Perhaps no other comic book event in the history of comics better epitomizes the phrase “best of both worlds” than the ultimate team-up set to take place in SPIDER-MEN, the limited series by Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli kicking off June 13 that will introduce the Peter Parker we’ve known and loved for five decades to Miles Morales of the Ultimate Comics Universe.
With SPIDER-MEN among the many special projects set to commemorate the wall-crawler’s 50th anniversary, we pulled Senior Editor Mark Paniccia aside and lobbed a few webbed-up questions on what to expect from this killer kick-off to the festivities.
Marvel.com: Mark, what are the origins of the SPIDER-MEN project? How long has it been percolating in the hallowed halls of ol’ Marvel?
Mark Paniccia: We were at a Publishing meeting going over the upcoming anniversaries and plans for 2012. Joe Quesada suggested having Peter and Miles meet. Usually we’re all very conservative when it comes to the idea of crossing over between the two universes, but the 50th anniversary of our favorite wall-crawler seemed like a pretty good time to do something like this. We had lots of interest and momentum built up with Miles Morales and we in the Ultimate Office loved the idea of giving more readers the opportunity to discover this new Spider-Man.
Marvel.com: When you first got with Brian Bendis about it, what sort of direction was he given to shape the story? How was it envisioned, beyond a cool way to celebrate the 50th anniversary?
Mark Paniccia: To say Brian was excited is a great under-exaggeration. This was a moment most of us thought would never come. But it all made perfect sense when you consider the timing.
While there are several very cool things in the hopper to help celebrate Spidey’s 50th anniversary, this was a great time for us Ultimate folk to do something this big and crazy.
And knowing that Brian’s written some of the best Spider-Man stories out there, we didn’t need to give him direction. There were a few things I asked him to think about and we were very simpatico, but he had complete creative freedom.
Marvel.com: Okay, so you’ve obviously seen the script—what has Brian done so far to thrill you with the SPIDER-MEN story?
Mark Paniccia: Brian is doing what he does best with making us feel like we’re there. We experience the tension in the room, the electricity in the air, the intense emotions of the characters. There are some incredibly powerful moments for both Spider-Men, but especially Peter. There’s this one scene I thought was one of the most heart-wrenching moments I’ve read recently. But this isn’t a surprise from the man who made readers cry with Death of Spider-Man.
Marvel.com: As you’ve said, this was a moment you thought might never come. A crossover between two well-established, popular universes is fairly new ground for Marvel; what makes SPIDER-MEN a very special project for you and the team?
Mark Paniccia: We’ve never really done anything like this before. I mean, when I came over to the Ultimate line, I thought of it as a re-interpretation of the Marvel Universe, a place where things could be re-imagined with a more realistic and modern sensibility. I didn’t look at it as an alternate universe. So just based on that I wasn’t that interested in crossing over to the Marvel Universe. My associate editor, Sana Amanat, felt the same way. Crossing over was almost considered blasphemy.
But, with the advent of such an endearing and interesting character as Miles Morales as the new Spider-Man, you couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like for him and Peter to meet. Since the Peter Parker of the Ultimate Universe is dead, there was no other Peter he could shake hands with or have the classic Marvel hero misunderstanding—or the awesome “let’s go get the bad guys” moment. This kind of day dream made it easier to imagine an actual crossover and start thinking of it as more of a possibility. We just needed the right reason and the right story. So this is a very different thing especially with the barrier between dimensions broken. And I think it’s a great place for Marvel fans to crossover, too, and see what life is like in the Ultimate Universe. I can’t think of a better gateway to discover ideas and concepts that inspired many elements of the movie franchises.
I also want to take the opportunity to say thanks to AMAZING SPIDER-MAN writer supreme, Dan Slott, and series editor Steve Wacker. They were a big help with some of the behind-the-curtains stuff and helped make this a smooth venture.
Marvel.com: In the series, what will be the major delineation between the personalities of Peter and Miles? And how will they be most similar?
Mark Paniccia: The similarities are brilliantly choreographed and designed by Brian. Every Peter Parker paradigm has a cool twist. Peter can look at Miles and see so much of himself inside. He can see, has felt and can understand so many of the things that Miles is going through. It’s gut-wrenching stuff. And fun. There are plenty of times you’ll find yourself smiling as you read. But at the end of the day they are very different characters and part of the journey is discovering how.
Marvel.com: You’ve mentioned the death of the Ultimate Peter Paker; how will the Marvel Universe Peter take that news? What will it mean to him and how does he deal with it?
Mark Paniccia: A great skill Brian has is getting his readers to connect with the characters. In a lot of cases, you think, “wow, that’s just what I would do” or “that’s how I would feel.” So all you have to do is think about how you would react to something as shocking as this. That you’re feeling that impact along with Peter is a testament to Brian’s talents.
Marvel.com: And of course, for all of that to happen, the two guys must meet; how will the universe-hopping come about?
Mark Paniccia: I don’t want to say too much for reasons of spoiling, but there’s a great device in play for how this all works, something Brian had been setting up and toying with for years.
Marvel.com: We’ve learned that the bad guy in SPIDER-MEN is none other than Mysterio. What kind of scheme is he working here, that makes him think he can take on two Spider-Men and hope to succeed?
Mark Paniccia: Mysterio has been one of Spider-Man’s all-time great villains. Nothing would make him happier than to destroy not one, but two Spider-Men. And that’s all I’m going to say about that. I don’t want to take away any surprises.
Marvel.com: Let’s wrap things up with a Sara Pichelli question: other than her work on the regular ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN series, what makes Sara a joy to work with on this series?
Mark Paniccia: Sara does action very well and captures emotional beats better than almost anyone else out there. And there are big, important and heartbreaking moments in this series so we couldn’t be happier having her. We get a lot of letters from people who think she’s just the best and love the characters she’s designed.
I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that she’s a master of expression not just with the face, but with body language as well. I think everyone who picks this book up is going to walk away a big Sara Pichelli fan!