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AICN COMICS Q&@: Matt Adler & Johnny Destructo check out the new ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN ANIMATED SERIES and talk with Chris Eliopoulos!

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Q’s by Johnny Destructo & Matt Adler!

@’s by Chris Eliopoulos
Of the ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN Animated Series!

Johnny Destructo here! Matt Adler and I were fortunate enough to attend the Marvel Launch Party for the brand spankin' new ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN cartoon. You’ve surely already read our ground-breaking interview with writer/producer Joe Kelly, and soon you’ll see our talk with Marvel Comics' main man, Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada, but now it’s time to hear from letterer extraordinaire, Chris Eliopoulos. This jack of all trades adapted the ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN episodes back into comics, from whence the character was born. Now, you’d think after all his years in the industry things like this wouldn't happen, but in the credits for the very first issue…

CHRIS ELIOPOULOS (CE): …they spelled my name wrong.


MATT ADLER (MA): Yeah! It’s missing an “o” and it’s got an “i” instead.

JD: That's amazing. (laughs)

CE: Every convention, it's hysterical…because I'll see on the list, like signings for the Marvel booth…it's always spelled wrong. Always.

JD: Now, you're a letterer as well, did you not do the lettering for the credits?

CE: No!

MA: (laughs)

CE: That was the one thing I didn't do! I did everything else in it, except for the design work. So any of the story pages, everything on there was me…obviously except I didn't do the artwork. They sent me the actual video with a time-stamp on it, so I would go through it all step-by-step, I'd pick the frame, I'd write down the frame number, and I would say "send me these" and they would send me over full-screen-sized images. And then I would take those and adapt them.

MA: How long did it take, compared to putting together your own comic?

CE: It's funny--I could probably draw it faster than I put this together.

MA: It sounds…I don’t want to say tedious, but…

CE: Well, they've started giving me the scripts now, which they're very protective of and they don't want…

MA: Leaks.

CE: Yeah. So my name is on everything, so if it ever got out, they would know to come right after me! The video, I can only view it online, they won't let me download it, so sometimes I'll get "buffer" issues, I'm trying to get the scene and figure it out, but you have to incrementally go through every…so I've seen the first episode…30 times?

MA: Does it get better each time?


CE: You know what? It holds up! So it's a credit to those guys that it really did hold up through multiple viewings, like you miss stuff, you see stuff in the backgrounds. It's very "Ferris Bueller"-esque? If that's a word?

MA: Because he talks to the camera.

JD: He breaks the 4th wall.

CE: He does. And there's scenes where he's in the middle of the scene and he'll stop and there's a freeze-frame behind him and he'll be like "Can you believe this?" That kind of thing.

MA: I confess, this is a guilty pleasure…you ever watch "Saved By The Bell"?

CE: Yeah! I grew up with it!

MA: I used to love it when Zach Morris would do that! (laughs)

CE: Yeah! (laughs) But yeah, it does hold up. And again they had the best guys there. They had Joe [Quesada], Joe Kelly, they had Paul Dini in this thing, and Jeph Loeb. Just like the movies now, they had the guys coming in and saying "This is what's great about Spider-Man and let's get rid of the rest", so it really does work out well. Viewing this 50 times in a sitting…it still held up.

MA: So how did you get involved? Were you involved with Man Of Action in other things and they brought you in on this?

CE: No, no, what happened is I'm one of those weird guys at Marvel where I have so many different skills that work…like I've written books, I've drawn the books, I've laid out books, I've designed books, I know production…and they kind of said "Well, this is the one-stop shop. Why don't we let Chris do everything?" And they just said "Do the book, it's yours to do." They were a little unsure at first…they were like, “How are you going to do this? What are you going to do?” And I laid it all out, plotted it all out, pulled all the script out, and then I got the art for it, I did the first page and sent it in on a Saturday morning and the editors wrote back "Go. Just do it, this is awesome, this is perfect, this is what we want".

MA: Now this is separate and apart from anything that Dan Slott and Ty Templeton are doing, right? They were doing some sort of…

CE: Correct. There's going to be an ongoing ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN book that is based on the TV series, but not directly adapted like this is. So this is going to be 4 issues, the first 4 episodes, and we're going to put it together into a trade and release that…

MA: It's going to be a digest, right?

