Forget Wolverine: Spider-Man wants to be the best there is at what he does. Throughout the course of Disney XD’s “Ultimate Spider-Man,” Peter Parker’s desire to be all he can be has fueled everything in the young hero’s career, from him joining S.H.I.E.L.D. to leading a team comprised of young heroes Iron Fist, Power Man, White Tiger and Nova.
Yesterday, everything ol’ Web Head has learned so far was put to the test in the second season finale “Ultimate.” The episode kicked off with Spidey attempting to foil the plans of Green Goblin, who not only Goblinized Peter’s teammates, but also had designs to do the same to everyone living in New York City.
Luckily for Spidey, he spent the majority of this second season either bonding with his pals or learning to trust his heroic instincts, all of which came in handy as he figured out a way to transform his friends back to normal, stop Goblin and try to save Norman Osborn from himself. He succeeded with the first two, but found that Norman might be something of a lost cause. Spider-Man must have passed a few of the tests because he got offered a spot on the Avengers at the very end of the episode.
To get the inside scoop on the second season finale, UNMASKING ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN spoke once again with supervising producer Cort Lane about Goblinizing the heroes, the battle with Norman Osborn and building to this conclusion over the course of the entire season.
CBR News: This season felt constructed in such a way that it would give Spider-Man the skills he needed to beat Green Goblin in the season finale. How early in the planning process did the actual story for the finale come along and how did you build the rest of the season around that?
Cort Lane: We knew our endpoint. We knew to cure the Lizard and we knew we had a certain saga that we needed to tell throughout the season with the Green Goblin and Norman. We also knew we wanted Spider-Man to be invited to join the Avengers at the end of the season. But at the beginning of the season, we didn’t have all that drawn out in terms of specific plans. We break the episodes in groups of five or six with the Man of Action guys, Jeph Loeb, Joe Quesada and Paul Dini all in the room together. We tackle them one chunk at a time, knowing that we have a plan for the rest of the season. We have little cards that are reminders of where we need to end up, little things like “Cure the Lizard,” knowing we need to get there.
A big part of this finale that was prefaced throughout the season was Spidey getting to know his teammates better. That was both a good way to explore their back stories and also reach your endpoint.
Yes, it really was. We knew that there was more territory to mine. We made the conscious choice in season one to not get into the past history and origins of his friends because we wanted to keep that season squarely focused on Spider-Man and his development. We knew we wanted to explore that in season two and it had to be tied into this goal of becoming the ultimate Spider-Man, the best hero he could be. So, we understood at the end of this season that we needed to link those two. It’s part of being a better teammate, a better leader and knowing people better is all part of being a better hero. These individual episodes where he teams up with his friends provides knowledge that he uses at the end of the season. That sounds complicated, but it was always part of the plan.
I don’t know if kids pick up on it as much, but it seems like older viewers can pick up on the sense that, as creators, you have this planned out pretty well.
It’s interesting because I think to adult fans coming into this series cold, it might feel that there is no plan, because episodes definitely work on a standalone basis. That’s a choice, because so many kids, specifically younger kids, aren’t going to be able to follow a heavily serialized storyline.
We really got to have our cake and eat it too by having a plan for the season, beginning points and end points to a number of stories, not just for Spider-Man but Norman, Ock, Curt Connors and, to some extent, Peter’s teammates. We knew that we were going to get there by the end, so we knew we were going to have both standalone episodes and multiple arcs throughout the season.
As Power Man, Iron Fist, White Tiger and Nova, actors Ogi Banks, Greg Cipes, Caitlyn Taylor Love and Logan Miller got to mix things up when they were Goblinized. Was there a specific direction for them when it came to the vocal alterations?
We had them work in the booth. They recorded as a group. Basically, what we had them do was mimic Steven Weber as the Goblin. They’d been in the booth with him playing the Goblin for so long that they’re pretty used to that performance.
