cover.The introduction of Miles Morales — the half-African American, half-Puerto Rican Spidey currently starring in Ultimate Comics Spider-Man — was one of the comic book industry's biggest news stories in 2011, presenting Marvel readers and the world at large with something they had genuinely never seen before.
As of April's Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #9, Miles Morales is going to be seen in a whole new light, with artist David Marquez joining the book's creative team. Marquez is fresh off the recently released Fantastic Four: Season One original graphic novel, and will be alternating story arcs with initial series artist Sara Pichelli. He also has previous Secret Warriors and Magdalena stints on his growing artistic resume, along with the Archaia graphic novel Syndrome.
Newsarama chatted with Marquez via email for his thoughts on illustrating the highly publicized title and working with writer Brian Michael Bendis, plus his personal history with the original Ultimate Spider-Man series, launched back in 2000. Courtesy of Marvel, we're exclusively debuting the first four pages of Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #9, presented throughout the article.
Newsarama: David, the last time we talked was a few months back while you were working on Fantastic Four: Season One. It's something I know you worked on for a quite a while — how does it feel to finally see it out? Have you been pleased with the reaction the book's gotten thus far?
David Marquez: It’s an amazing feeling to finally have the book I spent most of last year working on finally hit the stands. Fantastic Four: Season One was a huge deal to me: it was my first big project at Marvel working with characters I’ve been reading since I was a kid. And also, I grew quite a lot as an artist while drawing the 100-odd pages of the book, so it’s nice to have finally have all that art out in front of readers.I couldn’t be more pleased with the response we’ve gotten, from new readers and longtime fans alike. I really chalk this up to my collaborators on FFSO — Roberto (Aguirre-Sacasa)’s script was fun and accessible and the color art by Lee and Joey at GURU-eFX totally elevated the art to amazing new levels. It’s a book I’m immensely proud of and I’m glad that readers are enjoying it, too.
Nrama: Since you worked on Fantastic Four: Season One the bulk of 2011, are you excited to be working on something different at Marvel? And, after a couple of original graphic novels, back on a monthly comic?
Marquez: Absolutely. Naturally, moving on from the FF is bittersweet, but I’m always excited by new challenges and opportunities. I really enjoyed the self-contained aspect of working on a graphic novel like FFSO and feel very strongly that the industry will benefit from more books like it. That said, I’m very much looking forward to being able to work on a monthly book — if for no other reason than getting to show my work in something closer to "real time." The earliest pages of FFSO were drawn almost a year before the book came out, whereas my first issue of Ultimate Comics Spider-Man will be out only a couple of months after I drew it. It’ll be real nice have readers see my art as it is "now."
But all that said, don’t get the impression that I’ve shaken the OGN bug entirely.
Nrama: There is some amount of overlap between the Season One line and Ultimate line, at least historically, as both are sort of streamlined looks at Marvel characters from a different perspective and for a little bit of a different audience than the bulk of the monthly line. Artistically, is your approach to the two at all similar?
Marquez: I’m taking a similar approach to my work on Ultimate Comics Spider-Man as on FFSO. It’s a fairly natural progression as both are heavily character-centric superhero books. So readers certainly shouldn’t expect to see a drastically different looking style.But I am taking the opportunity to push myself artistically. I’m working with much more texture and use of black on the page, whereas my work on FFSO was largely defined by super clean, open line work. And these differences really boil down to serving the tone of the individual books. FFSO was very light-hearted and fun and I wanted to bring that across in the art.
UCSM is a very different book. I certainly wouldn’t characterize it as exceptionally grim or gritty, but in spite of the fact that the main character is thirteen, and there’s an natural degree of playfulness to Miles’ story (especially when you get Ganke into the mix), there’s a dark side to it as well. I think a couple things come into play here. First, we are talking about the Ultimate universe, which has always maintained an “edgier” vibe than the 616. Big, recognizable characters die all the time, and that is intimately related to how Miles became Spider-Man to begin with. Second, all of Miles’s youthful innocence and naïveté stands in sharp contrast to the life he’s being thrown into. The reality of becoming a super hero, fun though it may seem, is really scary. And I want readers to feel that sense of rushing headlong into the unknown, not really knowing if everyone is going to come out of it okay.
