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...

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By Alex Lynch - 1/17/2013
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…

Joe: Hmmm…


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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34 Comments
jimpinto24 - 1/17/2013, 6:15 PM
This shit is way too long !
CaptainObvious - 1/17/2013, 6:16 PM
"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?”

I think we all learned a long time ago to never take Quesada's advice about Spider-Man.
Kingdork - 1/17/2013, 6:19 PM
"I think we all learned a long time ago to never take Quesada's advice about Spider-Man."
Well, duh! Thanks Captain!
TPerryoo7 - 1/17/2013, 6:24 PM
Haha, I like the show. Its 100% for kids, but its had me rolling with laughter numerous times. I can find a serious spider-man elsewhere when I need to, I like Ultimate Spidey.
Pending - 1/17/2013, 6:31 PM
This show made me despise S.H.I.E.L.D. :p
bluedude - 1/17/2013, 6:31 PM
the 90 spiderman series was the best spiderman show ever made
bluedude - 1/17/2013, 6:31 PM
one thing i do like about it is coulson and stan lee
DrDoom - 1/17/2013, 6:34 PM
I will say what I will about Sony's mediocre take on Spider-Man in film, but they made the best [frick]ing Spidey show ever.

Bring Spectacular back goddammit
CaptainObvious - 1/17/2013, 6:46 PM
You're welcome, kingdork.
TMW1987ProudProWrestlingFan - 1/17/2013, 6:57 PM
indigobolt has it spot on! The 90's cartoon was the absolute best & nothing will ever top it in whatever direction they go in for a Spidey cartoon, whether more mature or kid themed, the 90's one still stands the test of time, just like the 90's X-Men, 90's Fantastic Four, 90's Iron Man & 90's Silver Surfer. It seems everything that came in the naughties / 00's just couldn't hold up with the exception of Spectacular Spider-Man. It was good, just not quite to the level of the 90's Spidey show for my liking but it was damn close. And of course Wolverine & The X-Men was the next best X-Men cartoon after the 90's one.

I really just hate most of the modern takes on things after the 90's. All the 90's toons kind of set the bars high for the kind of show aim & art / drawings that I like & the perception of ages that the charcters should be (I hate how Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Nova & White Tiger are of Teen age, I feel they should have gone with them at Adult age & helping Peter grow into his role as a Hero / into his role with Shield. Spidey should be the only Teen in the team) & I don't think anything has lived up to their predecessors other than Spectacular for Spider-Man & Wolverine & The X-Men for the X-Men.

Lets hope we get a GOTG toon soon but with a bit more 90's based style & tone & the characters looking like something resembling the 2008 take on the team.
TMW1987ProudProWrestlingFan - 1/17/2013, 7:01 PM
Ha, Ha! All my exact same thoughts & sentiments when reading through the questions ToDandy. Would love to now what fans they were listening to or even how when things were being deleted from various pages.

The outbreak of hatred toward this show was insane & the uproar about Avengers EMH ending have bth seem to have been forgotten quickly in their minds.

Oh, that's anothe rshow I should have mentioned along with Spectacular Spidey & Wolverine & The X-Men, Avengers EMH was PERFECT!!!!!
TheNightmareVirus - 1/17/2013, 7:14 PM
Bring back Spectacular? More like bring back the '94 Spider-Man series with the majority of the cast (especially Barnes) and actually finish the cliffhanger ending at the end of the final season. Spider-Man in 1800's England with Carnage playing the role of Jack the Ripper? That is a perfect Carnage story. I don't quite understand how anyone can call Spectacular better than the 90's show. It was the Batman: TAS of Marvel TV shows.
GLprime2814 - 1/17/2013, 7:19 PM
I just can't watch tis show, I've given it several chances.
TrueRedBlue - 1/17/2013, 7:53 PM
People hate this show. But you guys have to realize, it's NOT for us, it's for the little kids.. My niece and lil bro LOVE the show, so I'm alright with it :)
So what if it's less complex? Little kids love it, and that's all that matters. It's a Disney cartoon, for Christ's sake.
JorLBola - 1/17/2013, 7:59 PM
The Lizard looks like one of the Street Sharks...
ATrueHero1987 - 1/17/2013, 8:08 PM
@TheAlexLynch ....O_o...what?! I can't....what about Spider-Man Unlimited?!
superotherside - 1/17/2013, 9:30 PM
Meh, I still liked the other shows that had more complexity to them. When I was a kid I loved them too so why not have it be enjoyable for all ages? Oh well...
TMW1987ProudProWrestlingFan - 1/17/2013, 10:41 PM
*Applauds* to both UniBeam & ToDandy, great posts!

