With "Ultimate Spider-Man: The Avenging Spider-Man" out this week, the series' Associate Producer Harrison Wilcox spoke with MTV Geek about teaming up the wall crawler with Earth's Mightiest heroes across the first season of the Disney XD series. Find out how it feels for a Spider-fan to work on the character's hit animated series, and how this disc ended up as a selection of episodes instead of a complete season.
"I came in like a lot of people from my generation watching the 'X-Men' animated series and the 'Spider-Man' series that came after that," Wilcox tells me when I ask him about his history as a Spider-Man fan. While not steeped in the years of comic book lore, he got to discover the character through the animated adventures of the Fox series. It wasn't until he saw the first film by director Sam Raimi that he cracked open one of the comics, from there getting hooked on "Amazing Spider-Man" and Brian Michael Bendis' "Ultimate Spider-Man" are the same time.
Explaining that when it comes to animated programs, these types of sets are typically organized by theme, Wilcox says that previously, the studios would simply release entire seasons in a set. Curiously, against conventional wisdom, they found that fans preferred themed sets, particularly when a series was generally episodic (versus a live-action series with a tightly-constructed arc like "Fringe").
Wilcox called out the episode "Freaky" as one of his favorites, that episode pairing Wolverine and Spider-man in a body swap comic misadventure based loosely on the Bedis-written story in the "USM" comic. "That really just sort of jumps out of the comics for me, personally. And the 'Homesick Hulk' has a special place in my heart."
The first season, which Wilcox says represents some of Peter's growing pains in working alongside S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers is represented here. Season one was about Peter learning to be a part of a team while the second season, currently airing on Disney XD, is about the character learning to lead a team (albeit one that happens to live in his house). "He has to get better at being a young hero himself, but has to help his team get better."
That means season two will involve episodes spotlighting new additions Power Man, Iron Fist, White Tiger, and Nova, as Peter tries to help each character resolve issues from their pasts while viewers get a chance to explore their origins. "We're not trying to adapt the comic books or movies," Wilcox tells me when I ask about challenges bringing some of these characters to the screen (in some cases, for the first time). It's a combination of not being constrained by other versions of the character while also smoothing out some rough edges for modern audiences (for instance, Luke Cage's origin involved prison experimentation on the character--something that wouldn't fly at Disney).
He has a character whose updated origin he can't talk about yet, but among the revised characters currently on the show, Wilcox singles out the new Venom who was featured prominently in the first season and will have a major part in season two. He jokes that he doesn't know if he could continue working on the show if they didn't somehow find a way to work in a "Maximum Carnage" story at some point.
All of this tinkering doesn't mean the "Ultiamte Spider-Man" team is trying to mess around with the essential elements of Peter Parker. Wilcox says that Peter's relationship with power, responsibility, and the friends and family around him are central to the character as well as hero as science geek angle. "He loves science, he has a lab kit in his basement in the 'Ultimate Spider-Man' comic. He's this science geek kid."
As for the next set, Wilcox couldn't reveal any specifics, but did say that fans should notice a distinct arc in the first six episodes of season two involving six villains in a classic team-up.
"Ultimate Spider-Man: The Avenging Spider-Man" is available now on DVD.