To celebrate the recent release of The Spectacular Spider-Man: The Complete Series on Blu-ray, Marvel Animation Age has caught up with writer Andrew Robinson to talk about his work on the show, his thoughts on the characters and what might have been had the show continued. Take it away, Andrew!

MAA: For those unfamiliar with your work, how did you get your start in the animation industry?

Robinson: I had been working as a junior development and current programming person at MTV, and writing scripts on the side - features and hour dramas, actually. An exec-turned-producer whom I had known for some time on and off, and who was and is known for breaking in new writers, was also friends with my wife, was an executive at Fox at the time. My wife pitched me as a prospective hire for a new show he was producing - Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles. He read something I'd written and gave me a shot.

MAA: How did you come to work on The Spectacular Spider-Man?

Robinson: Usually, I'd take the 405 and get off at Venice, then - oh, that's probably not what you meant (yes, that's my nod to SNL's "The Californians.").

I've known Greg Weisman for a long time, but I hadn't seen him in a while - since before I had become an animation writer, I think - when we went to lunch one day, and it turned out that he was gearing up to oversee season two of the show "W.I.T.C.H." - which he was kind enough to hire me on. I'm guessing Greg had a good experience with me on that show, and I did work on other shows in the interim. So when The Spectacular Spider-Man came up, my agent submitted me and I was fortunate enough to know the producer. Plus I guess my name didn't scare enough executives at any of the companies to knock me off the list... thank goodness!

MAA: The series adopted a serialized style of story telling, while keeping each episode almost standalone with a full beginning, middle and end. Do you prefer the serialized approach or the 'done in one'? What do you consider the pros and cons of each?

Robinson: I'm actually pretty comfortable in the serialized approach - the majority of my animation writing has been done in that space. As a freelancer, the challenge is to come into a show where things are already in motion, assimilate all the information you need to really hit your marks, and knock it out of the park. It helps greatly to have a story editor/producer who keeps you consistently involved and updated, and Greg is that person. The beauty of serialization is that you're telling a large story, a large arc, composed of smaller stories in such a way that you get to ratchet up the stakes, develop and deepen your characters and your audience's relationship with your them and make the audience really care about what happens - and build up to a season/series climax that becomes an event. It can be meaningful and epic.

For a freelancer, the thing about one-offs is that once you grok the gist of a show, you can come in and pitch five or ten ideas that fit the parameters, and have a better shot that something will stick (whereas in a highly serialized show the producers will frequently already have stories more or less in place by the time you come in and it's more your job to flesh them out). Also, the storytelling tends to be more straightforward and streamline-able when you don't have to plant a plot element in episode 10 that won't pay off until episode 16. It makes things a little easier in the sense of there being fewer balls to keep in the air. Everything re- sets at the end to status quo (in theory) so there's less character development that "sticks."

MAA: The show has a heavy fixture of romance through its 26 episodes, an extreme rarity in children's animation. Did you enjoy writing these scenes? Did you have a particular favourite couple or scene?

Robinson: I love writing those scenes. To be able to express something as charged with emotion, insecurity, humor and hormones as teen romance in a way that rings true is a privilege.

I enjoyed setting up MJ with the "she has a wonderful personality" line from Aunt May conveying all the information she considers relevant, but Peter taking it to mean that the poor girl is terribly unattractive. Obviously fans of Spider-Man were in on the joke because MJ's famously gorgeous, but hopefully we surprised some newer viewers. And having MJ command the room at the fall formal was delicious (also we got away with a line of dialog that still surprises me) while still remaining "true" to Peter at the end. But obviously they don't remain a couple. I also got to tease Peter and Gwen nearly kissing in the heart-shaped sculpture in episode 20 (in which Venom wants to expose Spidey's secret identity), which was gratifying. And of course the Peter/Gwen relationship is heart-tugging just because they never quite get to where we, the audience, want them to. As iconic as Peter's relationships with both those girls - and I love them both - are to the franchise, however, I think the moment I found most touching to write was Flash and Sha-Shan on Valentine's Day. That Flash bluster and insecurity as he just tries to get through the night without screwing things up was fun, and that one tender moment where she eases his fears was really gratifying. And it worked so well because of the direction and the wonderful acting from Kelly Hu and Joshua LeBar.

