Marvel’s Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon is about to swing back on television screens worldwide, and this time the titular wall-crawler is bringing some friends: two sets of them, in fact.
With the debut of its third season on August 31, Ultimate Spider-Man becomes Ultimate Spider-Man: Web Warriors. The name change, we’re told, is to underscore the evolution Spider-Man has gone through in the past two seasons as well as to, obviously, highlight his fellow heroes he runs with. After two years of teaming up with the Avengers in an unofficial capacity, Peter Parker will be joining Earth’s Mightiest Heroes as well as running with his own crew – comprised of the likes of Agent Venom, Iron Spider, and eventually a whole web-themed ensemble in a unique tie-in with Marvel’s comic series. Which one?
That’s right, in this third season the animated Spider-Man series will have a four-part story featuring Parker crossing over with Spider-Man 2099, Miles Morales, and even Peter Porker and a female Spider-Man – Petra Parker. Newsarama talked with two Marvel Animation executives – Steve Wacker, Vice President of Current Animation, and Cort Lane, Vice President of Animation Development & Partnerships.
Newsarama: The end of Ultimate Spider-Man season 2 saw Spider-Man offered a spot on the Avengers. Where does the August 31 season premiere pick up? And what can people expect?
Cort Lane: Well, they can expect him to join the Avengers – and for that to be a complicated and bittersweet opportunity for Peter. Remember that in the Season 1 pilot, Peter realizes that he has a lot of work to do to become a great hero and in there is a scene where he imagines the Avengers as the level that he aspires to. So the joining The Avengers is a big validation thing for him. But is it really his path?
Nrama: I’m told season three will see Spider-Man traveling more to different corners of the Marvel Universe. Can you give us a preview of where and who Peter will go?
Lane: Oh, the places Spidey will go – even finally the Savage Land. But even better, he travels to alternate dimensions and meets different Spider heroes in their home territory. Seeing Spidey in the 2099 universe, Miles Morales' world and Spider-Ham's crazy/cartoony universe is surprising and kind of amazing.
Nrama: Talk has intensified about a Doctor Strange live-action movie, and he’s going to be a part of this third season of Ultimate Spider-Man. Can you tell us about his episode (or episodes) he’ll be with Spider-Man here?
Steve Wacker: Sure. It’s a real mysterious episode with some heavy cloak and dagger elements that explore the darker side of the USM universe and features an appearance by two characters our fans (and me!) have been clamoring for.
Nrama: One of the interesting facts of the Ultimate Spider-Man: Web Warriors announcement is the four-part “Spider-Verse” arc coinciding with the comics event of the same now. Marvel Animation have adapted comic events before, but never quite this soon; how did the “Spider-Verse” animated arc come into being, and so concurrent with the comics?
Wacker: It’s pretty simple how it all came out. The Amazing Spider-Man comics’ writer Dan Slott had pitched “Spider-Verse” to me a couple years back when I was editing the book. We took it to one of Marvel’s creative summits and it really caught fire. Our Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada especially loved it and saw an opportunity to do something with the core idea in animation.
Originally, there was no plan to have them both come out simultaneously. The original plan for the “Spider-Verse” in the comics had it coming out last year, but then Superior Spider-Man became a huge hit on the comics side and it was pushed back a bit.
When it seemed like calendars were starting to coincide earlier in the year, we worked to make sure the announcements lined up so that our fans knew that this was an idea springing from the comics, but that we’re taking in a slightly different direction in Ultimate Spider-Man.
Overall, I think it’s a fantastic opportunity to not only explore Spidey’s vast history but to have the two sides of Marvel that I know best work together on a story that’s as big as you’d expect from us.
And I’ll tell you this… it’s not going to be the last time we adapt a big Marvel Universe story in animation.
Nrama: For the “Spider-Verse” arc, the press release noted several Spider-Men taking part – Miles Morales, Iron Spider, Spider-Man Noir, Peter Porker, and even a new character Petra Parker. Is there other Spider-Man that will pop up, or is that the definitive list?
Lane: We get to hang out with Spider-Man 2099 and go on a wild adventure with a medieval "Spyder-Knight". Iron Spider is part of several other storylines, not specifically "Spider-Verse"… and its Amadeus Cho who takes over the armor that Tony Stark gave Spidey. Plus we get a lot of Agent Venom throughout the season too.
Nrama: In a USA Today article, they say the Petra Parker idea was a pitch that Steve made a few years back. How’d it translate into being an animated story instead of a comic one?
Wacker: In this case, it’s just people arriving at the same idea.
I’ve been wanting to do a gender swapped Spider-Girl series for a few years either in comics or as a Young Adult series. I even pitched it one at one point with a top shelf Marvel writer. (When I was editing the Amazing Spider-Man comic, my hope was to have her show up in “Spider-Verse” as well.)
Given how universal Spider-Man’s story is across other media, I believed it would be an easy way to grab some new young readers with a basic story they recognized rather than something laced in deep continuity.
That didn’t go anywhere, so when Ultimate Spider-Man’sstory editors Henry Gilroy and Eugene Son got to the same place independently, I was very excited since I’d been wanting to do something like this for a while.
So this was just a case of two great minds (and my candy corn-addled mind) thinking alike.
Nrama: And the Spider-Man 2099 scenes in the future will reportedly have a heavy computer-generated element. Can you help us picture that?
Lane: This was a really bold choice for our creative and production teams, but we went for it and animated this adventure in CG. That means Spidey and Goblin are fully CG-animated as well. The detail is amazing. I think some of our Spider-Man video games are the closest comparison.
Nrama: Switching subjects here, what led to the decision to retitle Ultimate Spider-Man as Ultimate Spider-Man: Web Warriors for this third season?
Lane: After 52 episodes, we had the opportunity, and responsibility, to push ourselves creatively and technically for the next season. Season 3 is truly a continuation of Peter's arc from the previous two seasons, but the Web Warriors theming really shows that this one is a big evolution from what we have done before. And with huge supporting roles for Agent Venom, Iron Spider and the “Spider-Vers” heroes, the Web Warriors name just makes a lot sense – and touches on the personal growth Peter goes through in this season.
Nrama: Will the series retain the Web Warriors subtitle after this season, or could we see it change to something else with each season?
Wacker: That remains to be seen, but we can tell you that Web Warriors branding is very important to the entire season and that opening up the “Spider-Verse” only scratches the surface of where this story is going.
And by that I, of course, mean Squirrel Girl is coming!!!!