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Nova: Building a Human Rocket Pt. 2

Jeph Loeb examines the role of Sam Alexander on the Ultimate Spider-Man animated series!

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Nova #1 cover by Ed McGuinness

By Marc Strom

Before Sam Alexander had his own ongoing series—beginning with NOVA #1, now on sale—he became a member of Spidey’s supporting cast in the animated “Ultimate Spider-Man.” As Head of Marvel Television, NOVA writer Jeph Loeb became integral in shaping the young hero’s journey into animation.

Fans who have followed Sam’s adventures in “Ultimate Spider-Man” may notice that the character seems a little different than the teen we meet in NOVA #1, and Loeb explains that comes down to the fact that Sam has had more time to grow into his powers and mantle in the animated series.

“He’s absolutely less confident [in NOVA #1], and I think that’s where [the difference in his attitude] comes from,” he suggests. “Certainly by the time he gets to ‘Ultimate Spider-Man’ he’s cocky, and [he] will continue to grow and learn in season two as we find out a little more about his background on the animated series and stuff that we haven’t even seen that will be in the comics.”

While developing “Ultimate Spider-Man” and Nova’s role in the series, Loeb knew that the Sam fans would meet on TV and the Sam in the comic would not be the same character.

“We were talking about somebody in the animated series that was Nova,” the writer emphasizes. “He was confident in his powers—if anything he was a little bit arrogant—and kind of a jerk about it in certain ways. He’s very head strong. It was somebody that was going to be a fun antagonist for Spidey, and so in doing that we had an opportunity to see who Sam would become along the way. Which is a really interesting journey because he’s not [that way] in the comic. At least not in the beginning.”

The series’ second season has already begun, pitting Nova, Spider-Man and the rest of their teammates against the Sinister Six, and Sam’s character will continue to develop as the year goes on.

Nova #2 inked preview art by Ed McGuinness

“When we first met [Nova] he just couldn’t stand Spidey,” Loeb recounts. “In the pilot, Paul Dini wrote this great line which is, ‘Who said this guy could join the team?’ And White Tiger says, ‘Oh isn’t it cute? Nova still thinks that he’s the leader.’ Except he’s the only one who thinks that. That’s part of the beginnings of this frenemy relationship that he has with Peter. You see in season two how they grow together.

“One of the things that happens at the end [of season one] is that the kids move in with Peter Parker. And so Sam, Luke, Danny, and Ava all became guys that are living at the house with Aunt May who doesn’t know that Peter is Spider-Man. You see a side of Sam, in the show, that you’ve never seen before. He actually bonds with Aunt May and is an incredibly sweet kid. You’re going to see more of the kid that you know from the comic.”

As the series continues to explore Sam’s character, fans will eventually see elements from his origin now unfolding in NOVA come to animated life.

“What happened to his family back in Carefree?” asks Loeb. “What did he give up in order to take up this responsibility? All those things are stories to be told.”

Telling Nova’s story from two different points in his heroic career at the same time also allows Loeb to flesh the character out in a unique way.

Nova #3 preview pencils by Ed McGuinness

“We’re continually building his future at the same time as we’re having fun telling his foundation,” he remarks. “It’s like knowing what’s on the 40th story of an apartment building, and I’m still down in the lobby figuring what’s going on down there.”

With “Ultimate Spider-Man,” Loeb has shown fans who Nova will one day become. But even after Sam Alexander first dons the helmet and gains the over-confidence on display in the animated series, he’ll discover that his journey has only begun.

“The idea of a character that is a little bit arrogant about his power and has to be humbled along the way is steeped in the tradition of great Marvel characters,” reflects Loeb. “Thor was that way, Tony Stark was that way, Stephen Strange was that way. I really wanted to dig into some of the best stuff, not just as a fan but as a writer, and come up with a story that would enable us to do that.”

Come back tomorrow as we continue to chat with writer Jeph Loeb about what the future holds for Sam Alexander. Get NOVA #1 now, and catch “Ultimate Spider-Man” “every Sunday at 11:00 a.m. ET inside Marvel Universe on Disney XD.

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