Marvel Relaunches "Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man"

The fourth and final of Marvel's "Ultimate Universe Reborn" press conference calls focused on "Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man," written by Brian Michael Bendis and illustrated by Sara Pichelli, which will star a new Webhead. Earlier this week, the publisher announced Jonathan Hickman and Esad Ribic on a new "Ultimate Comics: Ultimates" series, followed by Nick Spencer and Paco Medina on "Ultimate Comics: X-Men," and Hickman again with Rafa Sandoval on "Ultimate Comics: Hawkeye."

On hand for today's call are Junior Sales Administrator James Viscardi, who is moderating, and Brian Michael Bendis, Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso, and editor Mark Paniccia to discuss "Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man" #1, which will be illustrated by Sara Pichelli.

"This is the most nerve-wracking initiative I've ever been a part of, even more than when we launched 'Ultimate Spider-Man,'" Bendis said, because it will make such drastic changes to the character.

Bendis called Pichelli "the find of the century," and said he hopes to write stories worthy of her talents.

"People will see from the very first page, 'Oh, this is different from what I had before,'" Bendis said, explaining that all of the stories in 'Spider-Man' and the other Ultimate titles would stress inventiveness and the new.

Bendis said that bringing HIckman and Spencer into the Ultimate Universe was not "a passing of the torch," but was more akin to his and Mark Millar's hiring at the beginning as new voices.

"What's cool about this, what I'm really excited about, since Jonathan and Nick and I have an open policy of communication, we're able to create a cohesive universe," he said, noting that it was difficult to coordinate with other titles in the past because of erratic shipping schedules. "We'll be able to look at Jonathan's 'Ultimates' and react accordingly," Bendis said.

Alonso also stressed the "cohesive, tight universe," and that the titles will "be able to take chances you can't take in the Marvel universe."

Bendis said that characters like the Fantastic Four "would find their way into some of the books." "When the time is right, they will make themselves known." Characters will also "show up" to "react to the death of Spider-Man and say, 'What's going on here?'"

The writer then spoke about his character-first approach. "Spider-Man is so grounded, with his feet on the floor, that's the best part of the character," Bendis said. "From there, they kind of tell you how they want to react to what's going on around them." He admitted that "my hands are tied" about what he could say without giving the issue away, but "it will make sense when you read it."

Bendis described working on the Ultimate Universe as "one of the great miracles of my life," and said, "I can't imagine leaving it, unless I get the pink slip," a response to fans who had worried earlier in the week that he may be quitting the imprint.

"Even if it seems like I may be outlasting Peter Parker himself, I'm proud to be a part of it."

"There are a lot of little Easter Eggs in 'Fallout,'" Panicchia said, adding that "Sara Pichelli is doing a chapter that you can't miss." That series is written by Bendis, Hickman and Spencer, and ships weekly in July.

Bendis praised Pichelli's design sense, including interior design and fashion design. "Peter Parker and Mary Jane never looked better than when Sara was drawing them." He added that "Fallout" #1 "is a direct --direct-- follow-up to 'Ultimate Spider-Man' #160." Paniccia added that these were the first scripts to make him cry.

Bendis said that, even with all the changes, "there are some things that if you take them away, it's no longer Spider-Man -- even more than Peter Parker." He also said that there will be new characters and new powers, based on "spider-research."

A question came about the new #1, given the fairly recent relaunch. "I write them out of order; they put numbers on them," Bendis joked. "It's a number 1 by any definition. Even the most cynical fanboy will read it [and] go, 'Yeah, that's a number 1.'" Paniccia said it's "a complete evolution of an iconic character. There's no way it's not a number 1."

"As far as the line goes, it's definitely a jumping-on point for all three books," Alonso added, guaranteeing that this issue would be talked about at comic book stores.

Bendis spoke about how he, Hickman and Spencer apply their indie sensibilities to mainstream works, noting that some creators don't, and said he believes this has been and will be a great strength for the line. But "I probably will have to unplug my computer from the internet when this comes out," he said, due to inevitable controversy.

Asked whether the public will be aware that there is a new Spider-Man and whether the costume will play a role, Paniccia said, "that issue is addressed in 'Fallout.'" "If he's going to say yes, I'm going to say it's a huge part of the book," Bendis said.

Asked whether, in a promo image earlier this week, Gwen Stacy's shirt -- which bears a similarity to versions of Ms. Marvel's costume -- was a hint as to what may be coming up for her, Bendis said, "Gwen has a lot going on this year. A lot." He would not elaborate further.

Bendis joked briefly that he and his wife had accidentally wandered in front of a Marvel.com camera at a recent event and were "standing there looking like goofs." He did not have his phone on, so he didn't immediately see the Twitter response to his appearance.

"Mysterio is still a big concern," Bendis said on the topic of villains, noting that there will be some new bad guys who will significantly shape "Ultimate Spider-Man's" landscape.

Bendis said the idea for the current initiative "has been percolating for a couple of years," and that it was a matter of finding the right time. "It was a matter of, 'This is somewhere we're going, and we'll know when it's time." He and Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada "brought it to the last Ultimate retreat, and Axel was all over it."

"Jonathan and Nick were at the right place at the right time, much as me and Mark [Millar] were when we started it," Bendis said.

David Lafuente "may come back and do an annual, here and there, if his schedule allows," Bendis said, calling the new series "Sara's book." "We'll be shipping more than twelve times a year," Bendis added, citing the frequent shipping schedule as another reason Lafuente, "who I love," was not the regular artist for the relaunch.

The new Spider-Man's relationship with Captain America will be quite different from Peter Parker's, given the events of "Death of Spider-Man."

The new Spider-Man design began with Pichelli, with drafts going back and forth between her and Quesada. "Everybody here's really excited about it," Bendis said. "Good luck to her having to draw that backwards webbing all the time."

Bendis concluded the call by thanking Ultimate fans. "A lot of fans who get in touch with us online say either that the Ultimate Universe was their first comic book, or their way back into comic books," Bendis said. "And we're not going to lose that emotional connection."

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