Exactly! The "It's for kids" excuse is the ultimate cop out anybody can say to give somebody / the Marvel Animated creative team a pass on a crappy show. That line is inexcusable!

HumanTorch83 - 1/17/2013, 11:41 PM
Really not feeling this show much. It's TOO goofy at times.

I'm really only interested in Avengers Assemble, since I'm still watching EMH's over and over again... Loved that show, and the characters interactions... Hawkeye & Hulk, Hawkeye Panther, Thor & Wasp.

Whatever
Parker2017 - 1/18/2013, 12:50 AM
Interesting interview Alex. It was interteresting to see how these guys think, as for my opinion, Spider-Man TAS well have its place in my ehart but to accurate Spectacular Spider-man is the msot accuate, fun, and best, it had great action, humor and a grand love letter to all incarnations of spider-man. to all the TAS fans, its a fun seires not the best, and lets face it we lkike it for nastalisa, it ahd stock footage, a few aniamtion problems, and mix wirtting formt eh cast. Still Barnes and Keaton ARE THE REAL SPIDER-MEN! :D


as for USM, idk, i;m not a fan, but how can you not love Stan Lee?
youknowmyname - 1/18/2013, 1:47 AM
Remember when Saturday morning superhero cartoons didn't treat their audience like morons? "Whoa-hooo kids! Wacky comedy!" This Benny Hill-lite Spidey is just godawful. Note to the producers: "for kids" doesn't translate to "moronic" and having Spidey pause mid-fight to imagine caricatured versions of himself is NOT spidey. Ugh.
Shamo - 1/18/2013, 2:45 AM
not sure why my comment was deleted when i simply said the show is horrible. didn't know this site filtered opinions.
Shamo - 1/18/2013, 2:57 AM
@todandy

exactly. people who use the "it's for kids" excuse must not realize that 99.99% of cartoons are for kids. the 1st Avatar series is probabbly the greatest cartoon ever imo, 2nd only to the Legend of Korra and it was aimed at kids as well. if the shows horrible, then the shows horrible. it has nothing to do with what age group is the targeted audience.
StarSpangledBruce - 1/18/2013, 5:20 AM
Nice interview!

Haters gonna hate, this is a AWESOME show. :D
StarSpangledBruce - 1/18/2013, 5:25 AM
@TheAlexLynch Alex is right.

I know some of you are comparing USM to BTAS and Legend of Korra, but I think you are forgetting shows like Animaniacs and Duck Tales which are critically acclaim shows and take themselves even less seriously Ultimate Spider-Man (which has legitimately serious moments).
Shamo - 1/18/2013, 7:09 AM
i agree. to even compare USM to Animaniacs or even Ducktales is insane. those are both critically acclaimed shows with various awards and noms. USM is the complete opposite.

and the problem isn't that the show doesn't take itself seriously. its that its simply not good. or atleast imo it isn't.
DeadpoolMikeyXD - 1/18/2013, 7:39 AM
I still hate Luke Cage's costume. Over-all tights and dark shades? Do better!!!
spectre88 - 1/18/2013, 7:52 AM
Despite what has been said, I seriously doubt EMH will share the same universe as AA or USM. Just wait and see when Iron Fist or Cage show up in AA. You'll see annoying teenage versions of the actual characters just like USM.
Shamo - 1/18/2013, 9:24 AM
@Unibeam

exactly man, exactly. when i was a kid you know what superhero shows i was watching? X-men, Spiderman, Iron Man, Incredible Hulk, Wild CATS, Batman etc. etc. etc. imo, that was the golden age of cartoons and was umatched untill maybe last year when shows like: Legend of Korra, Young Justice, Tron Uprising, Avenger EMH and Green Lantern managed to come out at the same time.

and you know what those shows had in common? none of them treated me like i was a child. so when exactly did cartoon writers start to look down on their audience?
KeefNCookies - 1/18/2013, 9:49 AM
“If you were making a new Spider-Man cartoon today, and for kids, what would it be like?”

