ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN Media Day: Talking Marvel Animation wth Joe Quesada, Jeph Loeb, Clark Gregg, & Stan Lee

Ultimate Spider-Man is the newest cartoon to feature the most iconic Marvel character and the first to be produced by Marvel itself. Borrowing heavily from the comic book that shares its name, Ultimate Spider-Man features a young Peter Parker who has just started out in the superhero game and has come under the tutelage of Nick Fury. As the newest member of S.H.I.E.L.D., Spider-Man will team up with four other teenage superheroes–Nova, Power Man, Iron Fist, and White Tiger–as they learn to work together and become full-fledged superheroes.

On Tuesday in Los Angeles, Marvel Animation and Disney XD gathered together some of the luminaries behind their newest cartoon, Ultimate Spider-Man, for a media day to sit down and chat specifically about the show, and generally about the current state, and future plans, of Marvel Animation.

First up were Joe Quesada, Chief Creative Officer for Marvel Entertainment and Co-Executive Producer of Ultimate Spider-Man, and Jeph Loeb, Executive Vice President, Head of Television for Marvel Entertainment and Executive Producer of Ultimate Spider-Man. Loeb began by talking about the origins of new series. “The basic concept of the Ultimate Universe was to take concepts that Stan [Lee] had created in the 1960s and make them relevant to the 2000 audience,” Loeb said. “So our job on the animation side is to now, believe it or not 12 years [after the comic book series premiered], come back at it and say okay how do we tell that story for a new generation? Because every generation has their favorite Spider-Man cartoon, how do we make this one into, as we like to say, the ultimate Spider-Man cartoon?”

According to Loeb and Quesada, the answer to that is to bring in Marvel Comics creators. “You’re talking about Marvel making Marvel,” Loeb said. “You’re talking about a group of individuals who really truly understand the DNA of what it is that we do.” Added Quesada, “As we saw Marvel Studios start to make our movies, the thing that we kept hearing back from the hardcore fan, the casual fan, was that these movies had a distinctive Marvel feel that they hadn’t felt before in previous incarnations, in previous movies. So taking from that—and Jeph was so instrumental in this—saying we’re going to get Marvel people to make Marvel shows. And I think Ultimate Spider-Man is the first one that really is going to exhibit that Marvel DNA all the way through.”

To that end, Marvel turned to comic book and animation veterans Man of Action, which is comprised of Joe Casey, Joe Kelly, Duncan Rouleau, and Steven T. Seagle, to act as Supervising Producers of the series, along with industry legend Paul Dini serving and Creative Consultant. And, most important of all, Ultimate Spider-Man creator and writer Brian Michael Bendis is serving as a Consulting Producer.

“The most important thing for us right now is to establish a presence on Disney XD and to really get the message out there that if you’re looking for new stories that involve the Marvel characters and the Marvel superheroes that the place to find them is on Disney XD,” Loeb said. “The purest Marvel stuff, straight from the tap!” added Quesada.

David Levine, Vice President and General Manager for Disney XD spoke about their relationship with Marvel Animation. “Having Marvel on our platform is very important,” Levine said. “We’re targeted towards kids 6 to 14—hyper-targeted towards boys—so we’re going to be the place, week in week out, [that kids] can experience Spider-Man, that can experience the Marvel brand, that can experience the Marvel Universe.” As for more Marvel cartoons? “We have a full pipeline of content that Marvel is developing. Jeph shared a little bit of Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. at WonderCon, that’s something that’s in development. It’s Hulk in a very different way,” Levine said. “After Hulk there is a range of series that are in development that will come to the [Marvel Universe] block.”

This was followed by a funny and freewheeling appearance by actor Clark Gregg who plays S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Coulson in both the live action Marvel Studios films and in animated form in Ultimate Spider-Man. The only way to truly do this Q&A justice is to lay it all out for you:

Question: Is this a big year for Agent Coulson?

Clark Gregg: Sure seems that way, doesn’t it?


