EXCLUSIVE: Man Of Action's Joe Kelly and Steven T. Seagle Talk ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN
Joe Kelly and Steven T. Seagle from Man Of Action Studios took some time to chat with us about writing the highly anticipated second season of DisneyXD's Ultimate Spider-Man, Avengers Assemble's connection to it's predecessor and much more...
Even though Ultimate Spider-Man isn't quite everyone's cup of tea, the fans of the show have been highly anticipating seeing plenty more of Spider-Man's classic villains, as well as brand new guest stars this season. It'll be sure to feature plenty of surprises, so we asked Man Of Action to take us through creating the show, what we can expect from the second season and much, much more.
The first season of Ultimate Spider-Man only saw a few Spider-Man villains, why was that?
Joe Kelly: There were a couple of reasons for that, in part when we came on, the Marvel brain trust had already been working on the project. Jeph Loeb and Brian Bendis were crafting a universe that was sort of inspired by the Ultimate line of comics, which is sort-of “anything goes”. And keeping with that, we didn’t want to go with all the “go-to villains”. It was a lot more fun, to see what would happen, especially with Spidey as a SHIELD agent, bouncing around the globe, what happens if he goes against Doctor Doom, characters he wouldn’t normally be exposed to. It was a real conscious decision, and now with the second season we have a chance to play with those toys through a lens of ‘what’s new, what’s different?’
Steven T. Seagle: I would just add that the first season was about meeting this new Peter Parker/Spider-Man, who’s an agent in SHIELD and in High School. We just needed to make sure we got him and his mythology.
So, the second season will have more classic Spider-Man villains?
Joe: The second starts out with six villains in a row, actually. So yes, we’ll see more.
Is there a big reason as to why the sixth member of the ‘Sinister Six’ is being kept secret?
Joe: There’s always a big reason!
Steven: Yeah, everybody loves a secret!
Was there an overall goal with Ultimate Spider-Man, and do you think it was accomplished?
Joe: Uh, yeah I guess there was. With Ultimate Spider-Man, As I said before with Joe Quesada, we had an introductory chat with him and it was “If you were making a new Spider-Man cartoon today, and for kids, what would it be like?” That was our set of marching orders, and we really embraced that, breaking the fourth wall, the comedy elements, being in Spidey’s head, is what we wanted to executed with on top, the classic Marvel action-adventure. I personally think that we hit it out of the park with that one. I think we did a really great job of taking that directive and executing it in he series.
Steven: The fans are the Ultimate voice of whether you did or not, and when one or two episodes were out, they were like, “I don’t know…” but when it got to mid-season, at conventions it was pretty unanimous of the feedback we got on the floors that people got that we really understand Spider-Man and Peter Parker, and we loved where the cartoon went.
Have you applied any fan feedback to the second season of the show?
Steven: We apply fan feedback all the time. And that, we’re fans also, so if a bunch of people were like “Man, I wish you could get Rhino in there, he’s my favorite villain”, we’re thinking the same thing. Unfortunately for animation, we’re a year ahead of what people are watching so it’s not like someone could say “you should change X” and we could. We’re already a year down the road and further ahead, but we’re all fans.
Since Peter will be teaming up with the cast of Avengers Assemble, is it safe to say that the two share a universe?
Joe: Um, there’s obviously guest stars in Spidey’s universe and there are a lot of characters that will be showing up in Avengers Assemble and whether or not it’s a shared universe, I think it’s a little pre-mature to say.
Steven: You know, the Marvel Universe is an organic thing and the fun of building the comics universe back in the day is you find out how they overlap and where they cross and that’s what we’re doing.
Speaking of the Marvel Universe, is there a limit as to what characters you can use in Ultimate Spider-Man?
Joe: There is a limit in a sense that different characters have different rights in different places, but we have a TON of characters available to us, we can’t even get to some of the ones we have right now. Availability is not a problem.
How will Peter’s teammates living with him affect Aunt May?
