Brian Bendis: Ultimately With Spider-Man
Brian Bendis: Ultimately With Spider-Man
At the end of Ultimate Spider-Man #133, Spidey's mask is found, but Peter Parker is not. Whether he's really gone or not remains to be seen, but with this week's Ultimate Spider-Man: Requiem #1, the world will mourn his loss, including the issue's narrator, J. Jonah Jameson. The two-part Requiem story will wrap up the current Ultimate Spider-Man volume in full issues by the current creative team of writer Brian Michael Bendis and penciler Stuart Immonen – plus a contribution of new work from former series artist Mark Bagley.
Then in August, the Ultimate line will begin anew as "Ultimate Comics," with Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #1 featuring Bendis as writer with art by David Lafuente. Also in August, Marvel will release a new Ultimate Comics Avengers title by writer Mark Millar and artist Carlos Pacheco.
"We have a grand opportunity with the Ultimatum event to jump ahead a little bit. Just a little bit – not a lot," Bendis told Newsarama when the relaunch was announced. "At the end of Ultimatum, there's going to be a jump, and with that jump, we're going to have a brand new Ultimate Spider-Man comic book."
If Peter Parker really is dead, who plays the role of Spider-Man in the new book? Bendis isn't saying. "The first storyline is that you're going to find out who Spider-Man is. You're going to find out who the supporting cast is," the writer said. "The new status quo will introduce new characters both hero and not-hero. Spider-Man's relationship to the world will be different than you've ever seen in a Spider-Man title – any Spider-Man title."
The Ultimate line was launched with Ultimate Spider-Man #1 in 2000 by Bendis and Bagley, beginning a series of comics that re-imagined the regular Marvel universe's characters, updating them for modern readers and giving them a fresh, continuity-free beginning. Although the comic has always been written by Bendis, former Marvel President Bill Jemas has been credited with conceiving the idea of the Ultimate Spider-Man launch.
Newsarama: You started the Ultimate line almost 10 years ago with Ultimate Spider-Man, and now you're seeing much of it being destroyed. Isn't that a little weird for you?
Brian Michael Bendis: Well, he did it politely. [laughs] It's not like I opened up the magazine and went, "What???!!!" I was in the meeting with [Ultimatum writer] Jeph [Loeb]. I was there.
Look, I would be a huge hypocrite, if after what I did to the Avengers, I would say, “Hey... not in my book”. I did drop a bomb on the Avengers. I mean, I didn't kill millions of people, but I did crash into that house. And I know there are people still steaming about it. Not so many, but I still hear from some.
But this is similar to that in theory, because it's cool to tell this disaster story, but then from there, we have all these other cool stories to tell. I would never drop a bomb on a series or a franchise and then have nothing to offer it. And I've seen that sometimes that's happened. And it leaves a horrible taste in people's mouths where there's a hit and run. It really is a hit and run. Sometimes it's one character or it's a bunch of characters, and it's a hit and run and we all feel cheated. The only thing, for people who got annoyed with me on Avengers, is they say, "Well, he did keep to his word. He did stay on the book. He's still there." I did commit to the franchise like I promised I would.
NRAMA: We've talked before about why this whole relaunch of Ultimate Spider-Man is happening now, although I'm not sure you really answered the question.
BMB: What did I say?
NRAMA: You talked about getting the schedules to line up between the Ultimate comics and making the line a "gateway" again. And those are good points, but what fans are wondering is why now? I think your analogy of the Avengers is a good one for this question, because I think everybody can agree that the Avengers line needed fixed. So when I ask why this relaunch is happening in the Ultimate line, the real question is, why did the Ultimate line need fixed?
NRAMA: Before it's "needed?"
BMB: Yeah. Right. Why wait until it all goes to shit and embarrass yourself and have to do something? But we're doing it now, and the interest is very high because it is against the usual. So I understand that people were very happy with what they were getting and don't want things to change dramatically.
NRAMA: Did the relaunch have anything to do with it being bogged down in too much continuity now that the Ultimate line is almost 10 years old?
BMB: No, although I know.... I mean, I'm over 130 issues into a run, so I know there's a great deal of continuity. The argument always was, by Panel #2 of an issue, there's continuity. So it was always there. That's not really part of this.
What's happened over the years, the fixes we've made with the more streamlined recap page and just the way the stories were told and the graphic novel audience being so large – that's all happened over the last few years – all those lessons got applied to the regular Marvel Universe. It's all being done in Avengers. I mean, it was just me and Mark [Millar] in the Ultimate line, and now I'm writing the Avengers and Mark's writing Fantastic Four and Wolverine. There's a lot of Ultimate feeling going on in the regular universe. You know?
NRAMA: The new ideas and style and feeling of the Ultimate line are now incorporated into the regular line?
Now here we can take a step back, before things devolve into nonsense, and say, OK, why are we doing this? It's going back to that Bill Jemas question: "Why are we publishing this?" Not just because we do and they're making money. What's the point of them? What do we do?
