Dimitri Vegas vividly remembers the first Spider-Man comic he ever read. It was his dad’s old comic, a black-and-white edition translated into Greek. The 8-year-old barely spoke his father’s native tongue, but even through his strained attempts to understand, the dialogue and storyline effected him. Here was this boy torn between two worlds, a teenager struggling to fit in, to have a normal life, and yet still rise to the occasion of heroism. After all, “with great power comes great responsibility.”
Vegas attempts to meet that responsibility as he begins his role of Spider-Man in the Belgian version of the animated film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. It’s a great honor to play his favorite Marvel character, though the opportunity weighs heavy in light of the recent death of Spider-Man’s creator Stan Lee.
“I’ve been reading Marvel comics ever since I was a little kid, and I’m 36 now, so that’s almost 30 years,” Vegas says with a sigh of disbelief. “This person created a lot of my childhood memories — and even up ’till today. I’m a big comic book fan. I still read tons and tons of comics every day on flights. It’s amazing what this person created, and it’s so sad he’s gone.”
Vegas got the news from a friend in the Tomorrowland camp, a simple screen shot of a push notification that Lee had passed away at 95. Lee served as the editor in chief of Marvel comics, and together with Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, he co-created some of the most beloved characters in American fiction, from the X-Men to Iron Man, the Fantastic Four, Thor, and of course, your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, aka Peter Parker.
“He deals with everyday problems,” Vegas says of Parker’s appeal. “He’s not Tony Stark. He’s a regular guy. When I started reading my dad’s comics, I fell in love with Stan Lee’s and Steve Ditko’s first work where he was just a normal teenage trying to fit in and balancing a life as a superhero.”
Vegas and his brother Like Mike are international DJ stars, but they also strive to be all-around storytellers. Much of their work is influenced by the fantastical worlds of Lee’s imagining, most importantly with how he made those extraordinary scenes and heroes feel so within reach.
“He found a way of making his characters very relatable,” Vegas says. “When you read the comics, or at least for me, (he could) get the moral of the story and teach you a lesson without being too obvious. (He was always) trying to get the best out of people, and you can see that in all the reactions online of everybody who met him and everybody who’s ever worked with him. He’s just a person who is loved by the whole world.”
Vegas is saddened to have lost his chance to meet his idol. Fellow producer Steve Aoki once interviewed the author, and he promised Vegas he’d make an introduction happen one day.
“Somehow it never happened,” Vegas says. “You know, you’re busy with so many things, and I never really pursued it. You’re like ‘okay, I’ll do it some other time or whatever.’ Now it will never happen.”
He carries the weight of all those decades of love and admiration into the vocal booth. He’s incredibly honored and humbled at the chance to play his favorite hero, and he’s excited about being a part of Spider-Man’s next evolution.
“A whole new generation of kids is falling in love with a new take on the new stories,” he says. “Plus you also have (Ulimate Spier-Man character) Miles Morales that is going to become very iconic, especially after the next Spider-Man cartoon … I’m so super happy, super nervous, but it’s weird … when I’m finally being part of something Marvel, and two days before Stan Lee passes away … I’m going to try and do justice to the character and, I hope to make him proud.”
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse sees U.S. release Friday, Dec. 14. The Belgian version will be released Thursday, Dec. 20. You can watch the English trailer below.