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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Coming in second on “American Idol” may still be a path to superstardom, but it no longer offers guaranteed paychecks worthy of the next pop idol or rock star.
Wednesday night’s runner-up, 16-year-old Jessica Sanchez, doesn’t have a definite shot at producing an album and could be paid as little as $30,000 in advances for recording singles, according to the “Idol” contract she and other Season 11 contestants signed earlier this year.
The agreement appears to be the first time in the show’s history that producers are not offering the runner-up an album deal that in previous years came with a guaranteed advance of at least $175,000, an Associated Press review of the FOX show’s contracts reveals.
The analysis covers eight of the show’s 11 seasons during which contracts filed for contestants under the age of 18 were available. The contracts were reviewed by judges in accordance with a California law that requires at least 15 percent of a minor entertainer’s earnings be set aside for his or her benefit once he or she reaches adulthood.
The reduced royalty advance covers the period immediately following the show. In addition to recording new music, the series’ winners and finalists are obligated to perform in a concert tour and lend their likeness to a Walt Disney World Resort attraction in Florida.
If Sanchez is given an album deal following the show, she will receive the same $175,000 bonus that Lauren Alaina was paid after placing second in the show’s 10th season. But 19 Recordings Inc., which has the option to handle the albums and recordings of “Idol” contestants for several years after they appear on the show, has replaced a guaranteed album deal for the runner-up with a staggered “Development Period” that requires less music and pays out less in advances.
Sanchez could be paid as little as $30,000 if she is asked to perform four single songs, or $60,000 if she records an EP of between four and 10 songs.
Representatives for 19 Recordings Inc. and “American Idol” producer FremantleMedia declined comment. They also have not disclosed which recording deal would be offered to Sanchez.
“It makes sense. You can’t continue to offer the same sorts of rewards and incentives when the program was averaging 25 to 30 million (viewers), and (now) the finale is barely breaking 20 million,” said Northwestern University assistant professor Max Dawson, who teaches a course on reality television. Wednesday’s finale was the lowest-rated final show for “Idol” in its history.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Ellen DeGeneres, who broke ground in 1997 as the first lead character on prime-time TV to reveal she was gay, is winning the nation’s top humor prize.
The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts announced Tuesday that DeGeneres will receive the 15th annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. She will be honored Oct. 22 with a lineup of star performers in a tribute show that will be recorded for broadcast at a later date.
In a written statement, DeGeneres said receiving the same award as past honorees Bill Cosby, Tina Fey and Will Ferrell makes her wonder, “Why didn’t I get this sooner?”
It was 15 years ago — just before the humor prize was created — when DeGeneres came out on Time magazine’s cover and as her character on the sitcom “Ellen,” to a record 46 million viewers. The popular show began losing viewers, though, and was canceled a year later. DeGeneres said at the time that ABC caved in to fear and abandoned the show. She faced tough questions over whether the sitcom was “too gay” and if she had torpedoed her career by pushing a “gay agenda.”
“When I’m accused of becoming political, I’m showing love,” DeGeneres told ABC’s Diane Sawyer in a 1998 interview. “How is that political to teach love and acceptance?”
The rejection was enough to send DeGeneres into a deep depression.
“Ellen” paved the way, though, for future shows to also break the taboo of showing gay characters. “Will and Grace” would follow, along with “Glee,” “Modern Family” and others.
DeGeneres bounced back with movie roles, including as the voice of a lead character in the animated film “Finding Nemo.” She also has a hit talk show now in its ninth season, best-selling books and had a stint as the fourth judge on “American Idol.”
Cappy McGarr, an executive producer for the Mark Twain Prize show and a Kennedy Center board member, said DeGeneres has a special style of observational humor in the tradition of Twain. She also makes people laugh across political lines.
“She’s not just a comedian,” he said. “She’s really a miracle worker. She got the president to dance, the first lady to do push-ups and (Republican) Tom Delay to laugh.”