And another point of departure from FFSO is the fact that I’m working with a very different group of characters. Let’s face it, most superhero comics feature a primarily adult Caucasian cast. UCSM really stands out from the crowd on that count. I mean, not only is the entirety of the main cast of Ultimate Spider-Man incredibly diverse, the book is chock-full of kids! I’ve had the opportunity in the past to draw children, teenagers and characters of different ethnic backgrounds before, but for this book that’s just about everyone I draw. I honestly think that the only Caucasian characters I’ve drawn so far are extras. I love it! And as anyone who’s looked at my art in the past can probably tell, I love drawing faces. I work very hard to make sure that every character has a unique look and feel and behaves in believable, relatable ways. Working with the characters in UCSM allows me to really explore a whole new set of personalities, expressions, features, and body language, and I couldn’t be happier!
Nrama: Of course, Ultimate Spider-Man and Miles Morales was the biggest Marvel news story of 2011. How does it feel to be coming on board the title and being a part of it?
Marquez: It was a complete surprise, and utterly surreal at the start. After I wrapped FFSO I was speaking to Marvel about lining up my next project with them when Mark Paniccia got in touch about working on the book. A couple hours later I was given the script for issue #9, and off I went. It took a few days to adjust to suddenly working on such a high-profile project, especially since it was a book that I was already reading monthly, but everyone on the team was incredibly welcoming and helpful.
I definitely feel the pressure of maintaining the level of quality already seen on the book by Brian, Sara and Chris.UCSM really is unique in the industry — it bucks the trend of mainstream comics in so many incredible ways and I couldn’t be more proud to be contributing to a book that should have been unlikely to have found such a strong foothold in mainstream comics. But it has, which is a testament to the quality of the story and the characters, to Brian and Sara's vision, to Marvel, to the retailers, and most importantly to the comics readership who gave this book a chance to begin with, and have kept buying it month after month.
Nrama: Were you a big Spider-Man fan before the gig? (Who isn't, right?) Brian Michael Bendis's Ultimate Spider-Man has been a historic run — how closely have you been following it over the years?
Marquez: Haha, yeah, everyone loves Spider-Man and I am certainly no exception. I had fallen out of comics for the latter half of the '90s, only really picking up the occasional book. But right around 2000, when I left for college, I was convinced by a good friend to give funny books another try. This was right around the time that Marvel was launching the Ultimate line, and I was caught hook, line, and sinker.
So yeah, I was reading Ultimate Spider-Man from the outset, though I kind of fell out of reading monthly comics again in the mid-2000s, this time because I frankly couldn’t afford it when I was giving up my day job to pursue drawing comics full-time. This past summer I once again got bit by the bug and, what do you know, this was exactly when Brian and Sara were launching the all-new Ultimate Comics Spider-Man. And just like back in 2000, I totally fell in love with the book.
Nrama: Ultimate Spider-Man is a title with a great artistic legacy from Mark Bagley to Stuart Immonen to David Lafuente to Chris Samnee, but when it comes to Miles Morales, Sara Pichelli is really the artist who has defined his look and his world in the first issues of the current volume. Obviously you want to make a book your own, but how much is Pichelli's work influencing you on the series?
Marquez: I definitely have big shoes to fill. Like you said, I am trying to honor the look and feel that Sara gave to the book. While we have somewhat similar styles, I don’t draw like Sara and I think it’d be a huge mistake to try - she’s the best at what she does.So, I occasionally borrow some elements from her work so that readers can feel some sense of stylistic continuity, and obviously I’m working with her character designs. But beyond that, I want put my own mark on the book, especially as my run moves past the first couple issues.
Nrama: Beyond Miles Morales, and without getting into spoiler territory, what other characters are you getting to illustrate on your arc? The solicitations mention Prowler and Scorpion.
Marquez: I can’t say too much, but yes, I’m definitely drawing a ton of the Prowler and Scorpion, as well as all of the supporting cast we’ve been introduced to so far. Brian and I have talked about some new stuff coming up, and I’ll just say that I’m incredibly excited at what (and who) I’m going to get to draw!
Nrama: We can't talk about Ultimate Spider-Man without talking about the guy who has written every issue of the series, Brian Michael Bendis. What's it been like working with him on the book?
Marquez: Brian has got to be one of the nicest guys in comics. I’ve long admired his work and that added to the fact that there’s always a bit of apprehension about how a new working relationship will turn out. But from day one he went out of his way to make me feel welcome on the project and encouraged me to make the issues I’m working on my own. All in all, I think the single word I’d use to describe the experience is “liberating.” No one can question that Brian is a master at his craft. The story is so well constructed and thought through that I have an incredibly strong foundation to build from and begin to explore new ways to tell a story artistically. I couldn’t be more excited to be working on this book and I hope that everyone reading will enjoy what we’ve got in store!Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!