Joe: Aunt May loves having the kids around, and the interactions with the teammates provides a lot of comedy. We actually had a ball working on that new dynamic because it was so fun getting everybody out of, well we only see them hanging out around school or at SHIELD, so getting them in the home atmosphere and still keeping secrets from May provides a lot of comedy and she loves it. Our Aunt May is very cool, so the idea of taking on four new kids that need a place to stay, she’s like “Sure!”, she just rolls with it. I think he [Peter] would have been okay with it if she said ‘No’, but instead she said ‘Yes’ so you’ll see some pretty funny moments between her and characters of the team you would not expect, maybe in a way that will make Peter jealous.
Why did you guys choose to make Aunt May wild and crazy instead of the normal old and fragile woman?
Joe: As we said earlier, there’s so much continuity and we’ve already seen a version of Aunt May over the years where she’s so frail and he’s so worried about her and he gets her medicine for her, we just thought it was played out. We like Aunt May whose more energetic, and we have to sort of acknowledge the times we live in today and people are living much fuller as they get older and we think she’s a great example of a parent character who’s fun and cares about Peter, and he cares about her and she’s still going to be in danger and someone you have to protect, but she doesn’t need him on the couch all the time and giving her pills all the time. It’s also a challenge for Peter because she’s someone who wants to go out and be involved in Peter’s life, so he’s gotta stay on his toes and be one step ahead, so it’s more fun this way.
Will she meet up with Agent Coulson again, as they started to date near the end of the last season?
Steven: We would like to say that it is a relationship that is developing, so keep watching and you will probably be rewarded.
How about Mary Jane and Peter’s relationship? Will that develop?
Joe: They’re just buds in this universe. There’s always going to be a little spark, and we never went out of our way to fan it up or fan it down, they’re just kind of cool with how things are.
It’s been revealed that Peter’s SHIELD teammates will have origin stories. How do you go about adding Spider-Man into the mix?
Joe: Everything is always through Spider-Man, if you’re going to learn more about Iron Fist or White Tiger, it’s always going to be through a Spider-Man adventure. Some of those episodes are my personal favorites, not only is it fun to revisit the guest characters that older fans think they know, and show their back-stories in a different way, but do it all through Spider-Man and show why he really stays with these kids. He learns things about them that makes him understand them better and care about them in a different way and relate them. A lot of those stories are really, really great.
How did you decide who Spider-Man’s team mates would be?
Steven: A lot of that was decided before the time we were there, and most of it was ‘You’re going to surround Spider-Man around other heroes, but don’t overlap what Spider-Man does best’. So, we were just finding a mix of personalities.
Will the Sinister Six be going up against all of Peter’s teammates?
Joe: I think it’s pretty fair to say that they will appear more than once and in various combinations. You know Spidey travels alone sometimes and gets into trouble but doesn’t need backup, I think you’ll see a couple of combos.
So, will they be part of this season’s continuous storyline?
Steven: We like to say each season adds a main story that evolves over the course of the whole season, and we also like to make sure if a kid is watching one episode, that it makes sense by itself. So the answer is both ‘Yes’ and ‘No’!
Joe: *laughs with a slight hint of mischief*
Will the villains we saw last season return as well?
Steven: A lot of them show up, some in different forms, new combinations and some with deadly new agendas for Spider-Man.
There’s been a lot of contradiction on whether or not Avengers Assemble is a continuation from Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Can you give us any more clarification?
Joe: That’s actually one of the things we wouldn’t get into specifics, other than to say that when we sat down to work on the show we were very conscious of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. As far as a direct continuation, we can’t be really clear.
Steven: I think fans should know that we also worked on ‘Earth’s Mightiest Heroes’ so it’s not a bunch of guys who don’t care about or don’t like that show and just messed everything up, we worked on that show too. We love it too.
Going back to Spidey, a lot of fans feel that the Brian Michael Bendis penned episodes are some of the best. Do you feel the same?
Steven: Brian is a genius. Let’s praise him. The show is called Ultimate Spider-Man, and while it’s not based off of his comic directly, it’s to acknowledge his work and the great job he’s done. He’s got ten years writing that book, I think and it shows that with the scripts he does for us as they’re a blast.
