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INTERVIEW: Bendis On "Spider-Man," Miles' New World & Working with Mark Waid

This October, Spidey once again be deals with the pressures of adolescence as writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Sara Pichelli, Miles Morales' creators, launch an all-new "Spider-Man" series, which finds their teenage title character patrolling the mean streets of the Marvel Universe's Manhattan.

With Peter Parker off saving the entire world, Miles Morales steps in to watch over New York City. In the Ultimate Universe, Miles took over as Spider-Man after his universe's Peter perished. Now, in the aftermath of "Secret Wars," the Ultimate Universe is no more, and Miles swings through the one and only Marvel U. But what does that all mean for Miles' personal and heroic lives? In fact, what kind of life will he have in the Marvel Universe?

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For the answers to those questions and more, we spoke with Bendis about the joy he's found in bringing Miles into the Marvel Universe and how his "Secret Wars" series "Ultimate End" is a pivotal chapter in Miles life, paving the way for this new direction. Plus, he drops a few hints -- and a challenge! -- regarding the mystery villain Miles must contend with in "Spider-Man" #1.

CBR News: How does it feel to be bringing Miles Morales, a character you and Sara created, to the Marvel Universe for this series? Is there a bittersweet feel to it because you're missing the Ultimate Universe, a place you spent so much time building and chronicling in "Ultimate Spider-Man?"

Brian Bendis: No, it's the opposite a little bit. I feel like we did an impossible thing. The Ultimate Universe ran its course, and we saved the crown jewel. I'm really honored by that.

The creation of Miles, which we talked about in the past, on paper is a minefield of things that shouldn't work. Here's a new Spider-Man, and there's nothing wrong with the old Spider-Man! And people gravitated to him so much so that it was a given that when the Ultimate Universe was going to go away by Doctor Hickma- -- I mean Doom [Laughs] -- that Miles was going to find his way into the Marvel Universe.

I will tell you truthfully, I had given notice on the book. I said I would wrap up the Ultimate Universe and "Ultimate End" and I will move on to bigger and better pastures. No one asked me to, but I thought that was it. Then, we were at a Marvel retreat, and I did not know that Mark Waid had put Miles on the Avengers, and I did not know Dan Slott's plans for Peter Parker, which kind of by definition places Miles into the more traditional Spider-Man role in New York City, where he's a teenage kid wrestling with being a super hero and the responsibilities of young adulthood.

So I turned to my editors and said, " I didn't know any of this. He's really going to be, like, Spider-Man." They said, "Yes." Then I whispered, "I don't want to leave." That seemed like an interesting challenge, and they reminded me that nobody asked me to leave.

We started having a serious talk about what Miles' book would be. Sara had taken a few months off for personal reasons. We had a list of things we were going to do together, and obviously it became clear that the special thing to do would be for me and Sara to reunite on the book she's most proud of. Basically, Miles' mother and father are coming back together to guide him into this new part of his life.
She said "Yes" immediately, which I was happy about. We literally had a list of things we were going to do instead, but we're going to do this now. It all came together very quickly, and I was very grateful to Marvel for letting me stay. It's a very special book.

I've been working with Mark Waid. We've been crafting Miles' purpose in the Marvel Universe, and his relationship to the Avengers. It's been going really well, and the first pages are in. They show a grand evolution in Sarah's artistry, much like David Marquez is showing on "Invincible Iron Man." It's a great honor to have a front row seat and watch as two of the greatest artists of this modern era of comics blow up. It's really a very special thing.

What's it like to collaborate with Mark Waid on Miles' Marvel Universe adventures?

I've known Mark for years. He's very collaborative. He's done everything in comics: editor, editor-in-chief, writer and even store owner. He knows the magic that is, let everybody do whatever they want, as long as it doesn't squash what you're doing. He'll bend over backwards to let talented people do their thing, and he treats everybody in an extremely respectful manner. I've known that about him for years, though, so that wasn't a surprise to me. There is definitely a feeling, though, that I'm sharing Miles with him, and that's cool.

There will, of course, be a lot of questions about how Miles coming to the Marvel Universe will work and what that will involve. Will those questions be answered during "Secret Wars," or will that be part of the mystery when "Spider-Man" begins?

It's split, really. Major answers to a lot of things are going to happen in "Ultimate End" #5. There are a lot of people that are scratching their heads about what exactly this part of Battleworld is. Obviously, it's not the Ultimate Universe per se. It's a mishmash of the Ultimate Universe and the 616 Universe that Doom has clearly created. What it is, why it's there, and what it's for will be revealed. Its connection to "Secret Wars" will also be revealed. It's already written and it's already drawn, so I can say that wholeheartedly.

You'll also get a reveal of what Miles' place is. A lot of people want to know, who's coming with him to the Marvel Universe? Is he a man out of time and space? Is he living in Tony Stark's garage? Where he is and what he will be will all be revealed in "Ultimate End" #5. I highly recommend people preorder it -- it's one of the most important chapters in the life of Miles Morales.