So now I can really look at this book and tell Spider-Man stories that you absolutely aren't going to see in Amazing Spider-Man.
NRAMA: OK, see, that's the scary thing because we read Ultimate Spider-Man #133 and it sure looked like the end of Spider-Man. Is Peter Parker dead?
NRAMA: Is it wrong that I just came right out and asked that?
BMB: Oh, you can come right out and ask that. It's silly that you think I'd answer.
I will answer this question that I see on the internet and in every review, and it just broke my heart every time. That was not the last issue of Ultimate Spider-Man. There are two more big, brand new specials. They're not like some eight-page story with some reprints. It's two double-sized, big specials, in continuity, following the events of Ultimatum. It's got Stuart Immonen and Mark Bagley art that we've been sitting on for a good long time.
NRAMA: But they're called "Requiem."
BMB: Or it could imply Spider-Man's view of a requiem. I'm just saying... there are a lot of possibilities here and people shouldn't jump to conclusions.
Then after that, there are more Spider-Man stories with David LaFuente on art. So the book is not canceled, the book is not over. It's the end of a chapter, not an era. The end of a volume. And for some people, I know when that 100-and-something is on the cover, they're not sure if they can pick it up. And maybe they're liking me on Avengers, and they'll turn to Ultimate Spider-Man and they don't know what to do. And here -- new #1. Knock yourself out.
NRAMA: When you say "not the end of an era," are you keeping the same basic "Bendis-on-Spider-Man" style? Or is it going to feel like a drastic change for long-time readers?
BMB: The dramatic change is visual, because David is a very different artist than Bagley.
NRAMA: How? I mean, we've see some of his stuff so we could try to describe it, but how do you see it as being different?
BMB: His influences are more European and manga – almost equally both the two. His panel layouts, his character designs – they're just new. They're different. So I am writing differently for him.
But what the stories are about, the world of Ultimate Spider-Man, of all the titles in the Ultimate Universe, it'll feel familiar. Queens didn't get hit. Queens is safe. Sadly Queens had to watch, but Queens just got, like, a mist. Maybe that will make people feel better.
NRAMA: And Peter Parker's OK, right?
BMB: [laughs] Look, there's somebody who's OK who can run that book.
BMB: There will be a lead in the Spider-Man comic. Remember how there were two Darrens in Bewitched? Remember Roseanne, when Dan died and they still went on with the show for a couple years?
NRAMA: Roseanne even had a different Becky for awhile.
BMB: Yeah! Right! Sarah Chalke, wonderful lady. But yeah, see? It happens.
NRAMA: OK, let's talk about this idea of "new characters" and this new feeling for the Ultimate line. One of the standard story drivers in the Ultimate Universe was to take a character from the regular line and play with them a little bit, just twisting their story a little. It seems like you can't do that as much anymore, can you? I mean, it's been done.
BMB: What's funny is we actually thought about that. That became, to us, a few years in – as exciting as that was, and it's very exciting to see what's the Ultimate spin on Kraven or what's the Ultimate spin on this or that character – it became about, well, that's the easiest thing you can do. Just open up the Marvel Encyclopedia and close your eyes and point and see what you can do.
NRAMA: Right, and it seems like it can't be the motivation for the Ultimate line anymore.
BMB: Absolutely. In fact, the one holdover that I'm taking with me is I held onto the Ultimate version of Mysterio. That was literally on my first checklist of Ultimate Spider-Man. And that is a major character for the Ultimate Spider-Man relaunch, because it's so different from what you're used to seeing. Including the old fish bowl head. And you brought up a good point because what we have now is an opportunity to create new villains that aren't Ultimate versions of old stuff.
In issue #2, you'll see some new villains and you'll see more. And also, I'm doing Ultimate versions of stuff that I thought, now that's great and a lot of fun. Like some of the Spider-Man cartoon villains from 1967. I mean, some of them are just insane, but some are cool. So we're doing Ultimate versions of a couple of those. If you haven't seen the cartoon, it'll feel like a brand new character, but if you have, you'll be like, "oh ho that's funny. I know that! I get nerd points."
BMB: Yes. The fate of Peter Parker will be revealed in those two requiem issues. And then we start the second volume with a new #1 issue in August.
NRAMA: Then to finish up, you've told us there's a "jump ahead" that takes us into the new Ultimate Comics Spider-Man and Ultimate Comics Avengers titles. But is there anything else you can tell us about your new #1 Spidey issue?
BMB: Just that it's something really new and different that you don't see in other Spider-Man books. With this issue, you have to understand that I'm very phobic about a cheap #1 issue. And I sat for a long time and thought about what does #1 mean? What does the new chapter in Ultimate Spider-Man mean? So people who've been buying Ultimate Spider-Man can look forward to a very thoughtful relaunch, and for people looking for a jumping on point, I promise you, right on the money -- this is a Spider-Man story you've never read before. And I've read a lot of Spider-Man stories.Ultimatum: Spider-Man-Requiem #1 is in stores this week.