This article consists of nothing but Spider-Man: Homecoming spoilers.
Well, Spider-Man: Homecoming certainly doesn’t disappoint. For a movie that could have gotten way too bogged down in Marvel Cinematic Universe lore, or spent time apologizing for previous entries in the franchise, it manages to pretty much give everybody what they want. This is a wonderfully self-contained Spider-Man movie to be sure. But make no mistake, there’s cool Marvel stuff and Spidey history hiding in nearly every scene.
I think we’ve managed to find everything hiding in the margins of this one, but just in case you spot something I didn’t, give me a shout on Twitter, and I’ll update this. I’ll probably update this after I see it again, anyway.
So, let’s get to work…
Keep in mind that even though this isn’t an origin story, there are some key elements that come out of some of Spidey’s earliest comic book adventures.
For one thing, the intro, which establishes right out of the gate that Peter doesn’t have a date for the homecoming dance, is practically right out of his first appearance in Amazing Fantasy #15.
Spidey’s overwhelming desire to join the Avengers somewhat mirrors his attempt to join the Fantastic Four in The Amazing Spider-Man #1. The difference there is that Peter assumed the FF paid really well when, in fact, they’re a non-profit. Peter’s motivations with the Avengers are more altruistic and eager, but then again, in early stories Peter was a much angrier kid.
Seriously, he was a dick.
Anyway, it didn’t work out.
And two of our villains (Vulture and Tinkerer) come right out of The Amazing Spider-Man #2. Early Spidey comics occasionally featured two complete stories, and that was the case there. These guys had nothing to do with each other there, though.
Okay, we should probably talk about the villains now, right?
Who Are The Spider-Man: Homecoming Villains?
Adrian Toomes/The Vulture was created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, and as I just mentioned, he first appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man #2. Toomes was originally a lot more elderly and Mr. Burns-looking than the working class villain we got from Michael Keaton in this movie. But he was the earliest indication that most of Spidey’s foes would be significantly older than him, which helped illustrate a kind of generation gap. In the comics, Toomes’ supervillain origin story was also tied to similar frustration, although there, instead of a Tony Stark funded government department robbing him of his livelihood, it was his co-inventor/business partner.
Also note: in the comics, ol’ Adrian was not Liz’s Dad. But giving him a connection to one of Peter’s classmates does kind of position him as the “Norman Osborn” of this franchise, right down to knowing Pete’s secret identity. But I suspect they have more interesting plans for him.
They never name him, but Michael Chernus’ Phineas Mason is The Tinkerer, who also first appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man #2. He’s a pretty minor figure in Spidey lore, but I think they used him nicely here.
Also, remember the name “Cobbwell” in that image above, as I’ll get to him in a minute…
So this is kinda cool. There are two shockers in this movie. Logan Marshall-Green is Jackson Brice. But in the comics, Jackson Brice was a member of The Enforcers, and he went by the useless nom-de-douchebag, “Montana.” Because… he was from Montana. But Brice is another holdover from the earliest Spidey comics, as he first appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man #10 (1964). He was created by Stan Lee and… not Steve Ditko, but Jack Kirby!
Michael Previte down in the comments has been kind enough to remind me, though, that ol’ Jackson Brice was indeed the Shocker, just not in the comics! Instead, that happened on the wonderful Spectacular Spider-Man animated series, arguably the best animated version of Spidey ever (it’s certainly my favorite).
But then we have the real Shocker, and that’s Bokeem Woodbine’s Herman Schultz.
The Shocker comes a little later in Spidey’s history but still from one of the character’s classic eras. He was created by Stan Lee and John Romita Sr. in the pages of The Amazing Spider-Man #46 (1967).
So we have one subset of the villains to deal with since he’s mostly set up for the future…
WHO IS MAC GARGAN?
He’s the Scorpion, silly! See that tattoo on his neck?
There’s already one deviation from the comics with this big screen version of our potential Scorpion. Originally, Mac Gargan wasn’t a straight up criminal, but a shady private eye hired by J. Jonah Jameson to investigate Spider-Man. Then Jameson got him a super suit which he ended up bonded with and, well, things never really went great for Scorpion.
But the prospect of Michael Mando as the lead villain of a future Spider-Man movie is incredibly appealing. He has been nothing short of brilliant on Better Call Saul recently, so if anyone can make a relatively straightforward villain like the Scorpion into something special (like Keaton did with Vulture in this movie), I believe he’s the guy.
The fact that he’s mentioning other friends interested in Spider-Man makes me think that maybe Sony hasn’t given up hope of that Sinister Six movie after all.
There’s one more “villain” introduced here and he’s tied to another fan favorite Spidey, Miles Morales.
WAIT… WHAT ABOUT MILES MORALES?
