P:R Roundtable: Ultimate Spider-Man

Note: Monday morning was a busy day at P:R HQ, and everyone was talking about the new costume design for Ultimate Spider-Man. Long-story short — Marvel is doing an arc in the Ultimate titles emblazoned with the title “The Death of Spider-Man” and after that, a new character is said to take on the Spider-Man moniker — and this is their new costume. Sara Pichelli drew this striking image, but we’ve currently got a call in to Marvel to confirm the designer of Spidey’s new ultimate duds. With that underway, we’ve convened another edition of P:R Roundtable to discuss this redesign. – Chris A.

Joel: Nice drawing. And black and red make a nice color combo. It’s sleek and dramatic without being quite as stark and contrasty as the old black and white costume. I like that the webbing pattern is reserved to a single passage, and I really like the red fingers on the gloves. It plays well with our familiarity with the original costume, reducing it down to a few elements and playing up the drama of the black. I have a few points of concern, however. 1) The red edging around the webbed section, with it’s variable width, strikes me as fussy, and kinda looks like an off-the shoulder evening dress showing lots of decolletage.  2) In a standing pose, is this going to look awfully blank from the waist down? What if there were just a bit of red-on-black webbing to activate the boot area? 3) This may be completely contextually appropriate, given that there is, I gather, some sort of “DEAD BUT GOT BETTER!” storyline going on, but, individual merits of this design aside, aren’t the black costumes a little played out? It seems like a very easy and expected note to strike.

Most recent rendition of Ultimate Spider-Man (Art by David LaFuente)

Jon: Never been a big fan of swapping out costume colors for black – always strikes me as a very Eighties and slightly lazy path to take (see also The Captain and the post-Negative Zone FF). The outfit seems very top-heavy – that was my criticism of the Alex Ross movie costume design too. The tunic design doesn’t do much with the shape of the body, so it loses a lot of the kinetic energy of the classic Spider-Man suit. I like the highlighted fingers, would have been nice to see that repeated elsewhere on the costume. It’s a start, but it’s certainly not in Spidey’s top five or even ten best costumes, to be sure.

Joel: Any thoughts about the negative space in the abdomen of the spider-symbol? It almost looks like a fifth pair of legs tucked in back there. Is this meant to evoke the markings of a specific spider?

Glen: Welp, I guess I’ll be the one to say it: I think I know who the “new guy” inside the costume is.

Terry McGuinness.

I mean … right? Spider-Man Beyond? No? Just me? Cough?

This one’s a tough sell, for me. I’ve always been a fan of the original suit — yes, it’s got a lot of fussy elements and all those web-strands must be hell to draw, panel after panel, but it GRABS you. Other heroes are conceptually reducible to their chest-insignias, but not so with Spidey: You envision that spider at the center of its web — or, more often, you envision a stylized Spidey-head, complete with eyes and web-netting.  There’s a reason for that, and it’s that all that web detail doesn’t feel extraneous, it’s an essential part of him.

Here, they’ve kept the chest/head bits, but let the rest go. If you think about it, it’s kind of what the 60s Spider-Man cartoon did, if only so the illustrators wouldn’t draw themselves into an early grave.

Still, the black seems uninspired, to me. A fall-back. Instead of reading as a new, more sleek or kinetic direction, it seems to me like they’re splitting the difference between OG Spidey and the symbiote-suit. The result is still Spidey, but not the friendly-neighborhood variety. Maybe that’s the point, though.

Vito: I recall, of all things, a Wizard poll for the greatest costume of all time. The winner was Spider-Man for reasons I can’t remember, but I remember thinking, “Yeah, that makes sense.” That blue and red is classic and it’s quite astounding how many different times he’s worn something else when that blue and red number is just being ignored in a drawer. That all said, I don’t hate this new costume, but here’s what I don’t like:

1. That triangle shape seems, oddly enough, unnatural. I have no basis for this argument. It’s the first word that came to mind when looking at it. It works for the Alex Ross-designed Captain America because it’s the shape of his original shield; there’s an immediate connection. This one just seems arbitrary, like a shape for the sake of having a shape.
2. This might be overstating the obvious, but there is an awful lot of black here. If I’m not looking at Venom or Secret Wars #8, I’m not seeing Spider-Man…in other words, that’s not Peter Parker under there, in my head. No matter where this story goes (which I am enjoying), whether that’s Peter healed or a clone, I don’t see Peter. Which makes me think this is temporary, which leads me to…
3. This is not a permanent design. It might be…I’m not privy to Marvel’s publishing plan or Brian Michael Bendis’ plots, but that is not a permanent design; that’s a placeholder. In other words, it’s not iconic. When I look at this, I want to see Spider-Man, but my brain is telling me, “That’s someone that’s trying to be Spider-Man.” And trust me, I read Ultimate Spider-Man every month, I read the tie-in minis, I read it all. I’m invested in this character. My point is, I will still be reading, but when I do, I’m always going to think, “When is Spider-Man going to show up?”

