By Kevin Mahadeo
Writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist David Lafuente weave the ultimate web beginning tomorrow with the first issue of ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN, launching readers into the bold new world of the Ultimate Universe alongside Spider-Man and his amazing friends.
Picking up a few months after the devastating events of ULTIMATUM-which saw the deaths of countless Ultimate heroes and massive destruction across the globe-ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN returns readers to the familiar world of Bendis made famous in his previous series starring the titular hero; a world filled with high-swinging action and laugh-out-loud moments of comedy that get your Spidey Sense tingling in the best way possible. However, Peter Parker better get prepared to share the spotlight this go around as a few new, but familiar, faces permanently join the cast, bringing with them scorching new character dynamics and chillingly fun storylines.
With web-shooters in hand, Bendis swung by to talk about the new direction and tone of the re-launched series, his love of working with Spidey for almost a decade, and more.
Brian Bendis: What happened in ULTIMATUM? I missed it.
Marvel.com: [Laughs] Well, a lot of deaths, but not Spider-Man's. As revealed in ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN REQUIEM #2, Ultimate Peter Parker lives on.
Brian Bendis: Yeah, that was awesome. I do feel a little like Lucy with the football in the Peanuts newspaper strips. "Spider-Man's dead! Ha! No he's not!" But I knew it would be a lot of fun to play with people's expectations. So many real, giant icons were dying that it could have been that we were going to kill Spider-Man. But, what happened in our book and what I'm so happy about is that Peter rose to the occasion in such a spectacular way and is now going to be able to feel the reward of it. The Ultimate Comics Spider-Man will be in a world that absolutely loves the s--t out of him-at least for now. We don't know how long that will last. But for right now he's a very beloved super hero and he gets to enjoy that.
Marvel.com: That's obviously a very stark contrast to the current Marvel Universe, which is interesting because when the Ultimate Universe first started, it was meant to have some of those solid differences.
Brian Bendis: You know I'm a big fan of the juxtaposition. I learned this from [film writer/actor/director] Mel Brooks. If you do a sad story, you follow it with a happy story. If something horrible happens, it should be followed with something very funny. After ULTIMATUM and with Dark Reign going on, I just thought that ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN should be the most kick-ass super hero book that is just piles of bright, shiny fun and with Peter and all his friends in relationships dealing with all that high school nightmare drama. The re-launch of Ultimate Spider-Man is really about the next chapter in Peter's life as a super hero and creating a status quo that is completely different from what you've seen in any Spider-Man book or movie or TV show. The supporting cast is completely different from what you've seen in a Spider-Man story, and it just opened up all kinds of doors for us to tell all kinds of new stories that hopefully, when people think of Ultimate Spider-Man, this is what they think of-fun and exciting.
Marvel.com: You mention the supporting cast and you've hinted at this new cast before. Can you go over some of the characters that are now mainstays in the book?
ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN #2 cover by David Lafuente
Brian Bendis: We've released the big wrap-around cover, which is really gorgeous and by David Lafuente, and on the cover we see clear as day the Human Torch, Iceman, Kitty Pryde, Gwen Stacy, Mary Jane, Kong and Spider-Woman. As to how these characters are in ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN, you should buy the first couple of issues to find out, but it's very unique. And I have to imagine that people aren't going to be able to guess this because you haven't seen it before. And it is Peter Parker's book. I know when people see other super heroes in the book they go, "Heeeey," but every story has a great colorful supporting cast: every sitcom, every drama [and] every comic book.
Marvel.com: So, it's an ensemble cast, but it still focuses mostly on Peter?
Brian Bendis: Yes. It's absolutely his book, but I mean, for the first 153 issues of ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN, Mary Jane had sometimes more face time than Peter did, but it was still his book.
Marvel.com: Kitty and MJ both feature in this book, and the last time we saw them interact some words and fists were thrown. What's their relationship like now?
Brian Bendis: Well, they've all survived the biggest disaster in comics, and after that you kind of forget the little s--t, you know what I mean? There's going to be a time jump. Months have passed since ULTIMATUM when ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN #1 jumps in. So, all of the status quo of all of the characters have changed. There [are] new relationships. There [are] new grudges. There's new drama in high school. Everything has changed. And every page of ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN is a reveal on what has happened in the Ultimate Universe.
Marvel.com: Shifting over to artist David Lafuente, who just has such a fantastic style...
Brian Bendis: Yes! We released the preview and I was happy to see people's reaction. A lot of people who were worried about the new direction, because it is so different from [previous ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN artists] Mark Bagley and Stuart Immonen, were completely charmed by the art, as am I and everyone else who has seen it. He is a phenomenal storyteller and he is a very unique stylist. He was chosen specifically because he has something new to offer. We didn't want to hire someone who is a clone or a lesser version of that which made Stuart or Mark special. We wanted someone who is equally special and that brought something very, very new. I guess it's like Spanish manga. I don't know what to call it, but it's really, really exciting stuff. And his character acting is fantastic, which is what I need.
ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN #3 cover by David Lafuente
Marvel.com: Taking a step back, what it like re-launching the Ultimate Comics line?
Brian Bendis: You know what I like about it? When it first launched and I was all by my lonesome, people were disgusted by the idea of it and were not happy with it until the book came out and they saw it was an honest and true attempt at something. It wasn't that we were going to fix Spider-Man. That's not what it was, and when they saw that wasn't what it was, they were happy and thrilled to see it. So, it's funny that as the re-launch is about to happen, people on my board and on Twitter send me notes for what they hope for and what they expect, and it's much more of a rooting for it kind of thing and expecting the best. And I really, really like that. It's awesome that the line itself is being seen as what we want to be seen as: people trying to make the most fun comics in a tight, very productive line.
Marvel.com: You've been with this title since the very beginning and I've loved every moment of what you've done, but I have to ask: do you think you'd ever leave this title?
Brian Bendis: You know, I'm in these meetings and we're doing the re-launch and I go, "Should I leave the book? Should I go do something else?" And they go, "Do you want to leave the book?" And I go, "No!" And they're like, "Well, no one is asking you to." But I was just making sure. When Bagley left, I was wondering if I should leave, too. It is a very long run and I'm heading toward Peter David's INCREDIBLE HULK run numbers, which now gets me antsy about beating him. It is the best job in comics. I've had many fantastic jobs in comics, including those I have right now, and Ultimate Spider-Man is still the best one. You will pry it from my cold, dead hands. If one day you see my name not on the book, it means I handed in the script where Spider-Woman and Spider-Man make out and have that conversation about clones knowing what each other likes the most. That will be what gets me fired. You heard it here first. But honestly, I'll tell you what I do look back at over the years: I'm so insanely grateful that I'm allowed to do this book. Not a day goes by where I don't feel someone's genuine love and affection for the character that I care so much about. And it just fills my day, every day, and inspires me to keep going with it. I look back and feel just such relief and pride, and those are two things I'm not used to feeling about anything.
ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN #4 cover by David Lafuente
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