No, Miles Morales isn’t in this movie, but there’s a very cool connection here. Donald Glover is Aaron Davis, a low level criminal… and the uncle of Miles Morales. He even specifically mentions that he doesn’t want those high-tech weapons hanging around because “I got a nephew who lives here.” That’s who he’s talking about.
Now there’s more to this. For one thing, Donald Glover at one point campaigned for the role of Spider-Man in 2010 during the previous reboot. While he (obviously) did not get the role, it did partially inspire Marvel to create Miles Morales, aka the second Ultimate Spider-Man. And of course Glover himself went on to voice Miles on two episodes of the Ultimate Spider-Man animated series.
So his character here, Aaron Davis, becomes the minor supervillain known as The Prowler. And you can see Aaron get excited when the crooks mention they have some kind of cool climbing technology, which would be one of the Prowler’s signatures. You can see these seeds being planted, and I would love to see him again in another movie.
Incidentally, in recent comics, Prowler has become an ally to Peter Parker, so there you go. Interestingly enough, Sony is currently working on an animated Miles Morales Spidey movie, which will feature Mahershala Ali as the voice of Aaron Davis. That’s probably not going to be in continuity with this movie, but it’s still pretty great.
Also, the “gun” that Shocker Numero Uno tries to sell him appears to be something fashioned out of an Ultron arm.
Okay, enough about the bad guys.
Why is Iron Man in this movie?
Well, aside from the obvious reasons that Sony and Marvel wanted to make the biggest possible deal about bringing Spidey to the Marvel Universe, and Robert Downey Jr. is their most bankable star, there’s a fine history of Spidey and Iron Man team-ups in the comics.
For one thing, there was an entire series dedicated just to teaming Spider-Man with other heroes. It was called (appropriately enough) Marvel Team-Up. It looks like future entries in this new franchise will continue the Marvel Team-Up theme, but with other heroes.
And Spidey’s ties to Iron Man became more overt in the Civil War comics, where an adult Peter straight up went to work for Tony, and got a slick new costume out of it, kinda like what we got here… although that comic book one was more in line with Tony’s taste in colors.
See for yourself…
Still, that cool costume that Tony offers Peter at the end of the movie has a few similar design elements to the “Iron Spider” costume he rocked for awhile during the Civil War comics, as well as the more high-tech suit we’ve seen in recent issues of Amazing Spider-Man. I’m pretty happy that they’re sticking with the current design, though. That’s a solid superhero costume.
Also, since we’re talking about the suit, I think this is the first time we’ve expressly had the webbing serve different functions. It’s definitely the first time we’ve had Spidey costume/tech mainstays like the spider-tracer onscreen, as well as the arm webs, which were pretty much always around when Steve Ditko was drawing the character, but that fell out of fashion shortly after he left.
This doesn’t count as a “Marvel Team-Up” but you have to love how they squeezed Captain America into this movie. This is clearly an old video, recorded before Cap went anti-authority in The Winter Soldier and Civil War. This kinda makes me think that this brighter version of the costume from The Avengers was always intended as more of a “public” costume, as opposed to the more practical suits he has worn elsewhere.
“Bleh Bleh” in the comments has pointed out something absolutely amazing, too. This isn’t Chris Evans’ first go around with educational films. He starred in Biodiversity: Wild About Life back in 1997. This is actually a real thing, and you can watch it here.
THE SUPPORTING CHARACTERS
A couple of notable things about Marisa Tomei’s Aunt May.
First of all, yes, she’s younger than our traditional cinematic Aunt Mays. But this is something inspired by the Ultimate Spider-Man comics, which took Aunt May from her traditional role as a sickly, elderly woman to a younger, more vibrant, and considerably tougher modern lady. For one thing, that version of the character famously stood up to J. Jonah Jameson for bullying her nephew. Also, like we see at the end of this film, she eventually figures out that Peter is Spider-Man, and her reaction is about what we see here. She’s definitely about to ground the shit out of Peter, for one thing.
Also worth noting: they’ve made May Italian-American (like Ms. Tomei). In the comics, May’s maiden name was Reilly. Draw your own conclusions.
They’ve got that Italian-American mothering thing down perfectly with her too. “You see something like that happening, you turn and run the other way,” is like, word for word something from my childhood.
– Liz Allan first appeared in Amazing Fantasy #15. That’s Betty Brant with her here, who first came around in The Amazing Spider-Man #4. Both were created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. Betty wasn’t a classmate of Peter’s in the comics, but then again, neither was Ned Leeds. I’m curious to see if we get a nod to the comics romance between Betty and Ned in future movies.
