In This Episode
On this episode of X-Ray Vision, Jason Concepcion and Rosie Knight web-sling through the Spider-Verse! In the Airlock (1:12), Jason and Rosie dive deep (deeep) into Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse the jaw-dropping masterpiece sequel to 2018’s jaw-dropping masterpiece Into the Spider-Verse. In the Hive Mind (28:40) Jason and Rosie are joined by the film’s co-director Kemp Powers, Oscar nominated writer of One Night in Miami and co-writer of Pixar’s Soul, to discuss the Spider-Verse, his favorite comics, the visual splendor of the film, that Knicks joke in Soul, and more. Then in Nerd Out (1:13:13) a pitch from a listener on Marissa Meyer’s YA series The Lunar Chronicles.
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Jason Concepcion Warning This podcast contains spoilers for Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse and some minor spoilers for Into the Spider-Verse. Hello, my name is Jason Concepcion.
Rosie Knight And I’m Rosie Knight.
Jason Concepcion And welcome to X-ray Vision, the Crooked Media podcast, where we dive deep to your favorite shows, movies, comics and pop culture.
Rosie Knight In this episode, in The Airlock, we’re traveling across the Spider-Verse. We’ve seen it. It’s incredible. We will be talking about it. And in the Hive Mind, we will be interviewing one of the Across the Spider-Verse co-directors Kemp Powers in an absolutely delightful chat. And our Nerd Out comes from Amy on the YA series, The Luna Chronicles.
Jason Concepcion Coming up.,A non spoiler and then spoiler discussion of across the Spider-Verse. We’re stepping out of The Airlock to talk about Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. Really? We’re going to give our non spoiler reaction. Then we’re going to dig into the plot and what we thought of the movie. Here we go. Here’s the non spoiler reaction. Absolute masterpiece.
Rosie Knight Masterpiece. Ten out of ten.
Jason Concepcion Modern masterpiece.
Rosie Knight Modern classic changes the game again. One of the things I wrote this on my lab box review was like, which I usually just write jokes on that I wrote like a three paragraph review. It’s absolutely delicious to me that every studio has basically spent the last five years trying to copy what they did and into the Spider-Verse. And then of course, the Spider-Verse came out and did something completely different, like animation wise is absolutely mind blowing from the opening 10 minutes, You know, you’re in for something completely special, and then you add to it that it introduces characters who I would say will become even more iconic than Penny Parker, Spider Noir, Spider Ham. These characters we got in the first movie, you get Spider Punk, you get, you know, Spider Bite, you get Spider-Man India. There’s so many brilliant characters and all of that happens. It’s funny, but also it’s still about Miles and this journey and it’s so emotional. And if you love the first movie, I feel like you’re going to love this movie. And I just it blew my mind. I was not. I knew I was going to really love it, but I didn’t really know how much of an impact it would have on me.
Jason Concepcion Yeah, I think you said exactly the right thing if you loved the first movie. That combination of high flying action, really funny, legitimately funny jokes and a incredibly moving story with crazy high stakes, considering you’re looking, you’re watching an animated film, it’s all there again, just heightened and in a different way. The emotional beats are heartbreaking. This film brings Miles to a place where he has to make an incredibly, almost impossible decision. And I didn’t think that anything could top four, like my breath catching in my chest the moment where in into the Spider-Verse where Miles is, you know, he gets his new costume and he’s figuring out how to be Spider-Man, you know, And he jumps off of the Chrysler Building and his head pitched all the way down. And he’s just like, you know, hurtling towards the ground before he swings and like starts careening across the city. That moment is jaw dropping. And across the Spider-Verse is like filled with moments like that.
Rosie Knight How crazy is that? Like, do you bring up such a good point immediately, like ten point? Like jump to my mind, there are visual moments. There are quiet moments that still just absolutely change your perception of what an animated movie can be and more kids movie can be. This is a movie that respects kids so deeply and respects its audience and respects comic books and comic creations, which is something we talk about with Kemp Powers in our chat. It’s moving on so many levels. This is like it happens to me a lot because I just love I love cinema, you know, as well as like trashed movies and all the stuff I always talk about. But like, sometimes movies are just so beautiful. They make you cry. I remember the first time I saw the Lego Movie I knew nothing about. I had not been living in the world of like trailers, and I didn’t really comprehend that the movie looked like it was made of stop motion Lego. And I remember when it opened up and showed the screen, I got that feeling in my chest of like, Oh, I’m going to cry. Like, this is making this is beautiful. This is stunning. I can’t believe it. And this movie did that to me so.
Jason Concepcion Oh, so many times.
Rosie Knight Many times, so many different styles, so many different esthetics, so many different narrative spaces to tell these stories is unbelievable. I could never believe that they were going to top the first movie, but I think they did it.
Jason Concepcion It is amazing. See it. We have discovered from our from co-director Kemp Powers, who we just interviewed, and you’re going to hear his voice later that it’s only available in IMAX the first week it’s out.
Rosie Knight Yes, because then we have its Transformers and then The Flash. So if you want to see it in IMAX, go see an IMAX this week and then come back and listen to our conversation with all the spoilers.
Jason Concepcion Absolutely. See it in IMAX because it will melt your eyeballs. It is. You just feel like you’re in the film.
Rosie Knight You feel like you’re in the film, you feel like you’re in a comic book, you feel like you’re in a computer, you feel like you’re in Miles’s universe and Gwen’s universe and everyone else’s universe is unbelievable.
Jason Concepcion Go see it.
Rosie Knight Go see it.
Jason Concepcion Stay tuned for the spoiler filled discussion of across the Spider-Verse Spoilers Spoiler, spoiler.
Rosie Knight Spoilers spoilers.
Jason Concepcion Okay. Oh wow.
Rosie Knight Dude, seriously like
Jason Concepcion Oh my God. Wow.
Rosie Knight What a film.
Jason Concepcion Let. Well, let me. So when I saw Into the Spider-Verse, I it blew me back in my seat. Not necessarily because of how incredibly visceral the action was, how high flying, how wonderful the character designs of Green Goblin and the Scorpion and.
Rosie Knight The Kingpin. Hug kingpin design.
Jason Concepcion Have all of them looked. But because there was a richness of emotion that I was like not expecting. When you meet alternate Peter, who is like divorced and going through it and you marry that energy with Miles trying to figure out his life and what it means to be him and what direction he’s going to take in his life and whether he deserves to go to this elite school or not. And trying to balance these new powers and being a superhero, this intense secret he has with love. Yes. For his family, the love he has for his uncle, and this feeling that he has to bear the weight of this new responsibility, it’s like it is incredible and it just really hits you. And Across does that in a different way. That completely fits what this movie is. It’s more refocused on Gwen. It’s more refocused on Miles. And you said something really that I’ve seen that really hit me when we were talking in a non spoiler conversation, which is like, it really respects kids. There is you know, I said this before in different places, but. I hate when people deride like kids stories, kids materials because there are fundamental, existential, huge emotional questions that come up when you’re a kid that matter to you forever for the rest of your life. And, you know, like am I love does does the people does the person I love love me?
Rosie Knight What happens when we don’t exist anymore? What happens to the people I love when I pass on?
Jason Concepcion How how does my family feel about me? What would it feel like if they reject me? Those are like fundamental questions that you will think about for the rest of your life. And this movie lands those questions in a way that makes the stakes so incredibly powerful. You know, like the first movie. Spoiler.
Rosie Knight Spoiler for this 2018 movie.
Jason Concepcion The Miles’s Universe. Peter Parker Spider-Man dies in the first 10 minutes, and that does so much to set up the stakes of this movie. Like you don’t know what will happen. Spider-Man can die.
Rosie Knight Yeah, it’s like Drew Barrymore being killed at the beginning of Scream. You never expect it. This is your hero. It’s Spider-Man, right? It’s Peter Parker
Jason Concepcion There isn’t something necessarily like that in this movie, but the stakes are so much more powerful. One, because you care about these characters already built in from seeing the first movie, and then they just do such a good job of fleshing out the interior life of teenage Miles Morales, teenage Gwen Stacy, And it’s magical. And then you marry that with some of the most experimental and jaw dropping animation that you can see. It takes all of so many different animation styles for specific characters, but also for specific universes, and it somehow makes it all. Incredibly energetic, but not chaotic, not where you’re like, I don’t know what’s going on and I can’t focus on anything. It just sucks you in. It’s amazing.
Rosie Knight It feels like a film that truly understands the possibilities of the multiverse. Now we already may feel like we are saturated in multiverse storytelling. This is something I was thinking about a lot this morning. Even as people who love the multiverse have been invested in it since we first read Crisis on Infinite Earths. Right? Like now, a lot of people are like, Oh, the multiverse. You know this The Flash TV series just finished. That was about the multiverse. Quantum mania was about the multiverse. The Flash movie coming out is actually the same plotline. The Flash TV show just did.
Jason Concepcion End Game, Infinity Wars, Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness.
