On April 1, the Marvel Animation block kicks off on Disney XD, featuring the return of the beloved Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes. It will also give us the premiere of Ultimate Spider-Man, which is not to be confused with Ultimate Comics Spider-Man. This cartoon is about Peter Parker, not Miles Morales, and it's brought to us in part by Man of Action Studios, which features Marvel Comics veteran creators Joe Kelly, Steven Seagle, Duncan Rouleau and Joe Casey as supervising producers.
But the show is not going to be SOLELY about Peter Parker, as he's going to have some amazing friends tagging along as a part of a S.H.I.E.L.D. training program for young heroes. No, not Firestar or Iceman (as yet, at least), but Marvel's been showing off a few other members of the superhero cast this week, and here's your run-down of what they've shown us so far.
These first two guys, you might expect.
Rouleau: “The ‘Ultimate Spider-Man’ version Iron Fist is definitely a Danny, and not a Daniel, Rand. Unlike some other super heroes on his team, he isn't given to big mouthy boasts or wild displays of teenage angst. Danny embraces a go-with-the-flow attitude. Stepping out from the confines of K'un L'un into the madhouse of New York, Danny tends to look at everything with a wide-eyed sense of the new that offers a unique perspective vs. his more jaded fellow trainees. But don't be fooled, beneath that kick-back demeanor is the most deadly kick in the world…and, of course, an iron fist.
“Danny is unaffected. He sees everything with a child-like wisdom. His observations, much like his fighting style, are direct. He calls his fellow trainees on their junk, but without criticism or judgment behind the words. As a comedy tool, Danny's "zen insights" – being deep or oblique, you choose – often leave the others wondering what he just said.”
Supevising Producer Cort Lane: “Without giving too much away, he is in the world of man as opposed to K’un-L’un right now to continue to grow his abilities and understanding of the universe. We won’t get the details for quite some time, but Iron Fist is on a quest to grow his skills, which is why he’s a part of the S.H.I.E.L.D. training program, just like all the other kids. They all have a similar need to grow their abilities and skill sets, and they all know they have a lot to learn. Iron Fist perhaps understands that better than any of them.
"In an upcoming story involving magic and magical Marvel characters, Spidey is very skeptical in having never been exposed to magic, but Iron Fist opens him up to an understanding of the world of magic, the world of the mind, the world of dreams, and provides a real education for Spidey.”
Consulting Producer Brian Michael Bendis: “There are some people who are more familiar with my work, who are going to think that I shoehorned Luke Cage into yet another project. I completely understand why that may seem to be the case, but Luke was on the team before I was on the team. As far as this cartoon went, it was something that the guys had put together before I had joined on. But it is fun to write him as a teenager, and I do sort of write him with the knowledge of the man he’s going to become. That’s kind of the way I wrote the Peter Parker in ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN [the comic series] for many years. You’re writing the teenager who you know will one day become the Peter Parker we know and love. This is the Luke that will eventually become Luke Cage.
“I find him to be a very noble character. That is not a word he would use to describe himself, which I think is the definition of nobility. He’s the one that’s the least neurotic about his heroism. [For him], that’s what you do–you get super powers, and you do the right thing. There’s something very cool about that. He’s kind of like the rock of the team, just by the nature of him standing still, feet firmly on the ground, the others bouncing off of him. It’s a nice chemistry.
“If there’s anything not broken in comics, it’s the dynamic between Iron Fist and Power Man. They’re like the Laverne and Shirley of comics. They’re The Odd Couple. They’re fantastic together. And that dynamic only gets more interesting with the connection of the other three teammates. No matter what happens on the team, these two are good.”
Marvel Television Head Jeph Loeb: “He’s a little more carefree. While he’s got street smarts, he doesn’t have the same troubled past as the adult Luke has. What we like about the ‘Ultimate Spider-Man’ Luke Cage is that he’s still instilled with his fierce sense of loyalty and family. It’s an important theme to the new series and Luke embodies that well.”
Creative Consultant Paul Dini: “We wanted a young female voice on the team and while she is new, White Tiger proved to be the perfect choice. She's tough and smart, and her cat-like reflexes allow her to match Spider-Man leap for leap in agility. Also, Spidey's wisecracking attitude really rubs the more serious Tiger, a.k.a. Ava Ayala, the wrong way, which gives us a lot of character conflict when they are trying to solve a bigger problem. It's fun to make sparks fly when you're writing for two contentious teammates.
“As a legacy heroine and the newest in a family of heroes to use the White Tiger name, Ava feels she has a lot to prove to S.H.I.E.L.D., to her teammates, and to herself. It's important to her that she excels at everything she does, as she plans on leaving the team someday as a full super heroine in her own right. She was Fury's fair haired girl until Spider-Man showed up, and she wants to show the newbie that despite his rep as a solo hero, he still has a long way to go toward earning her respect.
We were free to experiment with her powers, her history and her look until we came up with a character that fit the unique tone of our show. That said, White Tiger is very much a heroine in the classic Marvel mode, and while she is new, there's something about her that seems very right in Spider-Man's universe. Cool powers, defiant attitude, compelling backstory, it's like she's been there all along.
“Like her namesake, White Tiger is tough, proud, and when the chips are down, will fight to the very end. She's in there fighting it out side by side with the boys, or throwing them around if they get in her way. She's as smart as she is strong, and while brainwork comes easily to Peter Parker/Spider-Man, White Tiger is more focused and a much better student. You also get the idea that Ava has to work harder to keep the savage Tiger side of her nature in check. Without discipline, she could be one claw pop away from becoming Wolverine. That's why she is a bit of a control freak and a girl who pushes herself to be better than her teammates.”
Lane: “She’s really into S.H.I.E.L.D.. She would love to be the next Black Widow. She enjoys the S.H.I.E.L.D. training, and she thinks the Helicarrier’s the coolest thing in the world.”
Loeb: “Nova is an enormously popular character. When the decision in publishing was for Rich Rider to sacrifice himself [at the climax of The Thanos Imperative] we wanted to respect that. We all know that there are other members of the Nova Corps and this is the story of one such member – Sam Alexander. He’s very much like Peter Parker was at the beginning of Spidey’s career – he’s got a lot to prove. The difference is that Sam comes with a full blown attitude – which, as we may suspect, might be covering up some insecurities.
“He’s very funny – often at his own expense. Nova sees himself as a natural leader. Unfortunately, he’s the only one who sees himself that way. While he and Spidey are often at odds, we’ll see that friendship grow as the series goes on. He has very different voice than the rest of the cast. He doesn’t quite know the limitations of his powers, so while there’s an irreverence that’s great fun, he’s also got a lot to learn.
“We’re huge Nova fans as well, so rest assured Nova will be front and center with the heavy-duty action. There’s no task he’s not willing to get into and that bravery–even at personal risk–will put him in harm’s way more often than not. He loves playing the hero, so look for Nova to be the breakout star of the series!”
So what do you think?