One of the world's most popular superheroes, Spider-Man has starred in at least half a dozen cartoon series (and one live-action show) over the last 45 years. The latest version, Disney XD's Ultimate Spider Man, premieres Sunday and puts a new spin on the famed webslinger by placing him in a universe with other Marvel Comics characters. "Our basic concept is that Peter Parker has been Spider-Man for about a year. He's doing a good job and as with most teenagers he thinks he's doing a great job," says executive producer Jeph Loeb. To take his superheroing to the next level — and become the "ultimate" Spider-Man — he joins a training program by S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division), a government spy agency that keeps a close eye on the cape and cowl crowd.
Ultimate Spider-Man will be paired with The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes (which premieres its second season on Sunday) to create a "Marvel Universe" block, which also includes short-form programming highlighting the publisher's expansive catalog or characters.
The show balances humor and action, and Loeb promises "bigger villains, more dangerous missions and some terrific guest stars from the Marvel Universe," including Captain America, Iron Man, Thor and the Hulk. Marvel mainstays Clark Gregg and J.K. Simmons reprise their roles as S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Coulson and Daily Bugle editor J. Jonah Jameson, respectively. Chi McBride plays S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury. (Stan Lee, who co-created Spider-Man with Steve Ditko in 1962, has a cameo as Stan, the janitor at Peter's school.)
Playing the lead role is Drake Bell, best known as one of the stars of Nickelodeon's kidcom Drake & Josh. "It's extraordinary to hear what Drake can do in terms of performance," Loeb says. "Peter and Spidey really are two different voices. Peter has all of those teenage insecurities, and Spidey is this larger than life quippy guy. When you look at these scripts, [Bell] is in almost every single scene, so he is carrying the show, so you need someone who has that star power, who has that ability to play both Peter and Spider-Man." Clearly the mantra for this role (as with all things related to Spider-Man) is that with great power comes great responsibility.
Ultimate Spider-Man premieres with back-to-back episodes on Sunday, April 1 at 11am/10c and 11:30/10:30c on Disney XD. Check out this exclusive clip that introduces four young heroes that Spider-Man will mentor at S.H.I.E.L.D.