In the Disney XD animated action-adventure series Ultimate Spider-Man, premiering from Marvel Animation on April 1st, 16-year-old Peter Parker (voiced by Drake Bell) has been saving New York City from villains as his alter-ego Spider-Man for the past year while juggling his life at Midtown High School with best friends Mary-Jane Watson (voiced by Tara Strong) and Harry Osborn (voiced by Matt Lanter), who are both unaware of his secret identity. Still in need of the discipline to best utilize his gifts, S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (voiced by Chi McBride) offers Spidey the chance to train with the best and plants Agent Coulson (voiced by Clark Gregg) as the school principal to keep a watchful eye and him and four other teenage superheroes, including Nova, White Tiger, Power Man and Iron Fist.
During this recent interview to promote the new Marvel Universe series, executive producers Jeph Loeb (Head of Marvel Television) and Joe Quesada (Chief Creative Officer of Marvel Entertainment) talked about what makes Marvel stories easily recognizable, the tone they wanted to go for with this latest Spider-Man show and establishing the aesthetic they wanted for the show. They also talked about the possibility of releasing all the episodes of The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in one Blu-ray package, and the status if the live-action series Marvel currently has in development like The Incredible Hulk, aka Jessica Jones, Mockingbird and Cloak and Dagger. Check out what they had to say after the jump:
JOE QUESADA: That was really a function of the way that Jeph [Loeb] constructed the creative team for Ultimate Spider-Man.
JEPH LOEB: One of the things that was important to us was that, up until this point, any of the animated series that had been done, a lot of people don’t realize it, but they weren’t done by Marvel for Marvel. Up until this point, there have certainly been individuals that have been involved. Every generation has their favorite Spider-Man television show. For a lot of us, it’s the one that has the song, “Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can.” But, the bottom line is that those shows were not Marvel for Marvel. So, when we looked at the situation and I came on board as the head of television, it was really important that we bring in people that either had been working with Marvel or had such an incredible love for it, so that our DNA would actually be put into the show. When you’re watching this show and you’re part of the Marvel Universe on Disney XD, you’re completely immersed in what we’re doing. It is by no real coincidence that, when you look at this summer, the two big blockbusters that are going to be out there are on May 4th with The Avengers and then in July with The Amazing Spider-Man. When Marvel Universe premieres, the two big franchises that we’re going to be telling stories about are Spider-Man and The Avengers. We really do want to have more of that synergy out there, in the marketplace.
LOEB: There’s something about Marvel that you can’t quite put your finger on, but when you see it, you absolutely do know it. If I were to take five comic books, from four different publishers and Marvel, and lay them out, even if you didn’t know the characters, you would be able to take a look at that Marvel comic and go, “That’s Marvel.” There’s something unique about the way the story is presented. Everybody has their different interpretation of it, but for me, it is that it’s action-adventure that cannot be contained on the page. It is actually exploding out there. Hopefully, when you’re watching the Spider-Man cartoon, or you’re watching The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, it literally is coming out of your television set and running around. Hopefully, children everywhere will be able to explain that broken lamp that’s in the living room, and that it wasn’t the, but that Spidey was actually running around.
QUESADA: There’s also a great sense of humor that Marvel characters bring to their own stories. There’s a sense of dynamics that started in our comics, back in ‘60s with Jack Kirby, and the way that Stan [Lee] would write in the Marvel style and allow the artists to really express the incredibly energetic vision of our characters, and also the relatability of our characters. That’s something that’s very important to the Spider-Man show that we’re producing here. When someone gets first introduced to Spider-Man, the reason that he’s so universally loved and so iconic, after all these years, is because you see him as a character that you could aspire to be. “I could be Spider-Man. If I had just gotten bitten by a radio-active spider, I could do that. He’s so much like me.” Or, he’ll remind you of somebody you know. “He could be my best friend.” That’s the point of view that we’re taking with this show.
What makes this particular Spider-Man unique, and unique to Marvel television, is the point of view that we’re taking. We’re not getting into the origin of him getting bitten. We’ll recap it, of course, but that’s not what this is about. This is about Peter Parker has now been Spider-Man for a year. He’s had his powers. He has some rudimentary, on-the-job training. The goal is to get a sense that you’re riding on his shoulders and you’re part of the adventure with him. You’ll get an inside look into what happens in the wacky brain of Peter Parker’s Spider-Man, which you’ve never seen before. That’s one of the most unique storytelling ideas that we have, with respect to this show. It’s that inside look into the mind of Peter Parker, which is going to be shocking, horrifying and humorous, all at the same time.
