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The Spider-Verse

  • 22 Jan 2022

For fans of Spider-Man, here is a brief timeline & background of the Spider-Verse which is one of the most creative fiction in the world!

"Who am I? You sure you want to know? The story of my life is not for the faint of heart. If somebody said it was a happy little tale... if somebody told you I was just your average ordinary guy, not a care in the world… somebody lied."  — Peter Parker, 'Spider-Man', 2002.

Although the heroes and leads of Spider-Man have been reimagined, rebooted and replaced, the character of Spider-Man remains universally beloved and relatable all around the world. With over 55 years of character development in Marvel Comics and the cinematic universe, Spider-Man has ultimately won the hearts of many with his sarcastic humour and tendency to mess things up unintentionally.

The hyped-up release of Spider-Man: No Way Home calls for an analysis of the characters portrayed over the decades.

Spider-Man is the superhero alias of Peter Parker. He is a teenage outcast, dealing with rejection, loneliness and the constant pressure of not “being enough”. Peter Parker had fallen victim to unrequited love with a girl who seemed to be way out of his league.

The original story says that Peter Parker, a high school loner from Queens, New York, lost his parents in a plane crash, after which he began living with Aunt May and Uncle Ben, who play vital roles in the movies.

Peter was bitten by a radioactive spider and as a result of this, he gained superhuman abilities like clinging to surfaces, increased strength and agility, and his knack for sensing danger through his “spidey-sense.” He sets out to save the world with these newfound powers, learning that “with great power comes great responsibility.”

Roots of Spider-Man

The beautifully-crafted character was brainstormed by Stan Lee and Jack Kirkby with hardly any outline. It was considered a filler story for a cancelled anthology. Legend Stan Lee had previously approved the teenage superhero with the name Spider-Man (The hyphen was placed to avoid confusion between Spider-Man and Superman).

The first few sketches and drawings weren’t a success. They re-imagined Captain America in cobwebs which did little to differentiate them. That is when Steve Ditko, an artist, got involved and designed the iconic red-blue Spider-Man costume.

Spider-Man first appeared through in comic book universe debuting in Amazing Fantasy #15 in the Silver Age of Comic Books in 1962.

However, the trouble of adapting an already-established superhero into a film is tremendous. Although movies like Batman and Superman made substantial changes in the movie adaptations, they spoke more about the man with the mask on, unlike Spider-Man.

The directors of the Spider-Man franchise had an extremely tough time getting the correct Peter Parker, rather than the right Spider-Man. The major theme of the Spider-Man movies is self-conflict which everyone seems to suffer with. Peter Parker believes that though he is destined to save the world, he always ends up hurting the people around him.

"No matter what I do, no matter how hard I try, the ones I love will always be the ones who pay." - Spider-Man (2002)

The appeal of the Spider-Man franchise is that the movies not only focus on the centred superhero but also the changes in the lives of the people around them - from Harry Osborne to Gwen Stacy.

Comics, movies and their plots

When the concept of a young teenage boy playing the lead superhero role in a Marvel comic came out, everyone was hyped. Teenagers were usually relegated to the roles of sidekicks in comic books. The idea of a superhero with real-life problems and issues helped the audience connect better to Spider-Man.

Marvel had originally released Spider-Man as a comic book series, the first and longest one being The Amazing Spider-Man. Doctor Octopus, a villain, was featured in the 2012-2014 comics with a body swap plot where Peter seems to have died.

This prompted the audience to panic and Marvel released alternate versions of Spider-Man, ranging from the future to the multiverses.

1967 - the first screen appearance of Spider-Man!

In 1967, the comic book’s success prompted the first screen appearance of Spider-Man in ABC’s low-budget cartoon called Spider-Man, a web-slinging warrior. The animator, Ralph Bakshi ran this cartoon. However, the theme tune is what this series is remembered for: “Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does everything that a spider can…”

This channel wasn’t acknowledged for its animation, which came across as childish and boring. The theme song, however, was considered extremely catchy and got stuck with the audience.

1977 - first live-action show!

Following this, in 1977, the spider hero’s first live-action show was started on the CBS TV channel. Nicholas Hammond starred in this predictably corny show with respectable ratings,

He predated Tobey Maguire by nearly two decades, despite Maguire getting the credit for being the first Spider-Man. Before the CBS channel showcased the Spider-Man show, a two-hour movie was streamed on TV to see if it could really be done properly.

The superhero’s first adaption got over 16 million viewers. Although, there were social and religious issues with the plotline - Peter Parker’s mission was to take down a mind-controlling guru/villain. However, only 13 episodes were released since the cost of adapting a comic book series into a motion film was too high.

The show looked cheap and the effects were labelled ‘goofy’ by critics. Nicholas Hammond was supposed to play the role of a 17-year-old but in the show, he looked 40. Moreover, anytime the infamous Aunt May appeared, a different actress played the character.

