This year, superhero movie fans were treated to the debut of Tom Holland as Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Captain America: Civil War. Spider-Man's appearance represented a jump between worlds, as the previously separated Spider-Man movies finally became one with the cinematic universe of the Avengers.
That wasn' the only time a Spider-Man has jumped universes in recent months. Miles Morales, the Spider-Man of the now defunct Ultimate Marvel Universe, survived his universe's death to become a part of the main Marvel 616 universe.
Marvel Comics writer Brian Michael Bendis is vital to all of this. Bendis created Miles Morales, but he also wrote the adventures of the Ultimate Marvel Universe's Peter Parker before that, and the influence of those adventures on Marvel Studios' Spider-Man: Homecoming is evident from the film's premise and first trailer.
ComicBook.com spoke to Bendis about bringing Miles Morales to the 616 and his upcoming crossover with Spider-Gwen, as well as his feelings about Ultimate Spider-Man's influence on Spider-Man: Homecoming and seeing another of his Marvel Comics creations, Jessica Jones, comes to live-action in the Marvel Netflix series.
You’ve been writing Miles Morales as part of the main Marvel Universe for about a year now. How has the transition period from the Ultimate Marvel Universe to the All-New Marvel 616 universe felt?
BMB: It's always going to be a balancing act and for people who don't remember, I had actually quit the book because I thought Miles coming to 616 was as big a statement as I could make with the character, but then when I realized what Dan had planned for Peter Parker and what the other Spider-writers had planned for their character, that there wasn't actually a traditional Spider-Man character in the Marvel Universe that was a teenager balancing being a superhero with great talents and responsibilities at the same time.
I took back my quitting because then I realized I had more in front of me than I've ever had before as far as storytelling goes, and not to focus on the fish out of water, but just to focus on the teenage - I don't want to say angst - but on all the myriad emotions and feelings of being a complicated teenager in a complicated world. That seemed to reflect a reality that I wanted to write, that I knew was true. I'm very glad I stayed because this was the most fun I've had on the book since we started. It's because it does feel like we're skating on this edge. There are all these spider characters, so what's special about Miles? They constantly make me have to acknowledge that and reflect on it and write about it. That's something that, when you're the only spider character in the world, you can take that for granted.
So what's special about it? Well, he's Spider-Man. Now, well, there's other Spider-Men, so what's special about him? That gets pushed to the forefront, that's the stuff that, shockingly, people have been responding to the most, which is the emotional stuff. When we come out of the event, Miles has unraveled. Miles has experienced more than a young man should have to experience and is very, very worried about falling off the moral wagon because it would be so easy to. That is a very big deal for a young man who feels constantly pressured and pushed and pulled in different directions. That he could just go, "F*** it all" and go nuts.
Dealing with that, I think, is something that people deal with all the time in the real world. Also, in the real world where bad people aren't always punished, it's very difficult for teenagers to wrap their heads around what they're supposed to do with that. I think we're living in a world like that right now and law and justice doesn't always match like you were told when you were young, and he's going to be dealing with that as he goes forward, as a superhero and that's a very unique place as a superhero, let alone as Spider-Man.
That plus, Spider-Gwen is coming! There's a lot to unpack with Miles as far as Civil War II and just the normal things he's been going through goes forward. Again, the reaction to the book has been very interesting. People are legitimately scared about Miles and that's pretty cool.
You mentioned Spider-Gwen and we know that’s a crossover that’s about to happen. How have you been enjoying writing Miles’ love life since Secret Wars? I think you broke many Miles-Ms. Marvel shippers’ hearts with this Spider-Gwen thing.
BMB: It's very funny and I'll be very frank with you; The covers that have been released were consciously produced to evoke a reaction. Much like when we were young, we'd see covers and you'd see Wolverine making out with Phoenix and be like, "What?" That's fun to do. There is a grand tradition, going back to the earliest days of Marvel of doing stuff like this, but it's not being done just to mess with people. Nick Lowe actually was the one that went to me and Jason [Latour] before and said, "Hey, you guys should do cross over,” and I'm like, "Yeah, we should!" and then we talked. I didn't know Jason at all, and we started talking about what kind of fun story that we could tell about the two of them. We’re very aware of the age difference, very aware of the dimensional differences and we're diving in head first and enjoying writing that story immensely. It's a nice palette cleanser after all the drama of Civil War II.