– Betty’s co-host on the school’s news show is Jason Ionello, an exceedingly minor Spidey supporting character who first appeared in the underrated Untold Tales of Spider-Man series from 1995. He was created by Kurt Busiek and Pat Olliffe. Also worth noting is that Betty Brant was introduced originally as J. Jonah Jameson’s secretary at The Daily Bugle (she was played by Elizabeth Banks as such in the original Sam Raimi trilogy of films) but she went on in the comics to become her newspaper’s star reporter. It appears that Angourie Rice’s Betty is getting a jumpstart on that investigative career in this universe.
– Tony Revolori’s Flash Thompson is absolutely perfect, even though they kinda changed Flash’s MO a little. In the comics (and the movies, for the most part), Flash has always been a dumb jock. Here, he’s an irritating rich kid, and I have to say, I’ve known plenty of guys just like him. “Penis Parker,” indeed.
(fun note about the above image… you can spot Dr. Bruce Banner up there on the wall along with history’s greatest scientists)
– Mr. Cobbwell, the nice Academic Decathalon teacher, is named after Professor Cobbwell, who was the patsy in 1962’s The Amazing Spider-Man #2, the same comic that introduced not one, but two of our villains in this movie. In this case, the story that involved Cobbwell centered around the Tinkerer.
– Jacob Batalon is an absolute scene stealer as Ned Leeds, but I’m obligated to point out that he has nothing in common with his comic book counterpart. That version of Ned Leeds first appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man #18 (1964) and yes, he was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Ned was an older reporter for The Daily Bugle, a future romantic suitor for Betty Brant, and someone with some ill-fated criminal connections which I doubt we’ll ever see explored in this franchise.
Ned’s general demeanor and his relationship with Peter is much more in line with a different Marvel character entirely. That would be Miles Morales’ best friend, Ganke Lee.
– So… is the movie still just trolling us with the whole is Michelle/isn’t Michelle really Mary Jane Watson thing? There’s that whole “my friends call me MJ” moment to consider. But the idea that we might eventually get a reveal similar to Mary Jane’s first comic book appearance is kinda cool.
Kevin Feige told us that this is still intended to be a different character, but he keeps it vague enough that this could all kind of work out the way we’re expecting it to.
– I love that the girls at Peter’s high school are playing “fuck, marry, kill” with the Avengers. This is such a fun little moment that helps illustrate where superheroes really fit on the whole fame scale in this universe.
– They establish the Department of Damage Control in this, and while that may just sound like your typical, boring federal agency, these folks are right out of the comics. They had a few really clever series in the late ’80s/early ’90s, and they had a pretty killer creative team of the late, great Dwayne McDuffie and the brilliant Ernie Colón.
Oh, and look who was on the cover of their first issue!
Tyne Daly is playing Anne Marie Hoag, who headed up the company in the comics, and she looks absolutely perfect.
The thing is, in the comics, Damage Control was a little bit more like the operation that Adrian Toomes and friends are running. They were private contractors, not a government agency. In any case, it’s not clear where this leaves the proposed Damage Control TV series though. I’d be cool with seeing Tyne Daly headline that.
– You aren’t hallucinating, that is indeed Kenneth Choi as the principal of Peter’s school. Choi played Howling Commandos member Jim Morita in Captain America: The First Avenger (“I’m from Fresno, chief”) and he’s Principal Morita here. Yes, he’s Jim Morita’s grandson. Kinda cool, right?
Okay, so…the timeline of this movie is all screwy. For the most part, Marvel movies have taken place in “real time.” So they’re set usually around the same time they’re released. But here, we learn that the events of The Avengers (which came out in 2012) took place eight years ago. I’m not sure how that works.
So how far after the events of Captain America: Civil War are we? It can’t be that long, right? Certainly no more than a year. But it’s also long enough that the Sokovia Accords can be taught in one of Peter’s boring ass classes.
But this brings up the most ridiculous nitpick you are likely to read about this movie all day, if not all week. This movie kicks off in early to mid-September, because we know the Academic Decathalon is happening on Sept. 14. That’s fine and everything, but it’s clear that school has been in session for months at this point with talk of how Peter quit marching band six weeks earlier… which would be around the beginning of August. In New York City (and most of New York State) schools aren’t in session until after Labor Day.
Yeah, it’s minor, but this stuff messes with my head.
UPDATE: It has been pointed out to me that yes, marching bands, like sports teams, practice all summer. I should have remembered this, but I haven’t been in high school in a loooooong ass time. That being said, it still felt way to early in the school year for a homecoming dance, and I still think it felt like the implication was that classes had been in session for a while.
I’m probably just being a jerk.
MISCELLANEOUS COOL STUFF
– Ummm… of course Peter Parker is a Mets fan. He’s from Queens. But more importantly, the Mets are basically the Spider-Man of baseball. Even when they’re good (which, in my lifetime, if not their history, is pretty rare), that team can’t catch a break.