This TV channel also aired shows like Wonder Woman and Hulk. CBS, however, cancelled the Spider-Man series to avoid being labelled the ‘superhero network’. Later on, some of the episodes seemed to get a new life with spin-offs as feature films in a large number of foreign countries.

The Amazing Spiderman TV series intro (1977) - YouTube

1980

Tobe Hooper, director of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, was given a $25 million deal to adapt a live motion picture of the Spider-Man story. James Cameron was the script-writer, Tom Cruise was considered a possible lead and Arnold Schwarzenneger was the villain.

However, due to a rights issue, the Spider-Man movie adaptation was on-hold. The project seemed to drag on until Hopper decided to leave to shoot a sequel of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Rights to shoot the Spider-Man movie expired five years later and the movie ceased to exist in 1985.

2002 - the first Spider-Man action film!

In 2002, 17 years after the movie was planned, Sony finally released the first Spider-Man action film. Tobey Maguire starred on the big screen in the familiar red-blue suit.

A large number of scripts were produced - including a dark, adult one from director James Cameron - and directors like M. Night Shyamalan and David Fincher were considered. Finally, Sam Raimi, a director known for small-budget horror was the one the contract was given to.

The choice was risky but turned out to be the best because Raimi’s love and passion for getting Peter Parker’s character correct were what ultimately won the box office over. Tobey Maguire was also considered a sceptical choice but he won the audience over with his next-to-perfect portrayal of Peter Parker and his goofy charms on screen. In fact, his physical transformation was one of the first jaw-dropping superhero transformations.

An interesting fact here is that the amazing Spider-Man costume that looked exactly like the comic book’s version and the Green Goblin suit that left millions of fans wide-mouthed, got stolen. It took over a year to recover them from the thieves’ - a security guard and his accomplice - house.

The success of this movie helped Maguire and Sam Raimi come back for two further sequels. The movie had gained $2.5 billion at the box office ($100 million in the opening week), making Spider-Man second to Batman in the superhero box office draw.

SPIDER-MAN (2002) 5 Movie Clips + Classic Trailer

2004

In 2004, Spider-Man 2 was released. It starred Tobey Maguire, once again, with Sam Raimi as director. Raimi had raised the stakes by doubling the cost of production to inculcate more action for the second movie.

It is said that luck is hard to be caught twice in a row but Raimi managed to do it. It is quite difficult to point out what exactly was so right about the movie. Also, the visually stunning and conceptually interesting villain Doctor Octopus was beautifully crafted with just the right amount of darkness.

SPIDER-MAN 2 (2004) - 8 Movie Clips | Marvel Superhero HD

2007

True Marvel buffs are the ones who know about the international version called Spider-Man: India. Marvel had decided to test the popularity of a new superhero on international waters.

The movie was re-imagined with the lead as Pavitr Prabhakar who gets his powers from a mysterious yogi, rather than a radioactive spider. This experiment was not a huge success but four paperbacks were released the following year.

Moreover, in this same year, Spider-Man 3 was released with Tobey Maguire and Sam Raimi teaming up once again.

However, it did not do well and Raimi was pretty disappointed in himself. After this movie, Raimi respectfully bowed out, ending the Spider-Man movies in a trilogy.

Spider-Man 3 (2007) Movie CLIP HD - YouTube

2010

Spider-Man’s entrance to Broadway with the musical called Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark was in the year 2010. It accompanied music from U2’s Bono and The Edge. The show, however, was remembered more for its production troubles than its music.

This show became the most expensive Broadway production with a four-year-long run. Injuries to the cast and crew, technical issues and delays had caused the production to stretch this long.

2012

Sony wanted to release Spider-Man 4 but after Raimi’s bowing out, they decided to reboot the character. The rebooted version of Spider-Man was released in 2012, starring the beloved Andrew Garfield.

Originally, the studios considered it risky to reboot the character so quickly and re-tell the origin story. But after finding Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, they decided to risk it.

The Amazing Spider-Man had a darker tone, targeting a younger audience with its dark, tactile costume. Fans have debated over Andrew Garfield’s ability to play a bullied, outcast nerd but he managed to capture the humour and sarcasm of Spider-Man like no one had before.

However, what attracted the talk of millions was the obvious chemistry between Garfield and Stone. When the pair began dating in real life, further down the franchise, the future for the Amazing Spider-Man movies seemed even brighter.

The movie was called The Amazing Spider-Man and had an all-star cast including Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans and Denis Leary. The movie quickly became the highest-grossing reboot of all time. This achievement unlocked a sequel, titled The Amazing Spider-Man 2, released in 2014.

In these movies, the villains’ special effects and improvised visuals were stunning. The Sony director, Marc Webb moved on to build spinoff films and standalone movies starring villains like Venom and the Sinister Six.