Rosie Knight Arguably, there’s Miles Morales movie from the story that we have heard about. The Flash also has similar storylines to what The Flash would be doing. But I will tell you something this makes you feel like millions of universes exist and you are visiting them. It understands every single universe would look different. People would look different. In each universe, there are infinite possibilities, which means one universe can be hand-drawn, one universe is colored, one universe looks just kind of exactly the same, but it’s animated at a slightly different frame rate. And just I’m not even teasing the visual impact that these things will have on you. This is a movie that understands the possibility of the multiverse and it is just absolutely astounding.
Jason Concepcion It you know, it strikes me, listening to you say that I think one of the things that makes the multiverse so lived in in this movie is that. Very smartly. This film makes the multiverse a thing that’s keeping Miles away from his friend. Gwen misses Miles. Miles misses Gwen. And they can’t be in the same place because of the multiverse and all these canonical rules around how Spider-Man evolved in their particular universes. But basically it’s the multiverse as the longest long distance relationship like you’ve ever had.
Rosie Knight Not just with somebody who you might have a crush on, like Gwen, but somebody who was your mentor, like Peter. Where’s Peter B. Parker been? Miles has had to do this himself, but we meet Miles here. Some One of the things I know people will be really excited to see. He’s competent. He can do it. He is Brooklyn’s Spider-Man. There is no question anymore. He’s not a scrawny kid, you know, he’s a teenager. And I mean, the funniest thing is I think if we did our classic recap style thing, we really actually this is what happens. Miles Morales is in Brooklyn in his universe. Gwen Stacy comes to visit him from her universe, but she’s not in her universe anymore because she’s joined like an elite team of Spider people and.
Jason Concepcion She’s on a mission. She’s keeping that secret.
Rosie Knight Can’t stay in her universe because her dad has rejected her. Right. And then you go to Nueva York, you meet Miguel, you know, O’Hara, Spider-Man 2099. And there he leads this elite force of Spider people. And they want Miles to do something unthinkable. So unthinkable I don’t even think it’s worth mentioning in the spoiler conversation, you know? And the funniest thing is that’s really the plot of the movie. But actually, there’s just so much more to it. Like this is a movie, if you love Easter eggs and you love crossovers and you’ve been wondering when will Miles Morales animated crossover with the MCU, when will it crossover with the Sony verse? You are going to get those joyous moments here that make you feel like all these universes exist. I will also say, now this is a spoiler, but it’s just a nerdy spoiler that we love. They reference the MCU directly here, and they call it the correct name, the 19999 Universe. 19999. Kevin Feige, I’m sorry, but that’s the truth. And they complain about Stephen Strange. They complain about him messing with the multiverse. You know, there is a connectivity here that feels exciting, but it never takes away or dampens from the story.
Jason Concepcion It’s an emotional story.
Rosie Knight An emotional story about people coming together, about friendship, about destiny. And it also introduces us to these characters like Spider Punk, you know, played by Daniel Kaluuya. Just so brilliant and infinitely iconic.
Jason Concepcion I mean, you want him to be in the whole movie when he leaves. It’s the perfect time for him to leave the movie and the perfect way.
Rosie Knight In a moral way.
Jason Concepcion Perfect way for him to leave because he is a total rebel punk. Against the grain kind of character who, like, looks at every kind of rule sideways. And you get that because this movie is and its predecessor is so brilliant at show don’t tell storytelling, but you just get that in in the moment you meet him. And it’s like, Man, I wanted him in the whole movie.
Rosie Knight Yeah.
Jason Concepcion Not to mention the fact that that he acts as one kind of spoke in the burgeoning love triangle between Miles and Gwen. It’s that is such a really powerful, emotional driver. You know, those little things of like, Oh, you left your sweater at his in his world.
Rosie Knight Why do you sleep over that?
Jason Concepcion You’re like, what?
Rosie Knight And I love the way that again, like we talk about this. Respecting kids, respecting your audience. A kid who was ten when into the Spider-Verse came out is 15 now. Can you imagine getting to watch into the Spider-Verse and then grow up and see Miles maturing, see miles in these situations? And who doesn’t love a love triangle? And, you know, Kemp Powers was talking in our chat about this. This great idea of Spider-Punk needs to be so cool that he makes Miles look on camera, which is like almost impossible feat after the first movie. But the way that they represent him, again, this is something that’s so exciting and comes to life so deeply on screen. But Spider Punk is brought to life essentially as a zine. He’s constantly collaged. He changes color. He goes from black and white to full color to almost like a resi print where he’s different, three different colors.
Jason Concepcion He’s the way that his guitar sits on his back is like someone cut a guitar out of an advertising.
Rosie Knight And it didn’t cut around the edges.
Jason Concepcion And.Didn’t cut around the edges and glued it onto back.
Rosie Knight And sometimes he’s got newsprint over his face. That’s just one example of the ambition that they are telling this story with, and it never takes away from it. I’m sure that for some people it will feel overwhelming or it won’t necessarily feel as clean as the original. But to me it was such a unbelievable experience to see these characters brought to life. And obviously the funniest thing about this movie is one of the things people are most excited about is all these different Spider people, right? And that is great. And they have some really truly weird Spider people in this movie. You have like Spy, you have Werewolf Spider-Man, you have Webslinger Spider-Man and his horse. You have one of the coolest new a two people Spidey UK who’s like a young Muslim woman. There’s all different Spider people and you get to experience.
Jason Concepcion PlayStation four Spider-Man.
Rosie Knight Playstation Four Spider-Man in multiple armors, may I just say. It is such a cool space to experience all these little Easter eggs and fun stuff. But it never it only is ever additive.
Jason Concepcion Yes, it’s just the right amount. And the other thing that’s just incredible about this movie, and I’ll say this again, you’ll hear me say this to Kemp is it’s 2 hours plus, two ten?
Rosie Knight Two 20.
Jason Concepcion Two 20. It feels like a 90 minute movie.
Rosie Knight It goes past so quickly it never lags. You are thrown into this world wholesale and you speak about this on the in the chat. But it’s so true. Like even as, you know, a 34 year old woman watching this movie whose job is to know about this stuff, this is part one. This is a this is going to be right as we knew it. But like you get to the end and it leaves you on this unbelievable cliffhanger.
Jason Concepcion Unbelievable.
Rosie Knight Unbelievable. And you get this great soaring moment of Gwen kind of putting together this band of heroes. And I went, oh, my God, It’s it’s going to finish.
Jason Concepcion When it’s when it’s ended, when when the credits came on right after that scene.
Rosie Knight People were like Come on.
Jason Concepcion There was like multiple people at the theater just like, Oh, come on. It was like, That doesn’t happen in a screening.
Rosie Knight No, It keeps you wanting more. And it’s a classic old school serialized style cliffhanger, too, like the old Batman and Robin episodes where they would show one after the other. This is not like, Oh, there’s a post-credits scene that teases what happened next. This is a Oh, you are going to want more. And the first thing.
Jason Concepcion Go buy your tickets. 5 minutes out of where.
Rosie Knight It was, me and Chris, my friend Joel, Valerie, Nick. We were all there and the first thing everyone gets out their phone. Like, when does it come out? Like, when is it When is April? Is it March? I believe it’s March the next one. But like it is that great. And there is so much here that will inspire people, that will get people excited, that will make another generation of people want to become comic book fans, want to become Spider-Man fans. Yeah. And it also is this incredibly complex meta text on the nature of comic book rules.
Jason Concepcion RUles of comic conventions and the way characters are perceived.
Rosie Knight Yeah, it can be. And I actually hilariously think it’s coming at a really incredible time. If you’ve been an incredible timing, I should say, if you’ve been keeping up with comic book news recently, there has been a huge amount of controversy about the choice to kill Kamala Khan in the current Amazing Spider-Man comic book. Now, as we know and as Kemp Powers will talk about characters come back and there are many reasons why they may do that.
Jason Concepcion She’ll be on the bench for a year.
Rosie Knight If that.
Jason Concepcion Six months.
Rosie Knight Because she’s got a movie coming out. Yeah, let’s be real in the movies, she’s a mutant. In the comics, she’s an inhuman. We could imagine something might change that. But something very interesting about that choice is it happens in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man. And some people have gone through and they’ve look, Kamala is barely on 15 pages through the whole series, but that is a book where historically they kill people for emotional impact. They kill a woman, a young woman, they kill Gwen Stacy, or they kill a parental figure. They kill Uncle Ben. That is almost a trap for a Spider-Man book. No matter what happens, you have to kill someone to push. A story forward. It is unbelievable that we now have a movie that looks at that history and says this is actually wrong. You know what if you didn’t have to do that? What if you could say no to that rule? What if you were the person who said, I’m not going to do that, I’m not going to kill someone for this reason. I’m actually going to push back against that and say, well, if I changed the canon and obviously Miles changed the canon and changed comics forever when he became a Spider-Man. Yeah, but it’s just that timing is so wild in that moment. You already invested in the movie. You love the movie already. If you’re me, you’re watching. Oh, this is incredible. I’m seeing comic book characters. I’m seeing Sanford Greene’s name. I’m seeing comic books drawn by Rick Leonardi. This is incredible. And then they put that in and you go away a minute. This is like. This is an even you haven’t even gotten to the meat of what this story is actually trying to say is unbelievable.
