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ESSENTIAL READING: SPIDER-MAN

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a Spider-Man does whatever a Spider-Man does.

Or something.

Your Friendly, Neighborhood Spider-Man does a lot of stuff is what I’m saying.

He’s a genius who slings webs, is super strong, super fast, has heightened reflexes, a Spider Sense (omnipresent awareness), and plenty of other abilities as necessary. Although based on my least favorite thing in the world, Spider-Man is one of the most well known, easily recognizable superheroes with a surprisingly straightforward origin.

HERE COMES THE SPIDER-MAN!

First appearing in Amazing Fantasy #15 (1962), Spider-Man was created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. Even after getting his powers in a freak science-fair accident, “clean-cut, hard-working honor student” Peter Parker still retained his average appearance and polite manners. He was supposed to be an “Every Man,” after all. Stan Lee wanted readers–particularly young, bullied comic book readers–to be able to relate to the character and feel a sense of empowerment from reading his stories. Later, other people would take up the webshooters, but since it’s unlikely Miles Morales or Spider-Gwen will be making cameos this Friday, we’re not going to worry about them just now.

Luckily, with Marvel focusing on a high-school-aged Spider-Teen and having already breezed past his origins for Captain America: Civil War, there’s very little that MCU fans are going to have to know going in for the upcoming film. However, for those of you who need a refresher, Marvel Masterworks: Amazing Spider-Man Vol 1 collects Spidey’s origin along with the first ten issues of his first stand-alone series, The Amazing Spider-Man. After getting his powers, Peter Parker initially makes his costume to compete in competitions and make money, but after his Uncle Ben is murdered *SPOILERS* by a criminal that Peter failed to stop, he makes it his mission to fight crime and keep New York and the people he cares about safe. Actually, first he tries to join the Fantastic Four until he finds out that there’s no money in it. Eventually, Spidey does begin to resemble the altruistic hero we’re more familiar with today, but I’m not going to lie, it takes a while.

This collection also features Spider-Man’s first two run-ins with the Vulture, setting up that he flies by operating his wings with some sort of magnetic power. The trailers for Homecoming mention that it’s Chitauri tech, so what exactly that will entail is yet to be determined.

Although Spider-Man’s origins are moderately less convoluted than your average comic book hero, Peter has been around long enough to acquire more than a few complicated plotlines. Between clones, family tragedy, personal trauma/emotional scarring, more clones, and body switching, the kid has been through a lot.

It’s tough to say how much the filmmakers will be relying on the comics, although it’s probably a safe bet that none of that will be showing up in Homecoming. After all, previous Spider-Man films have already covered quite a few of the Web-Head’s main plots. Instead, it seems like the film will primarily focus on Peter’s relationship with Tony and the other Avengers after the fallout from the events of Civil War–which was also fairly far removed from the massive crossover event of the same name.

ENTERING THE MARVEL-DOME

Although we did see a modified version of the Iron Spider suit–sans the extra legs–and Peter did side with Tony, that’s about where the similarities end. Since he didn’t take off his mask on national television and Aunt May hasn’t been shot (yet?) we don’t have to worry about any righteous Spider-rage or black suits (for now) as seen in Spider-Man: Back in Black. Instead, it looks like we’ll be getting a Peter Parker who already understands the responsibility of his position and now has to prove that he’s up to it, which is probably more comparable to the Amazing Spider-Man: Brand New Day arc.

Spider-Man: One More Day was the event that more or less reset Peter Parker’s life. He traded his marriage for his Aunt May’s life, and effectively erased Mary Jane from his life entirely. Erased a lot of things in fact, considering that no one remembers who Spider-Man is under the mask either. Brand New Day was basically Marvel’s way of knocking Peter’s happiness down a few pegs. After all, what’s a comic without a little tragedy? It also returns him to a more simple time in his crime fighting career, going “back to basics,” with more stopping burglars and less saving the world.

Although the crime level seems to fall somewhere in the middle for Homecoming, a lot more of an emphasis is probably going to be placed on Peter’s emotional state and how he’s able to handle the pressure of being Spider-Man. This is pretty familiar territory for all superheroes, but Spider-Man in particular has spent a lot of time defining himself and struggling with the power-to-responsibility ratio. Particularly in the Amazing Spider-Man #50, Spider-Man No More! which was one of the more defining moments in Spidey’s career. Used as the basic premise of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2, this issue deals with Peter feeling fed up with the bad rap that J. Jonah Jameson has given Spider-Man. All the other heroes are celebrated and Spider-Man is considered a public menace. With his aunt sick, his grades slipping, and his love life non-existent, Peter decides that maybe he’d be better off if he gave up the mask.

Of course, that decision doesn’t last very long, and by the end of the issue, Peter’s back out there slinging webs and saving the day. Still, that sort of self-doubt and moral decision-making is a lot of what we can probably expect to see in Homecoming.

KEEP CALM AND CARRION

Spider-Man has had the dubious honor over the years of introducing some of Marvel’s most iconic foes; King Pin (also known as Wilson Fisk, now of Daredevil fame), Doctor Octopus (Otto Octavius), The Lizard (Curt Connors), the Green Goblin (Norman Osborn) and his many namesakes, as well as plenty of others, made their first appearances in The Amazing Spider-Man. Even the Punisher (Frank Castle) owes his origins to the web-slinger.

As one of Spider-Man’s oldest regular villains–in both age and date of first appearance–the Vulture was an interesting choice of main villain on the part of the filmmakers. Some of the Vulture’s most memorable involvement in the wall-crawler’s story is when he’s operating as part of the Sinister Six, like in Marvel Knights: Spider-Man, Last Stand.

While this sort of villainous team-up is most likely where the latest Spider-film series is heading, for now, if you want to see how it all started in the comics, check out their origin in the Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1. Or you can always check out The Superior Foes of Spider-Man for a more current look at how the team is doing.

What’s interesting to note is that Homecoming takes its title from The Amazing Spider-Man #252, which is the first issue in the Alien Costume Saga–also known as the introduction of the alien symbiote, Venom. So who knows, maybe we’ll be seeing a black suit soon after all.

With Sony developing a Venom movie for next year, it does stand to reason that they would want to capitalize on the connection, even if Spider-Man doesn’t actually appear within the film itself. But for now, we’ll just have to keep speculating since, aside from casting Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock, very little is known about the Venom movie. Since we won’t even be getting another Spider-Man film until after that–2019 at the earliest–it’s difficult to say if the two plots will intersect at all, which raises quite a few questions about what Venom will even be without Spider-Man, as the symbiote’s origin and typical appearance is pretty closely tied to the sassy webslinger, even if in recent years the symbiotes have become more of their own thing. Suffice to say that Venom as well as the Silver Sable & Black Cat films have recently been officially connected to Homecoming… we just have no idea how yet.

Other great, classic Spider-arcs include The Death of Gwen Stacy, Spider-Man: Blue, Clone Sagas, and of course, the one that “killed” Peter Parker, Dying Wish.

Catch Spider-Man Homecoming in theaters July 7 and be sure to keep an eye out for the Hero Index spoiler-free review on YouTube.

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