The New Orleans native got her start as an emcee at a local comedy club in her hometown. In 1982, a videotape of her club performance won DeGeneres Showtime’s “Funniest Person in America.” By 1986, she appeared on “The Tonight Show” and became the first female comedian summoned to Johnny Carson’s desk to chat about her performance.
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP)
Lakers forward Metta World Peace was suspended seven games by the NBA on Tuesday for throwing a vicious elbow at Oklahoma City’s James Harden, meaning the Los Angeles starter likely will miss six playoff games.
World Peace was ejected from Sunday’s game against the Thunder for striking Harden in the head, giving him a concussion. World Peace claimed the contact was an accidental, overzealous celebration of a dunk.
World Peace will miss the Lakers’ season finale on Thursday at Sacramento and the next six games for which he is eligible. The playoffs open Saturday, and Los Angeles is likely to be the Western Conference’s third seed.
Commissioner David Stern alluded to the former Ron Artest’s history of on-court altercations in announcing the penalty in a statement.
”The concussion suffered by James Harden demonstrates the danger posed by violent acts of this kind, particularly when they are directed at the head area,” Stern said in a statement. ”We remain committed to taking necessary measures to protect the safety of NBA players, including the imposition of appropriate penalties for players with a history of on-court altercations.”
The suspension is Artest’s third career ban of at least seven games. He got an 86-game suspension in 2004 for jumping into the stands at the Palace of Auburn Hills in the Detroit suburbs to fight fans, and he served a seven-game suspension in 2007 for his no-contest plea on a domestic violence charge.
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said the team ”accepted” the suspension.
”His most recent lapse in judgment is not to be condoned or accepted,” Kupchak said after praising World Peace as largely a model citizen during his three years with the club.
”His actions could have seriously injured another player, and his absence during this suspension will hurt our team as well,” Kupchak added. ”While we accept the league’s decision, we will be supportive of Metta and try to help him be more professional on the court.”
World Peace didn’t speak to the media after the Lakers’ practice Tuesday, heading to the locker room at the moment media members entered the gym at the Lakers’ training complex. But Kobe Bryant acknowledged the obvious problem for the Lakers, who lose a starter and their defensive stopper right before the postseason.
”I saw what you guys saw,” Bryant said before the suspension was announced. ”It’s hard to get into a guy’s head and know exactly what happened in that situation. I haven’t really spoken to him about it. You’ve really got to ask him.”
Harden appears to be doing better, but still hasn’t been cleared to return for the Thunder, who might have rested players anyway in their final two games while locked into the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference.
”It’s an unfortunate situation,” Bryant said. ”James, from what I hear, is OK. As far as Metta goes, he has to focus on himself, and however many games they give him, they give him. He just has to be prepared, and when he comes back, just step right in and be ready to go.”
Bryant and the Lakers are clearly torn between supporting a teammate and recoiling from World Peace’s actions.
Lakers coach Mike Brown, who professed ignorance of what happened after the game, said he finally viewed a replay and spoke with World Peace about it briefly, but said he didn’t attempt an in-depth evaluation of what World Peace was thinking.
”You’re concerned about it,” said Brown, an assistant coach with the Indiana Pacers when Artest precipitated that infamous brawl in the stands in Detroit. ”He’s a starter for us, and he’s important to what we do. … What was going through his mind, I haven’t talked to him. What Metta said is he shouldn’t have done it. He’s got to keep his cool.”
Brown said World Peace explained the elbow as an accidentally overzealous celebration of his exciting dunk over Serge Ibaka and Kevin Durant moments before, the same explanation he gave in a brief statement after the game.
”What am I supposed to do, call him a liar?” Brown asked. ”He said it was accidental. Now was it accidental or not? I don’t know.”
Whitney Houston, who ruled as pop music’s queen until her majestic voice and regal image were ravaged by drug use, erratic behavior and a tumultuous marriage to singer Bobby Brown, has died. She was 48.
Houston’s publicist, Kristen Foster, said Saturday that the singer had died, but the cause and the location of her death were unknown.