Jason Concepcion I think it’s I mean, I thought that into the Spider-Verse was the best Spider-Man time period.
Rosie Knight There’s no question.
Jason Concepcion I think you have to across is better in the way that a sequel should be better.
Rosie Knight In the right way. I’m saying, look, I put this I put this out there already. Masterpiece. I agree. I think this movie is so good. I have to see a few more times. I think it’s in contention for like one of the best superhero movies ever made.
Jason Concepcion Clearly.
Rosie Knight If not the best comic.
Jason Concepcion It’s clearly I think these two movies are clearly among the very, very, very best. Like in the top echelon of comic book movies ever made.
Rosie Knight Easily, easily and honestly, the movies that feel most like they were adapted from a comic book. This is not oh, this is a character who is in a comic book. How do we make it grounded? Let’s militarize the suit. Let’s give them, like an army background. This is. Oh, you like comics? Do you want to see a movie that feels like you’re reading a comic book?
Jason Concepcion It translates, what for me was the magic of comics when I first started picking up, which is like, anything can happen. You can see and yes, you can see a guy be from a planet, you know, you can see a planet that does well. You could just see anything. And this movie conveys that kind of energy, that magical moment of like, I know story. I don’t know what I’m going to see next. I’m no idea.
Rosie Knight I mean, this movie is so good that we haven’t even talked about one of the standout sequences, which is the introduction of Pav, like Spider-Man India. Oh my God, When they go to his universe and you get to see him and he’s this incredible, charming, he’s the happy go lucky, everything goes right for him. And it is so much fun. The animation is so brilliant. Like if you want to show someone a ten minute sequence of what makes Spider-Verse movies works, it’s that.
Jason Concepcion And it’s that feeling of scale to like. It’s epic in scale. Yeah, you know, we saw it on IMAX, so I think that helps. But you feel like, holy shit, these characters are swinging in front of massive skyscrapers trying to.
Rosie Knight In front of thousands of people in traffic.
Jason Concepcion It just is incredible. The scale. The other scene that just took my breath away was, you know, Gwen arrives in Miles’s universe, unbeknownst to him, on a secret mission and is like, Let’s see what you got, how, how have you level of your powers. And they just go on this run across the city and it’s like it makes you it’s that feeling again of being a kid and picking up a comic book and being like, I wish I could do that.
Rosie Knight Yeah, I feel like you’re getting to do it. And that also leads to one of the moments that I think is so astounding visually, where they end up on the top of a of a tall building.
Jason Concepcion Yeah. The the Williamsburg Life Insurance, Co.
Rosie Knight Yeah. And Gwen essentially walks around the side of the building to the underneath and webs herself so she can sit on the bottom of the building upside down. But the scope and scale gives you, like wobbly knees. When you’re watching, you feel like you’re up there with her. The way that they use camera angles in this movie to showcase the landscapes, the work. Like Kemp said, the thousand plus people who worked on this movie for four years to make it come to life. You feel every single second of that work on the screen because there are so many different personalities who obviously brought this to life. There’s so many different jokes. You know, whoever put Spider Cat in there, I know that was a very specific person who wanted that joke in. But I also know that whoever did a certain shot of, you know, the bodega or the guy who’s running the bodega, who Miles, helps save from the villain of the movie, Ostensibly, the villain of the movie, the spot who is just totally wild. And I did not see the way that they took that character.
Jason Concepcion I love we talk about this with Kemp, how this movie and its predecessor poked fun at its characters in really great ways. It does that with The Spot, where it’s like, this guy’s a villain of the week. I mean, in the comics, 100 percent.
Rosie Knight Literally.
Jason Concepcion Literally. This is a throwaway first three pages of a comic book issue, fight guy.
Rosie Knight Completely weird, like you know, that is a character where you’re just like. Who came up with that? Oh, no. And it’s like, you know, two of the greatest like Al Milgrom and Herb be like. But it’s this weird, negative space fun, strange, throwaway character. And that is exactly what the movie knows. So Miles treats him that way, and that ends up causing more chaos than you can imagine. I also love that the movie is so in conversation with the audience, not just as comic book readers, but say you’ve never read a comic, which I don’t believe. If you watch the first movie, I assume you probably were inspired to read the comic, but say you didn’t. There will be moments you remember. Remember when Miles, a guy with a bagel and they put a sound effect that just a bagel icon. It became like a huge meme became such a memorable moment that ends up becoming a canon altering event for miles and for the sport and for the people involved. There is so much fun to be had with the film reacting to what the audience loved about the first film. It’s absolutely delightful.
Jason Concepcion One more emotional beat that really stuck with me because it just rang so true, and it’s part of why this movie’s just great and it feels so lived in and real. Is it gave you a depiction of that really like. Landmark life event that I think everybody has, which is the moment that a parent lets you break the rules. Yeah, that is the moment when a parent is like, okay, I see that you really want this thing and I understand who you are. I think as a person and.
Rosie Knight I feel like we’ve had a connection.
Jason Concepcion And you know what? Go ahead.
Rosie Knight I’m going to show you the track.
Jason Concepcion Yeah, go ahead. Like, I know I grounded you, but you’re ungrounded, right? I know. I know your dad or your mom said this, but I’m saying this. Go do it. And that is like such a huge moment in every kid’s life. And it gives you that moment in this movie and it just gives you chills. It’s so good.
Rosie Knight That ability to balance the family aspects that made this movie so beloved in the first film and to extrapolate and expand the universe in this completely wild way. I mean, we get an entire Lego sequence that you will learn a very cool fact about from Kemp, when you listen. So stay tuned. But like, that is one of the funniest moments in the movie. It wasn’t even in it until after the trailer was out. I’m going to posit this. I know we have a lot of people who listen to this podcast who, even if they haven’t seen it, they still listen to the spoilers. I’m going to say, don’t listen to this next part. I need to get out there. I need to get out there. Extra spoilers. Do not listen. This is about the last 5 minutes of the movie. People who haven’t seen the movie in the room put your fingers, earmuffs your ears. But like I have to say it. So the movie, The movie ends by miles, attempting to get back to his own universe. And I think it’s going to be an empire level ending for a lot of kids because he ends up in the wrong universe because of the Spider that bit him. He meets an alt universe version of himself who is in that universe. The Prowler. It is one of the most heart wrenching, incredible, brilliant choices. Absolutely. Gut punched me. They did a great job in the trailers. I didn’t see it coming. I have to posit a theory. This is what I mean. I’m here to reassure your kids. I mean it to reassure you. And I’m here to tell you that that is not what you think it’s going to be. I think in that universe, Spider-Man was never supposed to exist because Miles would always have been the problem. And the problem is not a villain. The power is a vigilante that they need. And I think that that is not going to be the villainous expectation in the comics. The Prowler is more of a anti-hero vigilante who has a brutal twist. And I think in that universe that is the hero that they need. And that is what Miles was always supposed to be. I believe that it is not the villainous turn people think, and I think that that’s my theory. But I had to put out there because I know I had to text my sister and I said warned my nephew that the ending is going to scare him. But I can explain what’s going to happen because I don’t believe it’s as clear cut as people will.
Jason Concepcion I love that take. And we’re going to have to wait to march to find out if you’re right. Up next, stay tuned for Kemp Powers.
Speaker 1 <AD>
Rosie Knight Welcome to the Hive Mind, where we explore a topic in more detail with an expert guest. This episode we are thrilled to welcome a truly great across the Spider-Verse expert, co-director, Kemp Powers, playwright, writer, and as we just mentioned, co-director of the unbelievable New Across the Spider-Verse film. Now, warning, This does contain spoilers. I would say they are quite vague, but if you want to stay fully spoiler free, I would skip this until you’ve seen the movie. Go see it. Go see it on the biggest screen possible.
Jason Concepcion Kemp Powers, welcome to X-ray Vision.
Kemp Powers Thank you for having me. Good to be here. I’m a little tired, but I’m going to give it my best.
Jason Concepcion The premiere was last night.
Kemp Powers It was. And then there was the after party.
Jason Concepcion Oh, man. Well.
Kemp Powers So.
Jason Concepcion I hope you all really partied.
Kemp Powers Yeah.
Jason Concepcion Because Across the Spider-Verse is a masterpiece.
Rosie Knight It’s a masterpiece. I know. It was absolutely no question. We were just. It blew our minds.
Kemp Powers I’m so happy to hear that. I mean, we you work in these bubbles for so many years and you kind of come out of your cave. And I was talking to another one of the I was talking to the to the writer. We got we were getting drunk and I was just like, at a certain point, you don’t even know what’s good or bad.
Jason Concepcion Yeah.
Kemp Powers You just hope that it is. But you just you’re, you’re so passionate about it, you know what I mean? So it was such a relief to finally, just, like, see it with an audience and hear people’s real time reactions. It was it meant a lot.
Jason Concepcion It is incredible. And I mean and so in the, in the most positive way. People were like. Not mad when it was over, but like it had propelled everyone to the end with such rapidity. I didn’t even know how much time had passed. And when it gets to the break. When you realize it’s over. It was just like, What? I’m ready to sit here for another couple hours. It’s so energetic, so visceral. It shouldn’t be as funny and and as emotional, as emotional as it is. And it’s just fantastic. It’s wonderful. It really conveys the visceral feeling of what it must be like to watch people have these powers and to use them in such a master way. It’s beautiful.