Speaking of changes, for the finale, Green Goblin got himself a full body armor with a cape. Was that look inspired by any previous costumes or artwork?
Throughout both seasons, we realized that to keep it fresh and exciting for our youngest viewers, we need to amp up the villains over time so they evolve. Just as Spider-Man becomes a better hero, they’re becoming more dangerous threats. Some of that involves skills and abilities, but in the case of Goblin, Ock and the Sinister Six at the end of the season, it involves gear and weapons. We knew we wanted to do that with the Goblin because Spider-Man has faced him so many times over the season, we wanted him to be an ever greater threat.
We had fun putting him on a glider this season, and gearing him up in a way that hints a little bit at classic Green Goblin from the comics of the 60s and 70s combined with the massive, ogre-like appearance of the Goblin from the Ultimate comics. It was inspired by everything including the film version. It’s fun in the series to take influences from wherever we need them and combine them as necessary to create what we consider the Ultimate version of the villains.
That seems to be a fun aspect of shows like these. Comics can get complicated because there’s so much history there, but you’ve been able to create your own Spider-Man world that draws from comic elements while also going in new directions like his work with S.H.I.E.L.D.
Absolutely. This new path with S.H.I.E.L.D. he started on that in the “Ultimate Spider-Man” comics. We just really got to see, in the series, where that would lead because in the comics he died at the beginning of that journey.
Towards the end of the episode, Spider-Man is faced with the choice of either following the Goblin or saving White Tiger. However, instead of choosing, he does both. How important is that moment for him as a hero?
He had the confidence in himself as a hero that he could reject those choices and make a bigger, more heroic choice that seemed impossible at the time. He was confident. That’s a big difference at the end of the season from where we began.
That actual moment between him and White Tiger gave me a really big lump in my throat seeing the finished episode. Part of it has been being on this journey with these two actors Drake [Bell] and Caitlyn who are both. For Caitlyn, this is her first voiceover work. Boys really connected with her character. At the same time, her character was so critical of Spider-Man and thought the least of him through most of the series. She realizes only he can save the day and she’s willing to sacrifice herself to do that. He will not accept that. He’s going to save her and save the city. From all of the two seasons, on a personal level, that got to me the most. Getting to work with those young actors and seeing them as they grow in their performances, on a personal level that was really cool.
That leads to the end of the episode after Spider-Man beats Green Goblin and we find out that, even though Spidey had all these victories, he still couldn’t save Norman from his dark side. What is the potential for that character moving forward?
There’s a lot left to be done with that character. I can’t talk about it. We are not done with Norman and the Goblin. Doctor Octopus is actually right about him, the darkness in him is pretty great. When it’s unleashed as the Goblin, that genie can’t be put back in the bottle. That’s our take on it. We wanted Spider-Man to experience that with Goblin this season and really hope and try to help him be a good guy. But, you can’t win everything. Life isn’t like that. People aren’t like that. The important thing is doing the right thing yourself. It’s a hard lesson that Spider-Man learns. He cures Connors, but he can’t really help Norman.
Earlier you mentioned that part of the season from the very beginning was Spider-Man getting an offer to join the Avengers. I didn’t expect to end on that cliffhanger.
I can’t give anything away. It’s not as simple as anybody’s answer might be. That’s all I will say. I think we’ve revealed that we start out the season with Spider-Man joining the Avengers and then we get to see how that goes. It felt like the natural conclusion of this epic arc of him to become the ultimate superhero. We wanted to demonstrate that he really was a world class superhero and if the Avengers represent that in this Marvel Universe, then that’s where we should go.
Where are you at in the creative process for season three?
We are pretty far down the path. We’ve written most of the scripts for the season, almost all of them. And there’s so much I could tell you and I can’t! We are definitely upping the stakes, upping the personal story. There will be a lot of new ideas and characters and adventures in season three. We were very satisfied with how far we took season two, but we have to go even bigger and better with season three to keep it fresh and exciting for the audience.