CG: Yeah, between Ultimate Spidey and this other little independent film that’s coming out–


CG: –it’s going to be a busy couple of months, I think.

Question: When you did the first Iron Man, did they already sign you for multiple films and properties?

CG: My understanding is that if you do craft service for Marvel, you have to sign a multi-picture deal–


CG: –because I think they knew that they were going to try to do something like this kind of epic multi-picture, multi-chapter adventure and they didn’t quite know exactly how they were going to do it. And they created a really amazing model where they just assembled—for my money—really top notch creative people… [Jon] Favreau and Robert Downey and Jeff Bridges, and you know, Kenneth Brannagh and Anthony Hopkins… and really evolved it, so I signed up for a couple of pictures which I thought was laughable and annoying given the fact that in the script that I agreed to do I had like six lines. I was doing it because I loved the comics so much, and I loved that cast and Favraeu, and the six lines were all with Downey and I was a huge fan. And when they started to send more and more scenes and when they revealed what the Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement and Logistics Division was–


CG: I started to think, like, this is turning into a cool gig. And as they’ve added the successive movies with successive directors and more reveals about who Coulson is and what he does and how he feels about it all… I just giggle.

Question: What about the experience of having this character weaved into the fabric of these comic books that you grew up on? It looks like you, sounds like you–

CG: I wish I looked as good as some of the ones I’ve seen in the comics. A lot of my friends are like, “Oh look at that!”


CG: “I can show them pictures that you’ve never looked that good.”


CG: Yeah, it’s incredible to me. I was really into this stuff when I was younger—a lot younger—and I loved Marvel Comics. I would draw them in class when I should have been trying to learn stuff. That’s why I had to be an actor because I spent all my time drawing Iron Fist and Warlock and trying to be like Jim Starlin. And then I let it go and did other stuff… so to come back to it was amazing. I grew up watching the Spider-Man cartoon! I could sing the theme right now, you know? So when they called and said we’re gonna have these kids, these super kids, at a high school and they’re gonna be monitored by Principal Coulson, are you comfortable hearing someone else’s voice when your daughter’s watching TV? And I was like, you fiendish bastards, no I’m not!


CG: I’m not at all! I immediately signed up. I just keep saying “yeah!” It seems like any time I bump into somebody from Marvel they’re saying, “Oh! Oh! Are you free for three months because we’re doing another one and Coulson has a good part.”

Question: Is this your first voice acting experience?

CG: I started a theater company in New York with David Mamet and Bill Macy years ago and  one of the things that Mamet loved was radio plays. And we did a bunch of them. And I directed one for NPR years ago with he and Felicity Huffman and I’ve always loved them but I’ve never done an animated show before and I always wanted to. I just never thought it would be as cool as being Principal Coulson and getting to hang out with Aunt May, you know, who’s kind of hot, in Ultimate Spider-Man.

Question: Why do you think that Agent Coulson has become such a super popular character?

CG: Frankly, it’s bewildering to me. I don’t know. I know that they give him fun stuff to do and one of the things that happened in Iron Man that really carried through was that he’s a little bit our eyes on the ground. He doesn’t have super powers. I would imagine that a large segment of the people watching the movies feel comfortable that they could beat him in a fight… although they’d be wrong.


CG: He’s kind of a normal guy who really believes in this stuff. And then the fun part is, with each movie they reveal that well maybe he’s not quite so normal. I think what the people respond to is that he has a sense of humor about it. When things get a little too out there or the superhero is being too much of a diva he doesn’t mind piping up and threatening to tase them. And I think it gives people a real link to this stuff. You don’t have to have a trillion dollar iron suit or be a Norse God to really connect to this world.

Question: Have they ever floated the idea to you, at any point, “You know he could carry his own movie down the line.”

CG: I’ve been floating that.


CG: I’ve been floating it… it’s like a dirigible made of iron.


