Tag Archives: Spider-man

In Defense of Peter Parker

Peter Parker gets no respect.

This should come as no surprise to people who are familiar with Spider-Man and his alter ego–whether it’s the original Marvel comics, Sam Raimi’s blockbuster trilogy, or the myriad of animated series that have popped up on television from time to time. In every iteration, Peter’s constantly having problems with bullies, bosses, and potential paramours. So, yes, within the fictional world of the Marvel Universe, Peter Parker gets no respect. However, I was somewhat shocked to find out that poor Pete doesn’t get much respect among comic fans, either.

Maybe it’s just the inevitable backlash from almost fifty years of marketing Peter Parker as the “everyman” of the Marvel Universe. I get that comic fans might be turned off by the notion that the publisher equates them with a socially awkward, pathetic mess. I understand why a reader would rather identify with someone flashy like Tony Stark, take-charge like Hal Jordan, or majestic like Wonder Woman. I’ve heard people say things along the lines of “Marvel thinks that Peter Parker reflects who their readers are, well that’s not me.” I understand. I do.

I’ll get the obvious projection-y stuff out of the way. When Spider-Man first appeared in Amazing Fantasy #15, Peter Parker was a shy teenager who was more comfortable with his chemistry set than he was with his classmates. The powers he gained from the bite of that radioactive spider not only allowed Peter to swing through the concrete canyons of New York City fighting crime, but they also gave him a boost in confidence, especially while in costume. Out of his mask and booties (yes, he calls them “booties”…what would you call them?), Peter still retained a bit of the shy, socially awkward science geek that he had been in high school. Confession Warning! Yes, I was the shy, quiet kid. I was the kid who got good grades but was (was?) always too shy to ask a girl out. And, like Peter, I was a closet smart-ass. So, on the most basic level, I identify with who Peter Parker is as a person. But, the reason I respect him has more to do with the oft-repeated power-and-responsibility shtick.

Yes, Peter’s life is crap, but it’s crap because he willingly sacrifices the private side of his life to help others. I think this is a very important part of who Peter Parker is, even if it often gets overshadowed by “Uh-oh…Peter’s late with the rent again” and “Oops, Peter missed his date with MJ.” But, these unfortunate things don’t just happen to Peter, he makes the conscious decision to put his life on hold for others. Guys like Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark have an army of employees to handle the day-to-day business of running their multi-million dollar corporations while they’re off fighting crime. Clark Kent can fly to Tokyo, pound a giant killer robot into a pile of used pinball machine parts and still have time to finish that article for the evening edition (and meet Lois for dinner–guess they don’t call him Superman for nothing). But Peter Parker? He can’t do it all. He has to choose. He has to make sacrifices. He has to decide what’s more important: his social life or saving complete strangers from a burning building. And, almost without fail, he’ll choose the latter.

Responsibility.

I don’t know about you, but I wish I had that kind of compassion, that kind of unwavering dedication to total strangers. For that reason, more than any other, I respect Peter Benjamin Parker.

Huh…

Why did it take me this long to realize that the version of Gwen Stacy from The Spectacular Spider-Man

 

 

 

 

 

 

–was clearly influenced by the version of Debra Whitman that appeared on Spider-Man: The Animated Series in the ’90s?

Back to Formula?!: If a Spidey Reboot Must Happen, Let's Do It Right, Kids.

Face it, boys and girls: a complete and total revamp of the Spider-Man movie franchise is going to happen. Is it a good idea? No, probably not. But, as long as a big time movie studio owns the rights to the characters and you do not, there’s really nothing we can do about it. Other than hope for the best.

As part of my tireless quest to make Hollywood better, I offer my thoughts and ideas about who should be cast in the “reboot.” Grab a helmet, here we go…

Tommy Knight as Peter Parker/Spider-Man

As a rule, I prefer to avoid casting non-North American actors as American superheroes. Personally, since I don’t think anyone would even think of casting Zac Efron as Harry Potter or Brad Pitt as James Bond, I see nothing wrong with this stance. However, Knight–best “known” for playing Luke in the Doctor Who spin-off The Sarah Jane Adventures–looks like he’d do a pretty damn good job as Puny Parker.

Taylor Swift as Gwen Stacy

and Molly C. Quinn as Mary Jane Watson

Here’s where I’m probably gonna lose a bunch of you guys. Hang on and let me explain this a little. Neither Gwen nor MJ were ever part of Peter Parker’s high school life. They’ve both been folded in through various other sources–cartoons, movies, Ultimate things. Personally, I liked what The Spectacular Spider-Man did with both of the characters, making Gwen Peter’s high school best friend/co-geek/crush and making MJ a little less of the girl next door and closer to her “Face it, Tiger” roots. (Yes, I know this is at least the second time I’ve chosen Quinn for one of these movies…dammit, I will not rest until she’s in a comic book movie.)

Chace Crawford as Harry Osborn

I’ll be honest, I have no idea when Harry Osborn went from being Brillo-headed Melvin to broody heartthrob, but that’s how most people see him these days. From what I hear of this Crawford kid, he’s kind of got the rich snot thing down, so let’s go with it.