What about that creepy scene of Trapster hitting on MaryJane? This is supposed to be for KIDS? How far mankind has fallen... This show is a complete joke to everything that's great about the Marvel Universe (obviously for more than one reason).
KeefNCookies - 1/18/2013, 9:55 AM
@Shamo
"and you know what those shows had in common? none of them treated me like i was a child. so when exactly did cartoon writers start to look down on their audience?"

YES!!! Words of wisdom and by far the greatest thing said on this site in a very long time.

My kids LOVE A:EMH, Last Airbender & Legend of Korra (though I dont like sexuality/romance in animation for kids, and I didnt let them watch Young Justice because of that and also they are still too young to follow it all). When they watched USM... they were so confused with the very ridiculous cutscenes and not amused with the overall attitude of the characters.

Not to mention all the many reasons I hate it, I think Shamo's quote is by far the greatest reason it fails.
KeefNCookies - 1/18/2013, 9:57 AM
Last note: Thundercats (2011). I'm so sad it got canned, which wasnt mentioned above and maybe for a reason, but I loved watching that with my girls :(
DrDoom - 1/19/2013, 8:38 AM
@Shamo

Certain users filter opinions. Especially Nails, who hates me for no reason.
mudduc - 1/22/2013, 6:11 AM
I just finished watching the first two episodes of season 2 with my 8 year old son and I am appalled. I seriously think they are damaging the brand. If this spider-man is the only introduction to the character for my son’s generation, I predict a strong drop in popularity. Who would want to be a fan of that idiot?

Episode 1: Spider-man still feels guilty for Connors losing his arm (so he did something stupid last season). He wants to help but messes up and trips security protocols. This causes Connors to inject himself to save Spider-man. So Spidey screw-ups are the cause of the Lizard.

Episode 2: Spider-man gives Electro a charge-up by webbing him to a big screen and firing a charge down his web. Electro thanks him while taking over all the electricity for the city. So, more screw-ups have Spidey responsible for the new Electro.

On top of the big stupids, the writers have Spidey/Peter constantly saying moronic things or statements like “Puerile humor? I’d be insulted if I knew what that means.” or “…for the coup-de-grace; whatever that means”. (These examples may not be exact since I’ve deleted the episodes so I can’t check them but they are close enough for my discussion) I can only assume the powers-that-be must think Peter has to be shown as an idiot so he can be relatable to the mass public. Sorry but this can’t-be-bothered-with-no-book-learning isn’t true to the character and isn’t the Spider-Man/Peter Parker that I grew up with.

Peter knows what words mean. Peter knows how to defeat security measures. He is a genius in the top 10 if not the absolute top of the minds in the Marvel universe. He may screw up on occasion but he is not the _complete_ screw up as written for this show.

I’m embarrassed to show this rendition of the character to my son. I think I had to stop both episodes about 5 or 6 times to talk about how the “real” spider-man isn’t like the moron depicted on Ultimate Spider-Man. I want to watch the rest of the episodes because I’m a fan and I am always interested in any Spidey story but I really don’t want to imprint that idiot onto my son’s psyche as what spider-man means.

One last nit (not a small one in my opinion) is that the producers don’t even take care to assure that physics works right on their show. If the “Men Of Action” don't know how physics works, they should hire someone to review and help them fix things. For example, if you jump a bike, it will continue on its path and perhaps crash at the end of the parabolic curve even if you shut off all power after you leave the ground. It will _not_ drop out of the sky like it hit an invisible wall.

It is my opinion that they need to change this show fast or run a big risk of irreparable damage to the brand. Good ratings for this show is a bad thing for Spider-Man.

Kent Larson
3 time regional champion, CCS Sportbike
Applied Math/Physics graduate (way back in 1996)
Author "Motorcycle Trackday Handbook"

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