Chris: I really enjoy this one. None of the recent redesigns over in the Amazing Spider-Man book took hold for me, but this one seems like a contender. It needs some real-world tinkering a bit in the same way that Steve Ditko tinkered with his design in subsequent issues, but I think this stays true enough to the original while also trying to do something different. Glens comments on the Batman: Beyond-ness of it all make me laugh, but then look towards another future hero — Spider-man 2099 (as designed by Rick Leonardi).

Like Vito said, I don’t think we’ll see this costume supersede the standard version but it acts as a forward-thinking reassessment of it in the same was as Frank Quitely’s X-Men designs and Alex Ross’ Captain America. I’d love to see this in action!

Spider-Man's Costumes Through The Years (art by David Finch)

10 comments to “P:R Roundtable: Ultimate Spider-Man”
  1. the one thing i have to say about this that hasn’t already been said is that i aprove of the color change choice, spiderman was never intended to be blue and red, it was a mistake from the olden days of coloring. it was originally black and red but they always colored the highlights of anything black with blue, as supermans hair for example. i like them going back to the original intentions and “fixing” that primary colored mistake.

  2. I’ve always liked Spidey’s classic costume. Simple, slick, friendly and also scary sometimes. One complaint is that it doesn’t have much to do with a spider. If arlen raitt’s story is true, that makes more sense because the black and red colour scheme evokes a Black Widow spider, but blue and red is just strange. Another thing that always bothered me was the costume’s webbing. Most artists draw it going down Spider-Man’s body, but wouldn’t it be more…. obvious to have it so that the web grows from the chest so it’s as if the spider is sitting in the centre? That’s the way I would have thought to draw it.

  3. I agree with pretty much all of the negative criticisms above. The original Ditko version is very simply the finest supersuit design ever, so any change has to be an interesting invocation of the original rather than an improvement or a reinvention. The 2099, sybiote, and Future Foundation versions all do that well; this is better than some (almost anything’s better than the Scarlet Spider), and I like the red-on-black inversion, but it’s otherwise boring, and far too much like that horrible Alex Ross redux which (thank god) Sam Raimi wisely ignored. It looks like a costume fit for Spider-Man Jr. or something, but not the guilt-ridden wise-cracking Superman/Batman revision we all know and love.

    Perhaps it works better if one thinks of it as his attempt to distance himself visually from the Julie Taymor catastrophe.

  4. Actually i like it a lot. it has always been a slight problem for me that all other ultimate characters got a costume redesign except for spidey.

  5. Red and black is my favorite color combination, so I’m biased towards liking it… a lot. Spider-Man is nowhere near my top favorite characters but overall, he always seems to get the best alternate costumes. Yes, some are atrocious, but the ratio of good to bad is by far better than any other character in comics.

  6. Has anyone noticed that chest design is not even drawn symmetrically??? That would normally possibly be a valid design choice, but looking at the drawing I can’t help but conclude that it’s an unintentional result of poor drawing. Anyone else see what I’m seeing? Just look at it…
    The inverted red web pattern is drawn symmetrically according to his anatomy, but the spider is not centered according to it, and the “V” swash also joins the web pattern in an inconsistent way. Both the spider and the “V” are skewed too far to the left side of his body. One might argue that his costume is simply being pulled that way as he twists, but then why wouldn’t the thin red web pattern follow along?
    Bugs me.

    Overall, nice design though. Could use some refinement imo, but an interesting look.

  7. If there’s one thing this costume should do it’s make his toes red too so it matches his fingers. It’d be more spider-like and emphasise his wall ‘crawling’ abilities. Not just wall ‘grabbing’ abilities. Spiders usel all their limbs.

  8. Ray Wu:
    Has anyone noticed that chest design is not even drawnsymmetrically???

    Oh yeah. The spider is to the left of his body, going by the line between his pecs. Weird.

    I think the only bit I don’t like about this costume are the red highlights around the eye pieces.

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