50 years ago a heroic legacy was born out of a horrible tragedy when super-powered teenager Peter Parker lost his beloved Uncle Ben and learned that with great power must come great responsibility. That event happened in Marvel Comics’ “Amazing Fantasy” #15 by the legendary creative team of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko and it transformed Peter Parker and his alter ego, the Amazing Spider-Man into Marvel’s flagship hero.
12 years ago Marvel decided to look at how that tragic heroic legacy would play out if it was restarted in a different, contemporary universe. In “Ultimate Spider-Man” #1 writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Mark Bagley introduced readers to a new, youthful Peter Parker whose adventures took place in a different “Ultimate” Marvel Universe. The Peter Parker of the Ultimate Universe was both similar to and distinctly different from his Marvel Universe counterpart. One of the ways in which he differed was that his fate became much more tragic — the Peter of the Ultimate Universe did not survive to see adulthood. He recently perished fighting to save his beloved Aunt May from an assault by his deadliest enemies.
The Ultimate Universe wasn’t left without a Spider-Man though. Middle schooler Miles Morales had been given spider-powers in an accident similar to the one that transformed Peter Parker, and Peter’s death inspired him to take up the mantle of the fallen hero in last September’s “Ultimate Comics Spider-Man” #1. This June, Miles Morales’ creators, Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli, will introduce him to the Spider-Man of the Marvel Universe when they kick off the five-issue “Spider-Men” miniseries. CBR News spoke with Pichelli about her work on the series.
CBR News: Sara, you became part of Spider-Man history by co-creating Miles Morales, and now you’re helping celebrate the 50th anniversary of Peter Parker by bringing him face to face with Miles. How does that feel? What’s it like having one of your creations come face to face with the original Peter Parker?
Sara Pichelli: Since Miles was created I’ve been working hard on giving him a specific character, body language, attitude, etc. — but let’s be honest, every artist gives something of themselves to the characters they create, and there’s obviously something of me in Miles, too. All the physical reactions and facial expressions of him are filtered by my idea of how they have to be, because what we draw is what we are — so in some way it’s like I’m coming face to face with Peter Parker. And guys — it feels insanely cool!
I probably should have said something more professional or deeply artistic — but I’m a comic book artist and all I need to do my best work possible is fun!
You know Miles Morales very well, but what’s it like drawing Peter Parker? Do you have much experience with the character? Which elements of his character do you really want to bring out in your art?
I don’t have much experience with Peter Parker, so in these 5 issues of “Spider-Men” I’ve worked hard to find the right connection with him. I’m trying to find the right elements of his character that could fit well with the story.
I’ve chosen to underline the difference between the two Spider-Men. Miles is a young, newborn superhero, insecure and clumsy sometimes during the action. On the other hand, Peter is older and wiser. He has much more experience. He knows what to do and how to do it — but this time his self-confidence as Spider-Man is not the same because in “Spider-Men” he has to face a reality where all his reference points have been shattered. So I had to work on a big range of mixed emotions.
Does that mean in “Spider-Men” Peter is transported from the Marvel Universe to the Ultimate Universe? Can we expect a wide range of expressions and body language as Peter deals with the changes of this reality?
Absolutely! Peter will find himself dealing with a different dimension that seems so familiar and at the same time so confusing the more he gets to knows it. That’s why I really wanted his body language to reflect all his insecurities and fears. What makes Spider-Man special is the humanity of the hero behind the mask, and in the story I wanted to stress that strength.
Speaking of realities, we imagine part of this story takes place in the Marvel Universe as well. As an artist, what’s it like depicting these two different realities? In terms of physical environment, mood, and tone how does the Marvel U differ from the Ultimate U?
The physical differences between the two universes are slight.They both are realistic and recognizable, and that’s how I drew them.You will find some different details, especially in the New York city views, and I dare you to find them especially in the first issue! Where they’re really different is the mood that consequently affects the story, specifically in the Ultimate U where drama like “Ultimatum” happened.
The architect of this reality switch has been revealed to be the Marvel Universe version of Mysterio. What’s your sense of this character? What do you find most interesting about him? How does he differ from Ultimate Mysterio (who you’ve drawn before)? And is it tough to convey this Mysterio’s emotions given that he doesn’t really have a head?
Mysterio (from the Marvel U) still remains an old fashion flavor villain to me, and sometimes this characteristic clashes with the modern way the Marvel Universe is depicted. You will be surprised, though, by how Bendis made him cruelly cool in this story!
I feel closer to Ultimate Mysterio, especially in terms of costume design. The fact that he doesn’t have a head but only a hint of his evil facial features makes him really scary and disturbing to me. He reminds me a bit to the face in the mirror of Grimhilde, the Snow White villain, but burning in creepy flames.This strange head of the Marvel U Mysterio makes it hard to tell his emotions, in fact you don’t know if you are in front of a human being, an alien or a demon, and that makes him even creepier.
I know you don’t want to spoil anything, but are there any other Marvel or Ultimate characters you’re drawing for the first time in “Spider-Men?” How big is the cast of characters that you’re drawing?
Wow! this is a huge question — it’s hard to answer without spoiling anything of the story. I only can say that I drew many characters that I’ve never drawn before, but I can’t say more because I can feel that the Marvel snipers ready to shoot me!
We’ve talked about characters and environment let’s start to wrap things up by talking about the overall look of the series. What can people expect from your art on this book? Will you employ a similar style to your regular “Ultimate Comics Spider-Man” work? Or does the nature of this story call for a different approach?
Brian and my friends told me that my art for this book became more detailed and complex than anything I did so far — but personally I’m not able to analyze my own work! I think that is a common problem among artists.
Finally, what can you tell us about the scope and scale of “Spider-Men?” Is this just an intimate story about the meeting of two very different Spider-Men and the legacy of the character? Or is this also an epic tale with big stakes for everyone involved?
This story is full of the best elements; epic fighting and big emotional moments! But since the story talks about heroes with a large amount of humanity, the emotions will be the real protagonists of this book. When I finished reading the script of issue #4 I had tears in my eyes.
Page after page in “Spider-Men” you will feel all the love that me and Brian have for Spider-Man — and I think it’s a perfect way to celebrate his 50th anniversary!
“Spider-Men” by Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli debuts in June.
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