Comic History 101: Ultimate Spider-Man: Power And Responsibility

Picture this. You are a writer working for Marvel Comics, you’ve only just started working there and you’ve thrown together a couple of half decent Daredevil scripts. Then you get the call. The Publisher, Bill Jemas, and the Editor in Chief, Joe Quesada, what you to reinvent Spider-Man. They want you to take Spider-Man back to issue one, retell the origin and reinvent every aspect of the wall crawlers life for a new generation. This is exactly what happened to Brian Michael Bendis in early 2000 and his response to the situation would go on to cement his standing as one of the greatest writers to have ever worked for Marvel Comics.

The Webs We Weave

After the original work done by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, the Ultimate Spider-Man series has had the greatest influence on how the character has been interpreted by wider popular culture. This is all down to Bendis’ reimagination of the character, in several interviews Bendis described the process as adapting Spider-Man for a movie. The core concepts of Spider-Man were carefully lifted and built upon for the industry of the early naughties, the character was given more depth and matured to appeal to the teenagers of the day. In the first arc, Power And Responsibility, we saw Spider-Man gain his powers and fight his consummate nemesis, the Green Goblin. However, Goblin felt terrifying and Spider-Man’s actions felt more human than ever before, with clever winks and nods to long term fans of the series. By the end of the first arc things the Bendis had given his all into creating a new aspect of the Marvel Universe, but it would ultimately be the fans that would decide the fate of the series.

A Spider-Man For A New Generation


It hadn’t been too long before the release of Ultimate Spider-Man that Marvel had already tried to reinvent Peter Parker’s world with the now infamous Spider-Man: Chapter One which had failed spectacularly. When Ultimate Spider-Man first hit the shelves many dismissed it as a simple flash in the pan, but very quickly the series began to gain a following. Critics began to give it glowing reviews and long time fans found that the book wasn’t ruining the character and was instead adding depth and streamlining continuity. Bendis was, and still is, a Spider-Man fanboy and he knew exactly what every fan wanted from the comics. He managed to reach into the heart of the character and then captured in with an elegance never before seen with Spider-Man. There were very few negative reviews of the early arcs as Bendis put painstaking work into almost every line of dialogue. All that work paid off an left a legacy that can still be felt today.

The World Wide Web And Peter Parker


As the Ultimate Spider-Man series came into vogue so did the use of the Internet and so many fans forums first began to bond over this version of Spider-Man. He became a version of the character for the modern age. He saw this as the films began to include more and more from Bendis’ comics and origins, with Amazing Spider-Man being the closest to a direct page to screen transition. The success of the book also saw the creation of several other Ultimate lines, including both the X-Men and the Avengers, which would form into the Ultimate Universe which in turn lasted for 15 years.

While the Ultimate Universe recently closed up shop before being integrated into the wider Marvel Universe, the effects of Bendis’ interpretation of the character can still be seen regularly in the current Spider-Man writer’s, Dan Slott’s, work. It’s also worth noting that Marvel was in a state of desperation in the early naughties, with some industry experts foreseeing a major collapse of the company, and there are some who believe Bendis’s approach could’ve been a major factor in the restoration of the company. Ultimate Spider-Man: Power and Responsibility was nothing short of a breath of new life into not just Spider-Man but also the entire Marvel Universe as a whole. Next week we’ll be looking at another character reinvention from the late eighties with Batman: Year One.

…That was this week’s Comic History 101!!! Check back on Saturday for a new BearSleuth Spoiler Free Comic Book Bundle!!!

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