SPOILER WARNING: The following interview contains spoilers for “Spider-Man” #1, on sale now.
Moving is always intimidating, especially for kids who don’t have a say, but relocating to a newly born universe is something few of us have ever had to experience. For Miles Morales, the Spider-Man of the now-gone Ultimate Universe, that’s exactly the situation he finds himself in within the pages of Marvel Comics’ “Spider-Man” #1 by his co-creators Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli. Fortunately for Miles, in the wake of “Secret Wars” his family and several friends have joined him on the the new “Earth Prime.”
While the world may be different, Miles’ circumstances certainly aren’t as he’s still trying to balance his double life as both a teenager and a super hero. And in addition to being one of two Spider-Men swinging around as he joins original Spider-Man Peter Parker as a wall-crawling do-gooder, Miles’ new world is experiencing no small degree of interdimensional phenomena. Unbeknownst to many heroes, the metaphorical drums leading to this summer’s “Civil War II” event have also begun to sound. CBR News spoke with Bendis about the events of “Spider-Man” #1, Miles’ status quo, his relationships with Peter Parker and the media, working again with Pichelli, and how events in the series will help lay the groundwork for “Civil War II.”
CBR News: Brian, before we tackle some of the revelations of “Spider-Man” #1, I wanted to go back just a bit to the fallout from “Secret Wars” #9 and how it affected Miles. When I talked with Tom Brevoort and Jonathan Hickman about the issue they mentioned that Miles is one of the few heroes that remembers what happened on Battleworld. Does that mean he also remembers what his world was like before?
Brian Michael Bendis: Yes, but we’re not going to make this a fish out of water or man out of time and space story. It’s an adventure. “Secret Wars” was like his Bar Mitzvah.
We also have the eight-month gap where we imagine he was able to process stuff and move on, but I think you see from reading issue #1 that he is kind of losing hold of some things he was very good at in the Ultimate Universe. He’s struggling more to balance the relative mundanity of being a teenager versus being Spider-Man and an Avenger.
This is something that is as old as the story of Spider-Man, but also very true to what teenagers are dealing with today, which is they’re forced to grow up very quickly, and balance things that honestly I don’t remember having to balance, and I grew up in a single parent household with responsibilities. It seems like there’s a lot more going on, and the world and the drama of high school is spinning much faster. So we’re seeing the fallout of that immediately.
Another large question from “Secret Wars” is whether Miles’ history has been modified since he’s now on Earth Prime where his mom is still alive. Can you clear any of that up?
Everything you read about Miles since you’ve been reading his adventures happened. It all happened to him. He remembers all of it, and this experience of the world he lives in now will reveal itself as the issues come forward.
Nobody, including myself, is interested in a Captain America-style story for Miles where’s he out of time and space. It’s just a crazy Marvel Universe stuff this character has to deal with story.
There’s that traditional style book of “here’s a kid who used to live in another universe and now he lives in this one,” and this is not that. It’s just a kid completely overwhelmed by everything that’s happened to him, now go!
Would that explains why Miles’ dad Jefferson knows he’s Spider-Man on Earth Prime, since he already found out previously in the Ultimate Universe?
Yeah, everything happened. I am being a little coy about the things you’re asking about, but we will be revealing more over the issues when it’s appropriate for a good story.
When all of this came about with “Secret Wars” I thought the loveliness of the universe giving him his mother back was a clear win, and a win for a Spider-Man is a huge thing. You can never do that for Peter Parker. You can never bring back Uncle Ben. It just ruins the story, but with Miles’ mom, Rio, her death was not part of his origin. It was part of a story we were telling, and it wasn’t his fault. So we could bring her back without ruining what the point of the character is.
Then we have an interesting thing where one parent knows his secret and the other one doesn’t. This bond between young man and father is being tested everyday, and it will obviously be tested more and more.
I know kids who one parent knows a secret about them and the other doesn’t because they’re not going to be able to handle it. Until that time when they can handle it it’s that fine line between trust and betrayal of trust. The dynamics of trust are very tricky, especially when there’s a young person involved who’s being informed by certain parts of it. I think this is the super hero version of that.
In “Ultimate Spider-Man” we always dealt with the truly almost impossible hurdle in modern times of keeping a secret identity and keeping a secret at all. This is a version of that story we were not able to tell before, so we’re getting to do that now.
