It’s been almost two decades, but Ultimate Spider-Man #1 debuted on September 6, 2000 and launched the Ultimate Marvel line.
The idea for the Ultimate Marvel line came from Marvel publisher Bill Jemas. Jemas believed the Marvel Universe was getting too big for its britches with over 40 years of back-story. He decided to reinvent it and make new stories accessible to new readers. He took Marvel’s most popular character Spider-Man and issued orders for Marvel’s Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada to make it happen. However Quesada was skeptical. A previous attempt to reimagine Spider-Man, Spider-Man: Chapter One crashed and burned both critically and commercially.
Despite his skepticism, Quesada brought on board Brian Michael Bendis and artist Mark Bageley for Ultimate Spider-Man. This time Jemas was skeptical of Quesada’s choice of Bendis due to his slow paced plot advancement. Jemas even described it as a “real shock.” Instead of the original Spider-Man origin story in Amazing Fantasy #15 which was only 11 pages long, Bendis’ Spider-Man origin was 180 pages long in seven issues! Jemas had originally envisioned the comic to have single-issue stories.
Not only did Bendis have a different style of pacing, but he also gave the book a different writing style. Bendis introduced modern teenage vernacular and used modern references. He even modernized Aunt May and Uncle Ben showing Aunt May as a middle-aged woman who attended Woodstock. While Uncle Ben came equipped with a ponytail.
Despite the skepticism from both Jemas and Quesada, Ultimate Spider-Man would sell well. It also emboldened Marvel to expand their Ultimate Marvel line with The Ultimates and Ultimate Fantastic Four. In fact, Ultimate Spider-Man would begin outselling the flagship Spider-man title, Amazing Spider-Man.
Ultimate Spider-Man would go on to introduce a number of other mainstream Marvel characters, but gave them different origins, costumes, or personalities.
Ultimate Spider-Man would continue for 133 issues until it was revamped as Ultimate Comics Spider-Man with a new number 1. Stuart Immonen would eventually take over art duties from Bagley on Ultimate Spider-Man #111.
Ultimate Spider-Man #1 will currently run you upwards of $350.