Character Spotlight: Spider-Man’s Innocent Complexity

On the 5th of July, Spider-Man once again swung into our cinemas with the release of Spider-Man: Homecoming. This demonstrates a clear cultural and commercial importance to a character who continues to be revisited year upon year, this being the 3rd iteration of our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man in the last 15 years. We all know the story of how Peter Parker got to be Spider-Man: radioactive spider, power, responsibility, and a dead Uncle Ben. Instead I will now delve a little deeper and look at the journey of Spider-Man from his creation by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko to Tom Holland’s most recent interpretation of the classic character, possibly recommending a read or two along the way.

As previously mentioned the character was created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, two of the most recognizable names in all of comics. The two presented Peter in 1962, right in the prime of the Silver Age of Comics, introducing him in the anthology comic book Amazing Fantasy #12. In being a teenage superhero and NOT a sidekick, Spider-Man was a blend as of yet unseen in mainstream comics, and differentiated him from other teen characters at the time such as Bucky Barnes and Robin. Spider-Man was fresh and new and fans responded brilliantly to the new character, leading Marvel to spawn his own solo series: The Amazing Spider-Man. The series became Marvel’s top-seller, managing to perfectly relate with Marvel’s new-found young audience. This was especially true in college’s where studies said their students saw Spider-Man was seen to be a revolutionary icon on par with Bob Dylan and Che Guevara. Jack Marchese, a Stanford student, perfectly summarized the key element of Spider-Mans character that made him so relatable and intriguing “Spider-Man exemplifies the poor college student, beset by woes, money problems, and the question of existence. In short he is one of us.” This truly represents, both then and now, what makes Spider-Man such a fantastic and successful character; relatability. I’ve repeated that word 3 times already, but it is impossible not to as it is such a core part of understanding the character. In The Creation of Spider-Man Paul Kupperberg perfectly expressed what Marvel had managed to do with Spider-Man, to create an entirely new brand of character who would spawn a revolution in comics, “the flawed superhero with everyday problems”.

Image result for spider-man amazing fantasy

Moving back to the topic on hand, after his first run in The Amazing Spider-Man slowly but surely became a cultural and economic phenomenon. He became the flagship character for Marvel Studios, to the point where when Marvel became the first comic book company to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange, the Wall Street Journal announced the move as “Spider-Man… coming to Wall Street”. In 1985 however, Marvel had fallen upon hard times financially along with the entire of the comic book industry, so they sold the film rights for Spider-man to Cannon Films, initially for $225,000 and a percentage of gross profit. The film would remain in development hell for several years and change hands between several studios, most notably Carolco who had James Cameron set to commit the first mainstream version of Spider-Man to film. Eventually, the rights made their way to Columbia Pictures in 1999 who, along with their parent company Sony, hired Sam Raimi to produce 2002’s Spider-Man with Tobey Maguire in the role of the titular Peter Parker. It was very much a traditional portrayal of the character, hearkening back to John Romita Sr. The first two films were met with an overwhelmingly positive reception, yet despite a great deal of commercial success Spider-Man 3 was widely panned by fans and critics alike. Originally the plan was to continue on to a 4th movie in the Raimi-verse with several different villains being discussed, such as John Malkovich appearing as the Vulture and Bruce Campbell, a Raimi favourite, to appear potentially as Mysterio. Instead, as we all now know, they decided to reboot the franchise in 2010, with Marc Webb to direct and Andrew Garfield to take on the mantle as the web-slinging hero. The first film met fairly positive reviews, but just as Spider-Man 3 had before it, the second was almost universally panned. Embarrassingly, Sony had clearly set up several spin-offs and sequels over the course of the movie: most noticeably a hint towards the Sinister Six, and most ridiculously a supposed young Aunt-May “espionage film”. Rather than continue on this road, Sony made the decision to co-produce a new version of Spider-Man with Marvel, casting ex-Billy Elliot and breakout star from The Impossible, Tom Holland.

Having now gone all the way through, up until today: the US release of the movie, Spider-Man: Homecoming looks to be a smash hit and a faithful retelling of the classic comics. The tone hearkens back to what initially made Spider-Man so successful and popular, this version is very much a “poor… student, beset by woes, money problems, and the question of existence.” The future looks bright with a young actor clearly loving playing the role and lots of intriguing and interesting storylines down the line to explore. For one, we are yet to see any other Spider-Man’s other than Peter Parker on film, and with Dr Strange’s hinting at the Multiverse it is seemingly more and more likely we will see this in future. The most popular potential inclusion is Miles Morales, a Black Hispanic teenager who became Spider-Man in an alternate reality where Peter Parker dies. Looking to the Spider-Verse event you see just how much potential all these different Spider-Man characters have, with personal highlights being Spider-Man Noir, Silk and of course: the brilliant Spider-Ham. More likely however seems to be something Norman Osborn related for the sequel, with Matthew McConaughey slated to appear. Personally, however I feel the best next step would be a portrayal of arguably Spider-Mans greatest ever storyline, Kraven’s Last Hunt. Whichever direction the sequel takes, Spider-Man is clearly in great hands.

Image result for spider-man homecoming

Written by: Michael Slavin – @MichaelSlavin98 on Twitter


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