The fallout will surprise some people, but I will say it will involve meeting more of Miles’ extended family including his hurricane of a grandmother who is going to be Rio’s answer to what she sees as a child in trouble; bringing his grandmother in. So we’re going to get a good sense of that side of his family, the nightmare household that Rio grew up in and what she’s trying to overcome. So we’ll have a lot of fun with that. I know Sara [Pichelli] had a lot of fun with it.
Another reveal in this issue was the fact that Miles’ friend and former “All-New Ultimates” teammate Lana Baumgartner, AKA Bombshell, is now on Earth Prime as well. What made you want to keep Lana in the book?
I love her and there’s no counterpart of her in the Marvel Universe. We had a lot of talks about who’s coming over to the Marvel Universe and what they’re doing. Old Man Logan got to come over because there’s no more Logan. Now here’s Bombshell who was one of the original characters of the Ultimate Universe and people really liked her. I like that her and her mother are both here. So we’ll be able to dig back into “What if the Gilmore Girls had super powers?” [Laughs] I wear that heavy on my sleeve. That was obviously what that was.
More people were worried about Miles’ supporting cast than they were about Miles. I was so excited that Ganke, Judge and Bombshell all got to come over. By the way, other people have made it over that we have not shown. His supporting cast has not been fully revealed yet. There is quite a surprise at the end of issue #3. Pre-order now!
[Laughs] The first has Miles up against a pretty unstoppable foe in the form of Mephisto’s son Blackheart, but by the end of the issue he had disappeared. So is this the end of Miles’ fight with Blackheart or just the end of round one?
End of round one. In my books, Jason Aaron’s books, and some others we’re having a lot of fun with the idea of with this new universe the dimensions are different. Places like Asgard’s 10 Realms, The Seven Cities, and all these other realms have shifted. The membranes between heaven and hell or whatever it is that’s keeping creatures from dropping on us have weakened because of these events we’ve had.
I like this. I like when time gets ruptured. I like when dimensions are bubbling. The after effect of an event is always exciting. So in books like “Iron Man,” “Doctor Strange” and now “Spider-Man” we’re getting hints that things are not as kosher as they once were. Threats are coming from all different areas.
In the case of Spider-Man, and I have the same feeling about Tony Stark, I feel that the mystical/demonic foe is just about the scariest thing. It’s as out of their wheelhouse as they possibly could be. Just imagine this seven and a half foot tall, stinky demon who already beat up the Avengers and there’s our new little Spider-Man standing in front of him. I can’t imagine a scarier thing for Miles to be dealing with after all that he’s been through.
Would it be fair to say that in your current Marvel titles and books like “Doctor Strange” and “Scarlet Witch” that you’re doing the same sort of world building and heavy lifting that was done on Marvel’s cosmic books with magic and the supernatural?
Yeah, and we’re filling the book with all the worst things Miles could deal with. I couldn’t imagine a more wanting to turn around moment for him than seeing Iron Man’s helmet fly by him as he’s entering a battle. It’s like, “I’m going to continue to swing towards that thing that this A-list super hero of the highest order just got his ass kicked by?”
Also it hints that even though Miles has had some adventures he’s still raw. He’s still green. He doesn’t have all these moves. We even have the crowd telling him what he should be doing next. He’s a teenager. He doesn’t know everything.
I loved Sara’s design for Blackheart. She really leaned into the hell beast side of the character.
Yeah, it’s one of those characters that I think are open for visual interpretation that won’t piss anybody off. I think this character and its origins allow for alteration and you can clearly see how this character would evolve visually in its creepy own dimension.
I just said to Sara, “Draw the scariest thing you can think of.” And there it was. Right away.
We’ve talked before about how every artist has strengths and weaknesses and things they do. Sara is an insanely excellent designer. A lot gets focused on her fashion design because she’s so fashion forward. Her European lifestyle is all over those characters in tiny, little details. She’s also an incredible monster designer though and an incredible interior designer. So I try to lean into an artist’s strengths whenever I can.
Another things I loved about Sara’s art in the issue is the way she drew Miles and Ganke. It felt like they had really grown and matured physically since the last volume.
They are teenagers, but the last time Sara had drawn them they were much younger. Also in the last volume we skipped a year and David Marquez redesigned them as older teenagers; ages 15-16 versus 13. As everyone knows, that’s a huge physical difference. Sometimes it’s the difference between childhood and manhood.