LOEB: It’s also important that, when you’re watching the show, because we do want you to feel like you are Peter and Spidey’s friend, and you’re along on the adventure with him, the show will stop, from time to time, and he will break the fourth wall and actually address the audience. We don’t have to go through the clumsy routines of flashbacks or “previously on” or any of those things. We’ll take you through the story, so you’ll be able to catch up, as you go along.
Is this level of immersiveness new?
LOEB: We’d like to think the Marvel Universe is a unique place on Disney XD. When you step into that world, you’re getting to see storytelling and a look of animation that you can’t see anywhere else.
QUESADA: The other thing that’s very unique about Marvel in general, whether it’s Marvel comics, Marvel movies or Marvel animation, is that they all take place in the real world. This takes place in Marvel’s New York City. The streets will be somewhat recognizable and some of the buildings will be somewhat recognizable because it’s the real world. The only thing that’s made up is the name of Peter Parker’s high school, but it’s very recognizable as your everyday New York public high school.
How did you go about establishing the Marvel aesthetic that you wanted for Ultimate Spider-Man?
LOEB: The first thing we did, which had never been done before, was to go back to the actual artists themselves, such as Joe Quesada, Ed McGuinness, Stuart Immonen, Paolo Rivera and Humberto Ramos – guys who had drawn Spider-Man. We said, “Guys, just draw. It doesn’t have to be anything in particular. Show us what Spidey looks like. Show us what Peter looks like. Show us what MJ looks like. Give us your interpretations. You don’t have to reinvent them. We just want to see how you would do it.” And then, we took those drawings and put them all in one room, that we call the Inspiration Room. The design crew could come into that room, and we would have meetings in there, so that it was always filtered through that eye. And then, we brought in someone who is brand new to the Marvel business. Every single time there has been a dynamic change in action-adventure animation it’s been Eric Radomski, who is responsible for the look and feel of Batman animated, and also on Spawn animated on HBO. When you see real jumps in the way animation is done for television, he has been at the focal point. We brought him on, and he’s our new Head of Production. As of January 1st, we’ve opened our own brand-new state-of-the-art facility in Glendale, called Marvel Animation Studios. It’s just steeping ourselves in that world, so that everything we make, from this point on, really does look and feel like Marvel.
QUESADA: Eric has been so instrumental. He and I have had numerous conversations about Marvel art, what makes Marvel art, Marvel art, the dynamics of Marvel, the forced perspectives, and all those things, even researching the way that Marvel comics draws New York City and creating a 3D New York that reflects the look of the comics and the feel that we try to acquire. The four artists that we brought in, all bring their own unique perspective. None of these four guys draws exactly the same, or draws the same Spider-Man, but they each have a foot in a generation of Spider-Man type art that’s reflective of everything we’ve done, over the years. And Eric has managed, with a great team, to distill it down into what we think is a great representation of Marvel and Marvel comics.
Is there any chance that you could convince Disney to release all of the seasons of The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes on one Blu-ray package, instead of a four-volume set?
LOEB: That’s certainly something that we’re talking about. Earth’s Mightiest Heroes has a tremendous following. One of the things that’s very unique about that show is that it was at a time prior to my coming in. It is a very serialized show, and there are a lot of characters. What we wanted to do with Spider-Man, and going forward, was to tell stories that are individualized. Obviously, we want everybody to watch the show every week, but we also know that people’s time is often taken. So, DVR the show, but if you’re not going to do that, the idea is that you will be able to catch up. I don’t ever want anybody to sit down on Sunday mornings at 11 o’clock and suddenly feel like, “Well, I lost the last three episodes, so I don’t really know what’s going on.” The only thing that is a two-parter is the pilot, which will actually be shown in its entirety on Sunday, April 1st.
LOEB: All I can tell you is that, right now, the three shows that we have in active development at ABC are The Incredible Hulk, aka Jessica Jones, which comic book fans will know as Alias, and The Punisher. And then, we have two shows that are already at ABC Family, which are Mockingbird and Cloak and Dagger. They’re just in development. As you know, as with anything that you’re doing, particularly when you’re starting up a brand new entity, things take time and we want to make sure we get it right.