In his 1983 stand up film “Bill Cosby: Himself,” the comedian joked about his younger days, when his father told him that he brought him into this world and he can take him out. These days, it seems like the creators of Marvel Comics’ “Ultimate Spider-Man” are having similar thoughts because come March, writer Brian Michael Bendis reunites with artist Mark Bagley for an eight issue arc involving the characters they worked together on for nearly a decade they’re calling “The Death of Spider-Man.” We spoke with Bagley about the storyline, his return to Marvel and what other projects might be in his future.
In 2000, Bagley and Bendis launched Marvel’s “Ultimate Spider-Man” series to much success, both critical and sales. After working together on the series for a record breaking 111 issues, Bendis stayed on the book as writer but Bagley left the series, signing an exclusive contract with DC Comics. Bagley enjoyed his time at DC but missed collaborating with Bendis, so as the end of Bagley’s DC exclusivity approached, the two creators began discussing possible future projects.
“We sort of talked about doing an X-Men project to tie into the movie that’s in the works right now. It would be my debut thing back, and I’ve never done much X-stuff. That sounded fine, but a couple of weeks later I get a phone call from Brian who’s always enthusiastic about everything. He’s like, ‘Hey Mark! I got an idea!’ I was like, What buddy?’ So he laid out his ideas for ‘Ultimate Spider-Man’ and having me come back for an arc that’s approximately eight issues,” Bagley told CBR News. “Then Brian laid out the story for me and I got excited about it. It would be just this great welcome back to Marvel.
“This kind of event though is the type of story Brian writes so well, though. He’s totally screwed up Peter’s life to the nth degree. Now he’s going to take it one step farther, and I look forward to drawing that,” Bagley continued. “So that’s my main motivation for it. I look at what Stuart, Sarah, and David did on the book, and I don’t want to be the guy who comes on and leads everybody to say, ‘Oh, this sucks!'”
Indeed, Bagley feels the artistic bar on “Ultimate Spider-Man” has been set pretty high by the artists who’ve drawn the title since his departure: Stuart Immonen, David Lafuente and Sarah Pichelli. “Frickin Stuart Immonen! I hate him,” Bagley joked. “He came on the book right after I left and he’s so damn good it’s ridiculous! I’ve been a fan of his for a long time ‘Ultimate Spider-Man’ is one of the few comics I still buy. I don’t keep issues, though. I give them to friends. So I went out and picked up the trades and reread Stuart’s first couple of arcs. It put a fire under me. I thought, ‘I better get better!’
“Then, David came on after Stuart, and Sarah just joined the art team,” Bagley continued. “David and Sarah are both really talented and great storytellers. So the book has been in really good hands. It’s not like they needed me to come back to keep it going.”
While Bagley hasn’t yet begun working on “The Death of Spider-Man,” he is getting reacquainted artistically with the longtime cast of “Ultimate Spider-Man” as well as some of the newer characters, including the Ultimate Universe version of Mysterio, who was created by David Lafuente. The character recently became an important player in “Ultimate Comics Spider-Man” when he slew the Kingpin and usurped his underworld crown. “Ultimate Mysterio has a really cool design. I like it a lot,” Bagley said. “To be honest, I don’t know if I’m going to be drawing him or not, but If I do, I’ll enjoy it. I don’t know if they actually pencil his face in or if they take photographs and do some sort of scan to capture the boggy face that’s in there.”
One of the reasons Bagley’s “Ultimate Spider-Man” run is remembered so fondly is because he was able to produce exciting, emotional and beautiful art on a more than monthly basis. At one point, Bagley was illustrating eighteen issues of “Ultimate Spider-Man” a year. “I don’t have the schedule memorized for my eight issue run, but it is going to be a bit more than monthly — but not anything too extreme. Because, to be honest, I don’t want to do that anymore. I’m just getting tired of working that hard ,” the artist remarked. “I’m not that fast. I just work harder than a lot of people do. I don’t play video games and I like drawing so I’m at my desk a lot. I don’t want to rush this project. I want it to be really, really good, and to do that, I’m going to have to spend a little more time.”
Bagley may need some extra lead way for his return, but the artist is currently looking for a Marvel project to work on and to keep him busy once he and Bendis have firmly laid SPidey to his eternal rest. “I don’t have anything definite yet. I’ve done some talking to some people. I know what I’d like to do and I think the powers that be would be interested in having me do it. So I’m just going to leave it at that,” the artist said. “I’m not interested in doing eight issue story arcs on a bunch of different books. That’s not my thing. I want to get on a title with a really good writer and have another nice long run to add to my body of work. I want to put my stamp on something like I did with ‘Amazing Spider-Man,’ ‘Thunderbolts,’ ‘New Warriors’ and ‘Ultimate Spider-Man’. I’ve never done that with the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man or the Hulk. There’s still plenty of characters that I really like and want to tackle. Right now I’m waiting to see which one of those characters pops up in my grill.”
At the time of this interview, Bagley had completed his final work for DC Comics and was enjoying some much needed rest and relaxation. The artist can’t wait, however, to dive into “The Death of Spider-Man” storyline and any other Marvel projects that may come his way. “It’s exciting. I haven’t been this excited about something in a while. It’s a pretty good feeling to have when you’ve been doing something for 25 years, so we’ll see what happens and hopefully everybody will like it!”