News of a ‘Spider-Man’ miniseries by JJ + Henry Abrams sparks mixed reactions

Fans and pros had many opinions on Marvel’s newest Spidey series.

Marvel teased and then announced last week that filmmaker JJ Abrams and his son Henry will write a new miniseries simply titled Spider-Man. The comic will feature artwork by Sara Pichelli and Dave Stewart, with covers by Olivier Coipel.

The quick version:

  • Marvel began hyping the series with a series of teasers on Twitter that counted down to the day it would be announced, starting with a stylized “4” that looked like Spider-Man’s webs.
  • The announcement was made via a New York Times interview with JJ and Henry Abrams.
  • Reactions were, to put it lightly, mixed. Many fans expressed their disappointment with the overall announcement, as many were hoping the teasers were referring to a comic book adaptation of the script for the unmade Spider-Man 4 by Sam Raimi. Many comic creators criticized the fact that the inexperienced Henry Abrams seems to be getting a big break into comics simply because of who his father is.

So what’s this all about? Let’s break it down …

Spider-Man #1 cover by Olivier Coipel

So let’s start with the basics. Who is this Spider-Man guy? And what’s a “Marvel”?

Ha ha ha. C’mon.

OK, just kidding. But it’s a good time to be Spider-Man, right?

When is it ever not a good time to be Spider-Man? But yes, Spider-Man currently appears in multiple comics titles published by Marvel. He had a well-received video game come out last year, and hot off an appearance in Avengers: Endgame, he’s got another film opening on July 2, subtitled Far From Home. And let’s not forget the Oscar that Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse won earlier this year. So yeah — Spider-Man is popular.

And what about the writers, JJ Abrams and Henry Abrams?

JJ Abrams is an award-winning filmmaker and TV producer. He and his wife, Katie McGrath, run Bad Robot, the production company that looks like it’s about to sign a huge deal with Warner Media. They produced many television series that you might have heard of over the years, including Alias, Lost, Fringe, Person of Interest, Revolution and Westworld. Abrams has also written, directed and produced several films; those credits include Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Super 8, Star Trek, several Mission: Impossible films and the upcoming Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

Henry Abrams is his 20-year-old son.

This all kicked off with a few teasers, right?

Right. In the mighty Marvel fashion, the publisher began teasing something with a big “4” that looked like it was webbed up by Spider-Man.

In the words of Marvel’s Editor in Chief, CB Cebulski, “No one is going to see this one coming…” Which of course invited people to begin to speculate.

Popular guesses included some sort of adaptation of Sam Raimi’s unmade Spider-Man 4 movie, because the countdown started with a “4.” Joshua Yehl at IGN explains why this guess made sense — and why it led to disappointment. Another popular guess was that Marvel was going to reverse the “One More Day” storyline, where Spider-Man traded his marriage to Mary Jane Watson to Mephisto for the life of Aunt May.

The four, of course, was followed by a 3,2 … well, you know how countdowns work.

And then the news broke via the New York Times.

Yes, in an interview with George Gene Gustines. There’s also a video that appeared on Marvel.com:

OK, so what are we looking at here — is this is the first time someone famous has gotten a comic deal, then? Or is it the first time someone got a job in comics because they were related to someone famous?

Oh no, both have happened before. There’s a whole list of famous people with their names on comics, including some from Marvel. Like, literally, here’s a list. Some of these comics are good, too, including those by Joss Whedon, Kevin Smith and The Wachowskis. Others … not so much (Yes, I’m looking right at Mayhem when I say that, but there are plenty of others on the list, too.) But hey, your mileage may vary.

And yes, famous people’s kids have done comics as well. Two instantly come to my mind — Max Landis and Nick Simmons, mostly because of their controversies, vs. the comics they made. Although it isn’t really fair to lump Henry in with them, as they both exhibited bad behavior that went far beyond nepotism.

So what’s the issue then?

Well, on the fan side, people expected one thing from the teasers, and got another. But that’s the nature of teasers.

On the creator side, the issue centers on the fact that a 20-year-old with no comic-writing credits or experience just “jumped the line” ahead of many creators who have been working in the industry for years — simply because of who his dad is.

John Layman, the writer of many comics, including the award-winning Chew, was one of them:

Paul Jenkins responded

You can read the whole thread here. Many other creators responded to the news as well:

https://twitter.com/MatthewErman/status/1141726163347415041
https://twitter.com/losthiskeysman/status/1141722999571329026

Henry Abrams acknowledged how lucky he is in that Times interview:

HENRY Obviously, there is an undeniable privilege here, and I’m not ignorant of that. I think part of creating is creating on your own. My hope and my goal is to do that after this. I can’t believe this opportunity was afforded to us. It’s been a great excuse, especially during the year when I’m in college, just to call and talk about the story.

The other issue that’s been brought up is how involved J.J. Abrams is in the actual writing of the comic. This passage in the interview suggested to some that he’s leaving the heavy lifting to Henry:

J. J. It’s been wild for me from having worked with writers for many years to work with my son on something and to get pages back after we’ve talked through an outline. To be honest, I wasn’t sure going into it what it would be like — neither of us were.

So what about the comic itself? Do we know anything about it?

Besides the creative team, we know that the story will introduce a new villain called Cadaverous. And that “The story shows Peter Parker in a way you haven’t seen him before,” JJ Abrams teased.

Where can I go for more info or commentary?

Well, there’s social media, of course. And the story itself has been picked up by many, many outlets — even beyond those who typically cover comics news like this. Heck, my dad even mentioned it to me. So, to answer your question — check social media, do a Google search for news articles or talk to my dad. He’ll listen.

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