Getting under the webs of Spider-Man in Marvel’s AvengersSpider-Man voice actor Sean Chiplock and Narrative Designer Jessica Krause explain how Peter Parker’s vulnerabilities can also be his greatest strengths as a hero.
Spider-Man is a hero who needs no introduction. Peter Parker swings into the Avengers’ lives armed with webs, quips and a plea for help from Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
He’s brought to life by talented voice actor Sean Chiplock (FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE INTERGRADE) and writer Jessica Krause, who infuse the character with real humanity. We recently sat down with the pair to discuss their take on this amazing Spider-Man:
We’ll start with you Sean - tell us about your take on Spider-Man.
Sean: This is something I’ve been reflecting on for a while, and pardon me but it’s going to get heavy.
I lost my mother when I was a freshman in high school, and it dumped a whole bunch of responsibility on me that I just had to be ready for - because I didn’t have a lot of choice. I was the oldest offspring in the family, I had to help my father with a bunch of stuff, and on top of all this, I was trying to develop my career right as I went into college.
There was this sense that I had to deal with all this stuff, and that had to be coupled with the demands that are being placed on me right now. And at times it felt like I was only able to figure out myself once I had done all the things that needed to be done for everyone else around me.
And if that's not Spider-Man - especially this Spider-Man - I don't know what it is!
As his dialogue and audio files reveal, he’s definitely someone who’s going through a lot when he meets the Avengers.
Sean: College is one of the most quintessential times of someone his age, just as it was for me - it’s cementing who you are as a person. It's almost ironic that for someone whose powers involve being able to stick to things, he struggles so much with preventing things from slipping through his fingers - whether it's his social life or his sense of identity or just his understanding of what he is versus what people need him to be.
That was one of the most fun aspects to explore of his character of - when does he have to put the brave face on and when does the facade slip? He's like: “I need a break. I can't keep doing this. You gotta let me be me otherwise I’m going to lose sense of who I even am!”
How did you approach that struggle between his true personality and Spider-Man persona?
Sean: If you’re a gamer you’ve probably played a game where you put on a mask to take on a different persona - The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask or something like that.
You know there’s a mechanic where when you’re wearing the mask, it slowly empties a magic bar - you have to use some sort of energy to keep that persona up. If you don’t have magic, the mask falls off and you’re back to who you originally are - typically much weaker and much more vulnerable.
I feel the same can be applied to Peter Parker. It becomes easier the more time he’s had the powers, and as he understands his place in the world, but he’s only got a finite amount of ‘magic power’ to use that mask. The more stressful the situation, the more out of his depth he feels, the faster that energy will burn.
That plays into another important aspect of his character in the game - his effort to establish a social connection with the other Avengers. At some point he realises he’s never going to have the social life he desires as a college kid, so if he can at least develop a sense of family with the people he is spending most of his time with, then he won’t feel he’s truly alone. If he’s not having to take on everything himself, he won’t burn through that energy as quickly.
That’s one of the big story beats for Spider-Man in Marvel’s Avengers - his search for that kind of acceptance for the kind of person he’s had to become without losing his sense of identity in the process.
When it comes to that social connection, he forms his closest bond with Kamala. Why do you think the characters work together?
Sean: Kamala makes sense to me immediately. She's the one who’s closest to his age, closest to his generation.
Jess: Kamala is our point-of-view character for the entire Avengers game, so it's really important to kind of like bring her into the fold as much as possible. From Kamala's perspective it's just nice to have someone who's close to her age around.
Age-wise, Peter’s a college senior so he's in-between Kate Bishop and Kamala. When we were talking about him early on, we thought of him as being like that friend from camp that you see once in a while, but when you do it’s like no time has passed at all.
Kamala is also one of the few Avengers who is aware of Spider-Man, because she lives in Jersey City. She’s just across the river from New York, so she was able to watch him on the local news. He’s a hometown hero. So, Kamala welcomes the opportunity to bring him into the fold and say: “Hey, you’re around my age, I’ve been watching you grow and I want to geek out a little bit.”
He also seems quite close to Black Widow…
Jess: The other person who was already aware of Spider-Man is Black Widow, because she’s a secret agent and knows everything.
Also, she’s a great barometer for the group. If Natasha says someone’s cool, they’re cool. Outside of Cap, her opinion is the most trusted in the group. She’s been watching Peter for five years, so even though he doesn’t want to share his identity or unmask, she knows he’s not going to betray them. And once she’s given the thumbs-up, the rest of the Avengers will follow.
