In Marvel Comics’ Ultimate Universe, Spider-Man is still a teenager, but that doesn’t mean he’s any less busy than his Marvel Universe counterpart. There’s always some form of turmoil going on in Ultimate Peter Parker’s life as writer Brian Michael Bendis regularly places his protagonist in situations involving family, teenage and superheroic drama, so his artistic collaborators must be ready to draw anything and draw it well. Artist David Lafuente already does this with his own distinctive style, and starting with October’s “Ultimate Comics Spider-Man” #15, he’ll share artistic duties on the title with an artist known for her diverse and visually distinctive work, Sara Pichelli (“Runaways,” “X-Men:Pixie Strikes Back). We spoke with Pichelli and Bendis about the book.
David Lafuente has been bringing to life the adventures of Ultimate Peter Parker ever since the second volume of “Ultimate Comics Spider-Man” was launched, and fans of his work need not worry; he has no plans to leave the series. “David is an amazing talent and just wasn’t able to put together a monthly schedule for himself. He can only do so many books a year,” Brian Bendis told CBR News. “The plan is to up the number of ‘Ultimate Comics Spider-Man’ issues we put out in a year. Not to what we we’re doing in the days I was working with Mark Bagley, but maybe between 14-16 issues a year. So instead of losing him totally, David and Sara will co-draw the book together. Both of them will be working at the same time. They’ll switch back and forth between story arcs.”
When it became clear that the art team of “Ultimate Comics Spider-Man” would have to grow to accommodate the increased number of issues, Bendis and his editors began looking for an extra member to the book’s art team. Marvel talent manager, C.B. Cebulski, brought Pichelli to Bendis’s attention.
“She showed a lot of promise. We gave her a shot with issue #15, which is in stores October 27th. Not only did she do the whole book in almost record – or Bagley – time, which is the time in which all things are judged, she did the book perfectly,” Bendis remarked. “David Lafuente just finished what I think is his best story as an artist, then she came in and did an amazing job. She’s also contributing in the wraparound elements to our anniversary issue, which is issue #16 and our 150th issue. It’s also our 10th anniversary issue and its triple sized. ”
In 2007, Sarah Pichelli was just beginning her art career when she discovered the Bendis and Stuart Immonen run on “Ultimate Comics Spider-Man,” quickly becoming a fan, so she’s very excited to be joining the book’s creative team only three years later. “It feels good – very good – and it’s a good opportunity for me, but ,you know, with great ‘gigs’ comes great responsibility – and anxiety, I add! In fact, sometimes I look straight at my face in the mirror and I start repeating like a mantra ‘Draw better! Draw better! You’re drawing Spider-Man, please draw better!'”
When drawing “Ultimate Comics Spider-Man,” Pichelli most wants to capture the everyman qualities of the teenage character. “Peter is a boy who has to deal with a huge power, but as a teenager he also has to face all the common growing pains: girlfriends, family, friends, school, etc. Keeping his normality up among all the eccentric and strange events of his life, in my opinion, could help the reader to be more empathetic with the character. Brian is doing an excellent work with ‘Ultimate Comics Spider-Man,’ especially with Peter Parker, and I wanna help him in giving Peter a specific personality,” Pichelli said. “Brian depicts Peter as a real teenager; he has a specific way to speak, to tell jokes and to face problems that is different from the other characters. I think it takes a lot of work to obtain that! What I’m trying to do is just help Brian; translating his intentions with the images. So I’m studying things, like the best way to make Peter move, his expressions, his way to stand or sit and maybe his different attitude when he’s with MJ or Gwen – it’s a lot of work, I know, but it’s a lot of fun, too! I would like the reader to say, ‘Wow! That could happen to me!’ Then my mission would be successful.”
The world of “Ultimate Comics Spider-Man” is an unpredictable one. One moment Peter Parker could be dealing with a problem in school and the next he may have to suddenly save the world from some super powered threat, and on the way home from dealing with that, he might find himself confronting random street criminals. That type of variety is another reason Pichelli eagerly accepted the chance to draw the series. “It’s obvious, everyone has preferences. For instance, every time I have people fighting in a shot, I pray to be possessed by the ghost of Bruce Lee, because I’m not that good yet. But at the same time, it’s great because I have the chance to improve my art,” Pichelli remarked. “It’s easy to draw what you are good at,a nd boring, I guess. I think that the challenge is the only way to grow as an artist and a person. By the way I’m still looking for a good medium to contact Bruce. [Laughs]”
Pichelli enjoys the style David Lafuente employs for “Ultimate Comics Spider-Man,” but readers should expect her work to be a little different. “I’m totally restless. I keep looking for something new and different. Issue by issue, I learn what I want and what I want to change. Don’t tell my editors, but I do art experiments in every issue!” Pichelli joked. “Sometimes results are good and sometimes awful! So I don’t know which style I’m going to employ in ‘Ultimate Comics Spider-Man,’ but I hope people like it!”
As Bendis mentioned, readers will get their first glimpse of Pichelli’s evolving style in “Ultimate Comics Spider-Man” #15, which picks up with the aftermath from the recent Chameleon storyline. For the issue following that, the 10th anniversary issue, Pichelli will be joined by some special guest artists.
“The anniversary issue itself is very indy friendly, which is kind of where I came from when I got the book. I thought it would be interesting to shine a light on some amazing artists and have them each do a chapter and in this book The story involves S.H.I.E.L.D. director Carol Danvers deciding what to do with Spider-Man. She sees him as an inherited Nick Fury problem, and now, after the events of the Chameleon story, she’s come to a place where she can’t allow him to continue any more,” Bendis revealed. “So she goes to the Ultimates and asks them what she should do. ‘Should I put him in jail? Should I whack him?’ Each of them tell a story from their unique point of view which describes all their feelings about the situation. Each one of those stories will be illustrated by a tremendous indie talent. Jamie Mckelvie is doing one. So are recent Eisner winner Skottie Young and Joelle Jones. When you add in David Lafuente and Sarah Pichelli, it’s an amazing package.”
Bendis has only just begun working with Pichelli, but he’s already enjoying their collaboration immensely. “I’m always on the look out for people like Sara; people who have the chops and the talent,” the writer said. “Her first issue was a very difficult one to draw and she did a fantastic job. Writing for her has been a real pleasure.”
For Pichelli, the feeling is mutual. “I love drawing Brian’s stuff. When he describes situations and dialogue, I immediately have in mind the shot I want to do!” the artist said. “He’s very specific about the final result of a page, but at the same time, he gives the artist room to express their personal visual interpretation. In short, he’s a great writer and he does the hardest part. I just try to keep up with his good scripts!”