Published March 2, 2023

Spider-Gwen: A Dance on the Dark Side with 'Shadow Clones'

Emily Kim and Kei Zama prepare Gwen Stacy for an encounter with her own fractured mirror selves in 'Spider-Gwen: Shadow Clones.'

When last we left the alternate reality Gwen Stacy known as Ghost-Spider, she had teamed up with multiple versions of herself to save the Multiverse as we know it. In SPIDER-GWEN: SHADOW CLONES, writer Emily Kim and artist Kei Zama will explore the other side of that equation when a series of infamous villains with a familiar twist crash Gwen's life.

We took the time to get to know Kim and Zama a bit better, quiz them on the origins of this new series, and delve into why Spider-Gwen stands out as one of the most uniquely appealing characters in the Marvel canon.

MARVEL.COM: Emily, tell me about your history as a comic book fan and how you ended up breaking in as a writer.

EMILY KIM:  I initially wanted to write books, novels like Harry Potter or Percy Jackson, but I grew up reading comics. Bone was my favorite. I read a lot of manga too. I would go to the bookstore with my brother and we’d sit there reading. We’d pick up random issues of comics, anything we could find. So, I didn’t read Marvel books as elongated series; I’d just pick up what I could when I could. My dad gave me RUNAWAYS, which was probably the first Marvel thing I read as a complete story. He gave me Sandman when I was too young and it scared me. [Laughs] I loved it as an adult. 

Then my dream changed when I fell in love with TV and wanted to write for that. I also realized writing books was way too difficult! [Laughs] They take so long and you’re all by yourself. As I got into TV, I realized a lot of sci-fi and genre writers also wrote comic books. They go very hand in hand, a lot of the same themes. 

Comic books are very freeing, though, because you don’t have a budget. If you want to write a ton of helicopters exploding, it’s the same price as just a person talking. It’s the quickest format I’ve worked in, too. I’ll write a script and see art the next month and then it comes out the month after that. It’s one of the quickest mediums where you can write and then see the product.

MARVEL.COM: How did you land your initial assignments at Marvel?

EMILY KIM: When I was an assistant on a TV show, a friend of a friend knew Maurene [Goo], who had written the previous issues of SILK, and they recommended me to take over, which is how I met [editors] Lindsey [Cohick] and Nick [Lowe]. They introduced me to other editors, and then I did TIGER DIVISION with Lindsey. I think once I got that first assignment, it was easier to network. I got lucky that somebody knew me and recommended me.

MARVEL.COM: You’ve been writing comics for a little bit now, but how are you finding the transition from books and TV?

EMILY KIM: Structurally, I found it translated pretty easily, because five acts on an hour-long episode of TV lines up with five issues in a comic book arc or series. You need to think of the same cliffhangers and transitions. I was pleasantly surprised. 

The biggest thing for me to realize was that, at first, I tried to pack way too much into each issue. Initially, I was reading trades, so I didn’t have a great sense of how much went into an issue. When I actually looked issue by issue, it’s really just a few story beats and usually a big action scene. You can really simplify it—focus on the action and the characters; that’s the biggest thing I learned.

MARVEL.COM: Where did the concept for SPIDER-GWEN: SHADOW CLONES come from and how did you get involved?

EMILY KIM: The concept came from [editor] Kat [Gregorowicz], who worked on the last Spider-Gwen series before this one. I had worked with [editor] Darren Shan on MARVEL’S VOICES and he introduced me to Kat for SPIDER-GWEN. She had just finished SPIDER-GWEN: GWENVERSE, which had been Gwen teaming up with heroic versions of herself and had done very well. Kat thought doing a sequel to that, where she meets villainous counterparts, could be really cool and tap into a darker side. That immediately jumped out to me. 

With SILK and TIGER DIVISION, the prompts were pretty open, so this was really the first time an editor had come to me with defined parameters. I thought it might be interesting to shape a story from what was already there. I also liked the idea of Spider-Gwen being a little edgier and getting into darker themes. 

What I really loved was that as I was reading up on Gwen, I saw her as a real loner, happy to be by herself, and I liked her forming a close bond and female friendship with another version of her. She has a love/hate relationship with MJ, but I wanted her to get the kind of close female relationship we hadn’t seen, at least in some time. I loved that and the story came from there.

MARVEL.COM: What about you, Kei?

KEI ZAMA: Just after I finished drawing EDGE OF SPIDER-VERSE #5, editor Kat Gregorowicz emailed me and asked if I was interested in a Spider-Gwen miniseries. I like Spider-Gwen and just I wanted to draw more of the Spider-Heroes, because drawing Web-Weaver was fun, so I said I would immediately.

MARVEL.COM: Emily, what makes Ghost-Spider a different kind of protagonist from some of the other Marvel heroes?

EMILY KIM: Gwen has a hard time having casual friendships with other people. I think that resonates with a lot of young people today who find it easier to be by themselves, who own their loner status. She also very much always has this guilt from Peter’s death hanging over her head. She needs to get past that and see herself as somebody who deserves to be with other people and desires to be with other people. I think everybody struggles to connect nowadays. I think she can be a figure for something very relatable and that makes her unique.

MARVEL.COM: You mentioned GWENVERSE as a kind of springboard, but does your series closely connect on what’s come so far for Gwen?

EMILY KIM: Besides some stuff in the first issue, SHADOW CLONES is pretty separate. From the start, Kat and I wanted to do something completely different with a whole new villain. Obviously, the clones connect it to GWENVERSE somewhat, but that’s pretty much it.

MARVEL.COM: Who are your artistic influences on this series, both in general as well as specifically when it comes to Gwen, Kei?

KEI ZAMA: I think I was influenced by Takeshi Miyazawa's Ghost-Spider for Gwen the most. He is Japanese [like] me and I read his works. But my art style on this series is still my usual style. A bit less shade and shadows than usual because there are many panels that have detailed backgrounds.

MARVEL.COM: How much of a hand did you have in designing the clones?

KEI ZAMA: All Gwen clone designs are by Peach Momoko. I designed some other characters. I'm so glad I could collaborate with Peach Momoko in this way. Her designs of the Gwen clones are perfect and so cool!

MARVEL.COM: What’s the fun as well as the challenge of working outside of the “main” Marvel Universe with Gwen’s alternate reality?

EMILY KIM: I definitely ran into challenges assuming that everyone in this reality knew about Earth-616 and the famous villains I’m using as her clones. My editors had to remind me that this is an Earth where not everybody knows who the Vulture is—that you have to create bridges for them, so to say. I love having her interact with the Reed Richards of her world because it’s such a different take on a character most people are so familiar with.

MARVEL.COM: How have you two enjoyed working with each other?

EMILY KIM: I’ve loved it. From the very first layouts, the way Kei focuses on certain details totally changes the story I saw in my head. They always make the emotion on the page better. They’re great at portraying the emotional connection between Gwen and her clones. I’ve loved what they’ve done so far.

KEI ZAMA: Working with Emily is so fun! I was amazed every issue at the script, especially the psychological description of Gwen(s) and the unique fighting scenes. I'm enjoying thinking how I can do storytelling with her writing and ideas.

MARVEL.COM: If anybody is still on the fence about picking up SPIDER-GWEN: SHADOW CLONES, what would you say to convince them?

EMILY KIM: Again, I think it’s Gwen developing a close female relationship with somebody, something we haven’t really seen before. She’s really tested when it comes to her guilt and her perception of herself. It’s the first time she’s really tested by a “villain” over whether or not she is the good person here.

SPIDER-GWEN: SHADOW CLONES kicks off this week with issue #1, now on sale!

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