CE: Right. So what I'm doing is adapting directly from the TV show; they're going to take new stories, because it is different from Amazing Spider-Man continuity, the Marvel 616 continuity, and it's even different from the Ultimate Comics. You'll see it's just a total departure in a lot of ways, but bringing some of the cool stuff from the Ultimate line and the cool stuff from the Marvel proper line that brings it together, so it's a nice …

MA: So, is it challenging to take this approach? To be going through these frames one by one?

JD: Yeah, I was gonna say, you’re taking these screenshots…let’s say the “toasted” one. He turns into a toaster, and then he turns back into Spider-Man and is “thwipping” away. Did you struggle with trying to translate that from screenshot into a comic book?

CE: Oh yeah. The hardest part is the action scenes, where 50 things are going on at once. And in a comic book, he can thwip, and then he gets the bad guy, and we're done. In this, they’re going back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. So I sort of had to streamline it down a lot, to make it fit into a comic. I would have to take 60 pages just to tell this thing in true proper story telling, so there are moments where I cut it short a bit, so it's not exactly…

MA: It makes you think about that debate that rages in comics over compression and decompression, because you have to compress this…

CE: Yeah, this one I am not decompressing, I am actually hyper-compressing! It becomes almost 9 panels a page, trying to fit all of the info that you want to get across! So it takes a little maneuvering to get it right, but once I get that plot down and the strong beats…even at the end of the first one, there's a whole big scene where he realizes he has to decide: does he want to join up with S.H.I.E.L.D, does he not? And there's this whole thing where he zips through the city and goes up to the Helicarrier. The thing takes like, 3 minutes in the show and I had to compress it into one page, so I had to pick and choose the right scenes, and the beats, and then cut it a bit short, because he had a whole big battle, but it wasn't imperative to the story in the comic, to show him just having a battle with some of the robots.

JD: Now, when you take a situation like that where he’s spending all this time swinging, are you adding something with the writing to fill that space?

CE: Yeah. There’re moments where it can be told really well visually—obviously when you’re in motion and such, you can tell it much better, and when you crop an actual panel, it makes no sense. So I had to add in some dialogue here and there, and scene descriptions, or a thought caption. Because in this, it tends to be more thought captions, as opposed to talking to the camera. We have that at our disposal to use, but a TV show doesn’t have that, captions going on the screen. So I had to add to it a little bit here and there. Luckily, I’ve written Spider-Man in the past, so I can throw in a couple of little Spider-Man quips that flow with the story.

MA: Oh, you wrote him in one of the anthology series, right?

CE: I’ve done a couple of things…I did some MARVEL ADVENTURES SPIDER-MAN, there’s a SPIDER-MAN FAMILY story I did…

MA: Right, that’s what I’m thinking of…with the Frog Thor, right?

CE: Yes!

MA: Loved that.

CE: So I’ve done it, I’ve been there, so I was able to add it pretty seamlessly…it could have been added to the show, I think (if I were there writing with them). But there had to be some kind of added thing to help move the story along as a comic, ‘cause sometimes you just look at it and go, “Ok, they’re punching each other.” Nothing happens. Explain what’s going on. So hopefully it adds to the experience of the comic.

JD: So you have the cartoon, and you have the comic of the cartoon…what is the motivation behind producing a comic version of the cartoon that's almost the same experience, just on paper?

CE: I think…now, I’m not privy to the marketing team, or what they plan to do, but I think what it tends to do is, it's a product that if kids are watching tomorrow morning and they see this, you get “I like Spider-Man! I want some more Spider-Man!” and the parent can look and say "Oh wait! There's an adaptation, this is what I saw on TV, my kids saw it, it's safe and good and it's going to be available readily and we can give it to the kids.” And then what that does is get the kids into reading comic books, so I think it's that…

JD: Cross-pollination.

CE: Yeah.

MA: That seems to be something they’re doing a lot more of and a lot better now…I remember when the first X-Men movie came out, there really weren't too many X-Men books on the stands that would reflect what was going on in the movie and now they're really ramping that up.

CE: I think now that Marvel has sort of taken over the movies and having control over it, they are able to cross-pollinate as you were saying, everything. So that you get the animation, you get the TV, you get the movies and then you can still get the toy line and the comic books and bring everybody together and I think that's some of the genius that's going on now. It’s like, "Let's get them back in any way we can, get them back into stores and buy comics again. If they like the TV show, if they like the movie, let’s provide them with something that the parents also know is safe, that you can give to young kids." Like my kids, that was my big thing, even when they were younger, was to get them books that they could read. There were a lot of comics that weren’t available, and I didn’t know how to get them this kind of stuff, where you could give them an animation comic, a Spider-Man animated comic, where the parents automatically know, “Oh, it’s the same stuff on the Disney Channel” and it’s safe for the kids. So, that's the thing, we have to get more kids involved in comics these days or they're going to die out.

