“It tells the story of Miles,” Slott says. “The heart of the movie is that.”
But, that said, tracing back the deep roots of the movie, past its direct inspiration, to what one could call the inspiration of its inspiration and you find a surprising thing: A 2010 video game created by a Canadian studio for game industry powerhouse Activision.
That revelation came to light on the eve of this year’s Oscars when established Marvel Comics writer Slott took to Twitter to call out the game, and the many other things that lead to the birth of the “Spiderverse.”
But, Slott says again in a recent conversation with Variety, it’s sort of a weird bridge to build to directly connect that game to this movie. Rather it was the notion of the Spiderverse that the game really gave life to.
“Spider-Man Shattered Dimensions”
Thomas Wilson, co-studio head of developer Beenox, was the creative director on the game when Activision came to the studio and asked for it to create a new sort of Spidey experience.
“Originally, we were cast with the idea of coming up with a different Spider-Man game,” Wilson told Variety in a recent interview. “They wanted us to shake things up, to come up with something unique and exciting.”
So the team set about looking through the deep history and lore of Spider-Man and his many incarnations.
“What was it that we hadn’t seen yet?” Wilson said. “Something that would come out of nowhere and would be very exciting for the Spider-Man universe.”
The still shapeless game’s director was a huge comic book fan and very knowledgeable about Spider-Man. So Wilson went to him to see if there was something that hadn’t been done before in a video game that could be pulled from the comics.
“He said, ‘There’s Spider-Man 2099’ and I’m like, ‘What is that?,’” Wilson said. “And he said, ‘Spider-Man in the future.’ And I said, ‘What, are you kidding?’”
When Wilson heard about the 1930s, black and white Spider-Man Noire, he knew he was onto something.
“I started discovering these different worlds, thinking about what direction we could go in,” he said. “Someone said, ‘How about we play them all, each Spider-Man in a game.’”
Wilson thought the idea was crazy, but the more he pondered on the idea the more he liked it.
Once they decided to take the game in this direction of multiple Spider-Man in a single game, they had to pitch the idea to Marvel’s editorial team, which was quick to agree.
With Marvel and publisher Activision both on board, Wilson said they had to take their idea and figure out a story to pull the idea together and give it some semblance of sense.
They came up with a loose story, essentially taking a Mega-Man approach, with each level featuring a different Spider-Man and set of abilities, taking on a specific villain. They took the idea and reached out to Slott with it.
Slott, a longtime Marvel writer, was working on “Spider-Man: Brand New Day” comic that features a Peter Parker who never marries Mary Jane.
“He’s sort of a hard-luck hero ago, who is down on his luck, single and dating,” Slott said. “We were putting out the comic three times a month so it required a writers room like with a TV show. Instead of one writer, we had three or four.”
Beenox asked Slott if he could look at their idea and work on building out a story for it and he agreed so they flew him to Quebec to show off the core idea of the game and the gameplay which had you adventuring in other dimensions as different versions of Spider-Man.
“No one had put 2099 or Noir in a video game before,” Slott said. “That was the basic schtick and they needed someone to come up with a story behind it.
“When I saw the development work they had already done, I thought it was a great idea and fun, but it bugged me that [the Spider-Men] weren’t interacting.”
After the meeting, still in Quebec, Slott said he called his editor to pitch an idea.
“I said we should have all them interacting in a comic book and use every Spider-Man ever,” he said. “Let’s use every part of the buffalo and throw every Spider-Man into some big adventure.”
It would be year’s before that comic book idea came to fruition, but work on the game started almost immediately and with it one of the biggest fights Slott says he ever had over a story.
While the game came out in 2010, work on it started before the first Marvel Studios movie hit theaters. And Slotts was pitching a scene to the studio that hadn’t yet been proven out: He wanted the game to include a post credit scene.
“I was calling it a ‘Ferris Bueller’ credit scene,” Slott said.
The idea was that at the end of the game, after all of the different versions of Spider-Man go back to their correct dimensions, after the credits role, he wanted to have Spider-Ham pop out and say, “What did I miss?”
The game already referenced the cartoonish character early on, and Slott saw this as a big pay off for fans. But the studio didn’t like the idea.