News of Houston’s death came on the eve of music’s biggest night — the Grammy Awards. It’s a showcase where she once reigned, and her death was sure to case a heavy pall on Sunday’s ceremony. Houston’s longtime mentor Clive Davis was to hold his annual concert and dinner Saturday; it was unclear if it was going to go forward.
At her peak, Houston the golden girl of the music industry. From the middle 1980s to the late 1990s, she was one of the world’s best-selling artists. She wowed audiences with effortless, powerful, and peerless vocals that were rooted in the black church but made palatable to the masses with a pop sheen.
Her success carried her beyond music to movies, where she starred in hits like “The Bodyguard” and “Waiting to Exhale.”
She had the he perfect voice, and the perfect image: a gorgeous singer who had sex appeal but was never overtly sexual, who maintained perfect poise.
She influenced a generation of younger singers, from Christina Aguilera to Mariah Carey, who when she first came out sounded so much like Houston that many thought it was Houston.
But by the end of her career, Houston became a stunning cautionary tale of the toll of drug use. Her album sales plummeted and the hits stopped coming; her once serene image was shattered by a wild demeanor and bizarre public appearances. She confessed to abusing cocaine, marijuana and pills, and her once pristine voice became raspy and hoarse, unable to hit the high notes as she had during her prime.
“The biggest devil is me. I’m either my best friend or my worst enemy,” Houston told ABC’s Diane Sawyer in an infamous 2002 interview with then-husband Brown by her side.
It was a tragic fall for a superstar who was one of the top-selling artists in pop music history, with more than 55 million records sold in the United States alone.
She seemed to be born into greatness. She was the daughter of gospel singer Cissy Houston, the cousin of 1960s pop diva Dionne Warwick and the goddaughter of Aretha Franklin.
Houston first started singing in the church as a child. In her teens, she sang backup for Chaka Khan, Jermaine Jackson and others, in addition to modeling. It was around that time when music mogul Clive Davis first heard Houston perform.
“The time that I first saw her singing in her mother’s act in a club … it was such a stunning impact,” Davis told “Good Morning America.”
“To hear this young girl breathe such fire into this song. I mean, it really sent the proverbial tingles up my spine,” he added.
Before long, the rest of the country would feel it, too. Houston made her album debut in 1985 with “Whitney Houston,” which sold millions and spawned hit after hit. “Saving All My Love for You” brought her her first Grammy, for best female pop vocal. “How Will I Know,” ”You Give Good Love” and “The Greatest Love of All” also became hit singles.
Another multiplatinum album, “Whitney,” came out in 1987 and included hits like “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” and “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.”
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Marc Marmaro signed the judgment Wednesday, less than six weeks after Brand filed for divorce and one day after Perry filed paperwork stating that she and Brand have agreed on all financial issues.
The exact terms of the breakup are confidential.
Brand, Perry and Marmaro all signed the judgment Wednesday, court records show. The couple will become legally single again on July 14 because California law requires that couples wait at least six months after filing before their divorce can be finalized.
The judgment calls for Perry’s maiden name, Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson, to be restored.
Neither Brand, a British actor and comedian, nor Perry, a pop superstar, indicated in court filings when they separated.
They were married in October 2010 in a lavish wedding at a resort inside a tiger reserve in India.
Their wedding came at a high-point for both of their careers. Brand was introduced to U.S. audiences after hosting the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards and has since starred in films including “Arthur,”
“Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and “Get Him to the Greek.”
Perry has turned out a string of pop hits, including “I Kissed a Girl” and “California Gurls,” and is scheduled to perform at Sunday night’s Grammy Awards. She has also been nominated for two awards for her song “Firework.”
The Lakers traded forward Lamar Odom and a second-round draft pick to the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday night for a first-round pick and an $8.9 million trade exception, capping Los Angeles’ stunning 72-hour breakup with last season’s Sixth Man of the Year.