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) Movie CLIP HD - YouTube

2014

Amazing Spider-Man 2 hit the theatres with Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, once again. The plans for standalone films were immediately changed when producers realised that their audience could not get enough of the relationship between Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy. But with two villains, tons of supporting characters and subplots all in one movie, the importance of this relationship must’ve gotten lost in translation in this movie.

The Amazing Spiderman 2 (2014) - Best Scenes - HD - YouTube

Even though they managed to pull off Gwen’s death epically, the low box office earnings suggested that they were heading in the wrong direction. Almost overnight, all the spinoffs and standalones were delayed. Sony finally realised that you can’t build a universe of franchises unless the lead is correct.

Unfortunately for Garfield and Sony, this meant starting over.

2017

In 2017, Marvel Comics’ fans all over the world were in shock when rumours of the crossing over of Marvel films and Sony’s Spider-Man surfaced. With the spidey character being fully introduced in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Avengers: Civil War, fans were over the moon.

Marvel Studios boss, Kevin Feige decided to produce a Spider-Man solo film called Spider-Man: Homecoming. Soon enough, Garfield learned that he was out since Marvel wanted to cast a high-school actor for the lead role of the new movie. Actors under the age of 20 competed vigorously for this role.

In the end, it was Tom Holland, barely 20, who snatched the role, already being an expert jumper and dancer after headlining Billy Elliot: The Musical in London.

Marvel decided against re-telling the origin story but the thirst for yet another Spider-Man was proved right when the second trailer of Captain America: Civil War exploded online.

With a technologically advanced red-and-blue suit and replicated eyes of the animated series, it was clear that there could only be a little change in the Spider-Man costume from version to version.

Top 10 Spider-Man Homecoming Scenes - YouTube

2018

The year 2018 unveiled another animated movie called Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. This movie, written by Chris Miller and Phil Lord, took the constant re-casting of Spider-Man and made a strength of the ditzy, indecisive casting. The movie showcased a world where anyone could be Spider-Man, regardless of age, sex, colour, creed or caste.

The young black lead was Miles Morales, a Norwegian Nicolas Cage and a pig called Spider-Ham. The large number of Spider-Men are cast in different universes.

2019

The successful Tom Holland movie (Spider-Man: Homecoming) prompted yet another sequel called Spider-Man: Far From Home, in 2019. With advanced villains and amazing graphics, this movie was a blockbuster.

SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME All Movie Clips + Trailer

2021

Lastly, in 2021, the identity of Peter Parker was uncovered by the fictional world and he goes to the Sorcerer Supreme to get everyone’s memory wiped. The troubles of being a superhero teenager are perfectly showcased in this movie starring Tom Holland, once again.

Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield make an unexpected comeback in this movie which made full theatres gasp.

SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME | All Clips + Trailers (2021)

What order to watch the Spider-Man movies in?

If you’re looking for an order to watch the legendary Spider-Man movies (for completists and Spider-Man fans), you’ve come to the right place!

"Not everyone is meant to make a difference. But for me, the choice to lead an ordinary life is no longer an option."     — Peter Parker, 'Spider-Man', 2002.

Whatever life holds in store for me, I will never forget these words: 'With great power comes great responsibility.' This is my gift, my curse. Who am I? I'm Spider-Man."     — Peter Parker, 'Spider-Man', 2002.

Videos for further information:

 Jess Doshi 

Sources

Spider-Man Comics on Marvel HQ. (n.d.). Marvel HQ Spider-Man. Retrieved December 30, 2021, from

https://spiderman.marvelhq.com/comics

A look at the evolution of Spider-Man. (2017, July 5). The National.

https://www.thenationalnews.com/arts-culture/film/a-look-at-the-evolution-of-spider-man-1.94790

The Amazing Evolution Of Spider-Man In Movies. (2016, April 14). ScreenRant.

https://screenrant.com/the-amazing-evolution-of-spider-man-in-movies/

LaScala, M. (2021, September 10). How to Properly Watch the Spider-Man Movies in Order Before the Multiverse Changes the Timeline. Good Housekeeping.

https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/entertainment/g37528467/spiderman-movies-in-order/

Spider-Man: a natural history showing the evolution. (2019, July 2). The HotCorn.

https://hotcorn.com/en/movies/news/a-natural-history-of-spider-man/

Martin, M. A., & Sanderson, P. (2018). Spider-Man | Creators, Stories, & Films. In Encyclopædia Britannica.

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Spider-Man-comic-book-character

Magazine, S. (n.d.). SUPER-HERO, SUPER-CHANGE: Evolution of the Spider-Man Characters in Development Process. Script Magazine. Retrieved December 30, 2021, from

https://scriptmag.com/features/evolution-spider-man-characters

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