Drake Bell is no stranger to the world of comic books, having voiced Peter Parker and his wall-crawling alter-ego in Marvel's Ultimate Spider-Man animated series. In fact, with that series earning more episodes than any other animated Marvel series in history, Bell has become the definitive voice of the character for an entire generation. His latest film, Bad Kids of Crestview Academy, has roots in the world of comic books, but as a computer hacker with a penchant for pornography, Bell's character is a little more rough around the edges than the wholesome Peter Parker.
We recently caught up with Bell to talk comic books, playing a character audiences might despise, and how desperate he is to bring his favorite comic book character to life.
PopCultureNow: Before we get too much into your recent movie, I just wanted to congratulate you on your epic run as the voice of Spider-Man.
Drake Bell: Thank you. That's very, very awesome, so stoked on that. I can't believe how many episodes we did. I'm like, "I went in that room that many times? That's crazy." It was a lot of fun.
PopCultureNow: Have you always been such a comic book fan?
Drake: I remember I used to sneak into my brother's room because I'd steal his Spider-Man comic books and then read them and then have to put them back before he got back from school. Being able to go from there to hearing your voice as this iconic character, it's a trip, man, it's so weird.
PopCultureNow: I'm sure when you meet kids who watch the show, they don't always realize, "Oh, that's what the voice of Spider-Man looks like in real life." I'm sure you've had plenty of amazing interactions.
Drake: When you walk up and kids are around or something and they hear your voice, it trips them out. They're like, "Wait a minute. Wait. Whoa. Wait. What? Wait. Spider...what?" So funny.
PopCultureNow: What comics did you read growing up?
Drake: I have cases and cases of comics. I was really into Marvel growing up, and DC. Batman was my favorite, and then X-Men. Then I got into all of the Daniel Clowes comics. Then all the Ghost World and Harvey Pekar stuff, all of the really out-there, left-of-center, jazz of the comic book world.
PopCultureNow: That sounds like a pretty standard trajectory of Marvel and DC being a gateway into more mature stuff.
Drake: Like Black Hole and all this. I got into all that when I discovered Invincible, which is now my all-time favorite comic, probably. If I had to pick my all-time favorite comic it would be Invincible.
PopCultureNow: Then you must be pretty upset about the fact that it's ending, I assume.
Drake: Whoa, whoa, whoa, hold on.
PopCultureNow: Did I just break the news to you?
Drake: Don't say anything because I'm a few issues behind right now. I just went and bought some new ones. Don't let me know anything.
PopCultureNow: I won't let you know anything. [Writer Robert] Kirkman has just said that it's ending in the near future - I won't say exactly how many or left.
Drake: You know what they need to do? They need to make a movie and I need to play Invincible.
PopCultureNow: I'm sure we could put in a good word for you.
Drake: That would be a dream. Oh my gosh. That'd be so cool.
PopCultureNow: If the only thing that comes from you starring in Bad Kids of Crestview is that you do an interview that gets you a role as Invincible, I'd say it's worth it.
Drake: I know, could you imagine? That'd be amazing. I'll even play Oliver. I definitely want to play Mark, but I'll be Oliver. I don't care.
PopCultureNow: You'd be willing to settle.
[Editor's note: Bell has long been pining for a chance to play Invincible, something he mentioned when we interviewed him in September 2015.]
PopCultureNow: Speaking of comics and films, how did you first get involved with this comic book adaptation?
Drake: I didn't even realize at first that it was a comic book or anything like that but that was a cool thing after the fact, which is cool and is helpful, as well. It's awesome because now I get to go to these comic-cons and we're doing panels, and any chance for me to get to a comic-con and fool around, I love that.
PopCultureNow: What was it like playing such a despicable character in this film?
Drake: It was funny because, working with the director, he would walk in, he'd be like, "Be skeezier. Hit on her more," and I'm like, "Ugh, okay." Of course, I'm working with Sammi [Hanratty] who I was on Drake and Josh with when she was eight years old, so I remember her as this cute little eight-year-old and he's like, "Look at her and bite your lip..." I'm like, "Oh my God."
It was definitely fun being able to do something where there's not a bunch of executives going, "That's not right for children's television."
PopCultureNow: Were there any moments on set where the filmmakers saw your sleazy attitude and said, "Okay, that's a little too far,"?
Drake: Yeah, definitely. It was really hard for Sammi and me to even do the scene without just cracking up laughing.
If the camera's not on her, if the camera's on her back and it's on my close-up or something, she's sitting there making faces and being goofy. She's a total goof. Trying to do this scene where I'm being skeezy and hitting on her and all this sexual stuff, I'm like, "Dude, I'm going to burst out laughing."
PopCultureNow: This film is violent and vulgar, which is a departure from some of your wholesome characters, so are you hoping to explore more R-rated projects in the future?
Drake: I love all aspects of storytelling, whether it's something that's just suspenseful that doesn't have any gore or if it's something that's like, for example, Invincible. When you read Invincible, I would open up some of those pages, and it's so gory, bloody, but it's almost to a comic effect.
I love everything from Evil Dead to something like The Sixth Sense, where there's really not any gore or anything.
PopCultureNow: Since the film features some really bad kids doing really bad things, what’s the worst thing you did as a kid?
Drake: I was always in detention in school, but I never really did anything bad. I was never a bad kid. I just talked a lot. I would rather make the class laugh than hear about what a participle is.
PopCultureNow: Well that’s not too bad.
Drake: I'd steal my brother's BB guns and we'd have dirt cloud wars and windows would be broken and stuff like that but I wasn't trying to be a bad kid. I was just trying to have some fun.
PopCultureNow: I want to know why we haven't seen a comic or a movie called "Dirt Cloud Wars."
Drake: There you go.
PopCultureNow: We've all thrown dirt clods at one another as kids, I think it's time that we explore that up on the big screen.
Drake: Me and my brother would go out the back and we'd make them out of the mud and then wait for them to dry and then we would annihilate kids.
PopCultureNow: I hope you wouldn't sneak rocks in there or anything like that.
Drake: No, just glass. Glass and nails.
PopCultureNow: That's totally fine. Glass is just hard sand anyway. It comes from the Earth.
Check out Bad Kids of Crestview Academy when it lands in select theaters and on VOD this Friday!