Comics
Published April 2, 2024

New 'Spider-Man Unlimited' Story Arc Pens a Love Letter to Fanfic

Writer Preeti Chhibber explains how fanfic inspired her 'Spider-Man Unlimited' story arc, which picks up on a very bad day for Peter Parker.

Peter Parker is having a terrible, horrible, no-good day. In "I'm Your Biggest Fan," the latest story arc in SPIDER-MAN UNLIMITED INFINITY COMIC (2023), the Marvel Universe's resident web-head faces a myriad of challenges, from his usual villains like Hydro-Man and Screwball to a mass escape at the zoo and everything in between. But just when he thinks he's seen it all, his world gets turned upside down for this new tale by writer Preeti Chhibber and artist Jason Muhr.

Speaking to Marvel.com, Chhibber broke down her approach to this Spider-Man story. She explained fanfic's influence on her, as well as the way it provided an avenue through which she could explore Peter's problems. She also teased the fun tone of the story, a returning character, and her favorite panels and so much more.

MARVEL.COM: I understand you're a massive Spider-Man fan. If you had to narrow it down, what would you say is the one critical thing every Spider-story needs?

PREETI CHHIBBER: I think it needs him having a moment where he's screwed up and has to keep going. That, to me, is why he's so great. That's why we love him so much, is because he's so fallible, but despite that fallibility, he just keeps going. I think that's the heroic part, because so many of us are like, "This is too hard!" And he's like, "I'm gonna do it even though it's hard."

MARVEL.COM: You've written Spider-Man middle grade novels. You've even written other Infinity Comics. What sets this arc on SPIDER-MAN UNLIMITED apart from your previous work with Marvel?

PREETI CHHIBBER: This is my first time getting to tackle Earth-616 Pete, which is the one I grew up with. So that was a big deal because my middle grade novels are a different universe Spider-Man, and then the Infinity Comics that I've done—I've done Rogue and Gambit and Black Cat and all these other characters—but never 616 Spidey. 

When they were like, "Do you want to do this?", I was like, "I would! I'm going to explode. I don't even know what to say, I'm so excited." I feel like my journey has slowly been building to this point, just getting to do it finally! [laughs] I was like, "I've just got to keep writing Spider-People until they tell me I can't anymore," basically. 

So yeah, it's 616 Pete. It's putting him through the wringer, as so many of us like to do. I hope that people think it's funny. Some of the visualizations were the first thing that started the story, of imagining panels in my head. I was like, "I want to write a story that can lead to that panel."

MARVEL.COM: Tell me a little about working with artist Jason Muhr. What did he bring to the story?

PREETI CHHIBBER: What I love about writing comics is that I can—obviously, when I'm writing a script, I have something in my head, but I love to just be like, "This is the distillation; this is the intent of this panel. This is what I want to get across," and then, "Artist, go!" 

You could see how much Jason liked Spider-Man in the artwork he provided. When it came back, I was like, "Oh, we're the same! We both are huge nerds for this guy!" There was such care and clear excitement in the pencils and in the lines that we got from him. 

So that was really good, because I could—you know, I'd never worked with Jason before. I looked his website up when I found out he was doing the art, but getting to see it, I was like, "There was a trust." After the first script and after seeing the first illustrations roll in, I was like, "Oh, I can just like be like, 'This is sort of what it looks like. Go to town!'"

MARVEL.COM: Set the stage for us. When your SPIDER-MAN UNLIMITED arc begins, where do we find Spider-Man?

PREETI CHHIBBER: He is overwhelmed. He is going through it, which I think a lot of us can understand. He's just having a day. There's been constant garbage happening around Manhattan, he hasn't had a chance to rest, and then all of a sudden, everything goes sideways and he gets pulled into some other sort of scenario. 

How can I say this by not giving away too much? I think where I really wanted to start him was as this person who has too much on his plate. What do you do when that happens? The first issue ends with a banger of a panel. That panel—those last two panels of the first issue—were the first things I thought of when I was thinking about doing this run.

MARVEL.COM: Who else might we meet along the way in your SPIDER-MAN UNLIMITED arc?

PREETI CHHIBBER: Something that I was excited to do was bring back a figure from Spider-Man's past that I like. A figure that didn’t fully get his due in terms of their last interaction. 

MARVEL.COM: What can you tease about the villain in this arc? How scared should we be for Spidey?

PREETI CHHIBBER: I tried to hold back on what was really happening, because one of my favorite things in ongoing stories is when you're like, "What is going on?!" and trying to figure it out as it’s happening. I think it's something that isn't scary, but it is fun and it is silly and it is something that I hope that people sort of are like, "Okay, that was delightful!"

MARVEL.COM: As I understand it, fanfic was a major influence on this arc. Tell me a little more about that.

PREETI CHHIBBER: I think that fanfiction has a lot of different layers to it. When I was growing up, people used it with such a derision. They were just like, "Ugh!" You didn't tell people that you were into fanfic. You didn't acknowledge it in real life. It was something that was the secret part of your life for you and your nerd fan friends. 

Then, as it started becoming more and more mainstream, fan work got accepted and acknowledged as real work because you could see the care that people put into it. People started thinking about what fanfic really is, and fanfic is anything where you are writing your own stories about characters that someone else created. March is a Pulitzer Prize winning novel, and it's Little Women fanfic. That's what that is, right? 

So bringing that into it, because something I love about fanfic is the use of tags and tropes. You so easily can know what you're getting into, even if you don't fully know what you're getting into, just by someone being like, "...and there was only one bed!" and you're like, "Oh, I know what's coming!" [laughs] So using that in a way, in the story, in the run, that was just an avenue through which I could have Spidey go on the journey I wanted him to go on, with that understanding that it starts somewhere where he has something about himself that he needs to contend with.

MARVEL.COM: What is your favorite fanfic trope?

PREETI CHHIBBER: Enemies to lovers. I love it so much. I will read everything! Give me banter and anger and fighting and then kissing!

MARVEL.COM: What are you most excited for readers to see?

PREETI CHHIBBER: There's a panel—and I can't remember if it's in the third or fourth issue—that I still think about. Jason got down so perfectly on paper what I wanted. I won't give anything away other than it's a good background and it's a good pose.

MARVEL.COM: Without giving too much away, what do you hope readers take away from this story?

PREETI CHHIBBER: It's just hopefully another touch point in which Spidey represents all of us. I do genuinely think that's why he is always consistently one of the most popular heroes is because we do find him so identifiable. So I hope this is just one more version of that, of seeing a little bit of yourself in what he's going through and how we can learn from his experiences.

I really just hope people have fun with this one. It was so much fun to write and get to see how it came to life with the artwork and the colors, like Chris Sotomayor, and even the lettering! Clayton Cowles' lettering has a big part to play in this as well. So getting to see how everything came together into this really, really fun run for him. That's the angle I tend to go to with my super hero stories; I'm like, "What's going to be fun to read and what's going to be fun to write and fun to see?" That's what I hope people dig about it, I guess!

SPIDER-MAN UNLIMITED INFINITY COMIC #31, the first installment in Preeti Chhibber and Jason Muhr's story arc, is now available to read on Marvel Unlimited!

Want to read Marvel’s Infinity Comics? Join Marvel Unlimited for instant access to this exclusive lineup of vertical series on the Marvel Unlimited app or on the web, plus gain 30,000+ digital issues spanning Marvel Comics classics to ongoing series.

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