So as soon as I started writing I realized that Sara had never drawn this Miles or this Ganke. So we went in on the caveat of make it your own again, because she invented all of the characters. For her to reembrace them as if they’ve aged a few years I thought was pretty interesting.
â€¨Even among comics, I thought that was a unique artistic experience; create a character, leave the character for a few years, the character actually grows visually which doesn’t always happen, and then you get to come back and put your stamp back on them.
That’s interesting. The final page of issue #1 hinted that next issue might feature a tense talk between Miles and Peter Parker. What can you tell us about that?
Not to brag, but I get thousands of questions on my Tumblr and about 80 percent of them are about “Spider-Men 2.” For people who don’t know, a few years ago we did a miniseries called “Spider-Men” where Peter Parker from the 616 came and met Miles from the Ultimate Universe. They had a very emotional adventure and I think it’s the best thing Sara has ever drawn. It’s absolutely beautiful, and there’s a big cliffhanger about who Miles Morales might be in the 616. Now we get to start that ball rolling again after many years. I’m thrilled to start that storyline.
I know some people want Miles to not have anything to do with Peter Parker and they just want Miles to be Miles, but at the same time he is a legacy character, and there’s a wide difference between the two of them. I think the juxtaposition in this meeting between them speaks to that. If anything it helps define who Miles is. He does have Peter’s blessing to be Spider-Man, but he’s still a completely different character with a different set of problems and strengths and weaknesses.
Having the two of them together every once in a while, is interesting to me. The whole book is not going to be about Peter and Miles. It’s going to be Miles. Peter has obviously joined the ranks of the Tony Starks of the world and is living his global life style.
I looked at it as if I was reading this book what would be among the first questions I’d want answered. I’d want to know if Bombshell is back. I’d want to know what Miles’ status quo is. I think we locked that in fairly clearly. And I’d want to know what’s going on with him and Peter Parker. So here we go.
Also, he might have had a win there for a second. He picks up the shield and all the Avengers are down. Then his mentor/hero shows up and it looks like he just killed everybody.
Talking about Miles’ relationship with the original Spider-Man makes me wonder about Miles’ relationship to something that often impacted Peter’s adventures pretty heavily, the media. Are you interested in exploring that?
Absolutely, and starting with the very next issue, we will see Miles’ interesting relationship with the media, which will include — now that his costume has ripped in front of people — there’s the first hint that this Spider-Man is a brown skinned young man. That will become a topic of discussion in the world; a topic of discussion Miles will not be thrilled about. It’s not going to be a racial book, but a lot of people have asked how that aspect of him is going to affect the character, and this is the beginning of that.
Boy, oh boy! When you look at what’s going on in our world it couldn’t be more timely. Things are at such a fever pitch, as far as this goes, and absolutely should be.
You already touched upon Miles’ grandmother who we’ll meet in issue #3, but I understand that issue will also involve some of his Avengers ties as well, correct?
Yes, he’s made some friendships as an Avenger, and super hero friends were always a cornerstone of “Ultimate Spider-Man.” He has friends with similar interests, and to use a sports analogy you’re friends with your team. We’re going to see Miles and Kamala [Khan] and Miles and Sam [Alexander]. There’s going to be a lot of interactions with the younger heroes and what they have to offer each other.
You’ve written current Nova Sam Alexander before, but is this your first time writing Kamala Khan, the new Ms. Marvel?
It absolutely is. When I typed the word Kamala I had to put her name in the spellcheck. That’s how you know, “Oh I’ve never written this character before,” when spellcheck underlines it.
My spellcheck is very funny. It’s always funny when I come back to a character that I haven’t written in many years. My spellcheck asks me if I meant “Skrull” when I typed “skull.” That’s how crazy it is. If I write galactic it asks, “Do you mean Galactus?” So it’s very funny for a comic writer to see what you have manually programmed into your spellcheck. And for my editors, yes, I do have spellcheck.
[Laughs] Finally, Miles is a member of the Avengers. So that puts him at the center of some major events including a certain looming war. Will Miles have to pick a side in “Civil War II?”