Sean: Black Widow is his entryway to his relationship with the other Avengers. His bond with her may be because he has an easier time connecting because strong, confident women have been an important part of his life up until now - Aunt May, for example.
People like Tony Stark and Steve Rogers already have kinship and their own inner circle, so I see Peter relying on Black Widow to gauge: “How am I doing with this group of people? What do they think of me?”
It probably helps that Black Widow is one of the members of the team that feels most isolated. If the person on the team whose personal life Peter knows least about sees value in being his friend, then he’s probably in a pretty good spot with the rest of the team
There have been many versions of Spider-Man over the years. What makes this interpretation of the character different to others?
Sean: I think it's one of the most vulnerable. He’s old enough that he understands the weight that his powers have, but also still too young to have a firm idea of what he wants out of life.
Like I said, with the loss of my mom my freshman and sophomore years of high school were just a blur. I don't remember much of them outside of the really late nights and coping with that unexpected loss - so I can identify with the idea that he's trying to learn skills that he didn't have the chance to acquire for himself because he was so busy with all of this world-changing stuff.
That’s a really interesting angle because he’s one of the only core Avengers that we can explore this kind of thing with. Steve Rogers has to be the epitome of justice and protection, Tony Stark’s incredibly intelligent and can figure out a solution a moment’s notice, and Black Widow’s trained to handle anything! Spider-Man represents a unique opportunity to see how someone who’s not so perfect handles the responsibility placed on them.
Jess: I think what's so great about Spider-Man as a character is how relatable he is. I wouldn’t say he’s completely mouldable, but you can adjust him to fit with different worlds.
For example, the Peter Parker of the 1960s would be weirdly cool if transplanted into current times - and Peter can’t be a cool kid. So, we had to adjust him to fit in 2021 world - not too much - he's not going to be tweeting all the time, but more like a lot of his documents are through phone messages and things like that. Despite that he’s still clearly the same character.
And as Sean says, Spider-Man is allowed to be more vulnerable than other heroes. Peter’s always on the edge of being confident and then screaming internally because he doesn’t know how to deal with a lot of this stuff.
Sean: You can see that in some of the dialogue - he’ll finish a task and proudly go: “I did that!” and in the same breath, turn his head and say” “Oh God! I did that!”
Jess: Some of my favorite stuff to write is the elevator dialogue. Because he’s so vulnerable, and so curious, he allows other characters to be that way as well.
For example, in the same breath that he’s competing with Captain America over whether Queens or Brooklyn are better (the answer’s Queens by the way), he can also be: “Hey, you got muscles immediately, I got muscles overnight… I don’t know how to deal with this. Does it ever feel normal?”
And Cap explains how he still feels like that kid from the 1940s occasionally, and that sucks. And that the feeling doesn’t go away, and you have to kind of live with it. So, using Spidey as a vessel to dig at some of the vulnerabilities of the other heroes has been really, really fun.
Spider-Man’s one of the most famous Super Heroes in the world. Is there a weight to playing a character so beloved?
Sean: Oh my God, how could there not be a weight?!
I remember leaving my audition for the role and seeing one of my male colleagues sitting there. My brain immediately starts going: “He would be amazing in this role! I hope he kills it!”
When I realized that I was the one getting the opportunity, I had this moment of “Cool! I’m so proud of myself,” but also “Was this the right choice? Am I capable of pulling this off?”
I did slowly gain more comfortable in the role, and a lot of that increasing confidence actually came from my lack of confidence. I considered the position that this Peter Parker is in - he’s probably feeling a lot of the same feelings I was. He’s being confident because he has to be, not because he actually is.
It’s a constant dance between what he’s comfortable with and a sort of ‘fake it ‘til you make it’ attitude.
I’m grateful that there were past roles I had where I was even more out of my league than this one, and I had to lean heavily on my director to guide me where I needed to go. I was able to draw on that experience and go with what I felt good with. If the director didn’t like it or wanted something changed, they’ll assist me with that. So long as I had faith in that, anything I did was going to feel genuine.
Spider-Man is available to play in Marvel’s Avengers on PS5 and PS4.
He arrives alongside by the new raid, Discordant Sound, which pits the Avengers against Klaue for one final battle. It’s a great test of all your skills and available to all players of Marvel’s Avengers now.
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