Peter Parker is a good man. Aunt May and Uncle Ben made sure of that. He shoulders the weight of terrible responsibility every day, and though he often falters, he always rallies and sets out again, guided by that moral compass.
What if he hadn’t had that guidance? What if the person burdened by that power became a monster?
With EDGE OF SPIDER-VERSE #4, writer Clay McLeod Chapman and artist Elia Bonnetti posit a world where the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man might not be so friendly after all.
“My editor Ellie Pyle and I started chatting about the idea of re-envisioning the origin story of Peter Parker/Spider-Man as if it were a horror movie,” Chapman explains. “What if we approached one of the most beloved beginnings of a super hero and looked at it through a completely different lens? The familiar map points of Parker's story are all there—the radioactive spider bite, with great power comes great responsibility, living with your aunt/uncle, etc.—but rather than take the path Parker chose, our anti-hero, Patton Parnell—a fusion of Patton Oswalt and Chris Parnell—goes in the exact opposite direction.
“Because, if you think about it, our world is very fortunate to have had that spider take a bite out of Parker and not, say, a complete sociopath. The rule for writing this story was: W.W.P.P.N.D.?—What Would Peter Parker Not Do? Parnell comes to the same moral crossroads that Parker did when he was first discovering his powers, only Parnell chooses the road less taken, every time.”
Given that scenario, this new Spider-Man could be more likely to join a Sinister Six contingent than swing out to combat it.
“What's interesting about Parnell is that he is the threat,” says Chapman. “He has been marginalized by his fellow classmates, disregarded by his family—and suddenly, because of a fluke accident, he has been granted this awe-inspiring power that consumes whatever minuscule scrap of humanity he had left buried within him. He's slowly liberated of his humanity; in a sense, it's the rest of the world that's now facing a new threat: Patton Parnell in the form of his own Spider-Man.
“I burrowed into a lot of urban legends, stories I remember reading as a kid,” says Chapman of his inspiration for this feral, frightening Spider-Man. “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark has always been a personal favorite. Not to mention EC Comics. Tales from the Crypt. Haunt of Fear. Add a healthy dose of B-movies like ‘I Was A Teenage Werewolf’ and you've got one big jambalaya of icky spider monsters.”
The writer delights in tracing the vast web of the Spider-Verse to its very darkest corner, tugging on that strand, and drawing it to the fore.
“It’s been liberating to play with the multiverse theory when it comes to Spider-Man,” he says. “That there are a countless number of realities, all parallel to our own. That each dimension has its own version of Spider-Man. Somewhere, in a reality not too dissimilar to our own—maybe even a little too similar—there is a version of Parker that might possibly mirror the darker id-like recesses of our own contemporary society a little more closely than Parker himself does these days. Now that's a spoooooky thought…”
Continue to explore EDGE OF SPIDER-VERSE tomorrow with Gerard Way and his take on Spider-Man!