“They were like, ‘We’re not going to spend all of this money to build up the model and create this entire scene that plays after most people have stopped paying attention,” Slott said.
But he said he was entrenched and refused to back down. Eventually, he got his way.
Later, when the game was debuted at WonderCon, including that early Spider-Ham reference, Slott said all of the fans at the panel kept asking about Spider-Ham and if he was going to be in the game.
After the panel wrapped, Slott said, all of the Beenox people were hugging him and saying he was right about sticking to his guns about the porky Spider-Man.
Wilson credit’s Slott with tying together the entire game with a single, cohesive plot.
The plot of “Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions” revolves around a single artifact that breaks into fragments and spreads across three other realities. The game’s Spider-Man seeks help from three other Spider-Men of the multiverse: Noir, 2099, and Ultimate. The game also featured four very different styles of art, each tied to the character and dimension.
It wasn’t until 2011 that Slott was able to return to his idea of a Spider-Verse.
Spider-Men and the Spider-Verse
“We were gearing up for 2012, so we were at the Marvel Creative Summit in 2011 talking about how we would be celebrating the 50th anniversary,” Slott said.
One of the ideas that floated up was having Miles Morales, the Spider-Man of Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man, meet up with Peter Parker as a crossover with “The Amazing Spider-Man,” for which Slott was the sole writer.
“Brian Michael Bendis was writing the Miles book in the Ultimate universe and he wanted to have Miles meet the Peter Parker of the core dimension,” Slott said. “My editor was making a but push in the room. He was saying this is a big Spider-Man event and that we should both team up and co-write it.”
But Slott had another idea.
“I could tell the story was very personal to Brian and I had this Spider-Verse idea lined up for later,” he said. “So I said, ‘Go tell your story — the story he told in his mini-series ‘Spider-Men’ which is the heart of the ‘Spider-Verse’ movie — and then next year I get Miles for a big event called Spider-Verse.”
“Spider-Men” hit with a splash in 2012 and “Spider-Verse” in 2014.
“Spider-Verse” didn’t just use a slew of existing Spider-Men, it also created a number of new ones.
“We did a mini-series called ‘Edge of Spider-Verse,’” Slott said. “Every issue was a self-contained story that introduced a new Spider-Man that we may or may not use in the Spider-Verse.”
Penny and her spider robot were created for the mini-series as was the Gwen Stacy Spider-Man.
The Spider-Verse created the first major mash-up of Spider-Man characters working together in a single story. (Finger-pointing Saturday morning cartoons aside.)
A year later, Sony Pictures chairman Tom Rothman announced that Sony was working on a new animated Spider-Man film for 2018 written by Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman.
“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”
“When they decided to make the movie, right off the bat the big surprise was that they were going to make it an animated Spider-Man movie and that they were going to make it about Miles,” Slott said.
Later, Slott said he heard around Marvel that the movie would also feature some of the characters that appeared in or were developed by the “Spider-Verse” comics.
His first question? Is Spider-Ham going to be in it? The answer, of course, was yes.
Slott said that while the movie was clearly built around Miles Morales and tells his story, and features some of the “Spider-Verse” characters, it’s clearly its own thing.
“Marvel movies are based on comic runs, the movies touch on things the comics do, but they make them their own,” Slott said. “The comics are an inspiration, a jazz riff.
“They were given the library of comics to play with and look at but the movie is a completely unique new thing they made.”
Despite not being directly connected, Slott said the movie has been great for sales of the “Spider-Verse” trade paperback collection and its sequel “SpiderGeddon.” The movie has also become his favorite superhero movie of all time.
Slott said he can’t remember how many times he’s seen the film in the theater, but recounted what it was like to see if the first time among a team of fellow Marvel creators.
“They were really nice, they flew me down to the premiere with other comic book creators who worked on things that influenced bits and pieces of the movie,” Slott said.
He said the boisterous audience would erupt with shouts every time a new character, easter egg, or nod to a Marvel creation popped up on screen.
“I love it, not just because of the ‘Spider-Verse,’ it’s just so good,” he said. “I love the Miles and Peter of it all. It’s one of the best superheroes movies ever made.”