Kemp Powers Thank you. From the banks. And I mean, of course, I mean, I know when you have a I mean, even though we told everyone, this is part three, you know, when you when you decide to have a cliffhanger, it’s going to be divisive. And that’s okay. It’s it’s okay for some people to love it. It’s okay for some people to not be cool about it. But without spoiling the ending, I was a big believer in that ending because of the idea of introducing a new problem.
Rosie Knight Yes.
Kemp Powers So as opposed to like this is all that’s happened and now we’re going to go into it’s like, no, at the last minute, let’s introduce a new problem so that the audience doesn’t necessarily know how it’s all going to be. Figure it out. It’s not as simple as this person is in a jail cell. It’s So the next movie, we’re going to break that person out of a jail cell.
Rosie Knight Yeah.
Kemp Powers I wanted to you know, I think it’s important to kind of complicated a little bit. Audiences are incredibly smart. We do what we can to try to stay at least a step ahead.
Jason Concepcion Yeah.
Kemp Powers If we can. And I’m the worst audience member. Like, I can’t watch movies with family members because I’m so used to story math that I’ll sit there and watch a movie and say everything that’s going to happen. With a lot of films. I do. I am just so it it’s like I’m trying to outsmart me.
Rosie Knight I will say. I will say I did not. I have that very same problem because we watch so many movies. We write stories ourselves. I did not see that big new problem coming. And I, I love the cliffhanger and I think it was more of a case definitely in our screening of people being left wanting more, which is a good thing. Like, nobody felt cheated. It was more everyone I spoke to was like, I could have watched another 2 hours, like I was ready. So I was speaking outside to a friend of mine, Eric, who’s so great. He also loved the movie rights over at Nerdist, and he made a great comparison that made me think he was like, for a generation of kids, this is going to be thier Empire. Like, not only did you come out and you topped the first movie, but it leaves on this kind of not a downer note. But there’s a complex problem that needs to be solved and you’ve learned something shocking and new. Was that something that you were purposefully going into with this movie, that it was going to be more mature, that was going to bend and leave you?
Kemp Powers We knew we knew it was going to be darker, and that’s okay. You know, kids.
Rosie Knight Kids have grown up with this character.
Kemp Powers Empire was the first Star Wars film I saw in a movie theater because the first Star Wars, I was too young. And so Empire was the first time I saw a Star Wars film and like, newsflash, Luke got his fucking arm cut off. I was just like, Oh, shit. Oh, my little kid. Like, what’s going on? Yeah, You know, and I’m talking in the very beginning when his Tauntaun gets killed and they hang him upside down and Han cuts the thing open and pulls the guts out.
Rosie Knight Yeah, like hide it inside.
Kemp Powers This is. I’m horrified. And this is the most awesome thing ever. But there are real stakes. Yeah. And the interesting thing is our film is so much darker to a lot of people, but the first film, like a lot of people, got killed.
Jason Concepcion Spider-Man dies.
Rosie Knight Yeah.
Jason Concepcion Spoiler.
Rosie Knight Spoiler
Jason Concepcion Spoiler. He died in the first 10 minutes.
Kemp Powers The darkness comes from, I think, real stakes and real menace. I really think that that’s and that’s a that’s a difficult thing, I think, to accomplish these days, a real sense of stakes. I mean, the wonderful thing that the very comics that inspire us to to do this, one of the problems with comics is that there’s no stakes and.
Rosie Knight Nobody ever dies.
Kemp Powers You know.
Rosie Knight Apart from Uncle Ben.
Jason Concepcion Uncle Ben. Only Uncle Ben
Kemp Powers The canon. So you find out a care in, you know, it’s news now, like the death of Superman. I was one of those people who the best selling comic in of all time.
Jason Concepcion The bag.
Kemp Powers I got it in the bag. I got so many versions.
Rosie Knight Got the newsstand edition, the direc market edition.
Kemp Powers And three months later, guess who’s back? So, you know, we were inspired by comics, but this is cinema.
Rosie Knight Mm.
Kemp Powers And I think we have a different goal. We, we, we, we’re comic fans ourselves. We want comic fans to, to be excited and love it. But we also we’re filmmakers, man. We want to try to tell a cinematic story that feels emotional, that feels personal and human and has real stakes and we feel as can only be told through cinema. So yeah, we always knew it was going to be more mature. I mean, one of the first decisions that was made was aging Miles up, you know, making him less of an adolescent, more of a young adult, making miles competent. You know, he ends the first film just barely getting his sea legs. And we were all excited by the idea of seeing Miles as the Spider-Man, who is responsible for protecting his city and doing it really well. But then with that maturity, you know, comes more mature problems. And I think it’s I think it’s natural. Plus, you know, kids grew up the same kids who saw the first into the Spider-Verse are five years.
Rosie Knight It makes me so excited to imagine you were ten when you saw that first movie and you’re 15 now. That just I imagine that is just one of the most special experiences.
Kemp Powers I would hope so. I would really hope so. I mean, of course we do these films for everyone, but the reality is different people are going to take a different ways. And I have a bit of experience doing this. Soul was a film that a lot of people were like, Did you forget kids are out there? And because it was like, okay, let’s see all the things kids aren’t interested in. 45 year old man Jazz. You know, like, well, he just like, ran down the list of things that like kids don’t give a shit about. And we went and made a movie about it. And guess what? Kids got it, you know, and kids enjoy it. Join it. And thanks to COVID, they had nothing else to watch on Christmas that year. So they all watched it in and took it and actually came away with something. So I think people when we say it’s for everyone, that doesn’t mean that everyone’s going to receive it exactly the same way. And that’s okay. I have friends with little four year olds who would probably be bouncing out of their seats through the first half of this film, and that’s okay too.
Jason Concepcion Yeah.
Rosie Knight Yeah.
Kemp Powers You know.
Rosie Knight For sure.
Jason Concepcion I think people have an idea of what directing a film is like, but what is directing an animated film like?
Kemp Powers It’s it’s complex. I mean, the main thing about animation is that it’s an iterative process because of the use of storyboards and scratch, We’re able to make version after version after version of the film before we actually animate the thing. So when you’re seeing an animated film like Soul or like Across the Spider-Verse, you’re seeing like the 30th, the 40th version of the film. And that iterative process is what makes it take so long. But with animation you have to kind of it doesn’t necessarily you have a script, but you don’t necessarily know how it works until you start building it. There are certain things that are similar and certain things that are very different from live action. One of the biggest difference is working with the voiceover performers is that people are almost never in the same room. So you have an actor and they come in and they get a script and there’s no one there and in many cases there’s no one there. The entire process. Wow. In many cases they don’t even know who the other actor is playing the part. Wow. So it was always funny when you realize that cast members as we got closer to opening, didn’t know who else was in the movie with characters that they had major scenes with because they never knew it was just me in the booth and Phil or Phil Lord and me and Phil and me and Kristen were in the booth and we’re working with these actors. And so, you know, you have to act against nothing or act against, you know, sometimes I’ll be their scene partner. I’m not an actor, so I give them the terrible version of the line and they just work that way. So that’s that’s a pretty tremendous difference. Obviously, our sets are all in a computer, you know, like rough layout or layout is like basically the equivalent of building your set with animation because you have the 2D storyboards and the board artists really help us get the story solid. But then when it comes time to build it in 3D, we go into a building on the set and you quickly discover the stuff that’s been storyboarded doesn’t necessarily work in 3D, and that’s when you because of when it’s in 3D, when it’s in layout, that’s when you start setting your cameras.
Rosie Knight Yeah.
Kemp Powers You know, and, and we’ll often do something like we’ll be in the edit suite and you’ll have like a picture in picture. So we’ll have the, the layout version with the 2D storyboard version like up in the corner. And so, and I don’t want to get like that for you to do that, but there are certain where we’re trying to do what you do in live action. But a lot of it is done in a computer, a lot of it is done separately. And then you piece the elements together and it takes along a much longer time.
Rosie Knight Yeah.
Kemp Powers Than making a live action film.
Rosie Knight Yeah, I was going to say one of the things that kind of blew everyone away about the original Into the Spider-Verse, it really changed the game in the way people treated and approached animated movies. I mean, every other studio is still doing movies that are coming out the beginning of this year that everyone’s saying, Oh, they’re trying to do into the Spider-Verse So they were impacted by into Spider-Verse with across the Spider-Verse you kind of blow that and bring in all these different animation styles and go even kind of more ambitious and out of the box and it like blew us away. How does that then come in? Because you’re not just trying to make an animated movie, you’re making an animated movie in a way that no one else has really done, where you have multiple different universes that all look exactly different, that still have to fit into the space and tell a human story. Well, I.
Kemp Powers Mean, I give a lot of credit to I mean, just in my co-directors, Joaquim Dos Santos and Justin Thompson, Justin Thompson was actually the production designer.
Rosie Knight Yeah.
