Every super city needs a superhero
by David Goldberg
Stifling humidity and frequency of freeways should not deprive Houston of a good superhero. If New York can have so many, why can’t we have one? Marvel’s Spider Man line has finally answered our prayers with the debut of Scarlet Spider #1, which sets the stage for a Houston-based hero. The series, as written by Chris Yost and penciled by Ryan Stegman, follows the adventures of wayward Spider Man clone Kaine, who heads to the South to escape his past up North. OutSmart spoke with Yost about Kaine, his experience in Houston, and local fan reactions.
David Goldberg: Why Houston, Texas?
Chris Yost: Steve Wacker, the editor, and I were talking about it, and I said that we don’t want to do it in New York, because pretty much 99 percent of things that happen at Marvel happen in New York. The X-men moved to San Francisco, so I said, Let’s get out more. We hadn’t really done anything in the South, and Houston is a major city. Based on that, we had to think of the story. Kaine had to get out of New York. He’s a killer. He’s not going to be hanging out with Captain America. Based on who he is and what he’s done, he’s gotta get out. He’s gotta go to Mexico. And then on his way to Mexico, he’s going to go to Houston and run into some problems.
Are you going to explore any more of Texas, or just Houston for now?
Does Galveston count?
We’re going to go to Galveston. We’re going to the Gulf. We’re going to Mexico at some point. But Houston is it, especially downtown. Issue five is really a running-around-Houston issue. I’m writing a scene right now that takes place in River Oaks.
How are you getting such comprehensive details?
The artist, Ryan Stegman, and I went down to Houston. We checked it out, and then we’ve been getting reactions on Twitter. A ton of people have been telling us stuff to check out, and posting pictures.
So fan reaction from Houston has been positive.
How do you keep your comics authentic? How do you keep it from becoming a forced “superheroes are people too” issue?
I think it’s by not being stereotypical. Every issue is not going to have a guy in a hat and cowboy boots sitting on a horse. It’s a city. It’s a major urban center. We’re treating it fairly normal. Occasionally someone will say “y’all.” Occasionally you will see a cowboy. But we are treating it normally. This is not the Wild West. The authenticity comes from the places and meanings that we get right.
Were you surprised that Houston is the first city with a gay mayor? Were you surprised by the variety of religions and cultures down here?
Not really. It’s a city. I’m from Missouri. Because the South has such a massive stereotype, I tend not to believe it. In my experience, most of them are not true. There is a huge international community in the South. It’s a major force. And I’ve got cousins in Tennessee with thicker accents than anything in Houston. We’re treating it like a city with everything in it. Everything.
Should we look forward to any big Marvel characters stopping by Houston?
Not for a while. Iron Man makes a cameo in issue five. We’ve mentioned that the Rangers, which are like the heroes of the American Southwest, are going to be showing up. The first two issues, we’ve introduced a character called Salamander. The third and fourth deal with a group based out of New Orleans called the Assassins Guild. They’ve been showing up in X-men comics. We’re trying to stay away from big names right now because we want to establish Kaine as Scarlet Spider and show him as his own guy and give him a world of his own. But there’s always going to be a Spider Man thing that’s going to happen.
And he’ll have a supporting cast?
In issues one and two we meet four of them, actually. In issue one there is an HPD officer named Wally Layton and a doctor named Donny Newlin. There’s a bartender named Annabelle at the hotel where Kaine stays. The girl he saved is named Arcelay.
Should Marvel keep leaving New York City?
Yeah. New York is always going to be its epicenter. So why not?
What would you say to LGBT readers who have never checked out Scarlet Spider?
I think that superheroes are kind of a universal thing. They go beyond the everyday. They give you excitement, adventure, and everything you want. As for Kaine, he’s not going to look at things the way other people do. He’s so far beyond issues of sexuality. Two supporting cast members are gay. When Kaine finds out, one of the guys asks, “Is that an issue for you?” and Kaine is like “No.” It’s not an issue because he doesn’t care.
We really hope that we are doing our due diligence with the town and getting it right. It’s really important to us. We know that most of the world won’t read it and be like “Oh, there’s that street over there,” but for our fans in Houston, we want to nail it. We’re doing our best.
Ryan Stegman and I are both on Twitter. Anyone that has any kind of suggestions or thoughts, or would like to tell us what we got right or got wrong, we want to know.
David Goldberg is a frequent contributor to OutSmart magazine.