The pennant you see on the wall is celebrating recent Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Mike Piazza. Piazza is the greatest offensive catcher in baseball history and a Mets legend. He hasn’t been a Met since 2005, so if my math is right, Peter would have been about two-years-old. You’d think he might have a David Wright flag on his wall instead. Maybe this was Uncle Ben’s? Anyway, it doesn’t matter. Peter Parker is a Mets fan. It’s official. Don’t @ me.
Also note Peter’s AT-AT, which I think might be a vintage Kenner version.
– It’s so appropriate that we finally get to hear a Ramones tune in a Spider-Man movie (in this case, it’s the famous “Blitzkrieg Bop”). Three of the four founding members of that band (including/especially Joey Ramone) were born in Forest Hills, Queens, which is where Peter Parker is from.
I wrote much more about all the perfect ways this movie uses music right here.
– Of course, that’s not the only appropriate musical nod. You can hear Michael Giacchino’s orchestral version of the theme song from the 1967 Spider-Man animated series during the Marvel intro, and it seems to be quoted a couple of other times throughout the film.
Speaking of music, in what might be the coolest reference in this entire movie…remember the older guy with the boombox talking to Spidey when he’s on the roof? That’s Kirk Thatcher, who played the punk with the boombox on the bus in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. The one that Spock puts to sleep for being a dick. How awesome is that? More details here.
When Spidey is trapped under all that rubble and lifts it, it’s an homage to The Amazing Spider-Man #33, in an incredible sequence from Steve Ditko…
Also during that sequence, he sees his reflection, and we get the famous “half Peter/half Spidey” image from the early comics, usually used to indicate that Peter’s Spidey sense was tingling, or to let readers in on the fact that we know something that everybody else doesn’t.
At one point there’s some graffiti that clearly spells out the name “Bagley.” Mark Bagley has probably drawn more Spider-Man comics than any other human, and his partnership with Brian Michael Bendis on Ultimate Spider-Man, a comic series that definitely inspired elements of Homecoming, is the longest consecutive run by a writer/artist team on any Marvel comic ever, eclipsing even Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s legendary Fantastic Four run.
Stan Lee’s cameo, and the ensuing chaos, reminds me of this…
When Peter stumbled on “The Avengers” he asks if “you forgot your pin number.” This reminds me a little bit of Christopher Reeve’s brilliant line delivery in Superman: The Movie where he asks a skyscraper-scaling cat burglar if there’s “something wrong with the elevator.”
You can overhear some discussion about SHIELD being busy cleaning up “the Triskelion mess.” I haven’t kept up with Agents of SHIELD, so I don’t know what this means. A number of you have patiently tried to explain to me that this is referring to the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier (as opposed to more recent events on AoS), and I suppose that makes sense, but I just figured maybe that was too far in the past for them to still be “cleaning” it up? Like I said, I’m still trying to wrap my head around this timeline.
So by now we all know that Thor’s hammer is named Mjolnir. But in Norse mythology, what’s equally important is his belt… which I’m pretty sure has never been named in the movies. The name that Happy struggles with is Megingjörð (thanks to @Debalina_11 for the correct spelling on this!). And no, I don’t know how to pronounce it either, so don’t ask.
– Is… that Howard Stark on the mural over Peter’s left shoulder?
– I love that there’s a bodega cat in this movie. Don’t be one of those idiots who calls the health department when you’re in NYC because there’s a cat hanging around the bodega.
– @se7enthpower pointed out something cool. On the bus to DC, the kids are being quizzed on the “Moons of Saturn” one of which is Titan. While it hasn’t been expressly stated in the movies yet, Avengers: Infinity War villain Thanos has ties to Titan. I can’t imagine this was purely a coincidence.
– A few of you have caught something I missed. Flash is complaining to his homecoming date that the branzino they had gone out for wasn’t fresh. You may remember branzino as being the unappetizing meal Peter eats with the Stacy family in The Amazing Spider-Man.
– Spidey’s failure to kiss Liz in the Washington Monument is a fun nod to the famous “upside down kiss” from Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man flick. Oh yeah, and that’s Jennifer Connelly as the voice of his suit. If Jennifer Connelly tells you to kiss someone, you might consider listening.
Also, fun fact, Jennifer Connelly is married to Paul Bettany, who of course played Jarvis, Tony Stark’s digital butler in the Iron Man films. That gig ended with him getting to be Vision, so maybe there is a superhero role in Ms. Connelly’s future as well?
And don’t worry, Spidey does eventually join the Avengers in the comics. He was a longstanding member during the New Avengers era.
Spot anything I missed? Shout ’em at me on Twitter, and if it all checks out, I’ll update this!