Alonso on SPIDER-MEN: 'This Story Will Have Ramifications'

Spider-Men #4

cover.

Since the initial, vague announcement back in February, Marvel has slowly revealed more information on Spider-Men, namely that it's the first-ever meeting between the classic Spider-Man, Peter Parker, and the recently debuted Ultimate Spider-Man, Miles Morales — and the first interaction of any kind between their two fictional universes. 

Spider-Men, a five-part miniseries by the Ultimate Comics Spider-Man team of writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Sara Pichelli, debuts with two issues in June. The villain of the series is classic fishbowl-helmeted Spidey foil Mysterio, and the story is also set to include guest spots from the Ultimate versions of Aunt May and Gwen Stacy, who saw their Peter Parker perish during a fight with the Green Goblin at the climax of last year's "Death of Spider-Man" storyline.

Newsarama talked to Marvel editor-in-chief Axel Alonso about why the time was right for Spider-Men, waiting a dozen years to break down the barrier between the Ultimate and Marvel universes, Mysterio's role in the story and the impact the series is set to have. Courtesy of Marvel, we're exclusively debuting Jim Cheung's cover to Spider-Men #4, out in August.

Newsarama: Axel, immediately following the announcement of Spider-Men, there was something of an outcry from a section of readers over Marvel doing an Ultimate Universe/Marvel Universe crossover, what Joe Quesada said years ago would mean they were "out of ideas." As someone who has been at Marvel that entire time, was it ever actually a "rule" that the two universes couldn't meet?

Spider-Men #3 cover.

Axel Alonso: There was never a rule. The idea of breaking down that wall came up at editorial retreats, but we never bit because we didn’t have the story to back it up. It's sort of like Avengers vs. X-Men — a lot of people said, "How about we have the Avengers fight the X-Men?" But we never really had the story to pull the trigger. You want to do a story with that logo on the cover, you better know what the stakes are, why they’re motivated to go to war.

We always knew it would be easy to open up a wormhole and have the Avengers fight the Ultimates, but we never really felt we had a story to justify doing that. With Spider-Men, we have the opportunity to shine a spotlight on a popular new character that is still finding his feet in the Ultimate Universe, and that’s captured the imagination of fanboys and the general public coming face to face with an icon – a super hero from another universe who’s the closest thing to guy he emulates.

When Brian pitched us on the notion of having Miles Morales meet Peter Parker in the year we’re celebrating Spider-Man’s 50th Anniversary, our ears perked up.

Nrama: So was it the introduction of Miles Morales that was the clincher? Because seemingly, an Ultimate U/Marvel U crossover just has more potential in general now, as the Ultimate Universe started as something quite similar to the early Marvel Universe and has now gone in a very different direction.

Spider-Men #1 cover.

Alonso: The pitch was simple: "Miles meets Peter." As we discussed possible places to take the story, a story of some scope, and a lot of nuance emerged. We realized that it was worth us breaking down that wall for a moment. Whether we go there again, who knows? Whether it's possible to go there again, who knows?

This is a smaller story, focused on two characters of great importance to their respective universes, one of whom has become an enduring icon, one of whom has captured the imaginations of fans and the general public, and shows evidence he can be one, too.

Nrama: You mention ramifications — it was said in early interviews that Spider-Men would have repercussions on both universes, and how important is that to Marvel, as opposed to doing a story where, say, no one remembers the encounter after it's over?

Alonso: There's no point in doing a story of this scope if nothing comes of it. Epic stories almost always do something to change the characters or the universe of the characters. You can assume this story will have ramifications, for either or both of the characters. Will we revisit that line between the Ultimate Universe and the Marvel Universe? There might be clues in the story.

It all comes down to story. The easiest pitch is, "Let's have so-and-so fight so-and-so." You have to be able to answer the questions that follow: Fight over what? What are the stakes? Why will people care? Where do you leave the characters once things have occurred? There has to be a reason for the punches.

Spider-Men #2

variant cover by

Marcos Martin.

Nrama: To that end, with the announcement that Mysterio is the villain of the story, there is a natural thought that Peter and Miles meeting could be revealed as an illusion. Was Marvel concerned about that kind of skepticism from fans, or was Mysterio just the right villain for the story?

Alonso: Mysterio is the right villain for the story. This isn’t one of those "it is all a dream" stories. We wouldn't go there. That would be silly. That's not an option when you trot out something like this, let alone on Spider-Man's 50th anniversary.

I was perhaps a little more receptive as editor-in-chief to the notion of breaking down that wall for this story because it is Spider-Man's 50th anniversary. When you have a significant moment in the history of your character, or a significant event going on at the multiplex, as we do with the upcoming Amazing Spider-Man movie, you need to take advantage of it. It’s the 50th anniversary of Spider-Man, and the 10-month anniversary of Miles Morales — I like that math!

Nrama: How much do you think Spider-Men is a testament to the enduring strength of the Ultimate Universe, which is now nearly a dozen years old and is still capable of getting people talking?

Alonso: Yeah. It's worth noting that it's undergone significant change. Back when the Ultimate Universe started, it was roughly around the same time as New Marvel started, and a lot of the names that you see in our comics and now consider to be elder statesmen, were young bucks carving a name for themselves; guys like Bendis.

 

More and more, I'm looking at the Ultimate Universe as a place where we bring a lot of new blood, creators with unique voices that come from outside the mainstream — guys like Nick Spencer, and Sam Humphries, and Brian Wood. The Ultimate Universe is a great canvas for a to show what they've got.

Nrama: Even if it was never a "rule," for a long time, fans never thought they'd see characters from the Ultimate Universe and Marvel Universe meet. And dating back to Bucky coming back in the "Winter Soldier" storyline, quite a few of what were thought to be unwritten rules have evaporated. As editor-in-chief, are there any rules that you have, or does it all depend on story?

Alonso: I hate rules. Especially in regards to the creative process. I think there are standards you want to set for yourself. There are certain rules of writing that have to do with control of grammar and syntax and story structure. There are rules to a comic book page. But I don't think there's anything healthy about making decrees like, "We will never do this."  The key thing is, we have to have good reasons to do what we do. We have to stand behind it, we have to feel good about it, if we're going to make a major move. I am personally invested in Avengers vs. X-Men because I know it’s easy to throw those words together and make money; the responsibility is to make the story mean something. With “Avengers’ and “X-Men” on the silver screen, it’s inevitable you’re going to get some new or lapsed readers – you want to make sure it satisfies them enough for them to stick around for more.

I grew up as a teenager on the west coast with punk rock, so I'm not that big on rules or awards. Things like that don't really matter to me. What matters to me is the work, and the opinions of people I respect.

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