With Ultimate Spider-Man, you defined what who teenage, high school years Peter Parker is for a generation. Now, Spider-Man: Homecoming is going back to the same setting. What’s your impression after seeing the first trailer for Spider-Man: Homecoming?
BMB: Listen, I was told a couple years ago by Kevin Feige that the new Spider-Man movie would be very flattering to the work I had done. I've been told that before and sometimes it is and sometimes it isn't.
Over the years, when asked, I would tell them, “Don't worry about Spider-Man. Worry about Peter Parker. That's the movie to tell.” When the trailer came out, I was quite flattered because it was all those things.
No one would know how much I liked this little bit – and of the things I did in Spider-Man, it is so tiny - but that scene in the opening of the trailer where Spider-Man is faced with masked criminals and they're wearing Halloween Avengers masks?
That actually happened in an issue of Ultimate Spider-Man and I loved that little bit. It's just a little something I like that I never even said out loud that I liked and then there it was on screen. I'm like, "Oh, good, they liked the bit I liked." The filmmakers liked my stupid little thing that I liked. When the fans started finding the images from the book and posting them online, I was like, "Oh good, people remembered that was from the book, I'm so happy."
I was extremely flattered because it was stuff a bunch of stuff that I really enjoyed and it was done in a tone of which I think Spider-Man should be done. I haven't seen the movie yet, but based on that trailer and based on what people know of my work, obviously, that's how I think a Spider-Man movie should go. My fingers and everything else on my body that crosses are crossed in hopes for this movie to be creatively successful. I'm very, very, very excited for it.
It's hard to describe, really. It's very surreal, I won't lie to you. It's very surreal when - and this happened to me numerous times - the first time when Maria Hill walked on camera, I was like, "Holy, what the hell?" And you're talking to someone who had their own TV show. Even Yo-Yo Rodriguez showing up in Agents of SHIELD. and getting her own little mini webisodes. That's a character me and [Alex Maleev] created. It's immensely flattering.
Some of it happens and I'm aware of it, and some of it happens where they surprise me with it legitimately and in a good way. They were not telling, they wanted to surprise me with it. It's all immensely flattering and I'm so happy it's happening while I'm still in the game and coherent.
The generation before me, they had to wait a long time to see this stuff make it to screen or be an homage in such a nice way, so I'm very happy, it's happening while I'm still walking around the halls. It's very cool. I don't take it lightly and I don't want to sound like I'm taking it lightly. It's a super big deal to me and the lock in which so much of it has been adapted in a positive way or better than what I had done, is insanely flattering and I'm just very happy to be around for it. I'm happy I'm alive, is basically what I'm saying.
Jessica Jones is another character that you created who has made into a live-action Marvel adaptation. You have the unique experience of creating the character and then returning to it fresh after she made it big on TV. How has that affected the way you write Jessica in the new series?
BMB: May I say, it is one of the most unique experiences I have ever had, and with my friends who are all in different scenarios in their careers, no one is having an experience like I'm having right now. It was adapted so lovingly and brought such acclaim. It got me a Peabody award for Christ's sake! I remember years ago, I was actually in a house of a writer who was working with us on Powers and he had a Peabody and I remember I was holding his Peabody thinking, "Wow, no one in comics would ever get one of these." It just would never happen. Then to get a call saying, “You're going to the Peabody's,” and not to be waiting tables was a really big deal.
The constant windfall of people embracing Jessica, rediscovering the original comics - Just last week there was a list of the best characters on TV of all time and there was Jessica on the list, very high up. These things are insane. It's crazy. I've told Melissa [Rosenberg] privately and publicly, Melissa and Krysten, it's just nothing but the best experience ever. There's been no downside at all and the only downside was, "Oh, I want to go back to do a comic book now." It got me thinking about her so much and the stories we could tell and would I mess it up if I came back? Would the new comics not reflect well in people's memory of the old ones?
That's sometimes what happens when they remember things differently or they compare one new issue to the entire experience of the previous 37. I was quite moved and I guess it was just good timing when the book came out because there are no new episodes out right now, but here's a book and it reflects the Marvel universe as it is right now. It's very different to where Jessica is in the TV show. We get to have our cake and eat it too. We get to come back to the character, tell new stories and get all the positiveness that came from her being on a hit TV show.
Of all the great positive things that have happened over the last couple of years, Jessica becoming such a genuine piece of pop culture is one of the greatest things ever. Clearly, she wasn't built for that, so the fact that she found her way to that is just beautiful.
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