CG: There’s a lot of interesting plans for Agent Coulson. So far I don’t say much, they just keep coming to me with more interesting stuff, stuff like [Ultimate Spider-Man]. Basically I just kind of wait until I hear what kind of crazy thing they’re going to come up with next.

Question: Joss Whedon has such a unique way of writing dialogue, what sort of unique fun passages did he give you to do [in Marvel’s The Avengers]?

CG: You’re asking for an Avengers spoiler?


CG: You realize we’re in the Disney building.


CG: If I told you this in a cafe I’m reasonably sure I would be evaporated by the spy satellites, but in this building I would explode. But I think you kind of know the answer if you know Joss, and if you know his work. From the minute I got the script I thought, wow this of course makes perfect sense. There’s some of the funniest stuff from any of the movies for my money. And at the same time everybody’s voice feels exactly an extension of the voice of the Tony Stark that you know and some new voices like Jeremy [Renner] and Hawkeye, and the whole relationship between he and Black Widow I think is going to be very exciting.

iFanboy: Agent Coulson’s been in films, in animation, and in print. Is there an album perhaps planned?

CG: I’m so glad you asked.


CG: “Coulson Sings The Golden Hits”, is that what you’re talking about?


CG: No. That’s one thing… I think that’s where the limit is. We will never see it. Although now that I’m thinking about it, I’m thinking of the [William] Shatner Rocket Man spoken word album, I don’t see why there couldn’t be “Coulson Reads The Best of Asimov”.


Question: Is your family into the Marvel Universe in the films and now this show?

CG: Well, they are now.


CG: It’s funny to have a daughter. If I had a ten year old son I think I would be a pretty big guy around the house but unless I end up in a scene with Taylor Swift in one of these movies–


CG: It’s just getting me no love at my house.

Question: How different is Coulson in the animated show?

CG: It’s funny, it’s similar to the movies. The animated world is different than any of the other movies, but then each of the movies has been different than any of the other movies. Marvel still does the thing they do so well: there’s action and there’s still characters you care about with problems that are real. And at the same time it’s funny and it’s tongue-in-cheek and I’ve been really impressed with the writing. I thought I was going to spend the whole time going (makes grunting noises) and instead there’s really funny stuff. The interaction between Peter Parker and Principal Coulson is fun and funny and I think that it feels really correct for the animated universe.

Finally, you can’t really have a Spider-Man media day without an appearance by his co-creator, Stan Lee. “I think it’s so hip. He has his little wisecracks to the audience. It’s today. Everything about it is today,” Lee said of Ultimate Spider-Man. “It’s well written, it’s beautifully animated and it’s cool.” Looking back on Spider-Man’s long history in animation, Lee observed, “All of the Spider-Man cartoons were emblematic of the time they were done. And I think that this Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon could only have been done in this period of time. It’s just such a beautiful cartoon,” Lee said. “I like to feel that with our cartoons—like with Ultimate Spider-Man—there’s a feeling that we’re relating to the viewer, that we’re all sharing a little inside joke together that the outside world isn’t aware of. I think it’s important for Marvel and Disney to keep that spirit alive.”

Ultimate Spider-Man premieres as part of the “Marvel Universe” animation block on Disney XD on Sunday, April 1.


  1. By limiting their animation to such a narrow age range, DC will continue to crush Marvel in the animation area.

    • Someone’s being a party pooper.

    • I disagree, Marvel can do what DC does and adapt classic stories in addition to things for a younger audience. DC did Teen Titans which was aimed at the younger viewers, but they still continued to release dvd’s with broader themes. Marvel seems to be putting all their eggs in the one basket. That may be an unwise strategy.

  2. I just hope that Avengers is as good as it was last season. And Agent Coulson you’re not fooling me. I saw what you did on the Shield. Shame on you sir.

  3. I absolutely love the character of agent coulsion, I’d love to see him kick some ass in the Avengers movie.

  4. I’m a big Coulson fan, and I loved this interview with CG. He seems like he’s really enjoying the role. And with Man of Action on board I’m pretty sure Ultimate Spidey will be solid.