Absolutely! You want to tease your upcoming events, but that often makes people worried about their favorite characters. On one hand, I want them to be worried. So I dole out a little information here and there, but I do want people to read the event clean. So not to spoil anything, but one of the aspects of the story is the younger heroes. We have a lot of young heroes in the new Marvel Universe. I mentioned Miles, Kamala and Sam, and there are quite a few others. And when the big guns go at it over a moral thing this is a moment of choice for a young hero; young men and young women. That’s going to be a big deal.
I would say, as is always the case with these events, that the author of the event usually leans heavy on status quo changes for the books that they are writing. It’s easier to screw up your own book than it is to screw up someone else’s without their say so or cooperation. So logically my brain goes to how does this affect Tony? How does this affect Miles? How does it affect the Guardians [of the Galaxy]? Then I start talking to the other writers of the major players of the series and start doling things out.
So it’s not only my books that it will affect. It will affect a lot of things, but it all starts with mine. From the first draft of our outline we had major ideas for Miles and how it could separate him from the path of Spider characters even more than he already is. I think what people appreciate about Miles is some of the bolder choices that we’ve made. So I think let’s keep going with that.
Will you lay some of the groundwork for “Civil War II” in ‘Spider-Man?”
Absolutely! In fact you’re already seeing it in what you read. When I wrote this issue I already knew I was doing “Civil War II.” It’s all in there in subtext and stuff that will pay off later.
Already you’re seeing that Peter and Miles may be a little more at odds than they were at the beginning. That’s the kind of the thing that gets bubbled up during an event like “Civil War.”
“Spider-Man” is a very special book to me. It flat out comes from the reaction that we got since we introduced the character. This is a character that on paper should not have worked. It’s not going to stop people from trying things, and nor should it, but Peter Parker is not broken. No one was asking for a new thing. We’re surrounded though by people who express this underlying desire for characters that reflect the world around them more purely, like Miles.
We tried that and the fact that I can walk into a grocery store and see Miles toys is crazy. I was in Rite Aid and there was a Miles figure on the shelf! It’s really crazy.
A lot of kids are growing up in a world where there’s a Miles Morales Spider-Man. I hear from them every day. It’s such a special thing. So for Miles to rise to the place of surviving “Secret Wars” and then to being Spider-Man in the Marvel Universe is so beyond anything I could have hoped for. I know and I’ve heard from people that this is going to be their first issue of the book. I thought about that and I wanted to make this a very strong issue of “Spider-Man,” and keep things going with this other stuff that we just talked about bubbling forward in the next few issues.
So I can’t even express to you how special it is to hear from young people who wanted this so badly they didn’t even know it. Because of Miles’ success other bold choices were made at the company including what’s going on with Thor, and what’s going on with Kamala.
We always talk about voting with your pocket book. What you buy is a vote for other things like it, and people voted very strongly for Miles. Every time you buy a movie ticket you’re buying a vote for movies like the one you just saw. This happens in comics in a much more DIY situation than any other medium, and it’s just been the best experience.
I don’t mean to over do it, but it’s overwhelming to me sometimes. When we announced Miles as Spider-Man it was on the TV news and it was on the covers of papers. Conan O’Brien was doing jokes about it, and it was on “The Daily Show.” It’s a cultural thing beyond anything that we’re doing. It’s truly beautiful.
Now that it’s been out for a few years it’s like the normal. That is next level stuff that I have no control over.
One of the things that I’ve loved is people are starting to realize it’s okay to have these characters co-exist. You have Miles and Peter as Spider-Man and just recently we had the announcement that soon both Sam Wilson and Steve Rogers will both be Captain America.
It is and people are getting it. No one is ruining your thing. You’re just getting both things now, and both things are awesome. These books should be for any one who wants them.
I hope I don’t sound like I’m patting myself on the back because truly most of this has left my hands. I have no control over it. I turn on “The Daily Show” and they do a joke with Miles in it, and I didn’t know that was happening. In fact it feels insane when that happens. It’s so bizarre.
So I’m just so grateful that it happened. A lot of great things have happened to me in my career; truly wonderful, personal things. This is easily at the top. Because the goal was to just make a comic that I would buy, and I get to work with these awesome artists. Sara is like one of my favorite artists of all time. We get to make comics together with [colorist] Justin Ponsor. That alone is the goal.
â€¨Then all of this other stuff happens around it, and it’s just really beautiful. So much of what we read online is just bitch, bitch, bitch, but the reality is this other thing. And the reality is truly wonderful.
“Spider-Man” #2 is scheduled for release March 2 from Marvel Comics.