Earlier this year, Marvel announced "Spider-Verse," a multi-part Spider-Man arc written by Dan Slott and illustrated by Olivier Coipel, and starring "every Spider-Man ever." (For the most part, at least -- a couple are legally tricky.)
But "Spider-Verse" won't be contained to just the printed page. It's also coming to the upcoming new season of the Disney XD "Ultimate Spider-Man" animated series. The third season will be subtitled "Web Warriors," and feature the introduction of multiple Spider-Men -- with characters like Miles Morales (the current Spider-Man in the comic book Ultimate Universe) and Spider-Man 2099 depicted in animation for the first time. Along with those two, the "Spider-Verse" arc will also include Spider-Man Noir, Peter Porker the Spectacular Spider-Ham, Iron Spider and "Petra Parker," the Amazing Spider-Girl.
CBR News spoke with "Ultimate Spider-Man: Web Warriors" co-executive producers Stephen Wacker and Cort Lane to find out how the cross-platform "Spider-Verse" happened, the approach in bringing Spider-Man 2099 and Miles Morales to animation, how all these guest stars affect the show's regular cast and, of course, lots of talk about Spider-Ham.
CBR News: Cort, Steve, let's talk about the timing of the new "Ultimate Spider-Man" season -- even though the "Spider-Verse" animated and comic book stories are different, it's still a unique case of cross-media synergy, especially given the different lead times between comics and animation. How did that come together? How far into the "Spider-Verse" comic book process did it become clear a version of it would also work for the "Ultimate Spider-Man" series? And Steve, how much did your transition from Marvel Comics to Marvel Animation factor in?
Cort Lane: Steve has actually been a part of our "Ultimate Spider-Man" story summits from the very beginning. As we were starting to flesh out our new multi-arc approach to Season 3, Steve, [Chief Creative Officer] Joe Quesada and [Publisher] Dan Buckley all talked about the plan for "Spider-Verse" in publishing -- and we jumped! It just felt natural.
Stephen Wacker: Slott has been planning "Spider-Verse" for quite a long time (started in the the Carter administration, I think!), so we all knew that's where we were heading in the books for quite a while. I think the initial impetus for doing a version of Spider-Verse in animation came from Joe Quesada. One of his many jobs is finding ways to bring the different creative arms of Marvel together.
There are a good number of Spideys to choose from -- while some, like Miles Morales or Spider-man 2099, are a little more obvious, there's also some unexpected choices like Spider-Man Noir in this mix. How did you decide which Spider-Men to focus on for this story?
Lane: Miles and 2099 were the easy choices. And everyone (especially [writer] Paul Dini) wanted to do Spider-Ham. Then we started to think about the kind of character stories we wanted to tell to our young audience, and the crazy places those kids would want us to take Spidey. Noir was maybe a little bit more for us -- an interesting creative departure. I'm a big Dashiell Hammett buff, so playing with the Roman Noir tropes was especially fun for me.
Wacker: This is the first time I've heard that Cort is a Hammett fan. I am as well, so we finally have some thing to talk about!
Let's talk about the individual Spideys -- obviously bringing Miles Morales to animation for the first time is a major thing. How easy was it to transition Miles from comics to TV? And was Brian Michael Bendis closely involved?
Lane: Brian is with us at the story summits as well -- and has written some incredible scripts for the show. So he rolled his sleeves up here and helped our writers, Kevin Burke and Doc Wyatt, get Miles just right. Miles plays really well and looks very cool animated, and he's just so relatable for our audience. It was really smooth -- the surprise was how outrageously scary the Ultimate Comics Goblin was.
Spider-Man 2099 is also a first-timer to animation. What's fun for you about bringing him to the show?
Lane: The big idea from the very beginning was to animate his futuristic world and high-tech look in CG animation. Very ambitious and risky, since that meant a completely different production process and translating Spidey and Goblin in CG as well. But we try to outdo ourselves every season and this seemed like a bold move, and we are totally thrilled with the results.
A previous interview mentioned the origin of "Petra Parker" stemming from a comic book pitch. Steve, anything more you can share about those previous plans, and how they ended up in the animated "Spider-Verse"?
Wacker: I think this is an example of all of us pulling water from the same well. I pitched the basic idea for a new Spider-Girl where you swapped all the genders a few years back with Kelly Sue DeConnick. It never went anywhere, but it did eventually lead us to working on "Captain Marvel."
I think the animation folks just happened upon the same idea by coincidence and their execution of the premise is really fun. It's my favorite segment of "Spider-Verse."
There's also Iron Spider, which in the comics was Spider-Man wearing an Iron Man-tailored armor suit, but I'm guessing in this instance it's a separate character. What can you say at this point about this take on "Iron Spider"?
Lane: I'll let the cat out of the bag: Amadeus Cho becomes the Iron Spider and is a series regular now. He's younger and even smarter than Peter (which annoys Spidey), so he can do some very impressive things with the suit. But he has a lot to learn about being a hero. So they start as super hero frenemies, and then Amadeus realizes he can learn a lot from Spidey.
Then there's Spider-Ham, who we've sort of seen already in "Ultimate Spider-Man," after Peter Parker ate an enchanted hot dog. But is this a more "traditional" Spider-Ham?
Lane: This is a full-on, classic publishing version of Peter Porker. And it is glorious and really funny. We even get some cameos from other heroes in Spider-Ham's world.
Wacker: This is the first time "Peter Porker" and "Classic" have ever been in the same sentence. So write down the date.
Our animators clearly had a blast on Spider-Ham and they nailed the atmosphere and humor of classic funny animal cartoons. My hope is we get a whole Spider-Ham series out of this! (And if that last sentence made it through our publicity and brand management teams, I'm as stunned as you are!)
Beyond the Spider-Verse arc, there's also plenty of other guest stars known to be showing up, including Agent Venom. Storyline and character-wise, what helped inspire which Marvel names would be introduced into the show this season?
Lane: The "Web Warriors" theming inspired a lot of them, obviously. But a lot of the choices were driven by story. Since Spider-Man became a hero, a lot of other younger heroes have been popping up, often inspired by Spidey. It Peter takes his "great responsibility" seriously, he has to see what he can do to help these young heroes -- training, mentoring, resources -- and so we selected heroes that would allow us to play out that relationship in interesting ways. Some of the heroes don't want Spidey's help. And maybe some even go down the wrong path. Then Spidey is even more challenged to help them.
With all of these characters coming in, how big of a role will there be in "Ultimate Spider-Man: Web Warriors" for the regular supporting cast of Nova, White Tiger, Power Man and Iron Fist?
Lane: Oh, they will be there too, and not necessarily always get along with all these young heroes. Getting the two groups to respect each other is a big challenge for Peter. And loyalties will divide him at times.
To wrap up -- are Man of Action (Steven T. Seagle, Duncan Rouleau, Joe Casey, Joe Kelly) still involved in the show?
Wacker: Man of Action have been spearheading "Marvel's Avengers Assemble Season 3," so their dance card is filled. So this season of "Ultimate Spider-Man" is headed up by two of the most exciting writers in animation today Henry Gilroy ("Hulk: Agents of S.M.A.S.H.;" "Star Wars: The Clone Wars") and Eugene Son ("The Super Hero Squad Show").
Both Henry and Eugene are big-time Marvel heads and absolutely fearless writers, so it's been a blast seeing them tear into the Marvel sandbox. They're leaving almost no Spider character unturned, and I think this might be our most exciting season yet.
"Ultimate Spider-Man: Web Warriors" debuts August 31 on Disney XD.