MAA: You wrote "Group Therapy", the original Sinister Six episode. Did you encounter any problems keeping Spider-Man silent during the final fight as well as juggling that many villains?

Robinson: Problems? HAHAHAHAHAHAH... Keeping Spidey silent was a godsend. The challenge of writing both Sinister Six episodes - and it was a challenge - was making sure that each character had enough to do and say throughout the episode to justify his presence within the context of the story. Everyone knows Spidey is the King of Quips, and when he's responsible for at least half the dialog in a fight, it means you have to really struggle to fit everyone else in without making the scene run long. And with Greg's shows, which are really loaded with plot, you start to worry about going the whole script run long and having to cut things later. So Spidey being silent meant that I could give each villain a little more well-deserved attention.

MAA: Where there any Spider-Man characters you would've like to have written for but couldn't?

Robinson: Well, I think we're all familiar with the tragic fact that Wilson Fisk couldn't be in the show. Of the characters who were in the show, I think Black Cat would have been great fun to write. I'm sure I could think of a ton (a few mentioned in response to a question below), but there are so many to choose from.

MAA: You also penned "Gangland" which again had a wordless fight scene, with opera music replacing character dialogue. What thought goes into a silent smackdown of a fight scene?

Robinson: You just try to make it as epic as you can, given the confines of them being in a tunnel in this instance. Of course, you try to make ever fight as epic as you can. We had the additional element of getting action to match musical emphases, but to be honest that's more of an editing issue than a writing issue.

MAA: The show juggled a large cast of supporting characters and supervillains. Did you enjoy the emphasis on the expanded cast?

Robinson: Loved it. I loved getting to see and write for characters that were pulled from so many different elements of the Spiderverse. I wouldn't have it any other way.

MAA: Any interesting/funny anecdotes from behind the scenes??

Robinson: I'm not sure what you mean by "behind the scenes," but I will say that the most fun day of an animation writer's job is the day that they bring in the voice-over actors to record the scripts. There is nothing better than watching the best actors in the business bringing the gamut of emotion to your words and bringing the characters to life. When the jokes are actually as funny as they were in your head, or when the heavy stuff actually does work? Such a great feeling. And the actors in our cast have amazing senses of humor - I'd just love to have reels composed of nothing but their ad-libs and riffs, particularly when you get certain actors in the booth at the same time and they start to play together.

MAA: What would you have like to see in future episodes/seasons of the show, had it continued?

Robinson: I can't pretend to know everything that Greg had planned... but Hobgoblin, Scorpion, Carnage... I'm pretty sure that given enough time we would have gotten to the Clone Saga. I don't know if we would have gotten to Gwen... you know... And to be honest, I'm not sure I would like to have seen that, but I would be very curious to see how Greg handles something as traumatic as a character's death (assuming the studio/network allowed it) - maybe Captain Stacy? There are a couple of iterations where Aunt May learns that Peter is Spider-Man, and I would love to see what Greg did with that and with the inevitable resulting emotional fall-out. I'd like to see what happens when MJ learns the truth about Pete, as she eventually did in several comics incarnations and the first film series.

MAA: What are you currently working on?

Robinson: Recently I've been story-editing episodes of the Hasbro/Hub show Transformers: Rescue Bots, and also developing a few projects with producers.

MAA: What's your overall opinion of The Spectacular Spider-Man?

Robinson: I could not be more proud of, and grateful for, my association with "The Spectacular Spider-Man" than I am. It's some of the most fun I've had writing, and on the whole I think the quality of the show speaks for itself.

Marvel Animation Age would like to thank Andrew for his participation in this interview, and his amazing work on the show. He can be found on Twitter @Ardrous1. Cheers, Andrew!

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