Kemp Powers In the first Into the Spider-Verse. And it’s just Justin being the type of guy he is. He just doesn’t want to do the same stuff again. Yeah, I love, you know, it’s just not wanting to like, Well, that was cool. Yeah. And now let’s try something different. Wouldn’t it be cool to do this? Can we do that? Can we put off the folks at Sony Pictures? Image works like, you know, we do a lot of biz dev. It’s just we want we just just want to try new stuff and and I wouldn’t even say. I think it’s exciting when people see something done a little bit differently and it opens them up to other possible. Yeah, because obviously when Pixar did Toy Story, a look at that transformational change and to me it got a little maybe too extreme because all of a sudden it was like, no one can do 2D any more.
Jason Concepcion Yeah.
Kemp Powers And quietly during that period, some amazing Persepolis was one of the best animated films I saw. Lost the Oscar, I think, to a Pixar film.
Rosie Knight Was based on a comic. Yeah.
Kemp Powers And so, like, it’s not like it ever died. It’s like they’re.
Rosie Knight But the studio money kind of move away from that.
Kemp Powers And that’s just it’s just opening people up to using different kinds of animation again. But none of it’s really gone anywhere because, you know, there’s different practitioners. It was funny when I was at Pixar, one of my favorite Pixar shorts came up there. It was called Kickbull, and it was it was just it was unusual in that it was 2D and oh, wow. You know, so the the director of that particular short decided that even though she could have done it 3D, she did it 2D. And and I think that that’s what we really want. We just want people to figure out the best expression of it, whether. Wes Anderson, he’s done two pretty phenomenal stop motion animated films.
Rosie Knight Yeah.
Kemp Powers You know that over the past. So. So that’s all it is is is that you know, we want to we just I hope it just opens people up to understanding that there’s different ways you can do animation. But I already think that’s happening. I mean.
Rosie Knight Yeah.
Kemp Powers Pinnochio last year.
Rosie Knight Yeah.
Kemp Powers You know, I thought the Lego Movie was another major one.
Rosie Knight Lego movie’s magnificent.
Kemp Powers When Phil and Chris did that, I was so excited, you know, that we got the got to get a little Lego sequence.
Rosie Knight You know, that was so much fun.
Kemp Powers Which wasn’t in the film. I don’t know if you guys know?
Rosie Knight Oh, no, we didn’t know that.
Kemp Powers Tad So.
Rosie Knight Tell us.
Kemp Powers One of the. Okay. And we released our first teaser trailer for this film. Someone recreated the entire trailer in Lego.
Jason Concepcion Yeah, I watched. I watched it. Yeah. And I believe a 14 year old kid.
Kemp Powers Yeah, we hired him. He did the Lego sequence in our movie.
Rosie Knight No way. Yeah, that’s like, the coolest thing I’ve ever heard.
Kemp Powers Actually. We went and tracked him down because we were like, We should add a Lego sequence to this film. Have this guy do it. And we found out that Preston was 14.
Jason Concepcion Wow.
Kemp Powers In Canada, when we had to work it all out. But yeah, we added that Lego sequence. So Preston, the same kid who did those, the our teaser, he he actually animated that.
Rosie Knight That’s amazing.
Jason Concepcion So good. His teaser trailer is.
Rosie Knight Yeah. Writing everything.
Jason Concepcion It’s ridiculous. The camera moves. It’s stupid. Yeah.
Kemp Powers Yeah. I mean, you know, we gave him notes and stuff like that and, and honestly, I thought that was like, one of my favorite. I mean, it was just so funny to us, this idea that, like Lego. Peter Parker, you might not notice it, but the first stuff people. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Pops up in the fact that Miguel says, you know, you’re one of our best. He’s the only one.
Rosie Knight He’s the only one.
Kemp Powers He’s actually the only Spider person in the movie Miguel compliments that as being competent, is the Lego.
Rosie Knight In our, in our screening, that got such a huge laugh. Everyone was just and of course, immediately everyone’s like the Lego Movie, which again, like you say, that just totally changed the way people were perceiving what could be done with animation.
Jason Concepcion Yeah, one of the things that really struck me watching Into this morning after watching Across last night, is it above and beyond what we’ve talked about with the animation is how experimental the backgrounds are. You know like it could have Into is very clean. You know, when you see Miles or Gwen in a interior setting in the apartment somewhere, you know, you can really make out the background. It looks like a like a comic book page, but you’re doing so many things with the backgrounds in this movie. I’m thinking of the scene with Gwen.
Rosie Knight Gwen’s world, where it’s a watercolor.
Jason Concepcion It’s a watercolor and moving around. What what inspired that?
Kemp Powers Well, I mean, there’s different challenges because I think the first one you have these different animation styles, but they all come to one set. That’s Miles’s universe. So that’s all you have to really keep in consideration. With this one. You have not just the characters from those universal.
Rosie Knight Their universes.
Kemp Powers Coming to different universes, and we have to think through, Does a character look exactly the same in every universe? There’s actually subtle differences in how Miles looks in his universe versus Pavitr’s. Yeah, And and Gwen’s is a great I mean, hers was inspired by the comic books, which the. Gwen The Spider one, comic books, which have this amazing wash watercolor look. And we just took it to a different level in terms of like, you know what? If her whole world is basically, like, a mood ring, So. So, like, the inspiration is almost like when you’re in a when you’re watching a stage play and like, a character, like needs a chair and a chair like a peer, sit down. So Gwen’s entire world is kind of a reflection of her, her mood. And I think you see it, you know, you see it one way in the beginning of the film, but then I think you see it even more extremely when she. With her dad at the end. And when it goes from hostile to loving the changes in it. So it was always meant to be this watercolor mood ring and look like a painting. And it was it was one of the most challenging things to execute. But that’s what that’s what vis dev, that’s what visual development is for. You know, you spend a year just like experimenting with how we’re going to make this look and how we’re going to make it work. And, and, you know, knock wood. You hope that when it’s all said and done, people are positive about it. And then, I mean, the even bigger decision is to open the film with that. Yeah, because it’s such a visual departure from the first film. So to have the first, you know, 20 minutes of the movie be in this world, that’s like visually people aren’t accustomed to I think was a it was something we talked about a lot, you know, because we knew it was like, well, are people going to get with this or not? But it’s like, you know what, considering the journey we’re going to take people on, better to throw them in the deep. Yeah, you know what I mean? And get them used to something a little bit different and try to get them to get with this, then spring that on them a little bit later.
Rosie Knight And I, I think that opening action, like the opening sequence, is so stunning because immediately you realize this is a different game, like you said. I mean, there’s moments, little things logically that I feel a lot of animated movies wouldn’t do. Like when Gwen’s hair changes color because of the color, there’s a lot of people would say, Oh, well, why would I change color? Like what? How does but the atmosphere? So that and then you get an unbelievable fight sequence that’s like, just mind blowing. But one of the other things that I just really I guess you guys have to balance that we haven’t really seen done before. You get to play not only in these different animated universes, we get to see all these different cool worlds, but you get to bring in that and we will put a big spoiler warning on this and it will come out after the film is out. But like you get to bring in these live action elements, too.
Kemp Powers Right.
Rosie Knight What is it like to then balance that? Because we I mean, is it Roger Rabbit? The last time we really got to see like animation and and live action together. So what was it like to get to not only just tease those moments and do throwbacks, but to even bring a live action character into the animated world?
Kemp Powers It’s interesting because one of the you don’t want to overdo it, right? That’s one of the key things is that like, you know, we had a lot of different ideas for, for live action things and, you know, we would storyboard them. Storyboards of the live action stuff was great because we did it South Park style where it’d be like a cut out with like a flappy mouth and it’s like, Oh, but, you know, it was just really it was hilarious seeing all these floppy mouth.
Rosie Knight Yeah.
Kemp Powers Versions. But, but then we just realized it was diminishing returns. So it was again, this is I can talk about the film. This is coming.
Rosie Knight It will come out on Friday.
Kemp Powers Okay.
Rosie Knight And we will put a spoiler warning.
Kemp Powers Massive spoiler alert.
Jason Concepcion Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Kemp Powers But like, you know, when we decide to have a live action character in there, I mean, it creates it’s if believe it or not, it creates its own challenges because we have to like, build a costume for the character and then like figure out a way to make it not look terrible existing in the animated world.
Jason Concepcion Right.
Kemp Powers And but it’s also like you just want to have the best impact, I guess, and also make it something surprising.
Rosie Knight Yeah.
Kemp Powers You know, there’s the thing that people expect and it’s like, well, if everyone expects it that we really want to do, you know, this person or that person or this character, and it’s like, you know, we can’t help but get a little bit meta sometimes. So, you know, we were just, you know, thinking about like, well, what’s a character from the live action that, you know, people wouldn’t expect to see? And, you know, just again, it’s it’s Lord Miller, man. Like, it’s we want to make each other laugh. And honestly, we do. It’s very useful for us to do things like do audience testing and stuff like that. And we see the reaction the audience has to it. But that’s just proving out what we were already excited by.
Rosie Knight Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Jason Concepcion Kind of like trying these versions out and it’s like when we’re all really tickled and amused. That’s kind of where we decide to to go with it. But the technical things, believe it or not, the live action is far from the most difficult work. It’s just basically like, okay, let’s just make sure it doesn’t look stupid. Yeah, yeah. But for the most part, like, yeah, yeah. I just want to surprise people. If we can.
