Marvel comic, the three-issue Empyre: Spider-Man series.