The Lakers and Mavericks reached a swift deal after Odom learned Thursday that Los Angeles was attempting to trade him in a megadeal for New Orleans superstar Chris Paul.
After the NBA blocked that trade, Odom declined to report to the Lakers’ opening day of training camp on Friday. Odom then requested a trade in a meeting with general manager Mitch Kupchak, and the Lakers improbably swung a deal with the rival Mavericks, who swept Los Angeles out of the second round of last season’s playoffs.
”Lamar was a fine player for us in his seven years with the Lakers and was a key to helping us win two championships,” Kupchak said in a statement. ”In addition, he always conducted himself with class and professionalism, and we wish him well in the remainder of his career.”
Neither team formally acknowledged the deal until Sunday night, but both teams knew all about the surprising transaction when they reported for training camp practices that morning.
”To be honest with you, I don’t like it,” Kobe Bryant said. ”It’s tough to lose Lamar. Pau (Gasol) is still here, and we’re all thankful for that. It’s hard when you’ve been through so many battles with players to just see them go somewhere else. It’s tough.”
Dallas coach Rick Carlisle and star Dirk Nowitzki spoke eagerly about adding Odom to the defending NBA champions’ roster without losing a player in return. Odom will aid the Mavs’ recovery from Tyson Chandler’s departure, and Carlisle said Odom’s partnership with Nowitzki and Shawn Marion would form the NBA’s best frontcourt.
The Lakers used to have what was considered the NBA’s best frontcourt — until they broke it up for reasons that are unclear to their players. Odom, a veteran team leader and a popular Hollywood celebrity, averaged 14.4 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3 assists while playing in all 82 games last season with his smooth, well-rounded game.
Bryant and Derek Fisher led a chorus of confused anger from the Lakers, who have no idea what their front office is planning just two weeks before the season opener. Los Angeles is thought to be working on a deal for Orlando center Dwight Howard, but the trade exception obtained from Dallas could be only a minor part of any potential deal.
”As a basketball player, it confuses you as to what your focus should be,” Fisher said. ”I’m very disappointed and frustrated for (Odom and Gasol). If I had my choice, Lamar would be a Laker for life.”
Bryant said he hated seeing Odom leave Los Angeles: ”Especially to them. We were supposed to come back and get them back. It’s tough. . . . Do I think we got too little? Who did we get? I don’t think Mark Cuban is protesting this trade.”
Although Odom was excited about the Lakers’ prospects as recently as Wednesday, he never practiced with the Lakers in their first three workouts under new coach Mike Brown while the club attempted to move him to New Orleans. After that three-team deal fell through, the Lakers apparently changed their focus to Howard, who loves Los Angeles and has requested a trade from the Magic.
Gasol, the other main component in the squashed deal for Paul, has been at the Lakers’ training complex for all three days of camp, working out the past two days. He remains hopeful he’ll stay in Los Angeles, but the four-time All-Star no longer knows what to think about his near future.
”I understand this is a business, and it’s become more of a business than a sport nowadays,” Gasol said. ”It hasn’t been extremely easy to be calm and quiet and not think about the different possibilities. But I’m still here, and I’m thankful for that.”
Although Bryant expressed his faith in Kupchak, he would prefer to have Odom in camp as the Lakers regroup from last season’s failed attempt at a threepeat. Odom starred in a reality show last season with his wife, Khloe Kardashian, clearly enjoying his celebrity at the main intersection of sports and entertainment.
”You’re talking about the sixth man of the year last year,” Bryant said of Odom. ”He played lights-out. I don’t understand the criticism of reality shows and this. I don’t get that. He had his best season last year, clearly wasn’t a distraction, played his (rear) off. I don’t get where that comes from.”
Even Odom’s contract is a good deal for his new employers: He will make $8.9 million this season in the third year of a four-year deal, which can be bought out next season for a modest amount. The Lakers’ trade exception means they can acquire a player making Odom’s salary or less without the usual complications, but it would be only one part of a hypothetical deal for Howard or another star.