Jason Concepcion X ray Vision, we’ll be back.
Jason Concepcion And we’re back. There’s some wonderful parallels from across the Spider-Verse and into the Spider-Verse. The one that comes to mind is when Miles first encounters Peter, Alternate Universe Peter, in into the Spider-Verse. He hasn’t tied to a punching bag much in the same way. Yes, almost the exact same setup as as Miles finds himself in at the end of the movie. There’s, you know, there’s the the. Oh, that’s a Banksy guy’s bag. I mean, it’s amazing how purposeful, how early in the process, I guess I should say. Did those ideas come up like, oh, we know that Miles is going to be tied up. What if he was tied up the same way as Peter was tied up?
Kemp Powers In terms of the specificity, I think it’s much later in the process. You know, those are you know, you’re not going to you’re not going to build a scene or build a film around a joke. Yeah. You know what I mean? That the story the story has to work in its simplest, least funny version, right? You know, so I mean, the scene with Miles on the bag, that was always the scene in terms of the specificity of like shooting it in a way that it literally mirrors that that that came to when we got to the point where we were getting detailed. Yeah. And it was like, oh, let’s see, you know, and that’s not the only thing. It’s like, you know, a certain character turning up the sound. Yeah. Yeah. Like, perfectly. Yeah. And we and we, we got to that specificity a little bit later. But in its earlier version, the scene, the dialog wasn’t even all locked in, and we were just kind of experimenting with it. But, but we were always thinking about like, I mean, that was one of my, you know, was one of my favorite little parts in the in the first film when, you know, Peter’s tied to the bag and he like guesses immediately exactly where you know there was such a great scene And so yeah yeah, yeah we were thinking about it but that’s not always the case. Sometimes it’s just like. Like that. Like the little Banksy joke. I’m not kidding. I think we just added it. Mm hmm. Just a couple of weeks before we finished.
Rosie Knight Yeah. Yeah.
Kemp Powers Because at first, it was just like everyone was like, Whoa. And it was just like, Let’s just put that there, you know? Yeah. Like, why not?
Rosie Knight We live in this age where there is, like, a lot of comic book adaptations. But I think the first movie, and especially I think in this movie, is, you know, amped up to 11. This feels like it is adapting a comic book. It’s not just about adapting. Miles, who came from a comic book, you know, Bendis and Charlie, like, created this character. This we have HOBY had the Spider punk.
Jason Concepcion His wonderful vision, stealing Spider-Man.
Rosie Knight Scene, stealing Spidey, but my favorite, No surprises to anyone. But like, the way you bring him to life. He’s a zine, basically. You see these collages. So that’s one style of comic books. You get these moments where you see actual comic books and you have people like Sandford GREENE, Rick Leonardi, you know, regularly, and all these icons. Could you talk a little bit about bringing the comics to life? Because that is not something we get so much.
Kemp Powers Yeah, I mean, a lot of it was actually inviting in the artist.
Rosie Knight Yes.
Kemp Powers Folks like, you know, Rick Leonardi and Brian Stelfreeze, you know, a lot of the look of just Drew’s character we brought in Brian still frees not just his comic work, but he does this amazing pin up work. Yeah. And it was a lot of the pin up work that really inspired the look of just Drew. And of course, Sandford, I mean, you wouldn’t even realize it, but a lot of the marketing materials, the poses you see of Miles all over the place, those were Sanford’s poses where Mark Sanford was brought in really, really early to do lots of Miles posing. You know, it’s amazing how how long and and it’s just, you know, comics. I don’t I don’t want to get like overly philosophical here. But, you know, it’s kind of sad when you think about the history of comic books and how these creators, you know, created these amazing things that are now so valuable and just got cut out of every time.
Rosie Knight We talk about it a lot.
Kemp Powers Monetarily and also creatively. And and it’s and it’s and it’s inspired at least and sometimes it’s just like straight up ripping, you know, off the work. And I mean, people legally have a right to do it. But I don’t know, I just it just felt better. It felt right to kind of invite this community as much as we could that inspired it, you know, into into the process. I mean, my favorite comic book artists, I mean, I have I have a big three on it.
Rosie Knight Who are they?
Kemp Powers It’s Art Adams.
Rosie Knight Of course, the icon.
Kemp Powers You know, Frank. Frank Miller Because my first comic book that I love was Frank Miller’s Wolverine and Bill Sienkiewicz.
Rosie Knight Yeah, Yeah.
Kemp Powers So of course we hire Bils Sienkiewicz. Oh, who actually did what I think is like one of the most amazing posters that I think they’re going to be giving out at one of the theaters.
Rosie Knight Wow.
Kemp Powers Just to be able to engage some of the, like, artistic. The people who love comics. Yeah, like Bilson. Kevin’s just run on new mutants, of course. You know, like, changed my impression of, like, what a comic could be. And. And, I mean. That’s what this film is really trying to do. It’s it’s it’s it’s like, you know, you’re seeing all these different styles that say like, oh, animation could be that because that’s what that’s what comes out is that there’s all these amazing, you know, Alex Ross There’s so many different styles, painterly, abstract, you know, like, yeah, I thought, you know, M Night Shyamalan, his Carrey’s crazy character who runs like a comic book art gallery. Little bit crazy about it, but like, it is it is art.
Rosie Knight No , it is
Kemp Powers It is really
Rosie Knight It’s that’s amazing because, like, so when there’s the five act structure with the comic books, right. And when they were coming up, at first I’m sitting there and I’m like, Oh, that’s a sound for green like nod. It’s an Easter egg. That’s a Leonardi note I have. This is a Leonardi piece on my mom like, but actually then at the end, really early credits you get comic book.
Kemp Powers Yeah they worked on.
Rosie Knight They were also Nila McGruder who was the co-creator of Spider Bites.
Kemp Powers Yes, exactly.
Rosie Knight I’m so. I love to hear that that was your mentality because that’s how it felt like it was. The movie moved me in many ways. But as someone who cares about this stuff we talk about all the time, we dream of comics getting a union. That was the thing that moved me the most was to see these people. Chris Anchor who made these characters.
Kemp Powers I mean, CHris’ staff.
Rosie Knight He is there.
Kemp Powers Everything. I mean, all of these, you know, Metro Boomin’s been posting all these metros. Metro-sonas. Those are all Chris.
Jason Concepcion Oh Wow.
Kemp Powers Chris has done all that stuff. All the, all the Metro stoners have all been Chris Anka and a lot of our key character designs for the film, you know, have have started you know with with Chris Anka’s pencil and and it’s. I mean, I can’t really imagine us having been able to accomplish it without him, without any of them.
Rosie Knight Wow.
Kemp Powers I really can’t
Jason Concepcion That grounding and reverence for the comics allows you to do some really great humorous moments where you poke fun at certain characters. I’m thinking specifically of Scarlet Spider. Ben Riley.
Rosie Knight Is so good at it.
Kemp Powers He’s a himbo.
Rosie Knight He’s an IMO him.
Jason Concepcion So good. Because if you are not aware of the nineties material, it’s funny. It’s accessible, you’re laughing. And if you are aware.
Rosie Knight Of it, have you read Todd McFarlane, Spider Man.
Jason Concepcion Hysterical.
Kemp Powers And his design was like, We were literally saying like, okay, how many pouches can we get?
Rosie Knight You know what I mean? How is musculature?
Kemp Powers And I think the casual fan doesn’t even notice because his poses are extreme.
Rosie Knight Yeah.
Kemp Powers He’s like perfect pose.
Rosie Knight When he’s on the roof as well.
Kemp Powers And he goes perfect pose. His legs are doing things that legs can’t really do and he’s casually doing it and we just would laugh so hard. But then when we saw it rendered the first time in his style for Miles’s world, it was honestly, it was one of the first things that kind of took my breath away. 3D model. And it turned and moved. Yeah, because I just thought I was like, Oh, I thought I was just looking at a picture from an image, you know, comic from the from the heyday. But, but yeah, that, that design, man, I was just like, yeah, that’s, that is like the heyday, the nineties. The muscles on top of muscles here. How to.
Jason Concepcion Torn.
Rosie Knight The shading.
Jason Concepcion Torn. Long hair.
Rosie Knight Crying.
Kemp Powers Yeah.
Rosie Knight Oh, I mean, you obviously love comics. Was there for you, like coming into this project and getting this idea of how many Spider people you was there someone you really wanted to see? Like was there a Spider character or artist, you know, was there something that you were like, I want to bring this into the world, even if it’s just for me?
Kemp Powers There wasn’t any one. There were just I mean, honestly, the ones that I most wanted to see were the ones we put in the film. Yeah. You know, I was nobody. I was really excited about Punk. I was really excited about Pav. Pav, because we did a pretty extreme redesign of like his character. So nothing like.
Jason Concepcion We were talking about.
Rosie Knight That. I was actually, yeah. My brilliant friend Nick Ishukla’s, the writer of the new Spider-Man c Indian omic, and I was just saying I just want to see Pav on the pages now because the design you guys did is so cool.
