Five Questions for Alex Segura Regarding His YA Novel “Araña and Spider-Man 2099: Dark Tomorrow”
By Daniel A. OlivasMay 26, 2023
Araña and Spider-Man 2099: Dark Tomorrow by Alex Segura
So, when I learned that bestselling and award-winning novelist Alex Segura had written a YA Spider-Man novel, I was intrigued. His 2022 novel Secret Identity (Flatiron Books) had recently won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the Mystery/Thriller category, adding to Segura’s already long list of accolades, including nods for Best Mysteries & Thrillers of the Year by NPR, LitReactor, Kirkus, Booklist, and the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel, to name a few. What would a Spider-Man novel look like when crafted by someone with the writing chops of Segura?
The result is Marvel Press’s May release Araña and Spider-Man 2099: Dark Tomorrow, and I can report that it is a thrill ride that delivers all the excitement and arch humor of the best Spider-Man tales but with an undeniably Latinx flavor. The story centers on a teenager, Anya Corazon, whose secret identity is Araña, a superhero with spider-like abilities—web-slinging included—in present-day Brooklyn. Her father is an investigative reporter, but they both are damaged by the mysterious disappearance of Anya’s mother years earlier. On top of this loss, Anya’s superhero mentor has been murdered, leaving the teenager unmoored and tumbling toward superhero oblivion. But the sudden appearance of the villainous Judas Traveller makes the situation worse, leading to Anya’s unwanted time travel to Nueva York, the future New York City, home of the Spider-Man of 2099. The action is fast and ferocious, while the dialogue is witty and noirish. I wish I had such superhero novels when I was a teen.
Segura answered a few questions for the Los Angeles Review of Books about writing his latest novel, which adds another exciting chapter to the Spider-Verse.
DANIEL A. OLIVAS: What is your history—as a reader—with Spider-Man?
ALEX SEGURA: I grew up reading Spider-Man. My first introduction to comics came with Archie—but Spider-Man was the first superhero comic I read. I remember my grandparents picking up a reprint of Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine #2 (in digest form) for me at a grocery store in Miami. It was a mind-blowing experience. The story was terrific, especially John Romita’s lovely art. I was hooked, and as soon as I had my own money, the first comic I bought was an issue of Amazing Spider-Man. The first issue of Spider-Man 2099 was also hugely important too—not only because it was a new character in a futuristic setting but also because this Spider-Man was a Latino like me, and I felt a great sense of identification there. Spider-Man 2099 and Araña were hugely important to me as a young reader, and I was honored to get the chance to write this story featuring both of them.
The primary hero of your novel—amid many heroes—is Anya Corazon, a teenage Latina from Brooklyn known as “Araña,” which means “spider” in Spanish. How did you go about creating Anya’s backstory, particularly with respect to her decidedly Latin American roots, and did your editors at Marvel have much say in the creation of Anya and the placement of her in the pantheon of superheroes?
Well, I should clarify that I didn’t create Anya—she’s been around for a long time, and has many talented creators. What I did, for the purposes of the novel, was take those classic stories and try to think of a way to weave them into the story I was telling. I knew I wanted to capture Anya early in her superhero career, and I wanted to catch Miguel O’Hara/Spider-Man 2099 at the end of his, because I was fascinated by the contrast—one hero on the rise, one retired—and how that would make for a compelling story. In terms of her roots, I wanted to present her background as very lived-in, not commodified. She is who she is, we experience it “in world,” but it’s not something that’s hammered into the reader in a way that’s not natural, I think.
Could you talk about writing a novel where many of the characters who appear or are mentioned—both superheroes and villains—have a long history? What were the difficulties, and what were the advantages?
I think the challenge there is striking a balance. I’m a longtime comic book reader and writer, so I am well versed in the complicated histories of these characters, from the heroes to the background players and villains. But this is a novel that ostensibly is timed to a major motion picture featuring a lot of these heroes, so you want to make sure that what you write is welcoming and provides enough information for someone who isn’t an expert in Spider-Lore. On the flip side, I had a wonderful time filling the book with fun Easter eggs that hearken back to the comics, so if you’re a longtime reader, you can get a few nice surprises. I hope both sides enjoy it.
How did you map out the story arc for the novel, and did you have to keep in mind potential sequels?
As a comics writer, or whenever crafting a story, I try my best to leave little trapdoors or off-ramps that would allow for more story, but I also focus on the novel at hand. If this is the only time I get to write these characters, I want to make sure that it feels like a complete meal, for lack of a better term. I outlined the novel pretty tightly, to make sure that Marvel and Disney were okay with the direction of the narrative, and then dove into the prose itself—which created its own set of detours and fun side journeys.
What do you hope your readers get from your novel?
The big lesson, or theme, I think the book is trying to impart—amidst the time travel, dastardly villains, colorful heroes, and the like—is that we’re never too old to learn. Miguel O’Hara is jaded and has given up his role as Spider-Man. It’s the appearance of Anya/Araña that reminds him what he loved about being Spider-Man. At the same time, Araña is new to the game and trying to figure out what to do—so Miguel is there to help her. The story is about unlikely friendship, always learning, and sacrifice. I hope it resonates with readers, because I had an amazing time crafting it.
Daniel A. Olivas is a playwright, book critic, editor, and author of 10 books, including How to Date a Flying Mexican: New and Collected Stories (University of Nevada Press, 2022). He has written for The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Alta Journal, and La Bloga. Follow him on Twitter @olivasdan.
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