With Marvel’s announcement in February that a joint venture with Sony would allow Spider-Man to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe, comic nerds rejoiced. The decision was apparently prompted by Marvel’s desire to incorporate Spider-Man into the upcoming Captain America: Civil War, presumably based on the comics crossover event in which Web-head played a pivotal role. Kevin Feige promises that this will be a “different” Peter Parker than we’ve seen so far, and will interact with the rest of the MCU as well as mainline his own movies. And they won’t be foisting yet ANOTHER origin story on us. So far so good, yeah?
Then we learn that this “different” Spider-Man will be a teenager and star in one movie for each year of high school. Chasing the Harry Potter demographic, are we?
First world comic nerd problems, to be sure, but one of my pet peeves is Marvel’s weird insistence that Spider-Man is only relatable as a gangly, bumbling high school geek. Set aside for the moment that the last two cinematic reboots of Spider-Man chose this same tack. (With the added burden of believing a late-20s dude is still in public school, but whatever. Casting a real teen hardly qualifies as innovation.)
Peter Parker graduated high school in 1965. That was issue 28 of Amazing Spider-Man. Heck, he graduated from college in 1978, in issue 185. Almost 800 issues of ASM are now in print. Never mind the well over a thousand other issues of Spider-Man titles. Even if you add in the two hundred or so issues about alt-universe Peter Parker before Ultimate Spider-Man kicked the bucket, the overwhelming majority of classic Spider-Man stories do not take place in adolescence. Kraven’s Last Hunt? The Death of Jean DeWolff? The recent Superior Spider-Man digression? According to Marvel, those aren’t Spider-Man at his most cool and relatable.
So, here we go again. Peter flunks geometry because the Scorpion is on the loose. Bullies steal Peter’s lunch money because he can’t fight back. Peter gets his ass kicked by the Rhino because he’s distraught over someone else asking his crush to the prom. Hey, these Spider-Man movies keep tanking, in part, because we’re tired of the same old thing. Why eschew the origin story but keep him as a teen? And if Marvel wants to give us a high school flick, but also keep things fresh, why not use Miles Morales? Or even Kamala Kahn?
I’m not saying young Peter Parker ain’t fun. But let’s not pretend we haven’t seen it on screen before. And let’s not pretend Spider-Man can’t be an adult, or married or acne-free because that would render him unrelatable. Thousands of comic books from the past fifty years disprove that theory.