Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse directors: ‘We wanted it to feel like a comic book come to life’

Directors Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman on transporting Miles Morales and Co from page to screen

The amazing Spider-Man is swinging his way into cinemas for his first ever animated feature film, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse. But while the tale of Peter Parker and his radioactive spider bite is familiar to many, this movie stars a version never before seen on the big screen: Miles Morales, a 13-year-old kid who inherits the responsibility of being Spider-Man.

Introduced in 2011, Miles – with his mixed African-American/Latin-American heritage – was the first black hero to wear the Spider-Man mask. The character’s popularity was instant, and it led to him taking the lead for this feature, which brings together the Spider-Men (and women) of many universes for a crossover story unlike any other seen on screen.

Ahead of the movie’s release, Den of Geek had the chance to speak with the film’s directing team of Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman about what makes Spider-Man great. Here’s how we got on.

So, to start off, can you tell us a bit about the story?

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Bob Persichetti: Our story is about Miles Morales, a Brooklyn teen that develops some familiar side effects after getting bitten by a radioactive spider.

Rodney Rothman: It takes place in an alternate dimension to the main Marvel universe, different to the one from the movies or the comics. And it’s about a young kid stepping into the shoes of a hero of his and having to cope with some big things far before he’s ready to. 

BP: Of course, Miles has one thing that Peter never did, which is a mentor – none other than Peter Parker himself!

Peter Ramsay: It’s about how he reacts to the discovery that there’s a whole universe of Spider-men that he’s going to become a part of.

How have you handled the challenge of bringing Miles to the big screen for an audience that, broadly speaking, has never encountered him before?

RR: The way we approached it was to draw from the comics. The character on the page is very distinctive, very sweet, with a warm, loving, complicated family – a mom and dad, which many comic book characters do not have. He’s very three-dimensional on the page, and that was our guiding star throughout.

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PR: It’s one of those ideas whose time has come.

BP: We also really tried to make this movie’s look and tone feel like a comic book come to life. Broadly, there’s a realism in 3D animation influencing the feel and movement, and we wanted to lean away from that stylistically while still being able to land subtlety and scope in character performances like a comic can do so well.

The film features many versions of Spider-Man – who’s your favourite, other than Peter and Miles?

BP: They’ve all become immediate family! Depending on the day it goes something like: Spider Gwen, Spider-Man Noir, Peni Parker (aka SP//dr) and then the pig, Spider-Ham. Occasionally, it is the inverse.

PR: Outside of those two my favourite was Spider-Gwen. She’s got a great design, and the way that her story is an inside-out version of the classic Gwen Stacy/Spider-Man story – it’s a brilliant example of how you can remix the story elements and come out with something great.

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RR: Noir is really fun to write just because it’s fun to write dialogue then hear Nic Cage say it! Noir comes from 1930s New York, he’s been to war, he’s a lot darker and that’s affected his perspective. It’s fun to write a Spider-Man who’s not so innocent, has none of that “aw gee sir!” attitude to him at all.

What inspires you about the character of Spider-Man and this project in particular?

BP: Rising to the challenge. Trying to defy expectations of “yes, another Spider-Man movie” and, “yes, another animated feature”. Ultimately, the fans will tell us if we succeeded but either way, Miles was an inspiring lead, always reminding us to keep getting up.

PR: I’ve been a Marvel fan most of my life, since my pre-teen years. Even before then I liked the cartoons. When I got into comics I became a huge Spider-Man fan because he’s so relatable, funny, tragic – he embodies everything people love about superheroes. The soap opera, the action, the strong moral lessons and mythic themes that resonate with everyone!

RR: I’ve been working in TV for a long time and I’ve been heavily involved in making things, but this is the first time I’ve worked as an official director. It’s something I feel like I’ve been preparing to do for a long time. And obviously I’m working with two other directors who are both very experienced and who I’ve learned a lot from very quickly – they were a big part of why this job was fun for me. 

PR: By definition, our movie is about the idea of Spider-Man and how strong it is, how it transcends the idea of just a person wearing a mask. Once you start talking about a whole universe of different versions, you have to ask – if anyone can be Spider-Man, what is it that makes YOU Spider-Man? It’s not just the powers. It’s the person underneath.

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Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is out in UK cinemas from 12 December

This article was originally published in issue 3 of Den of Geek magazine, which was distributed at London Comic-Con