Ultimate Spider-Man: With ‘Toon Power Comes Reading Responsibility [Pt. 1]

A tv news article

Children holding comic books… say it ain’t so! Well, today on this gloomy afternoon at Sunset Boulevard’s Meltdown Comics, there was nothing short of bright smiles from youngsters for the Ultimate Spider-Man Release Party. Kids whose parents were smart and hip enough to bring them to the event were even treated with an early viewing of the cartoon (debuts April 1st on Disney XD), Spider-Man photo-ops, a chance to meet The Avengers’ “Agent Coulson” Clark Gregg, and cupcakes. Spider-Man cupcakes.

More importantly, those in attendance were treated to a cool superhero cartoon with enough edge and simplicity to keep all goers happy. Before the screening at Meltdown’s Nerdist Theater, both media members and fans received free copies of an Ultimate Spider-Man (animated) comic book and were able to have them – or any other materials – signed with creators and voice actors alike. Among the many marketing schemes from the “House of Ideas,” this may be the best one yet: getting our youth to read comics.

Even if the kiddies just flickered through a few pages afterward, or left them bent and corner-torn between their mommy’s minivan seating, it’s still an admirable thought from Marvel. And, thankfully the animated version itself was just as brilliant. “Ultimate Spider-Man” packed a ton of “LOL” moments, and the voice actors -- Drake Bell as Peter Parker, Chi McBride as Nick Fury, Steven Weber as Norman Osbourne, and, returning from his film version as Jonah Jameson in J.K. Simmons – were stellar across the board.

Longtime animated Spider-Man fans were also able to chime in during a special Q&A, as well; so, before I was able to share a few moments with “Spider-Man” writer and producer, Paul Dini (“Batman: The Animated Series,” “Batman Beyond,” Arkham Asylum video game), here’s a rundown with today’s all-star cast:

  • A huge fan of the 60s cartoon asked whether that had an influence on “Ultimate Spider-Man,” in which Marvel’s Head of Television, Jeph Loeb (Batman: The Long Halloween, Spider-Man: Blue), replied that they would obviously try to shy away from a simple remake, particularly with today’s new generation, but definitely keep the spirit of the older cartoons. Show producer Steven T. Seagle added that the “Ultimate” approach was, “What if Spider-Man was never written? [Originality] is what we’re going for.”


  • With the Ultimate Spider-Man comic’s changing of the guard from Peter Parker to new web-slinger, Miles Morales, it begged the question of whether we would see the new Spider-Man in the cartoon as well. To which became a running theme throughout the end of the Q&A, “Anything is up for grabs,” show producer Seagle answered. It was noted that the cartoon was pitched before the sister comic’s writer Brian Michael Bendis decided on the change. “But that’s not to say it isn’t a possibility. We’re keeping things wide open.”


  • Questions about possible Spider-Woman or Spider-Girl appearances in the cartoon, as well as Iceman and Firestar inquires were dealt with similar responses. The cool thing is, though, after witnessing Avengers’ Captain America and Iron Man as well as some of Marvel’s more “obscure” villains (i.e. Wizard, Klaw) during the pilot, there’s sure to be plenty of treats for many True Believers. Look for Iron Fist, Luke Cage, and Nova in the coming episodes.


  • Loeb and Seagle also let loose that there’s also an animated Hulk in development. And he won’t be alone: “Sort of Hulk’s dysfunctional family. We’ll be seeing Red Hulk, She-Hulk, Skaar…and A-Bomb” join in on the smashing.


  • Dini’s wife, actress Misty Lee, was enthusiastic about her portrayal as Parker’s Aunt May. “She’s going to be super young, super fun. If this Aunt May asks you to eat your wheat cakes, you’ll want to eat them.” Lee also referred to this version of May as a more zestful, friend-figure than that of other May depictions in the past. Parker and May “will be playing video games. She’s very active with yoga… Yup. Her hip isn’t broken.”


  • And what would a Marvel Q&A these days be without Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., Phil Coulson!? Clark Gregg said – deadpanning, of course— that he only intended to portray Coulson throughout the line of Marvel films “to do animation.” Gregg’s looking forward to “a more complex and exciting form of [the agent.]” He’ll also voice Parker’s high school principal.



Stay tuned for Part 2, for an interview with Ultimate Spider-Man writer and producer Paul Dini!

Travis Walecka has gone through more phases than Paris Hilton has gone through tan lines; or apropos, more phases than variations of Batman titles. Hip-hop critic. MMA fighter. Furniture mover. Screenwriter. Hollywood bouncer. This guy puts Dean Malenko to shame, or perhaps, only Hayden Christensen. Nonetheless, this all-too-positive "Loose Cannon" (as monikered from various music and film review sites) newfound phase is simply, comics. And it's going on three years strong. After blowing the lot of his savings on graphic novels and stupid "collectible" figurines, Travis decided to leave it all alone in Boston and head to his next destiny: Hollywood, California.

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