When 92-year-old superhero comic legend Stan Lee first conceived Spider-Man in 1962, it was as a normal kid with relatable struggles who also had to contend with being a crime-fighting superhero.
At the time, the groundbreaking concept gave teen readers a hero they could identify with. More than 50 years later, Charlotte-based comic book writer Jason Latour, Texas-based artist Robbi Rodriguez and Charlotte colorist Rico Renzi have created an alternate-universe spider character that courts not only longtime Spider-Man and comic book fans, but gives the growing number of female readers a web-slinging heroine to champion.
All three creators are among the guests, along with Lee, at the 33rd annual HeroesCon, which takes place at the Charlotte Convention Center Friday through Sunday.
Latour and company’s “Spider-Gwen” continues the story introduced in 2014’s alternate world-set Spider-Verse series where Gwen Stacy – Peter Parker’s first love, who was killed in 1973’s “The Amazing Spider-Man #121” – is bitten by that radioactive spider.
“As a guy who’s read male superheroes his whole life, I think that genre gets a little dusty,” Latour says. “What’s exciting about this as a writer is to touch new readers that don’t have a book that speaks to them, but also to find those superhero tropes and spin them on their head.”
Some of those spins include Gwen Stacy as drummer in a rock band led by Mary Jane Watson. Her alter-ego is a fugitive, while her father is the police chief trying to throw his cops off his daughter’s trail.
“Spider-Verse was a series where you got different iterations of Spider-Man. This is the one that fans seemed – for whatever reason – to connect to,” says Latour, who marvels at the series’ unpredictable early success.
After initial social media buzz, the first “Spider-Gwen” comic was No. 2 in sales the week of its release and has consistently remained in the Top 10.
It wasn’t his sole intention to create a feminist comic book character.
“Her gender matters, but not as much as the narrative,” Latour says. “I think a good story should be for anybody. ... If you’re successful you’re not going to speak to everyone, but the goal is to tell stories people can engage with.”
Latour, who has been a guest at HeroesCon for years and attended the convention as a kid, will certainly greet the longest lines of fans he’s ever encountered at the convention, which has doubled in size over the past three years. He credits the event with his early art education.
“If you have any interest in art at all, whether you like comic books or not, it’s an interesting place to be,” says Latour. “There are no barriers between the people that make the books and the people that read. A lot of other cities don’t have that. A lot of other conventions are built around movie releases or what the free button I can get is. It’s more about spectacle. Not to say there’s not some spectacle at Heroes, but it’s not out of hand.”
HeroesCon isn’t just a chance to meet the creators behind the comics. There are panels, screenings, art contests, auctions and workshops throughout the event.
WHEN: 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday.
WHERE: Charlotte Convention Center, 501 S. College St.
TICKETS: Day passes are $20 for Friday or Saturday, $15 for Sunday; three-day passes are $40; 12 and younger get in free.
DETAILS: 704-375-7464; www.heroesonline.com/heroescon.