With this chaos on top of the usual amount of drama surrounding the high-profile Lakers, Brown is attempting to plan for a season with no idea who will be in his lineup in two weeks when Los Angeles hosts the Chicago Bulls in their Christmas season opener. Gasol and fellow big man Andrew Bynum went through their third day of workouts on Sunday not knowing whether they would have a chance to use all this new information.
Lakers forward Matt Barnes has been in contact with Howard, his former teammate in Orlando. Barnes said he doesn’t need to sell Howard on the Lakers — but this team now might have to sell its own players on their future in purple and gold.
”If I’m here, I’m looking forward to the season,” said Bynum, who knows he’s rumored to be the main component in any proposed deal for Howard. ”If they were able to pull a move like that off, it would be great for the organization, and I’d be in Orlando hooping.”
MILAN (AP) — George Clooney and his ex-girlfriend Elisabetta Canalis are among more than 200 witnesses accepted Wednesday by a Milan court in the trial of former Premier Silvio Berlusconi for allegedly paying for sex with an underage prostitute.
Clooney has said he was approached by Berlusconi’s team to testify about “bunga bunga” parties at Berlusconi’s villas, but says he only visited the premier’s residence once to seek aid for Darfur and declined an invitation to stay.
Berlusconi’s defense lawyer Niccolo Ghedini told reporters that Clooney and soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo are on the defense list because an important prosecution witness cited them, the news agency LaPresse reported. Ghedini said they want to dispute the witness’s testimony.
Clooney said in an interview with Time magazine posted Online that he was willing to testify, but added, “I wasn’t at the bunga bunga party.”
“I went to speak about Darfur. … It was a very interesting conversation to say the least, that became a very different kind of event than anyone ever thought,” he said.
At the end of the meeting, Clooney said he was invited to stay for a party. The actor said he responded, “No, I gotta go.”
The witness list also includes Karima el-Mahroug, the Moroccan teen who is alleged to have had sex with Berlusconi in exchange for money. She and Berlusconi, 75, have denied a sexual relationship.
Also slated to testify are three former aides being tried separately for their alleged role in organizing sex-fueled parties, as well as Mariano Apicella, who has put out four CDs with Berlusconi and often entertains at his residences, and two members of Berlusconi’s defunct government, ex-Foreign Minister Franco Frattini and ex-Education Minister Mariastella Gelmini.
By accepting the witnesses, the court agrees their testimony is relevant, although either side may decide later to reduce the number of witnesses or not to call someone because his or her testimony is no longer needed. Furthermore, Italy has limited power to compel witnesses living abroad to appear, although courts often arrange video testimony for the convenience of potential witnesses.
The court also allowed transcripts of wiretapped calls to be entered as evidence, while a record of phone calls between Berlusconi and a police official won’t be admitted.
A settlement has been reached between Frank and Jamie McCourt in a costly and nasty feud over control of the Los Angeles Dodgers, paving the way for a showdown in bankruptcy court between the embattled team owner and Major League Baseball.
The deal was struck between the former couple, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press on Monday. The person requested anonymity because the settlement has not been made public. The Los Angeles Times, which first reported the settlement, said Jamie McCourt would receive about $130 million.
The divorce case has been placed on hold until a bankruptcy court in Delaware determines the fate of the team. A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday and a judge will consider dueling motions over four days starting Oct. 31.
Jamie McCourt spokesman Matthew Hiltzik declined to comment in an email to The Associated Press. Frank McCourt spokesman Steve Sugerman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The divorce agreement removes Jamie McCourt, who had asked the divorce court to order the Dodgers sold, as an obstacle in Frank McCourt’s bid to keep ownership by selling team television rights, according to the Times.
”I think this may be a strategically sensible decision for her,” said Scott Altman, a law professor at the University of Southern California. ”If he (Frank McCourt) gets $130 million out of bankruptcy, it’s hers. It reduces her risk because she doesn’t have to share proceeds from the bankruptcy case.”
