Steve Webb

Peng and Spanners
Steve Webb

About Author

Steve Webb tells ReadingZone about his hilarious new graphic novel about the newest superheroes in town, Peng and Spanners!

Steve is an author of middle-grade and picture books, as well as a graphic designer. His first middle-grade series was the magnificently bonkers Spangles McNasty. For younger readers he has written the rhythm and rhyme, syllable-tastic classic, Tanka Tanka Skunk.



Peng and Spanners   (Faber Children's)

April 2024

Meet the newest superheroes in town, Peng and Spanners! They might not always agree, and things might not always work out the way they expect, but with the mystery of a disappearing pizza restaurant to solve, they are definitely on the case!

Find out more about Steve Webb's brilliant new graphic novel, Peng and Spanners in our Q&A with the author, and read the first chapter from the book!

What our reviewer says:  "Peng and Spanners is a gloriously bright and bold, madcap and marvellous comic strip caper." 

Q&A with Steve Webb, introducing Peng and Spanners

"I wanted to write a Superhero story with a difference. Would Batman and Robin really get on ALL the time?
Is Superman never in a bad mood?"

1.   Thank you for joining us on ReadingZone. Can you tell us a little about yourself, and how you became an author?

I grew up in Newcastle upon Tyne and went to art college in Bristol to study Graphic Design and Illustration. I started writing picture book stories around illustrations I was doing at the time, the result (eventually!) was my first picture book, Tanka Tanka Skunk. Writing for older children is fantastic fun as they understand so much more and have a tremendous sense of humour.

When I'm not working on my books, I like to bounce around the Peak District on my mountain bike.

2.   What is your new graphic novel, Peng and Spanners, about? What inspired the story and why did you decide to make it a graphic novel?

I wanted to write a Superhero story with a difference. Would Batman and Robin really get on ALL the time? Is Superman never in a bad mood?  Peng and Spanners are best friends, but they do get on each other's nerves occasionally. I really enjoyed writing the conversations between them, all the misunderstandings and moody quirks, and a graphic novel-style book seemed a natural fit.  The story is about the disappearance of a pizza restaurant. 

3.   So how successful are Peng and Spanners at being superheroes?

Peng is excitable and fun but also impatient and moody. Spanners is an engineering genius but doesn't really understand the fictional side of life. He only ever reads factual books and believes everything he hears and reads.

I think Peng and Spanners work well together because of their realistic friendship. They do annoy each other sometimes and misunderstand things which can be funny.  And things go wrong a lot.  If everything was fabulous and worked like a dream all the time, it just wouldn't be realistic or funny at all!

4.   Who were your favourite superheroes as a child? Did any help inspire Peng and Spanners?

Spiderman was always my favourite. Although I'm scared of heights, so even If I could climb up walls like a spider, I would never do it!  Imagine if Spiderman was scared of heights, that would be a fun story to write.

5.   What makes the book so funny - and what made you chuckle the most when you were writing / illustrating the book?

The conversations between Peng and Spanners make me laugh all the time. I like to put them in a new situation and see what happens, how they react, what goes wrong. A lot of the humour comes from these.

6.   So what's with all the robots and pizza in the story?

A lot of superhero adventures have a villain with world domination-sized plans, but who cares about that?! What people really care about is, Where are the pizzas?!

I wanted the story to have something everyone could relate to, something very normal and everyday at the heart of a bonkers adventure, and everybody, even if they don't like it, everyone knows pizza. But who doesn't like pizza?!  And giant robots are giant fun, aren't they!

7.   If you were one of the characters in the story, which one would you be?

I can't decide whether I'm more Peng or more Spanners. I think everyone is a bit of both really. We can all be silly and excitable and moody and make mistakes but we can also all be smart and kind and helpful. There's a page near the end of the book where the Inspectors are relaxing by a swimming pool and ask each other that very question, which I added because I thought readers might be asking themselves too.

8.   What is the process for creating a graphic novel and what was the hardest part for you?

I write my graphic novels out as scripts first and then draw them. Although I will also be sketching the characters and scenes at the same time. Once the script is finished I visualise it usually with six frames per page. This involves a lot of roughs and scribbling and trying again and again These roughs are SO rough they wouldn't make sense to anyone else. When I'm happy with them I'll draw them all out again clear enough to share with my editor.

The hardest part? Probably the colouring in! Just because there is so much of it. And my fave part is the writing. I love making things up!

9.   Will there be more Peng and Spanners adventures? What's their next quest?

Oh yes! I've just finished book two and I'm working on book three! I can't tell you what they're about just yet, it's a secret; I think the cover of the next book will appear online very soon.

10.   Where do you prefer to do your writing and illustrating? What do you do when you're not feeling inspired to write?

I mostly write and draw in my studio at home. Although the writing and roughs you could do anywhere really. Well, anywhere quiet for the writing!

I recently found some perfect pocket sized sketchpads which I take with me where ever I go. If you find yourself stuck or uninspired at any point I think it's a good idea to stop and do something else for a while. Even just a five-minute break can re-charge your mind-cogs. Also, to quote the wisdom of my friend, author and illustrator Chris Mould, 'If you can't write it, draw it. And if you can't draw it, write it!'

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