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With "Spider-Man" #1, we're off to the races. Throughout this first issue storyline, a lot is answered. At the same time, though, it's got to be new reader-friendly for people who haven't read "Secret Wars" and maybe have been reading all about Miles in places like the mainstream press, which has been very flattering. We want a very new reader-friendly experience.

Miles is coming to the New York of the Marvel Universe right around the time Peter Parker will begin operating in cities around the globe. Will Peter play a role in this series?

Yes, you will see Peter. I'm not going to say where or when, and as hard as it is to imagine, this book will not be wrapping itself around Peter's legacy as much as it did in the Ultimate Universe. Miles is going to be finding his own way. Clearly, though, the two Spider-Men have to have a conversation. 
Also, we're going to be diving into material that Sara and I had planned for "Spider-Men 2."

You've been playing with your own takes on Spider-Man's rogues for years, but bringing Miles over to the Marvel Universe gives you access to some of the greatest villains in comics, the ones Stan Lee and Steve Ditko created for Spidey. What's it like to play with Spidey's rogues?

We already had versions of those characters in the Ultimate Universe, so that's not as much a challenge as Miles' place in the larger landscape of the greatest toy box in the whole of popular culture that Stan, Jack [Kirby], Steve and so many others helped create. I think people will be very surprised to see who the villain is in "Spider-Man" #1.

I guarantee in this article right now, that if I challenge people to guess the villain's identity in "Spider-Man" #1, and if 500 people responded, they would not guess correctly. Challenge put out! Whoever guesses correctly gets a free something!

So it's an established character?

[Laughs] It's somebody you never heard of before! That's why you can't guess correctly! No, it's an established character, and I doubt anyone will guess their identity.

What about new villains and supporting characters? Are you putting Sara's character design skills to work?

Absolutely. That's one of the great joys of this, even on the very first pages. Her fashion sense is so wonderful. I'm eager for her to put her signature on every character. It's quite amazing what she accomplishes.

It sounds like she's just as fired up as you are.

Yeah, she jumped right on it. I wasn't sure at first where her head was going to be on it, but she wrote back and said, "It's the book I'm most proud of. I'm so proud of Miles." She doesn't speak English, so we don't talk as much as I do with, say, David Marquez or Mike Oeming, but when we do, it's very clear. And it's very clear in her work that this matters a lot. I know she takes an immense amount of pride in Miles' impact that we have no control over. The positive message and diversity for certain fans is just a wonderful thing.

I've said this before, and it's not bullshit: the reaction to Miles that I receive every day, and it is every day, is so much more profound than anything I ever thought I would get in comics. When someone reaches out to you and says, "I'm a mixed race person," or, "I'm a mom, and my child really gravitated towards Miles because he sees himself," it's a really special thing. These are very emotional responses, and you can't gloss over how impactful that is in my life. It's really wonderful. The fact that people go out of their way to get ahold of you to say something like this is so nice.

I was in San Diego for about a total of four hours a couple weeks ago. I was there for "Powers," but the minute I sat down at the Marvel booth to sign, a Miles cosplayer hops up on the table. It's really wonderful.

Part of the fun of Spider-Man is, he's a character you can tell any kind of story with, from crime, to supernatural horror, to outer space epic. I assume that will continue to be the case with this new volume.

Absolutely. I don't want to say too much, because the shape of the new Marvel Universe post-"Secret Wars" hasn't been revealed, but Miles' place in it will be as unique as everyone else's.

What I'm excited about more than anything is, I don't think anybody knows what kind of stories we're going to tell. Even the most jaded "I've been reading comics for 30 years and I've seen it all" readers don't know what's going to happen next, and I think that's a wonderful thing.

Now, you said you have to keep some of this book's supporting cast under wraps, but since you're working with Mark Waid, is there a chance we'll see Miles' Avengers teammates like Nova and Ms. Marvel appear in "Spider-Man?"

Kamala Khan is on the cover of issue #3! There's a Tumblr that shipped them the second they were both in the same space in the culture. ["Ms. Marvel" writer] Willow [Wilson] and I have a feeling about that, and she's going to allow me to express that in the comic.

When we announced that Miles was coming to the 616, the mainstream press was so loud about it that other people were confused, because it seemed like we had just created the character. This in no way diminishes the legacy of Peter Parker or all the wonderful work that the other Spider-books are going to be doing, but the opportunity for Miles to represent that classic Spider-Man figure in the Marvel Universe is just amazing. It's more than I could ever hoped we would get.

I would never ask for it. I would never say, "Hey, if Miles can't be Spider-Man, I'm out of here." It was more that, clearly, Dan is on a roll on "Amazing Spider-Man," and I'll just go off from that. Plus, all of the pieces rolled in organically in the best way possible to allow Miles to attempt to fill this space in the Marvel Universe, and boy, oh boy!

All I can say is thank you to everyone for literally allowing this to happen through osmosis. I know some things that are going on around the company that I think are going to make fans of Miles very excited, and I'm happy to be here while they happen. I think people can already feel it in the air that there is a lot of attention and interest in the character, and some really interesting things are going to be happening over the next couple years.

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