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Meet Marvel's original first choice to write Ultimate Spider-Man: Chip Zdarsky

Chip Zdarsky explains how and why he said no to Ultimate Spider-Man, and why he likes Jonathan Hickman's version better

Ultimate Spider-Man #4 variant cover
Image credit: Elizabeth Torque (Marvel Comics)

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Marvel's new comic book series Ultimate Spider-Man is the company's biggest hit of the year - and whatever is in second is at a distant second. Since its debut January 10, the first issue has sold out five times in just four months, and since then, each issue has been the top-selling comic book in comic stores worldwide three out of the past four months based on point-of-sale data.

Ultimate Spider-Man cover 1
Image credit: Marvel

Ultimate Spider-Man is by writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Marco Checchetto, and for Hickman, its his latest resurgence after a string of hits going back 15 years but also a few recent misses. But as Popverse has learned, Hickman wasn't Marvel's original choice to write Ultimate Spider-Man, no. That's even though he wrote the prequel, 2023's Ultimate Invasion.

Marvel's first choice to write this reboot of Ultimate Spider-Man, the title which in its original re-incarnation revitalized the hero and set-up the building blocks for modern Marvel phenomenon, was someone else - someone that ended up being too busy to write it, as he was writing DC's Batman.

Meet the Ultimate Spider-Man writer who wasn't

According to former Marvel exclusive writer Chip Zdarsky, he turned down the Ultimate Spider-Man gig and it's become a topic of conversation for him and Hickman in the months since.

"The editor on the Ultimate line, Wil Moss, contacted me because he's like, it just made sense, right? I'm known for Spider-Man, Marco loves Spider-Man and wants to draw it desperately, so [Wil] approached me with it," Zdarsky tells Popverse's Dave Buesing. "He gave me the outline for Hickman's alternate universe idea, and where he had a picture of Spider-Man fitting into all of it. And I read it, I'm like, 'This is awesome, I love it, I'm the number one Hickman fan.' And so when I read it, I'm just like, this is a great Hickman story."

Zdarsky, who wrote the amazing Spider-Man: Life Story miniseries and a great run on Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man, shows how tuned in he is to comics - and his fellow creators - that he selflessly pushed for someone else to write the book - that someone being Hickman, because he wanted to read it himself so bad.

"It's a no-brainer to me. He's never written Spider-Man. I don't think he much cares for the character as he exists in the Marvel Universe," says Zdarsky. "Like, fine for a cameo, but I don't think he's ever had a desire to write Amazing Spider-Man. But to make his own version? It's the perfect opportunity for him to be on the biggest character and also be able to do his own thing."

Zdarsky says the plans he was offered for Ultimate Spider-Man was "very much Hickman ideas" and told Marvel "I don't want to write it, I want to read this."

Ultimate Spider-Man #1 third printing
Image credit: Sara Pichelli (Marvel Comics)

Another issue Zdarsky brought up in the courtship for the Ultimate Spider-Man book was that he was already on what is panning out to be a major, long-term run on DC's flagship comic - the ongoing Batman series.

".... It's very hard to do other things. It would have been awesome, to be like, yeah, I'm doing Batman and I'm doing Spider-Man," says Zdarsky. "Who gets to say that? But it was the wrong move and I knew it, and so I told my editor that."

What Ultimate Spider-Man writer Jonathan Hickman thinks about Chip Zdarsky turning down the book

Zdarsky says the months following this decision, he was on the phone with Hickman talking about something else entirely when Hickman brought up that he knew what happened, and thanked him for the recommendation.

"... at some point, he said, 'Oh hey man, like, thanks for turning down Ultimate Spider-Man. I'm having so much fun on it.'" says Zdarsky. "And he was surprised, I think, at how much fun he was having. He's like, 'Yeah, I'm five issues in on script.' He's ahead on script. Just because he was enjoying the process so much."

Zdarsky is careful to point out he's not sharing this to steal anyone's thunder - but as someone who's known Zdarsky for over a decade, it's part of his self-effacing and self-deprecating style.

"I always like to mention in public the things I turned down that went on to be successes. But I never mention the things I turned down that ended up being failures," says Zdarsky. "That's harmful to the other creators and makes me sound smart when I'm really not."

Come back later this month to read our full interview with Chip Zdarsky.


Keep up to date on Popverse's Marvel coverage, with these highlights: Marvel Comics' return to fun, how Marvel Comics' boss said it was lost in 2023 (and how its finding itself again), How 2024 is a pivotal year for Marvel Comics & Marvel Studios, the 3 big challenges facing Marvel Studios in 2024 (and what they could learn from Marvel Comics), Inside Marvel Comics' plans to fix its pricing issues, Overgrown children of the atom: Marvel's X-Men can't evolve past their '90s commercial peak, and the biggest outstanding questions of the Marvel Studios' movies & TV shows.