The settlement now allows Frank McCourt to focus on his battle with Major League Baseball, which is seeking permission from a bankruptcy judge to file a reorganization plan that calls for McCourt to sell the Dodgers.
MLB spokesman Pat Courtney declined comment about the settlement.
Attorneys for Frank McCourt have argued a media rights sale is the best path out of bankruptcy for one of baseball’s most storied franchises.
The McCourts previously reached a divorce settlement on June 17, but the deal was contingent on approval of a proposed television contract between the Dodgers and FOX. That deal would have given Jamie McCourt $100 million and she would retain the former couple’s six luxurious homes.
But baseball Commissioner Bud Selig rejected the 17-year TV contract with FOX, reported to be worth up to $3 billion, noting in part that almost half of an immediate $385 million payment would have been diverted from the Dodgers.
On June 27, Frank McCourt took the Dodgers into bankruptcy.
Jamie McCourt subsequently lined up behind Major League Baseball and FOX in asking the bankruptcy court to reject Frank McCourt’s bid to auction Dodgers television rights.
If Frank McCourt were to prevail in bankruptcy court, it’s unclear whether the judge would allow him to tap into the TV money to pay the settlement. It’s also unknown whether the proceeds from the sale of the team would even exceed $130 million.
Some observers said one of the reasons behind the settlement may be the legal bills that have amassed over the past two years. The former couple has racked up more than $20 million in fees, according to court documents.
”This ends it,” said Los Angeles family attorney Robert Nachshin. ”They stop paying divorce lawyers and she gets $130 million.”
MLB had assumed control of the club’s day-to-day operations in mid-April before the team filed for bankruptcy. Former Texas Rangers President Tom Schieffer was appointed to monitor the team on behalf of Selig, who said he took the action because he was concerned about the team’s finances and how the Dodgers are being run.
On the other hand, it takes Matt Stone and Trey Parker seven of them to create a “South Park” episode. But then they get no day of rest before they start on the next episode.
As you’re reading this, Matt and Trey and the “South Park” team are back from their midseason break in their 15th year and are under the gun. The episode they started from scratch last Thursday morning will be finished just hours before it’s delivered to Comedy Central for the premiere on Wednesday at 10 p.m. EDT.
How do they do it? And why do it that way?
Not long ago, while in New York to bask in the triumph of their smash Broadway musical, “The Book of Mormon,” Matt and Trey took a few minutes to look ahead to the seven episodes of “South Park” facing them this fall.
“Comedy Central would love it if we did the shows ahead of time,” Matt said. “But we just don’t work as well that way.”
“Our best ones,” said Trey, “are always the ones where we come in on Thursday with nothing, and we come up with something and we get this energy — ‘Ah, that’s funny! That’s funny!’ — and we roll with it. The other way, we overthink things too much.”
“I like the process of getting really excited about an idea on Thursday or Friday,” Matt said, “and then there’s a whole drama to the week: We jump into it, then on Saturday we go, ‘Hmmmm. I don’t know about this idea.’ And you start questioning it.”
“But you don’t have a choice,” Trey interjected.
“You’re trapped!” Matt agreed.
The process — propelled by sophisticated computer software, endearingly raw animation and an abundance of adrenaline — clearly works. After all these years, “South Park” has lost none of its edge, its scathing truthfulness or aversion to good manners. Nor has it lost the funniness with which it views the world through the eyes of Stan, Kyle, Kenny and Cartman, four bratty, perpetually bundled-up youngsters in an unhinged Colorado cartoon town.
A few months ago, “South Park” marked its midseason break in an unsettling way: without the shrewdly heartwarming resolution with which most episodes end. Stan had celebrated his 10th birthday, at which point he was consumed by disgust at everything he loved as a 9-year-old. His favorite foods, music, games, friends — he saw them all as crap. Literally. Graphically. With the accompanying sounds of flatulence.
His maturing jadedness seemed echoed by the grown-ups in South Park.
“How much longer can we keep doing this?” Stan’s mother asked his dad as they confronted their own lives. “Every week, it’s kind of the same story in a different way, but it just keeps getting more and more ridiculous.”
