For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved superheroes. I was never a comic book girlie (honestly I think I was an adult when I realized that I even could have been into comic books), so I never actually knew the canon. Or even that there was such thing as canon. I think my love of these movies comes from the fact these were always the movies I went to with my dad.
As an older teen and young adult, I lied to myself saying that I most definitely was *not* into these movies. I just watched them when they happened to be on. I said this to myself even whilst 20-year-old Liv was watching back-to-back features, Batman the Lego movie, and the 1st Guardians of the Galaxy in her apartment solo after renting them from Red Box. So not into them.
Why did I insist on lying to myself about them? Partially because I think I had convinced myself these movies were ‘uncool’ or ‘childish’ (billions of dollars in box office revenue would say otherwise) or not for someone more traditionally feminine who missed the boat on loving comic books. But watching Tiktokers such as JStoobs, a bonafide comic book nerd, talk about these movies encapsulated a lot of the joy and personal nostalgia I get from them.
Cut to the newest addition to the MCU universe (kinda), Spiderman: Across the Spider-Verse, and now we are truly cooking with gas. Not only is it a superhero movie (and my personal favorite superhero at that) but it’s an animated superhero movie. No way was 20-year-old Liv going to see that in theatres. But today? You better believe I bought tickets as soon as I was back in the US.
Why you might ask? Well, because the Spider-Verse series is a masterclass is everything we talk about at UnderBelly when we say there are things you are able to do with illustration that can not be done with photography alone. The incredible feat that the new Spiderman movies does is reimagining the strength of illustration and animation and then it pours gasoline on the fire. It is not trying to simply replicate what a camera would see in a live-action version, instead, it asks the question “What are we missing in live-action movies that we can do with animation?” And the resounding response to anyone who has seen the movies is “A lot.”
We’ve seen the multiverse played out in a whole slew of movies and series. And in order to demonstrate the vastness of infinite universes these productions often have to rely on elements that feel utterly absurd such as the rock universe in Everything Everywhere All at Once or the Alligator Loki in Loki. But in Across the Spider-Verse, styles blend and clash in entirely new ways to heighten the idea that infinite universes result in infinite possibilities. You see this in the literal illustration styles of the different spider people, as well as the occasional absurdist character.
Beyond the multitude of illustration styles, colors take on entirely new meanings. In one emotional scene with Gwen Staci, her hair changes colors almost as if looking through a caleidoscope, drawing the viewer into her complicated emotional state as she tries to talk with her father. At another emotional high point, the background and colors wash away quite literally to force the viewer to focus exclusively on the characters in the scene. Neither of these scenes would make sense, or even be possible in a live-action film. Yet these are just two short scenes in a 2-hour long movie filled with moments like these.
Seeing what we do, done at such a high level is invigorating. It also reinforces our push for illustration as an agency as the limits are simply our imagination.
Interested in chatting more about illustration or superheroes? Schedule a Discovery Call or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
About The Author
Olivia Wisden is the Founder + CEO of UnderBelly Creative. She has worked with dozens of brands over the years ranging from city initiatives to product launches and beyond. When she’s not fan-girling over the design team’s illustrations she can probably be found reading a novel or attending a boxing class.