JDS: I would say that was an active rule we had: it has to look like the thing that’s in the book. It can’t get vanilla-ed out and have all the edges shaved down. I will say, I was paranoid once Into the Spider-Verse started doing what it did critically. [Kemp and Justin] and Phil Lord and Christopher Miller gave me the 1950s slap across the face and said, “Wake up, man! This is the permission. Now we have permission to do the things we wanna do.” I was like, “Oh, all right, here we go.”
KP: It sounds simple, but I don’t think people realize how hard it is to do, to just make sure that it stays personal. This film was personal to all of us. We didn’t wanna be beholden to anyone’s expectations but our own.
I understand that these characters are iconic and they have a great history, and lots of people might expect lots of different things based on the comic books or even the first film. We didn’t want to be held in by any of that. We had a story that felt personal to us, that we were excited about, that used these characters that not just everyone else loved, but we loved them. We felt like we had a right. It’s like when people say, like, “Are you thinking about the fans?” Well, we’re thinking about us. We’re fans too.
It’s a story we’re trying to tell. Again, that sounds like a very simple thing, but when you’re dealing with something that so many people have so high expectations for, it’s actually really hard to block it all out. I tell people all the time: I don’t see what we do as making “content”. That’s kind of a dirty word to me. When I say we wanted to make a little work of art, that’s not being flippant. I think the film stayed really personal. It stayed really small, in that the only people we were really concerned about winning over were the other people in the room.
On my first watch in theaters, I remember seeing Spider-Man 2099 on screen, and then you started to see a bit of his backstory and his world, and I remember thinking, I’m getting hardcore [comics artist] Rick Leonardi vibes even in this scene. As a fan, there’s just so many levels that it goes so deep, the love of the characters. It’s so gorgeous.
JDS: I think we’re lucky that we are all of a generation where that stuff was happening. 2099—I can remember when that book dropped, everybody went, “Whoa, what the heck is this?” It was the first real foray into something that felt very different for the Spider-Man universe. Just being able to scratch at that and peel that back and expose it to new people that weren’t aware of it. That was a thing that landed at a very specific time and exposed people to that was exciting.
JKT: For the deep-level fans, we did bring on Rick Leonardi to work with us, and our special effects team developed a tool with him to actually simulate his line work and the shading, and he was giving notes on it. For us, it was like being kids back in the comic book store, being fourteen years old again, and being like, “Look at Rick Leonardi’s drawings!” And then, “Look, now they’re moving!”