WW Chicago: Bendis on "Ultimate Spider-Man"

In 2000, Marvel Comics launched the debut of it's "Ultimate" line with "Ultimate Spider-Man." Eight years and 123 issues later the comic is still going strong...and still being written by writer Brian Michael Bendis. CBR News spoke with Bendis about some of the big upcoming developments in the book which include: an adaptation of the "Ultimate Spider-Man" video game, a new villain, and the upcoming "Ultimate Spider-Man" annual.

In 2005, the "Ultimate Spider-Man" videogame was released for most major game platforms. Since it featured a storyline by Bendis and future "Ms. Marvel" scribe Brian Reed the game was incredibly faithful to the comic; so much so, that many "Ultimate Spider-Man" fans we're left wondering if the game story was part of the comic's established continuity, and if so, where it fit. "We made it into continuity but we never actually showed you in the book where that story became continuity," Bendis told CBR News. "So we recently came up with a story that actually had elements of the game but had a lot of new stuff as well."

"It's not an exact adaptation of the game," Bendis continued. "In fact there are whole sections of the game that were literally just fun things we could do because it was a game and we were allowed to. Like, Brian and me were so happy we could have Wolverine in the game. They went, 'You have to have him fight Venom!' That's a boss match up!' But really when you look at it, it doesn't advance the story at all."

The story that bridges the "Ultimate Spider-Man" videogame and comics is part of a seven-part arc, which began in "Ultimate Spider-Man" #123, in stores now. "This is the big return of Venom, where he's been, how the comics connect to the game, and how the game connects to the comic," Bendis explained. "At the same time we get the return of Ultimate Carnage, Gwen Stacy. So there are symbiotes, the Beetle, Silver Sable, Bolivar Trask and Roxanne and all sorts of craziness."

At the end of "Ultimate Power," Nick Fury left the Ultimate Universe and traveled to the home dimension of the "Supreme Power" characters, but the former Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. still plays a role in the latest arc of "Ultimate Spider-Man." "Half the story flashes back to the parts of the game Nick Fury was involved in and what it does is it definitely shows what Peter's life was like with Nick Fury and how things can really turn to shit without Nick Fury," Bendis explained. "Peter's life is very different his relationship with authority and a lot of other things are very different at the end of this arc."

Peter and Nick Fury's connection will also be explored in Bendis's "Ultimate Origins" mini-series. "'Ultimate Origins' #4 shows the direct connection between the origin of Spider-Man and the origin of the Hulk and Nick Fury's involvement in them," Bendis remarked. "Its stuff that Peter Parker doesn't know that now you will know."

Nick Fury's former comrades, The Ultimates, make an appearance in September's "Ultimate Spider-Man" #126. "We were never able to reflect Mark Millar's Ultimates before because it was so erratic in the shipping and with us shipping on time I was terrified of inadvertently spoiling something," Bendis explained. "So these are actually the characters of 'Ultimates Season 2.' It's kind of a flashback, an untold Spider-Man story. You find out that something happened with the Ultimates and Spider-Man.

"I know people saw it and thought I was ignoring 'Ultimates 3' but no, I love 'Ultimates 3,'" Bendis continued. "Our story just takes place at a different time."

The coming months will see the various supporting cast members of "Ultimate Spider-Man" become even more important to Peter Parker. "People really responded to what we did in the 'Amazing Friends' arc and I was thrilled about it because that's where I want the book to go," Bendis stated. What we're saying is that even the nerdiest nerds in the world have pals; even the kids in 'Super Bad' had each other. Peter's clique is going to become pretty colorful, exciting, and a big part of his life. That includes Human Torch, Iceman, and Firestar."

The next "Ultimate Spider-Man" Annual," will revolve around Peter's relationship with the supporting character who's perhaps most important to him, his girlfriend Mary Jane Watson. "The annual will be drawn by David Lafuente, who is currently doing gorgeous work on Hellcat. I was thrilled I was able to grab him for this," Bendis remarked. "Knowing what I know about the world, I think this one is going to be a little controversial. Because it definitely takes Peter and Mary Jane to a place you haven't seen in the Spider-Man books before. It involves the looming subject of S-E-X at that age and what it means when you have a long time girlfriend, and you're in love and you've been through a lot of stuff. So yeah we're going to go there!"

The months ahead will also see new villains pop up to make Peter Parker's life difficult. "Including a villain from the 60's Spider-Man cartoon, which I'm thrilled I got the rights to do," Bendis said. "Some of the villains from that show were knock-offs but there were a couple there that were actually pretty good. So we're going to do an ultimate version of that."

Currently books like "Ultimates 3" and "Ultimate Origins" are building towards a storyline called "Ultimatum," which begins later this year and promises to bring huge changes to the Ultimate Universe. When the current storyline in "Ultimate Spider-Man wraps up a new five part arc will begin, which ties into and runs the length of "Ultimatum."

"Ultimatum" does mean big and perhaps sweeping changes for the Ultimate Universe but it does not mean the end of "Ultimate Spider-Man." "Rich Johnston misquoted David Finch. 'Ultimate Spider-Man' is not being cancelled. It's a very successful book and I've already written past 'Ultimatum' in the book," Bendis explained. "It will dramatically affect my book. 'Ultimatum' is an important part of what I'm doing this year."

When artist Stuart Immonen came on board as the regular artist for "Ultimate Spider-Man" he had the difficult task of filling the shoes of previous artist Mark Bagley, who had collaborated with Bendis for a record breaking 110 issue run on the book. However, Immonen quickly made his mark on the book. "I read 'Trinity' [The current weekly mini-series from DC Comics which Bagley pencils] and I went 'I miss Bagley' but what's funny is the series is colored by Pete Pentazis who used to color 'Powers' so it's like Kurt [writer Kurt Busiek] is fucking all my old girlfriends [Laughs]. No, but I do miss working with Bagley," Bendis said. "Stuart has made this book all his own though. He's an outstanding artist He hands in like a page a day. So every day you get some cool Stuart-ness."

Over 123 issues, later Bendis still finds "Ultimate Spider-Man" as inspiring as he did when he began work on the book eight years ago. "I thought a lot about leaving the book. I thought, 'Should I leave after 'Ultimatum?' When Bagley left I thought, 'Should I leave to?' Bendis remarked. "I think, 'I could take this gig. Or I could take that gig and then I think, 'No I really want to write 'Ultimate Spider-Man.' I want to stay. It's very fresh to me. If it wasn't I would bail. I would gently take my leave."

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