[SPOILER WARNING: The following story contains spoilers for “Ultimate Comics Spider-Man” #160, on sale now.]
In 2000 Marvel Comics launched their “Ultimate” line of books that restarted the adventures of several of their classic characters in a present-day environment. With “Ultimate Spider-Man” #1 writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Mark Bagley introduced readers to a teenage Peter Parker who was just becoming Spider-Man. In the series’ introductory arc Spider-Man once again learned the hard lessons of power and responsibility by failing to save his Uncle Ben.
Like his Marvel Universe counterpart, the teenage Spider-Man spent the next 10 years trying to atone for his failure by saving innocents and foiling the schemes of super-powered criminals. His many adventures in “Ultimate Spider-Man” lead to a number of close calls, but now the unthinkable has happened. Recently Bendis, who’s been writing the book since issue #1, reunited with Bagley, who left the series with issue #111. The duo came together for the series’ current “Death of Spider-Man” arc, and in “Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man” #160, in stores now, they brought the arc to a close with the titular death. Comic Book Resources spoke with Bendis about the death, the aftershocks in the July miniseries “Ultimate Fallout” and the new volume of “Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man” that begins in September.
Peter Parker’s death followed a lengthy battle with the Ultimate Six, a group composed of some of his deadliest enemies. Early in the fight Peter threw himself in front of a bullet meant for Captain America but was left no time to get the gunshot wound treated, which ultimately led to his death. The actual groundwork was laid several months earlier in a series of conversations between Bendis and former Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada.
“The Ultimate Universe was originally supposed to be this ground-level look at Marvel characters,” Bendis told CBR News. “We did that, and as the years went by, it slowly evolved into this other thing. It was still commercially successful, and there’s still interest in it. We looked at the Ultimate line of books and asked ourselves, ‘OK, what were the stories we were doing that we were the most proud of? And what were the top five things you think of when you think of “Ultimate Spider-Man”?’ All of them were things that were not Ultimate adaptations of classic Marvel stories. We liked when Kitty Pryde was in the book, and we liked that Peter and MJ got to be open with each other early on. These were moments that were not done in ‘Amazing Spider-Man.’ Out of that conversation we asked ourselves, ‘What are some of the other stories you can never tell in “Amazing Spider-Man”?’ A lot of those involve Peter passing away and letting someone else become Spider-Man.”
Bendis found the idea of telling the tale of Peter Parker’s demise to be both intriguing and scary. He decided that if he was going to tell that story it would have to be a story that mattered — and stuck.
“Death of Spider-Man” may be over, but Bendis and Bagley will continue their latest Ultimate Universe collaboration with “Ultimate Fallout,” a six-issue weekly miniseries that chronicles the aftermath of Spider-Man’s death and features work by creators attached to the new line of Ultimate books, which launch in August and September. “People wanted more,” Bendis conceded. “They wanted an epilogue, and I’m happy to say that ‘Ultimate Fallout’ #1, in stores July 13th, is by me, Mark Bagley and the entire creative team of ‘Death of Spider-Man,’ and it’s exactly that. It’s the entire cast of ‘Ultimate Spider-Man’ reacting to the nightmare that just happened, each in their own way. It also revolves around the funeral of Peter Parker. So a great deal happens. I believe there are 22 pages and at least 20 scenes. So a lot goes on.”
For “Ultimate Fallout” #2 Bendis is paired with artist Gabriel Hardman (“Agents of Atlas,” “Hulk”). “I was really thrilled about working with him,” Bendis stated. “We do the framing piece, but then the story kind of opens up and Jonathan Hickman and Nick Spencer are coming in. They’re doing chapters featuring their characters, which they’re either coming into or have inherited from Mark Millar and Jeph Loeb. So we’ll be closing some doors and opening others. There is some wonderful art in those chapters, too. Bryan Hitch did a chapter in issue #2 with Thor written by Jonathan Hickman.”
In “Ultimate Fallout” #3 Jonathan Hickman and Nick Spencer lay more groundwork for their books: “Ultimate Comics: Ultimates,” “Ultimate Comics: Hawkeye” and “Ultimate Comics: X-Men.” Bendis and Bagley return, however, for issue #6. “Issue #6 will almost be entirely by me and Bagley again as we wrap up a lot of the storylines about some of the bigger characters in Spider-Man,” Bendis said. “That includes Nick Fury, Mary Jane and Aunt May.”
In September, Bendis and artist Sarah Pichelli launch the second volume of “Ultimate Comics Spider-Man” with a new #1. The titular character’s identity is still a mystery, but when their new monthly adventures begin they’ll find that the very public death of Peter Parker changed what it means to be a costumed adventurer in New York City and possibly even the Ultimate Universe. “Peter died with his mask off and in front of his neighborhood,” Bendis explained. “His death was filmed, too. People recorded it with their cell phones. You can watch Spider-Man die on YouTube in this world. So all of these things inform how the city will react to the death. It’s pretty powerful stuff. I won’t lie to you, I got misty-eyed writing that, too.”
Penning New York City’s reaction to Spidey’s death may have made Bendis teary, but readers’ reactions to the death left the writer feeling great and grateful. CBR News caught up with Bendis again on the evening of issue #160’s release.