I recently began talking to Joe Caramagna, the writer of the upcoming young reader books Amazing Spider-Man – Behind the Mask and Amazing Spider-Man – Vulture set to come out this June, and asked him about his motivations and creative process behind his narratives.
As seen on Con-News.com
Known to be a prolific letterer, continuing to letter over 100 issues of Amazing Spider-Man, Caramagna described his approach to writing his Spider-Man books as,
I wanted to be fun, but without being silly, and I also wanted to address some serious life issues as well: Peter Parker loses a loved one. His family struggles financially. I think it’s important not to hide these real world problems from kids but to have them learn from Peter’s example.
He explains that he writes to close a growing demand in content between younger and older readers to create a more transitional narrative that can appeal to both groups with equal effectiveness in voicing the same messages of responsibility and personal endurance. Thank you, Mr. Caramagna!
Here is the full interview:
Do you think parents or other non-youth readers can also enjoy the books?
I do. Even though the first book THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN: BEHIND THE MASK is Spider-Man’s origin story that most older super hero fans already know very well, I purposely changed things up a little bit to keep it fresh. Specifically, I focused some more on Peter Parker’s relationship with Uncle Ben which, I think, adds something special if a parent reads the book to his/her child. There’s definitely more newness there for a parent to enjoy, yet it’s still the same classic core story that a super hero fan would want to pass on to his kid.
What experience got you interested in writing for young readers? If that had not occurred, what other genre or age group would you want to write for?
I wouldn’t say that I necessarily write for young readers, but I write stories that are appropriate for young readers. I’m a parent, and I see kids every day with super hero backpacks and sneakers, but the readers of the actual comics gets older and older every year. The comics aren’t for kids anymore, but they eat up the merchandise like crazy. They obviously want to be in the club, and I want them to be in the club. So, I try not to write for a specific age group, I try to write for all age groups. And it’s very exciting to try to cultivate new comic book and super hero fans.
Which aspects of your experiences as a parent and growing up do you draw on when you write for young readers?
What I liked to read as a kid are actually the same comics that I read now. Except then, it felt like they were written with a broader audience in mind. Now younger audiences have their own category of comics made just for them, but I know from my own kids that they want to do the things that the older kids are doing, they don’t want to feel like babies in comparison. And, yes, there are a lot of good super hero comics for kids out there, but sometimes they read more like comedies to me than action/adventure stories. Every kid loves to laugh, but when they start hitting 7 and 8 years old they want their super heroes to be cool. So in writing these novels, I wanted to be fun, but without being silly, and I also wanted to address some serious life issues as well: Peter Parker loses a loved one. His family struggles financially. I think it’s important not to hide these real world problems from kids but to have them learn from Peter’s example. Every time life knocks him down, he gets back up. That’s a real hero.
Have you ever given thought to writing your own character for a young readers’ book? How would he or she be different from Peter Parker/Spider-Man?
I have a couple of other projects in the works that are very different from super hero comics. But nothing I’m ready to talk about.
Are there any messages or themes you emphasize through the books that you felt only Spider-man could tell? Are there any messages with your use of villains?
Oh of course! The essence of Spider-Man boils down to that classic line from his first-ever appearance: “With great power must come great responsibility.” That very line actually appears in each of the novels, and it’s even engraved on the back of the iPad I write the novels on (Hey, I’m a geek, what can I say?) And I use the villains to reinforce that pont because don’t forget, those super-villains have great power too…
Did your experiences writing Iron Man help you prepare for writing these books? What were some lessons learned from writing that character?
I don’t think so, only because Tony Stark is such a different character than Peter Parker. But IRON MAN & THE ARMOR WARS gave me experience in writing serialized fiction that was very useful. Each of the novels is a stand-alone Spider-Man story, but when you put them together they tell a bigger story about Peter Parker growing up and dealing with his new responsibilities.
When you write about Spider-Man do you envision the narrative as though it were live action or panel-by-panel? Who do you envision portraying or drawing Spider-Man?
These novels actually started out as comic book stories that I wrote and lettered, and Marvel asked me to adapt them into novels later. And I wrote the comic for the first novel almost two years ago, and I feel like I’ve grown so much as a writer since then, so writing these novels about growing as a person felt very natural. And the original comics are printed in the back of the novels. AMAZING SPIDER-MAN: BEHIND THE MASK features art by the awesome Scott Koblish, which is very cool.
Does that choice change or alternate as your narrative progresses?
My first draft of the novel was basically a panel-by-panel description of the comic, but once I had that down “on paper,” I put the comic away and wrote my second draft as if it never existed, making sure it read clearly without the benefit of the art as a storytelling device. It also gave me the freedom to add more backstory and extra details that I didn’t have the room for in the comic.
If you could have an animated feature or live action movie based on your books, who would you want to be the actor or voice talent behind the mask?
As a fan of the Raimi Spider-Man movies, I have to admit, it was very difficult not to hear Toby Maguire’s voice while writing these stories. But the novels aren’t based on those movies in any way.
If you were to expand the books into a universe or separate canon which heroes or heroines would you include; any villains or villainesses?
I actually have thought about this and there are SO many things I want to do. Since these books deal with Peter Parker being forced to grow up and deal with new (and unwanted) responsibilities, I would love to do another series that introduces Gwen Stacy or Mary Jane and explores how being Spider-Man would be hard on Peter’s personal relationships. I already have the stories planned out if and when Marvel’s ready! But I’m not giving away the villains just yet.