JD and Matt Adler interview Chris Eliopoulos about the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon/comic!

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 at Midtown Comics in NYC! On top of that, we got to interview Marvel Comics’ main man, Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada as well as Man Of Action’s Joe Kelly, but first up, here is cartoonist, designer and letterer extraordinaire Chris Eliopoulos. This jack of all trades put together and adapted the Ultimate Spider-Man episodes into comic issues. You would think, that after all these years, things like this wouldn’t happen, but in the credits for the very first issue…

Chris: ..they spelled my name wrong.

JD: NOOOooo!! That’s amazing. (Laughs)

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

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

Chris: No, that was the one thing I didn’t do. I did everything else in it, except for the design work. Every on there was me..though obviously I didn’t do the artwork…I’d go through, 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 I would take those and adapt them…

Matt: How long did it take, compared to putting together you’re own comic.

Chris: It’s funny, I could probably draw it faster than I put this together.

Matt: It’s sounds kind of tedious.

Chris: Well, they’ve started giving me the scripts now, which, they’re very protective and they don’t want any leaks so my name is on everything so if anything ever got out, they would know where it came from. 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?

Matt: Does it get better each time? (Laughs)

Chris: 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?

Matt: Because he talks to the camera.

JD: He breaks the 4th wall.

Chris: 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?”, like that kind of thing.

Matt: I confess, this is a guilty pleasure. Did you ever see “Saved By The Bell”?

Chris: Yeah! I grew up with it!

Matt: I love when Zach Morris..(laughs)

Chris: Yeah! (laughs) But yeah, it does hold up. And again they had the best guys there. They had Joe, 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.

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

Chris: No, no, what happened is I’m one of those weird guys at Marvel where I have so many 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 said “well this is kind of 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 of how I was going to do this and I 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. Do it, this is awesome, this is perfect, this is what we want”.

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

Chris: Correct, there’s going to be an ongoing Ultimate Spider-Man book that is based on the T.V. 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…

Matt: It’s going to be a digest, right?

Chris: Yes. So what I’m doing is adapting directly from the T.V. show, they’re going to take new stories, because it is different from Amazing Spider-Man continuity and it’s even different from the Ultimate Comics continuity. 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 that it’s a nice …

Matt: So, is it challenging to take this approach?

Chris: Yes, the hardest part were the action scenes. In a comic book, he can thwip and he gets the bad guy and we’re done. I 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 exact. It’s 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 short, because he had a whole big battle, but it wasn’t imperative to the story in the comic to tell the battle with some of the robots.

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?

Chris: I think what it tends to do is, it’s a product that if kids are watching it and want some more Spider-Man, the parent can look and say “wait, there’s an adaptation, I just saw it, my kids just 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.

Chris: Yeah.

Matt: That’s something that they seem to be doing more now 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.

Chris: 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 T.V., 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…”let’s get them back in any way we can, get them back into store and buy comics. They like the T.V. show, let’s get them something that the parents also like and know is safe”. That’s the thing, we have to get more kids involved in comics these days or they’re going to die out.

Matt: 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.

Chris: As long as there’s not this stigma of “it’s juvenile”. You bring them up young, say “these are ok, comics are cool, they can take you to as many places as Harry Potter books take you, these take you further.”

Matt: 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.

Chris: 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 we have to give them this stuff early on.

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

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

JD: What DO you have upcoming after the this series?

Chris: 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?

Chris: 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!

Chris: (Laughs) Nnoo..

JD: Dammit!

Chris: No, I was was told to really keep quite 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.

Matt: Any more Pet Avengers or Franklin Richards?

Chris: 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 interested in them when I was doing them, I would love to see them adapted. I would love to do more…I think Marvel’s core focus right now is on the main titles, the continuity comics  and stuff like that.

Matt: Not to talk about the competition, but they have those little DC Shorts with Supergirl and her friends and stuff like that …

Chris: I tried to pull them into “let’s do something digital-exclusive”, Franklin or Pet Avengers or just…I said I’d do it for free, we’d put it up there and offer as a gateway, especially on Comixology and Graphic.ly, let’s get them in [kids] in there somehow..

JD: Sample it.

Chris: 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!

Sales! Who cares? I don’t care about that, I just want to do it!  But you know, they set goals and where they plan to take things..I’m just a small guy trying to get a little bit of work here and there.

JD: Right on.

Matt: Very cool. Thank you!

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

Thanks again.

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4 Comments to “JD and Matt Adler interview Chris Eliopoulos about the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon/comic!”

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  1. Matt Adler says:

    You spelled his name wrong, JD 😉

  2. jaydee says:

    balderdash! i took the spelling right from his website!!

  3. Matt Adler says:

    Sonofagun, you’re right! I stand corrected!

  4. JD (Host) says:

    haha you have no idea how many times I double-checked that name!

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