Kemp Powers Yeah, I was really gassed about and, you know, there was it took a lot of, you know, we brought in a consultant to talk about like certain things, you know, like the Naru collar and what you know, he should. And then the hairstyles was also. Oh, I love that a tremendous thing. And then our first design from him, he was younger and and rightfully so, someone brought up like issues of like why don’t make the anything like a mogul stereotype. And I was like, you know what? Let’s age this kid.
Rosie Knight He gets to be the happy go lucky.
Kemp Powers Yeah, but he’s good at his job. He’s good at what he does. It was it was one of the most challenging parts of the film to do, which I think made it all the more satisfying. But from the redesign of POV to executing his character and his story, which involved his story, the an early version of it, we thought it was getting pretty good. And then we got an email from a lot of our animators in India who were just like, This is not good. Like, it’s not, it’s not it’s not as good a character. Like where we’re from different parts of India. And like one thing we agree on is like this, this could be better. So and again, this is this is the nature of collaboration. Yeah, We very quickly assembled an all Indian writers room.
Jason Concepcion Awesome.
Kemp Powers We invited not just Indian-American India like Hasan Minhaj was in the room like we we brought in a lot of people and showed them the scene and then just got notes and talk. And they were just talking about their lives, talking about their culture, and then rewrote the whole thing. When Harv went, he was very different. He was much younger. He, he was he was kind of like, almost like naive. And and we just transformed the character into something that the folks in that room could recognize. So I don’t know which of the characters. I didn’t know much about Spider-Man, India in the comic books. I just literally saw a design and I read a little bit about it and I was like, Oh, he gets power. from a shaman
Rosie Knight He doesn’t seea lot of canon, so it’s really cool to see him here.
Kemp Powers Came in his uncle’s Uncle Beam. Like it’s like there’s always going to be. Peter Yeah, you know, parallels, but, but it was like, okay, I think this is an interesting idea, but we got to like really let’s try to just do our version of because that’s the other things. We don’t want to be beholden to any source material, which if you’ve seen our movie, you should know that’s a pretty strong worldview we have is that, yeah, you know, can and can also be like turn into a noose and it can it can take all the joy, it can take all the excitement out of anything when, you know, you set these incredibly rigid rules. And so, of course, we weren’t going to adhere to that and in making this film or any of the characters. But I think pumpkin pie for the greatest examples. Yeah, because they look nothing like their source material.
Rosie Knight But that’s going to become the defining vision for people who watch these movies.
Kemp Powers Oh, man, the Punk toys for me.
Jason Concepcion Looks incredible.
Kemp Powers And they gave me swag and like my son was like, He’s already got some stuff in there. And he was like, Where’s Punk? You know what I mean? I’m the pPnk action figure has like a guitar and, you know, and my daughter came by and she was like, Oh, you want a pen? She’s like, Where’s Punk? And they went right for the Spider Punk stuff.
Rosie Knight Yeah.
Jason Concepcion Tell us about the inclusion of punk, because as we were saying before, Cody Ziglar, great friend of the pod, was the writer of the ongoing Spider Punk series over at Marvel Comics. And I remember talking with him before he had seen the movie several weeks back, and he was like, I don’t know. They tell me the art style is like incredible, but I haven’t seen it and it truly is startling and great. Tell us about the inclusion of Spider-Man.
Kemp Powers Yeah, I mean, I think his design is like the coolest thing in the film. I agree. And then there was an earlier version of it where, you know, we almost cut Punk out of the film. But wonderfully, as we were working on the story, he became integral to the plot. And I think that’s that’s really what’s key. Yes, It starts with like, well, this is kind of a cool character, this idea of, you know, Miles starting to have feelings for Gwen and being uncertain about this other boy. Now, immediately, like, filled in that slot because it’s like Miles is so cool that we watched the first into the Spider-Verse in Miles is cool. So it’s like we need a character that would make Miles immediately look uncool. You know, it’s like Miles who’s wearing his Nike’s in his hoodie. We need to make that character look like a dork. Yeah. And the character that makes that character look like a dork is Spiderman. It’s, you know, he’s he’s 19, 20. He’s six foot three inches tall, real thin, you know? And we always we always use a term like when we first brought in Daniel and we were talking about the character and it was like the way we describe him is it’s not just that he’s cool. He’s effortlessly cool. Yeah. Makes him annoying. You know, he’s in fur. There was an early version of the script where everyone kept saying that, like, it’s so effortless and so, like, it’s so effortless. And Miles was just like, If one more person says effortless, I’m going to scream. But it’s the fact that he’s effortlessly cool. So, you know, we always knew he was going to be in there, but then we had to make sure it worked for the overarching narrative. But it started with, you know, the the boy who makes Miles jealous. But then when we really dug into it, it just became a character that became integral to the plot of the entire film. And, you know, again, without spoiling it, there are certain key like the film can’t exist without.
Jason Concepcion Yeah.
Rosie Knight Yeah.
Kemp Powers Yeah. And, and, and you know, we we knew there was going to be a lot of people who were just like, Oh man, where’s where’s Noir and where’s Henny? And, you know, again, spoiler you’re going to. But it’s like, yeah, you’ve got to take some time to develop. You can’t just throw one dimensional characters on top of people, and you really have to take the time to give these characters a story, give them a motivation to make people care about them in order for this all to work in the in the bigger story that you’re trying to tell. It was so great to hear people cheer at the end when it’s like, okay, now you’re seeing some characters, you know, that you are familiar with, but you love these new ones, too, don’t you
Rosie Knight Yeah. Seeing them them together.
Kemp Powers Now you’re kind of thinking, Wow, what’s it going to be like? You know, Noir interacting with Punk. How fun is that going to be?
Rosie Knight Yeah, And you get that. It’s one of my favorite lines in the movie that I think sums up the effortlessly cool thing is when he takes his mask off and Miles is like, Oh, how are you cool without the mask? So you talk kind of about this. We touched on the idea of this, that news of Canon and Spider punk is kind of this great rebel against the cannon rules. That is such a fun story arc. And obviously, as crazy as it comes from a place of you guys knowing that as readers and people who love Cannon, but also have had to sit through Uncle Ben dying 50,000 times in 50,000 universes. Could you talk about that? Because when that happened, it sort of exploded the movie onto a different level.
Kemp Powers Yeah, Yeah. It’s a big turn for the film. And, and again, like this is look, we can’t talk about Miles Morales, the character in the world, without talking about the negative pushback that you still get for the character about whether he’s a legit Spider-Man. And it’s heartbreaking that these are conversations that have to be had. But, you know, it was really, you know, when when Miguel says a line like, you’re not supposed to be Spider-Man, of course, that has multiole meanings to us.
Rosie Knight Mm hmm.
Kemp Powers You know, in that moment, he represents every person in the world who questions the existence of this very character in the film and in him. If Miles is going to push back and do something different, like we’re we’re we’re having a conversation with our audience. Yeah. You know, we’re not trying to lecture anyone, but we want to have a conversation. And just like we, we feel like Miles in that moment. Yeah. You know, I mean, so, so that those and, and hopefully if we’re successful, someone who doesn’t know about any of that can just understand. And and appreciate it and be moved. On the very simplest level. But if you are privy to the world in which these characters are being discussed, you can also get that that double meaning.
Jason Concepcion It really amps up the movie. You’re absolutely right, because it’s in that moment where you understand that Miles has to do what he has to do, despite the fact that everybody is telling him not to.
Kemp Powers Yes.
Rosie Knight He can’t do that. He has to go.
Kemp Powers He is our hero. And what he’s doing is ostensibly very selfish.
Jason Concepcion Yeah.
Kemp Powers But we have to be on his side.
Rosie Knight And it’s also
Kemp Powers They have to be on his side.
Rosie Knight It’s also a choice that is incredibly relatable, not just to the audience, but to every single Spider person in the elite Spider force. They would have done the same thing. They can pretend that Miguel has. Yeah. Yeah. You know, so in that way, it’s a very interesting choice. And I think the coolest thing is I think a lot of people will probably learn the term cannon from this movie and learn and understand it in that context and then get to understand and learn retroactively how it impacts comics and the way that we read them.
Kemp Powers Canon is something that is always and again, I had a lot of experience with it. My first TV job was on Star Trek Discovery. So it just felt like.
Rosie Knight All canon. Not lore. All canon
Jason Concepcion Here’s the textbooks.
Kemp Powers Yeah, I know. I’ve worked on other projects behind the scene that are all a lot of of big canon things. And it’s it becomes so rigid and so frustrating. And like, we were having a conversation earlier, and it was just like so many of the things you feel like you can’t live without and you love the most right now. Mm hmm. When it first came out, you were suspicious of it and you thought it was stupid. Mm hmm. You know what I mean? It’s not like people saw these things that are iconic coming, whether it’s films or performances. I mean, pretty much everything when it comes to comic book films. Everyone wanted to revolt when Michael Keaton was cast as Batman.
Rosie Knight Heath Leger as Joker.
Kemp Powers Heath Leger as joker. People thought, Why do we need another Spider-Man movie into the Spider-Verse? All of this stuff has been greeted with hostility.