Jordan Hinson as Liz Allen

Finally, a girl that Peter Parker actually went to high school with. From a character standpoint, I wouldn’t know Liz Allen if I tripped over her. But, I do like Eureka’s Hinson and would like to see her in more stuff (or have her do more things that I’m interested in watching, at the very least).

Cory Monteith as Eugene “Flash” Thompson

The Flash in the first Spider-Man movie was more juicehead douchebag date-rapist than BMOC jerk. I’d probably never be friends with Flash, but in the end he isn’t really a bad guy. Just a jerk. On Glee, Monteith plays a guy who could very easily go down the “jerky popular guy” road (thank god for the healing power of glee club, kids).

Kathryn Joosten as May Parker

Joosten is a favorite actress among the folks who frequent my corner of the Internet. How could you not love the actress who played Mrs. Landingham on The West Wing and Old Lady God on Joan of Arcadia? A clue: you can’t.

Alexis Bledel as Betty Brant


I offer no justification for this choice other than: she’s Alexis Bledel. Alexis. Bledel. Moving on…

J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson

Like my pal Rich said, you do not mess with perfection.

Kevin Spacey as Norman Osborn/The (eventual) Green Goblin

I love Willem Dafoe. The dude is seven kinds of awesome. But, from day one, the only name I ever associated with a feature film version of Ol’ Brillo-head, Sr. was Kevin Spacey. I can’t really explain it…other than the hair. Also, let’s not rush Osborn’s decline into foamy-mouthed madness. The Green Goblin is, arguably, Spider-Man’s greatest nemesis (suck it, Venom), so there’s no reason to waste him in just a single movie.

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As for possible villains in the new movie, I give you:

Giovanni Ribisi as Max Dillon/Electro

I was trying to think of an actor who could play both pathetic schlubby loser and slightly insane criminal and Ribisi’s name just sorta popped in there. Then, I realized he basically played Electro in an episode of The X-Files. Geek win!

Brendan Gleeson as Dr. Otto Octavius/Doctor Octopus

Personally, I’ve always seen Doc Ock as a somewhat…*ahem*…physically substantial individual.

Bruce Campbell as Quentin Beck/Mysterio

You’ll never convince me that Raimi wasn’t building up to casting Campbell as Mysterio somewhere along the line. Thank God I’m here. The idea of Campbell playing former stunt man/special effects expert-turned-criminal is just too good to pass up. But, if we can’t get Bruce for some reason, I’d be happy with Adam Savage.


Webhead Done Right?

Kids WB recently started airing a brand-new Spider-man series–The Spectacular Spider-man.

There certainly has been no shortage of Spider-man cartoons, but if this one stays the course, it might be the best. The original 60s ‘toon, despite a certain nostalgic charm, wasn’t that great (yes, it had a kick-ass theme song, but did it have anything else?). Spider-man and His Amazing Friends was downright laughable most of the time. The 90s Fox revamp had promise, until lackluster animation and unnecessarily convoluted multi-part story arcs did it in (but what a voice cast: Martin Landau as the Scorpion?! Now that’s brilliant!). I don’t even want to talk about that CGI mess that was on MTV for that three-day weekend a few years back.

This brings us to The Spectacular Spider-man. The producers of this new series realized that the only way to focus on Peter Parker having a crap life is to set their show during his high school years. Think about it.  If Peter was a twenty-year-old college student, moaning about money and getting picked on by bullies, we’d think he was a complete loser.  No disrespect to cinema classic Revenge of the Nerds, but people don’t get picked on by bullies in college…there’s just no effing time to pick on anyone.

So, in this new series, Peter’s sixteen years old and he’s only been Spider-man for a few months.  It’s not an origin show, but we still get to watch Pete’s learning curve. The audience gets to watch him discover the balance between keeping his alter ego a secret and standing up to bully Flash Thompson. Helping Pete along the way are best friends Harry Osborn (once again the pointy-headed little dweeb he’s supposed to be, sorry James Franco) and Gwen Stacy (shifted from Pete’s college years to his high school years and geeked-up slightly, but still secretly carrying a torch for our hero). The show also casts Eddie Brock as an older student who befriended and protected Pete from bullies until graduating and moving on to Empire State University. Normally, I wouldn’t care about a change like that, except that it means that at least three people that Pete considers his friends will become his enemies–Dr. Connors, Harry, and now Eddie.

The animation of The Spectacular Spider-man is clean and fluid. It’s neither overly complex (like the X-Men ‘toon of the 90s) nor is it overly simplified (like the juvenile Teen Titans). Also, unlike the recent Fantastic Four series, there isn’t a fetid stench of anime coming off the new Webhead. Were I forced to choose something to compare the design of The Spectacular Spider-man to, I would say that it is a mix of X-Men: Evolution and Ben 10. Is it really so hard to capture the essence of a character in just a few lines? No, I don’t think so. And this show is the proof.