Joe: It surprises me actually, because I’ve known Brian for a while and I think of him as a very serious writer. It’s fun to watch him in the room and get really excited about a very kid-friendly idea and really run with it, and go for the comedy and go nuts. It’s been really cool and I think he gets it, so his episodes are fun. I can say that my son loves them. He says ‘You know what my favorite one is?’ and it’s been a Bendis one.
In the last season, a Brian Michael Bendis penned episode, actually, with Wolverine, was an adaptation of one of his classic stories. Do you think we could see more adaptations on the show?
Steven: We can say that there’s at least one more story coming up that’s based off of a Brian Michael Bendis idea that we really all loved, and it MIGHT have something to do with the episode that you are talking about…
In the Ultimate Spider-Man comics by Brian Michael Bendis, there are a lot of characters that Spidey develops relationships with, such as Kitty Pryde, could we see them in the series?
Steven: There are a lot of cool guest stars popping up in the second season for sure, that you did not see in the first season.
Joe: Absolutely, and those are big secrets we definitely don’t want to blow yet…
How do you decide on some of the designs for the characters?
Steven: That is overseen by Erik Radomski who is just a genius, who is a longtime animation guru who works with an amazing staff of artists at Marvel Animation Studios. The designs all come through there and we’re always blown away by the stuff they come up with. Some of the characters are 30-50 years old and they just reinvent them from the original so it’s pretty.
So, is it safe to assume that the second season of Ultimate Spider-Man is bigger and better than the first?
Steven: I’d say it’s the Ultimate, Ultimate Spider-Man.
Do you ever worry that you might not be able to top yourselves in quality?
Steven: We have not worried about that at all. The second season is all we have to worry about right now.
Can you say how many episodes are you've finished so far?
Steven: We’ve already written 20 or 21 episodes so we’re almost done with Season 2 before it even shows up.
The season is returning with a one-hour episode. Is this going to be a good episode fans want to see?
Steven: Of course it’s going to be a good episode! You think we’d let a bad episode out? Haha. Listen, we approach every single one with care and we’ve thrown out full episodes because we’ve said ‘You know what? This idea is not good enough for this show!’ and we’ll just start over. That’s happened a few times, where we’d try to chase the story down and not like it because we don’t think it’s something people would enjoy. So yeah, the first few episodes are great and we can’t wait for it to kickoff.
So the season is going to kick-off really fast and awesome?
Steven: Oh yeah, it has great comedy…Joe did I cut you off?
Joe: No I was just going to use all the awesome, great, fantastic words I could think of. The show is kinetic, fun and full of energy and that’s NOT changing. So, y’know expect to see a high-level of Spidey.
The show introduces kids to Marvel characters they’ve never heard of before. Is this so when they start to read comics, they’ll better recognize these characters?
Steven: We would love it if kids read more comics. We can’t say otherwise, but the goal of the show is for kids who’ve never seen Spider-Man. That’s all we were told to do, make sure kids love a Spider-Man show. So that’s our goal.
Kids wouldn’t recognize someone like Spider-Ham, so was that episode just a big easter egg for us fans?
Joe: Like Steve keeps saying, we’re fans too, so once we realized the levels of comedy we were allowed to reach with the show and what we could get away with at Marvel Studios and DisneyXD, Spider-Ham was WAY up at the top. [laughs] We were totally excited to do that kind of stuff and it works great within the universe that we built with Spider-Man, so we love that kind of stuff. We were certainly hoping that fans who know that character would get it, but we also think it’s funny that Spider-Man got turned into a pig and so if you’re a kid you’ve never seen it before so to have a pig running around your screen is just funny.
Steven: And that’s a great example of, just sharing the room with Jeph Loeb who has the ultimate say in what we do and what we don’t and we’re all like ‘Hey, can we do Spider-Ham?’ and we think the answer will be ‘No’ but he’s like ‘Yes! Let’s do Spider-Ham!’
So there’s a small amount of the comedy stretches you can away with?
Steven: We haven’t really run into anything that they have said ‘No’ to!
Joe: Yeah, there are very few boundaries
Well, it seems I’ve sort of run out of things to ask. Thanks for talking with us!
Steven: That’s cool. I think you got a lot of stuff out of us.
Joe: I agree.
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