Jason Concepcion Yeah.
Kemp Powers Until, like, for all the Star Wars, I mean, the year that Star Wars, The Phantom Menace came out, there was this other little movie called The Matrix that kind of silly me that turned into another thing, that people were psychotic and rigid and then immediately rigid about. So here’s all the rules that have been established. And newsflash, most of the people creating this stuff are kind of making it up as the stuff that becomes canon and law is we’re just kind of like, Well, whatever, man, I’m going home right now or I’m drunk. I don’t know. Did I say that?
Jason Concepcion He only wears red shoes. Yeah. Yeah.
Rosie Knight Well, no, this. This Spider man was bitten by a pig, and now.
Kemp Powers There’s a real that. That’s really real because it’s just a bunch of people were thrown and we kind of go back and go, Oh, man. But that doesn’t make sense. That’s too late now.
Rosie Knight Someone else in the future can make it to make sense.
Kemp Powers Someone else’s problem.
Jason Concepcion Yeah.
Kemp Powers And, and, and so it’s like be careful about don’t don’t take the fun out of it. Don’t, don’t turn it into something where it’s the very thing that made us get into comics is that we couldn’t get into the elite clubs, you know, we weren’t invited into all these spaces. I was a nerd growing up, so. The reaction to that is to then become like, elitist and exclusive about about something that makes no sense to me, man.
Jason Concepcion Yeah, yeah.
Kemp Powers No sense to me.
Rosie Knight Especially when comics is not just accessible because they’ve always been able to be bought for a couple of dollars or $0.25, depending on how far. But anyone can make one because all you need is paper and pencil. So in that way, it’s like almost impossible to gatekeep.
Jason Concepcion Yeah.
Rosie Knight Yet, people still do. Comics are for everyone. Yeah. You know, comics offer everyone just like this movie for everyone. And people hate that. Yeah, it terrifies them. Yeah.
Kemp Powers They want to feel like, you know, I’m the only one in the world who can enjoy this. And it’s like, No, man, you got to got to be open to doing things a little, little bit differently.
Jason Concepcion I must ask, Kem, as the one of the co-writers of Soul
Kemp Powers Uh huh.
Jason Concepcion You put the Knicks joke in Soul?
Kemp Powers I sure as shit did.
Rosie Knight I knew you were going to bring that up
Kemp Powers I sure as hell did.
Jason Concepcion It. It was like a gut punch when I saw the scene. And it’s so incredibly accurate. Tell us about putting that in the movie.
Kemp Powers Yeah, well, context is everything, right? I’m a lifelong Knicks fan. Yeah. And the last time the Knicks won a title was the year I was born. So I haven’t been alive for a championship Knicks team, so. And I’m loyal eight. I mean, I was sitting in the front row of Knicks Heat, and I literally flew to New York, just watched Knicks Heat. And I and I and I hold to, you know, I have Clippers season tickets, you know what I mean? Because I’m here, but I’m a Knicks diehard. And I don’t know, it was just it felt like the perfect joke to give, like, you know what? If my team’s futility has been because of a cosmic prankster who’s just been, like, picking on it. But I will say after Soul came out, it felt like the Knicks starting getting better. And. And if we can talk basketball for just a minute?
Rosie Knight Please.
Kemp Powers This year’s playoffs, man, like everyone’s talking about, who can they trade for? I think this team they have it, as is, if you just stay with them. You know, everyone wants to get rid of Randall. I actually love this Knicks squad, man. I really love this.
Jason Concepcion All I know is we got two off a team that’s going to the finals
Rosie Knight That’s what I’m saying.
Kemp Powers I know I really like.
Rosie Knight You said is like they beat Jimmy Butler who is currently unbeatable.
Kemp Powers So the problem with the Knicks is because New York is such a huge market.
Jason Concepcion Yeah.
Kemp Powers Even when you have a good team, you feel like, okay, it’s New York, we got to get a bigger star.
Jason Concepcion Yeah.
Kemp Powers You know, And they they’d never build through the draft. They always try to, whenever you get some talent and then you’re like, Now let’s get rid of this talent and get a star who’s going to sell tickets. But nothing will sell tickets more than just being good. And the Knicks were good for years. The Ewing years were actually awesome.
Jason Concepcion That was like 12 years of playoffs.
Kemp Powers You know, even the Allan Houston fighting, getting in fistfights with Miami years. What Latrell Sprewell and Allan Houston, those are pretty good years, too, you know. So anyway, I can I can go down a rabbit hole. No one questions my New York Knicks bonafides, can eat it, because I earn that joke. I’ll stand by that joke in Soul till my dying days. And I think it’s a good joke.
Jason Concepcion It’s a great joke.
Kemp Powers You know, people mixed fans laughed their asses off and Lakers fans laugh even harder. He of course so but whatever. But I love that joke.
Jason Concepcion Kemp Powers, thank you so much for joining us.
Rosie Knight Thank you so much. So great. it was total joy.
Kemp Powers Great to meet you.
Rosie Knight Come back.
Kemp Powers Anytime. Thank you. Thank you very much.
Rosie Knight Thank you, Kemp. Up next, Nerd Out. In today’s Nerd Out where you tell us what you love and why or a theory you’re excited to share. Aimee pitches us on the YA series The Luna Chronicles by Marissa Meyer.
Aimee My name is Aimee, and my Nerd Out is The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meiyer. It’s a young adult book series that can be described as fairy tales in space, and it feels like a cross between Sailor Moon and Firefly. It has great characters, tight plotting, and is a space opera that is clearly having so much fun being a space opera. In the opening scene, there is a mechanic in Beijing, an earthen city, centuries in the future. She’s also a cyborg with mechanical hand and leg and a brain interface that lets her download data directly into her head. Across the series, we meet Little Red Riding Hood, who is a farmer and expert pilot Rapunzel, who is a hacker trapped in a satellite, and Snow White, a princess who’s letting herself lose touch with reality rather than compromise her ethics. There’s also a moon colony, a pandemic mind control, a social media star, prince, genetically hybrid humans, a scoundrel with a heart of gold, the stolen ship he loves, a palace guard who keeps his cards close to his chest. And a revolution about fighting the system by and for the people directly impacted by the oppression. And that’s not to forget. Near and dear to my heart Echo a robot buddy with a faulty personality. Chip Miri weaves in clever references to the old traditional tales which reward deep fairy tale readers. And she pretty plotted everything out. So the foreshadowing is fierce. The first book was published in 2012 and the quartet was added to with a collection of short stories, a villain origin novel and a graphic novel Duology starring Eco. I first came across the series while living abroad and that cover image of a Cinderella foot with a cyborg foot faintly visible inside. It definitely caught my eye. I’m a school librarian and I love that this is a series I can hand to a mature 11 year old looking for light romance, and slightly more complexity and storytelling. But it’s also a series that, as an adult, I can read and find utterly delightful. In my opinion, it might be a Perfect Way series. The books have remained in print and are widely available at libraries. My hope is that the sci fi TV renaissance we’re having right now will mean the series gets adapted into a teen friendly, jubilant and fast paced space opera. Although the books are already great, it’s how you should read them.
Rosie Knight Thanks, Aimee. If you have theories or passions you want to share. Hey, I saw an x ray crooked dot com instructions in the show notes.
Jason Concepcion Big thank you to Kemp Powers. What a wonderful interviewer he was.
Rosie Knight Joy.
Jason Concepcion And that’s it for us. Rosie, Any plugs?
Rosie Knight Go see Across the Spider-Verse. really delightful.
Jason Concepcion It’s good.
Rosie Knight Lots of comic book creators worked on this movie, and I want them to get residuals. I want them to do it. I want them to be living life and enjoying it and having a great time. And I want you to watch the movie because it’s delightful. Also, go and buy some comics, go read some comics by these brilliant creatives. And of course, listen to us talking about those comics and the movies on here.
Jason Concepcion Catch the next episode of X-ray Vision on Wednesday, June 7th, where we finish our coverage of Yellowjackets season two on the beleaguered Showtime network.
Rosie Knight Those girls are looking beleaguered in that finale. And subscribe on YouTube, where you can now watch full episodes of the show and check out The Discord to meet and hang with tons of amazing fans and listeners plus me and Jason.
Jason Concepcion Five star ratings. Five star reviews. We’ve gotta have them. You gotta give them to us. Here’s one from OhBobSaget4489: simply the best I could Listen to Jason and Rosie talk all day. They’re super knowledgeable when it comes to all things comics and just nerd culture in general. Listening to these two is always the highlight of my week. Thank you for keeping everyone sane. All the best. OhBobSaget4489.
Rosie Knight Thank you.
Jason Concepcion Thank you, OhBobSaget4489. X-ray Vision is a Crooked Media production. The show is produced by Chris Lord and Saul Rubin and executive produced by me, Jason Concepcion. Editing and Sound Design is by Vasilis Fotopoulos, video production by Delon Villanueva and Rachel Gaewski. Social Media by Ewa Okulate and Caroline Dunphy. Thank you to Brian Vasquez for our theme music. See you next time, folks.
Rosie Knight Bye.