By Ben Morse
Peter Parker has made many new friends in the Ultimate Universe over the past couple years, but in 2011, he welcomes home one of his oldest pals.
That’s right: next year Mark Bagley’s back!
It’s been nearly three years since the celebrated artist and co-creator of ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN has graced the House of Ideas, but he’ll soon be returning to his baby just in time for the Death of Spider-Man event. Marvel has certainly missed Bagley’s immense talents, and to hear the artist tell it, he’s psyched for the reunion.
“[It] feels great to be back ‘home,’” he says. “I’ve always been a Marvel guy at heart and look forward to playing in that pool again. Don’t get me wrong, [DC Comics] treated me well [and] it was fun to play around there. Having said that, most folks have a special place in their heart for one company [or the other] and since I was nine years old and after a 20-plus-year career at Marvel, that place [has been] the house that Stan and Jack built. I’d like to be able to make another solid statement on a Marvel book as I did with NEW WARRIORS, AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, THUNDERBOLTS and, of course, ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN.”
Bagley went on to emphasize his time away had been well-spent and he’ll be bringing several new tricks with him when it comes time to re-enter the Ultimate Universe.
“I’ve had three years of working on well-established, iconic characters that were frankly out of my comfort zone,” he notes. “I think I’ve improved as an artist and I look forward to seeing how the adjustments in my drawing style that I’ve made translate to Marvel characters. I realized quite quickly that some of the artistic shorthand I’d been using drawing ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN for years wouldn’t work as well on very different types of characters. It was an interesting and exciting learning experience [and] I think I’m a better artist for it.”
In 2006, Bagley and writer Brian Michael Bendis broke Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s record for the longest continuous run by any creative team when they reached ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #103 without either having missed an issue. While the other artist accomplished that among many milestones and achievements during over half a decade on the premiere Ultimate title, he promises to continue making history this time around.
“I’m pretty uncomfortable returning to such a well-plowed field,” admits Bagley. “[However], I’m always open to a great opportunity. Brian called to personally ask me to consider this Death of Spider-Man arc. Everybody thought it would be a wonderful ‘welcome back’ splash, and once Brian had laid out the basics of the story I was sold. I never stopped loving [the book], ‘my’ Peter Parker and Brian’s writing; Stuart [Immonen] and David [Lafuente’s] artwork was of course the icing on the cake.”
In keeping up with Spidey’s Ultimate adventures since he’s been away, Bagley has enjoyed many of the new twists introduced, but one above all others:
“I really like his new haircut! That is a lot easier to draw; the only challenge is making his face distinctive enough. I always saw his original hairstyle as sorta Superman’s spit curl—a visual key to immediately identify the character. More importantly, it’s interesting to see how Peter’s supporting cast has been solidified and shaped. Each character adds a fun or exciting mix to the collective story. I’m certainly going to have to stop by my daughter’s high school and refresh my teenage fashion sense a bit. Damn kids, you dress funny.”
One thing Bagley won’t need to adjust to will be working with Bendis. In addition to their unprecedented ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN tenure, the duo also collaborated on the artist’s last Marvel work to date on MIGHTY AVENGERS.
“I’ve collaborated with a lot of terrifically talented writers who have become my friends over the years,” reflects Bagley. “Guys like Fabian Nicieza, Kurt Busiek, Tom DeFalco, James Robinson—some of whom I talked to nearly every day, others who I only talk to occasionally. Brian falls into the latter category—he is one busy, rambling man—but when we do talk, and when I can get my hand on his script and we discuss it, it is magic; really I can’t put it any other way.”
Throughout the halls of Marvel, the anticipation of that magic reigniting runs rampant, particularly in the Ultimate Office.
“Having Mark Bagley come back to ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN is one of those times here at Marvel where I pinched myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming,” says Senior Editor Mark Paniccia, who will oversee the Death of Spider-Man story. “I speak for all of Marvel when I say we couldn't be happier that he's on this project. After his and Brian's historic run on USM, this event is taken to a whole different level of impact and poignancy with their reunion.”
“I come into this with Brian, Mark Millar and others having worked out what will be a great, emotional and moving story,” shares Bagley on the event. “It’s the kind of thing Brian does so well, and to be honest, the kind of human and dramatic story that I love to draw. I’ll try to visually tell this story as clearly and as powerfully as Brian writes it. My job is to do that and along the way attempt to enhance the narrative as much as I can with my storytelling abilities—I’m pretty good at that.”
As far as the future, all those years at Marvel certainly haven’t dulled Bagley’s ambition, and his he has plenty of big ideas to come:“There are quite a few books at Marvel I haven’t made any impact on and I look forward to settling on something exciting and long-term. To make another book ‘mine,’ whatever book that might be—I have an idea or two.”
Together, the team of Bendis and Bagley revolutionized the comic book world with Ultimate Spider-Man, setting a new record for consecutive issues by a single creative team and producing some of the most acclaimed comic books of all-time.
The biggest event in Ultimate Comics history just got bigger, as superstar artist Mark Bagley returns to Marvel and the series he helped make one of the best-selling of all time! ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN #156 reunites the record-setting duo of Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley to kick off Death of Spider-Man. With a new creative team and the biggest Ultimate story ever, you can’t miss a single issue of ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN!
Bendis exclaimed. “I’ve been jumping up and down with excitement! Mark and I have huge plans this year both in both the Marvel Universe and Ultimate Comics Universe and this is just the beginning. Join me in saying my new favorite catchphrase: Bagley's Back!!”
The team that sold over a million copies of Ultimate Spider-Man Vol.1 is back together for their biggest story yet—Death of Spider-Man—because in the Ultimate Universe there are no rules and you never know what to expect next!
ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN #156
Written by BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS
Pencils & Cover by MARK BAGLEY
Rated T+ …$3.99
ON-SALE IN MARCH