It’s not a controversial opinion to say that Spider-Man is my favourite Superhero. Peter Parker has been web-swinging, fighting bad guys and suffering heaps of emotional trauma for over 50 years. Famously Stan Lee couldn’t get anyone at Marvel to even look at the character twice before being allowed to dump him in the last issue of a dying book. To say that paid off is an understatement. Now Spider-Man is one of the biggest names around. Whether in comics or in film rights Disney reportedly want to spend big money on. This leads me to a question, which of the major Spider-Man licenses going are truest to the web-crawler experience?
Old web-head has many things in media keeping him in the public eye. From cartoons to crossover games and appearances at theme parks. But the two that get the most buzz currently are the blockbuster films and Triple A solo games. With Spider-Man: Far From Home having it’s much hyped trailer recently now is the right time to see how the two stack up. This is to see both if Spidey is represented well and if the two stand up on their own. The title may have spoiled the result but how I came to the conclusion is a journey itself.
The Spider-Man in the mirror
The MCU is a huge thing without Spider-Man. However, the Civil War trailer showing him off for the first time still felt like a milestone. This is despite the fact that there were already two film franchises before this. The main difference is that unlike before Spidey could interact with anyone in the Marvel universe for the first time on the big screen. His sequence in the film was pitch perfect to introduce the character in this form to an audience who no doubt already knew the character inside and out. Unlike the comics however in the MCU Spider-Man is relatively late to the party. To give him grounding in this universe they set him up with an Avengers mentor in Tony Stark.
This is where the problems start.
There’s a sentiment among some Spider-Man fans that the MCU essentially turned the character into “Tony Stark jr”. It’s easy to see the sentiment, with Uncle Ben all but removed from the characters past all of the baggage is given to Peter and Tony. Spider-Man caught on with a lot of kids at the time and still has a large following because he is an outsider. As Peter Parker he’s a nerd with sometimes terrible social skills. As Spider-Man he’s a hero but he’s constantly branded a menace. In the first self-titled Spider-Man issue he tries to join the Fantastic Four only to end up fighting them almost immediately. He’s also got special gadgets and the Iron Spider Suit by his third appearance, when he’s still in high-school. Compare this to Tobey Maguire who was still struggling with New York rent in his third film.
The character work alone is good, I do enjoy these movies a lot. Tom Holland is probably my favourite Spider-Man actor and Homecoming is probably the best film in the franchise. It wins out for scaling back and focusing on Peter Parker and what he’s best at. What Parker is best at is having a terrible social circle (his relationship with Vulture is truly something that could only happen to his character). However, it’s undeniably weird that Peter’s main motivation is living up to Tony Stark. “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibilty” doesn’t apply, he’s already gotten there.
Plus it’s weird that it took until Far From Home to see him swing through New York.
The Spider-Man of two faces
Well if it’s web-swinging in New York you want this game already has you covered.
Superficially these two portrayals share a lot of DNA. Both have advanced gadgets and engineer role models for example. But while the MCU Spidey is a teenager trying to live up despite his young career, Game Spidey is an adult. Peter in the game has developed everything himself over his tenure. MCU Peter had his gear gifted to him. Neither are really more relatable, We aren’t all master engineers. However, if you look at being Spider-Man as a job Peter has as the game often does it makes it seem more grounded. The opening shows it perfectly. Peter works on his suit in his one room apartment, one he’s late on rent for.
The fact that this is a 12 hour game as opposed to films helps too. There’s more downtime which allows for smaller touches. For example the backpacks contain a few spoken lines about each object found, detailing his careers successes and failings. But what about Parkers forever terrible social life? Well he has broken up with Mary Jane and the Tony Stark mentor of this story is Otto Octavius. That ticks off Peter not being allowed anything easy. The main difference however is that unlike MCU Spider-Man, here in the game Spider-Man has that element of being an outsider. Ironically it’s not in the world of the game itself, Spidey is friendly with the public. His biggest detractor is J Jonah Jameson, who becomes an Alex Jones pastiche with a simliar response. Spider-Man is an outsider in the marvel universe.
Like the movies, only a bit better
Playstation’s Spider-Man exists like the previous Spider-Man films did, pretty much in it’s own universe. However unlike those films there’s a deeper sense of a wider universe. Various landmarks and backpacks have references to other Marvel properties like Avengers tower. However, this game focuses on a Spider-Man level event. It’s still high stakes though because the game makes you care about the characters and the city itself. The most important thing about the story however is that you care about Peter’s role in it. Pretty much everyone involved has a personal connection to Spider-Man or Peter Parker.
This is opposed to the villains in the MCU Spider-Man films so far, who’s main connection are to Stark who Peter has to clean up for. Spider-Man in the game is his own character despite his connections to others. The age difference does help, a high-school kid is less likely to be worrying about a career or his out of hours social circles. However the difference is Spider-Man made his villains. Mysterio in the comics was out to steal a young Spider-Man’s spotlight in his first issue. In the film he’s a disgruntled Stark employee who’s using Spider-Man in a con.
What being Spider-Man means
The reason game Spider-Man resonates with me more is that he is more sure of being Spider-Man. Despite the films being primarily about Peter learning to be himself he still exists in that shadow. It may come down to why Spider-Man has lasted and been so popular. At his best Spider-Man stands out, he’s sometimes the awkward outsider, sometimes the big hero. The games get it, even though it’s not to as big a scale as the Avengers there’s a mystique around being the wall crawler. In the MCU Spider-Man is more shuffled in, he fits well and his place is fine, but Spider-Man doesn’t really have a place to be in normally. It’s why Spider-Man doesn’t go to other comics he crosses over with them.
MCU Spidey is good, I won’t argue with that. Spider-Man however is at his best when he’s unique. Spider-Man is such a big deal he has his own multiverse within the Marvel multiverse. The Spider-verse of the comics notably doesn’t include MCU Spider-Man, even in the background. There is an in universe reason but that came after. MCU Spider-Man fits the mold of the films possibly a bit too well to be as good a Spider-Man as he can be.
If you want more strong opnions on GNN, you can read why Chris Chibnall needs to pass on the Doctor Who torch
August 29, 2021 at 10:59 am
Interesting and refreshing take.