This is the 50th anniversary of Spider-Man and the webslinger seems to be everywhere — a record-breaking Broadway show, the upcoming feature film, a new video game this summer, etc. You can add an animated television series to that list with Disney XD’s April 1 premiere of “Ultimate Spider-Man.” The promising new series will be spotlighted in a March 17 panel at WonderCon in Anaheim but Hero Complex contributor Jevon Phillips caught up with Marvel Entertainment’s chief creative officer, Joe Quesada, for some early insights.
JP: What’s the new “Ultimate Spider-Man” animated show about, and will it follow the comic book exactly?
JQ: Well, it won’t follow the comic book exactly. The goal really is to show Spider-Man to a new audience and demonstrate to them what’s wonderful about Spider-Man and add a little twist to the story. Something obvious to anyone who’s followed Spider-Man is that there have been many many animated shows. Most of them took the same route: here’s Peter Parker’s origins, and here’s how he got his powers, and he’s got an aunt named May and he’s got Mary Jane … all those things. We decided to amp that up a little bit by giving him much more responsibility — he has that great mantra ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ – so what happens when you give him more responsibility than he’s accustomed to? We introduce him to SHIELD. While SHIELD has been in the Marvel Universe for decades, it’s become something of a character unto itself as this sort of secret spy organization because of the Marvel movies, and I think that it’s only going to get bigger as you see more Marvel movies made over the years. So Peter Parker and Spider-Man are going to be a part of SHIELD, which gives him access to really cool tech. That’s a real twist to the Spider-Man mythos. Most of the tech that you’ve seen with Spidey are his web shooters, or in the comics he was given this sort of iron spider suit by Tony Stark, but it was not something he used on a regular basis. But in the cartoons, Spider-Man will have a lot of really cool toys that he uses, as well as his new teammates.
JP: Who’s writing on the show?
JQ: It’s a large group of us. There’s Paul Dini — the legendary Paul Dini; Man of Action, who you probably know from “Ben 10;” Brian Michael Bendis, arguably the greatest writer of Spider-Man comics since Stan Lee — he’s probably written as many books as Stan and could be the greatest writer in comics today; and Jeph Loeb, of course, who’s the head of Marvel TV and is also a great writer in his own right. It’s a pretty fun group of guys and a very very talented pool of writers.
JP: So you’ve had some time to evaluate now… Really tell us how has it been being part of the Disney family?
JQ: This may sound hard to believe, but it has been fantastic. Coming from the world of Marvel, say three years ago, we were a decent-sized company, but we didn’t have quite the reach, or the muscle, that we do now by being part of the Disney family. This enables us to do shows like “Ultimate Spider-Man,” ’cause in the past we couldn’t do our own animation. This is really the first Marvel-produced Spider-Man animated show — which is a hallmark for us… And working with XD has been fantastic. They trust Marvel… It’s going to feel like a Marvel-produced thing, much like the movies do now with “Iron Man,” “Thor” “Captain America” and the upcoming “Avengers.” Those movies distinctly feel like Marvel movies because they were produced by us, and for Marvel animation, “Ultimate Spider-Man” is sort of the kick-off for that [on TV].
JP: And any TV plans after “Ultimate Spider-Man?”
JQ: Well, we haven’t announced anything to this point, so I can’t get into that — but I can tell you that we do have other shows in the works. We are planning a wonderful slate, and every show has Marvel people working on them. Like Steve Wacker, a senior editor who I wanted to mention for “Ultimate Spider-Man.” I think it’s important for the beginning of Spider-Man to have the guy who’s editing the books be in the room.
JP: Fans were giddy with all of the epilogue drops that were done for the movies leading up to “The Avengers.” How long did it take for you to think those up and tie them together?
JQ: Many, many years of planning before the ball really started rolling. The idea was, in a perfect world, if “Iron Man” was a success, then we’d be on the road to “Avengers.” And luckily we’ve had some great success with our solo character movies building towards “Avengers” — and there’s even a plan to go beyond that… But that’s always been a part of Marvel. It’s something that we started in publishing, to always have a long-reaching plan. We’re doing that in the cinematic universe, and starting to in the animated universe and beyond that…. And I don’t want to confuse it by saying the animated universe is going to be the same as the comic book universe or movie universe. They’re going to be completely different. Just that within the different mediums, there will be some consistency.
JP: So, you don’t think that anything will come back to the book from the show?
JQ: In my world, I like to look at the comic book as the source material. What you’ll see is that things that originate in the comic books will eventually bleed into the show. Obviously we can’t get as edgy in animation as we can in the comic books…. But there are some wonderful Easter eggs for longtime followers of Spider-Man, though. It’s no different than our movies.
JP: Are there any particular characters that you like in “Ultimate Spider-Man” that we may want to know about?
JQ: I think my favorite character is going to be Nova. Nova is a character that will hopefully break out. He’s a lot of fun and sort of the yin to Peter Parker’s yang. And I will give you one little hint: If you’ve liked the Marvel movies, I think you’re going to see a character that’s really going to make you smile.
– Jevon Phillips
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