The episode ended as something of a cliffhanger.
Some “South Park” fans were alarmed. Viewed in a certain way, the episode seemed to denigrate “South Park” along with everything else. Were Matt and Trey feeling burned out, or, with the big-time, nine-Tonys-winning success of “The Book of Mormon,” were they now dismissive of the little cable show that had made them rich and famous?
Goin’ down to South Park, did they no longer hope to leave their woes behind?
“We weren’t really in that dark of a place,” insisted Trey. “But we were feeling those feelings of getting older, and getting a bit more cynical about things.”
“We’ve been doing the show for 15 years,” said Matt, “and I turned 40 this year. Trey’s 40. That’s a weird milestone. So in the episode, Stan’s 10 and dealing with his mortality. It was a fun, safe way to talk about really scary (stuff).”
“And we decided to do it with no real ending,” said Trey. “‘South Park’ always resets at the end. We thought, ‘This time, let’s DON’T reset.’”
Typically, each episode of the show, for all its focus on naughty behavior and potty humor, crystallizes into an overarching parable, with a cut-the-crap, commonsense sort of moral expressed by the kids that usually boils down to some version of “do the right thing.”
But that’s just a happy byproduct, said Matt and Trey. “South Park” isn’t trying to preach.
“We definitely started a few episodes where we wanted to make some point about something that’s making us mad,” Matt said, “and I don’t think those were good episodes. We like the process much better of like, ‘Here’s a cool story, and let’s let the characters do what’s funny.’ By the end, the theme kind of reveals itself, and it’s sometimes the opposite of what you kind of thought it was going to say.”
And it’s not just a new teenager climbing Manhattan buildings, it’s an entirely new crime-fighter, from the color of his suit to the complexion of his skin.
Meet Miles Morales, a half-black, half-Hispanic American teenager who, inspired to do good after the death of Parker at the hands of the Green Goblin, takes flight and has his first fight in the pages of Marvel Comics’ “Ultimate Fallout” No. 4, in comic shops on Wednesday.
The Ultimates imprint is separate from Marvel’s bigger universe where Parker is alive and well.
Writer Brian Michael Bendis, who has scripted every issue of Marvel’s “Ultimate Spider-Man” since it first debuted in 2000 to wide acclaim, maintained that a new hero would replace Parker, felled in the pages of “Ultimate Spider-Man” No. 160 this summer.
But as to whom that was, that was a closely guarded secret until now.
Bendis said that the decision came down to the story, to keep it fresh and vital and new.
Morales, he explained, is nothing like his predecessor.
“He’s younger than Peter Parker, he’s coming from a completely different background, a completely different worldview,” Bendis said. “It’s Peter Parker’s death that inspires this kid to step up.”
Bendis said his decision was made before actor Donald Glover’s efforts to be considered for next year’s Spider-Man film went viral. He had talked it over with Joe Quesada, Marvel’s chief creative officer.
“Joe and I talked about it at great length — what if he was an African-American and how interesting it would be,” Bendis said.
Later, he saw Glover on the television show “Community,” wearing Spider-Man pajamas, and he knew he was on the right track.
Making Spider-Man a black character is not a publicity effort; it’s reflective of an industry keeping pace with modern society, said Axel Alonso, Marvel’s editor-in-chief.
“As someone who grew up on a steady diet of ‘Luke Cage, Hero For Hire’ and ‘Shang Chi, Master of Kung Fu,’ I am personally invested,” he said.
“This was a conscious decision. Here at Marvel, we pride ourselves on reflecting the real world in all its diversity,” Alonso added, adding that Morales’ stories would be on par with those of Parker. Morales’ adventures will be fleshed out in the coming months with the start of “Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man” in September, which is being illustrated by Sara Pichelli.
Bendis is excited about the possibilities that Morales brings.
“I’m now sitting with a pile of legitimately new Spider-Man stories to tell, and that is the best news a writer could have,” he said.