The Amazing Spider-Man is back on consoles and PC today with a new adventure brought to you by developer Insomniac Games. Not only is Marvel’s Spider-Man the first major Spidey game since 2014, but it’s a fantastic game to boot.
Part of the game’s success has to do with its unique style. Insomniac Games’ take on the webslinger isn’t a direct adaptation of the comics or any of the movies. Instead, Insomniac’s Spider-Man lives in a universe all his own, which means that some parts of the beloved Spidey mythos are bound to get remixed. For example, in this version of the story, Peter Parker’s beloved Mary Jane Watson is an investigative reporter while the snarling J. Jonah Jameson becomes a right-wing radio pundit who spends most of his airtime condemning Spider-Man.
One of the biggest changes to the look and feel of the world of Spider-Man is the hero’s own suit, which was redesigned for the game. With a big splash of white across his chest and some particularly stylish footwear, Spider-Man swings through the New York City skyline like you’ve never seen it before. But in order to create Spidey’s unique look as well as the game’s version of New York City, Insomniac also went back to the hero’s roots and the work of legendary artist and Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko.
The late Ditko, who passed away earlier this year, created the character with writer Stan Lee in 1962 in the pages of Amazing Fantasy #15. Ditko was the first artist to bring Spider-Man to life on the page and drew his first appearance (with a cover from another legend, Jack Kirby). He was also the main artist on The Amazing Spider-Man, the hero’s flagship book, from 1963-1966, all while creating another Marvel icon, the psychedelic Doctor Strange.
It’s impossible to skip Ditko’s work when crafting your own Spider-Man story, and Insomniac did its due diligence. I spoke to Insomniac art director Jacinda Chew at a recent PlayStation event about Spider-Man’s new look and how it all came back to Ditko in the end.
“For us, when we’re designing Spider-Man, we pretty much just looked at the comics,” Chew says. “He’s got a really deep, deep well of comic books to look at. We looked at the classic ones, like Ditko. He’s the classic designer for Spider-Man suits and that was pretty much it.”
While you’ll play a large chunk of the game with Insomniac’s original suit, Ditko’s classic Spidey costume can be unlocked during the game. Still, Chew stresses that it was important for Insomniac’s world to have its own Spider-Man look.
“We never really considered having the game star the classic Spider-Man suit because we knew we were going to create a game that was basically standalone,” Chew says. “It wasn’t going to be related to a movie. It wasn’t related to the comics. It was going to be something that was in the Spider-Man universe and it’s our very own Spider-Man. So we wanted to create a suit that was ours alone, and that’s why we see such a unique suit.”
Chew says that the team didn’t really look at any specific storylines from the character’s more than 50 years worth of comic book adventures. Ditko’s work was the point of reference when looking back the comics.
“No, there actually wasn’t a specific storyline at all. Like I said, I like Ditko’s work because it’s very simple and it’s really graphic and it’s pretty clean. Because if you think about some of the costumes that came out later, they’re a lot more complicated, a lot more detailed. We want to keep something that is very iconic and that’s what I feel like Ditko’s suit is.”
All that said, there are nods to other Spider-Man stories in the game, specifically through the suits you can unlock throughout the experience. On top of the Ditko costume, you can also unlock the Iron Spider suit from Avengers: Infinity War, the Scarlet Spider look, the Secret Wars suit, the 2099 getup, and quite a few others. Not to mention that a version of Miles Morales, the Ultimate Spider-Man, is running around in the game, too…
“I feel like we’ve definitely retained the spirit of Spider-Man,” Chew says. “I feel like we did a good job capturing all of that and translating this into a video game.”
Indeed, Marvel’s Spider-Man is a celebration of what’s come before, and especially Ditko’s work. Play the game for only a short demo and you’ll get a real sense of the love and care Insomniac has put into bringing Spidey to our living rooms. In that way, and in so many others, Ditko’s work continues to live on past the page.
Marvel’s Spider-Man is out now exclusively on the PlayStation 4.