MA: As much as I love comics as an adult, I don't know anybody who STARTED reading comics as an adult. They always started as kids.

CE: As long as there's not this stigma of "It's juvenile". You bring them up young, you say "These are ok, comics are cool, they can take you to as many places as Harry Potter books take you, these books can take you farther."

MA: Yeah, it's almost like graduating. You start with that stuff that's more accessible and you graduate to the older material…that's how I look at it, anyway.

CE: Yeah, right! I mean that's what my thing was…let's bring them in, let's show them a good time and then eventually they will get older and not feel like this is just blah. Comics! Who cares? They'll grow and say "Oh wow, I didn't realize there was this whole other thing there, that's more adult and..." You know, my kids graduated from Teletubbies, and they sit and they play Modern Warfare now, so their tastes have changed. But they've grown in book reading to catch more stuff, so what we have to do give them this stuff early on.

MA: So, after having worked on this all this time, do you now have any interest in writing for the animated series?

CE: I would do it in a heartbeat, but they have so many…these guys, the Joes, the Men Of Action people…they know what they're doing, so I'd be a small fish in a very big pond. I don’t think they need MY help.

JD: What DO you have upcoming after this series?

CE: For Marvel, mostly just the lettering stuff. I have a book coming out from Archaia that is coming out in a couple of weeks. I just got the hard copy of it; it's called COW BOY. It's a hardcover, all-ages book.

JD: I saw that! It looks leather-bound?

CE: Yeah! It's a beautiful book, it really looks leather-bound, it's de-bossed, it's got the gold leaf on it, it's really a great looking product and I'm really proud of the job we did so that'll be out in a couple weeks. Actually, in a couple weeks, there's an announcement that I'm not even allowed to talk about yet, but it's with…a VERY big name…

JD: Can you say it in Pig-Latin? Because…you know…that's indecipherable!

CE: (Laughs) Nnooo...JD: Dammit!

CE: No, I was told to really keep quiet on this one, but it's outside of comics, so it's going to be a biiig thing coming up so April 10th is the announcement, so just keep your ears to the ground.

MA: Any more Pet Avengers or Franklin Richards?

CE: Speaking of animation, if Jeph Loeb…I would kiss him on the lips if he would do a Pet Avengers series, for the animation. I know he was actually interested in them when I was doing them, I would love to see them adapted. I would like to do more…I think Marvel's core focus right now is on the main titles, the continuity comics and stuff like that.

MA: Not to talk about the competition, but they have those little DC Shorts with Supergirl and her friends and stuff like that. And it’s not like a full-length animated thing, but…

CE: I tried to approach them, and said, "Let's do something digital-exclusive", Franklin or Pet Avengers or something that we could just…I said I'd do it for free, we'd put it up there and offer it as a gateway, especially on Comixology and, there’s that “Hey, let's get them [kids] in somehow, it’s a freebie…”

JD: Sample it.

CE: Yeah, so I would like to do it, we'll see. Again, a lot of it is based on numbers and who's buying…you know…

JD: The annoying stuff!

CE: Sales! Who cares? I don't care about that, I just want to do it! But you know, it goes all the way to the top, they set goals and where they plan to take things, so…I'm just a small guy trying to get a little bit of work here and there.

JD: Right on.

MA: Very cool. Thank you!

CE: Yeah man, I hope you guys enjoy [the show].

JD: Thanks again. Be sure to also check out the video of our interview with Joe Kelly here, and stay tuned for our interviews with Joe Quesada next week.

For those of you not interested in all this readin’, here’s a video of a good portion of the above interview!

JD can be found hosting the PopTards Podcast, drawing a weekly webcomic, discussing movies, comics and other flimflam over at, graphically designing/illustrating for a living, and Booking his Face off over here. Follow his twitter @poptardsgo. His talkback name is PopTard_JD. He is also now co-hosting another Comic Book discussion show on alongside Bohdi Zen. They discuss comics and play music, check it out live every Saturday from 4-5pm.

Matt Adler is a writer/journalist, currently writing for AICN among other outlets. He’s been reading comics for 20 years, writing about them for 7, and spends way, way, too much time thinking about them, which means he really has no choice but to figure out how to make a living out of them. He welcomes all feedback.

Editing, compiling, imaging, coding, logos & cat-wrangling by Ambush Bug
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G

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