The latest TV series starring everyone's favorite webslinger — Marvel's Spider-Man — debuted last Saturday on Disney XD. As expected, the two-part premiere introduced several characters from the comics who will be regulars on the show, but the selection of characters and the roles they'll fill may be a bit surprising. Fans can expect to see classic characters like Aunt May and Harry Osborn, but it looks like a few newer characters will be just as pivotal in this iteration.
Most #SpiderMan TV shows and movies feature characters that originated in the 1960s, so by now we generally know what to expect from them. However, in this new Marvel Animation series, a couple such characters might be taking roles in Peter's life that we haven't seen before. On top of that, we also have a few characters that only debuted in the comics within the past 15 years. For some, it's their first appearance outside the comics. Here are five surprises about Marvel's Spider-Man's key supporting cast.
5. Max Modell
Everyone knows that Peter Parker worked as a photographer for the Daily Bugle for decades. However, in 2010 he was hired by Horizon Labs, of which Max Modell is the CEO and Chief Scientist. Each scientist at Horizon has his or her own lab for their own inventions, and Peter tends to use his to improve his suit or create new gadgets for saving people and fighting villains.
In the new TV series, Horizon Labs is now Horizon High, but Peter still uses the facility for crime-fighting inventions. In his first appearance outside the comics, Max Modell is still the big man in charge, and somewhat of a mentor to Peter. In the two-part premiere, Max probably had more lines than anyone besides Peter and Harry, so it's apparent he's got a rather large role in this series.
As for the rest of Horizon's personnel, they've been replaced by other characters of Spider-Man lore — one of which is...
4. Anya Corazon
Anya is a student at Horizon High. In the comics, she also has spider-based powers, although her origins and powers were completely unrelated to Spider-Man's. Anya gained her powers through magic, uses a grappling hook instead of webshooters, and has an exoskeleton. So, definitely not related other than the arachnid theme, at least while she fought crime as the young hero Araña.
Later, Marvel switched her over as one of Spider-Man's allies and she took the name Spider-Girl after changing her costume. These days, you can generally find her teaming-up with other supporting Spidey characters.
Although she's not a terribly obscure character, I don't think Marvel fans ever expected to see Anya Corazon on the small screen. Of everyone on this list, she's probably the most surprising, and I'm looking forward to finding out which superhero persona and costume she'll don for this show.
3. Miles Morales
If you've at all paid attention to any Spider-Man news in the last few years, chances are you've heard of Miles Morales, who (in another universe) took over the role of Spider-Man after Peter Parker died. He has since become a fan-favorite, making his way into the main Marvel universe, into the Ultimate Spider-Man TV series, and into Sony's upcoming animated Spider-Man film.
I'm sure many fans had hoped to see Miles in this show, but I'm not sure how many of us expected him to know Peter out-of-costume, or to be in the show from the very start. I can't imagine it'll be long before the show's writers get him into his black-and-red costume.
2. Gwen Stacy
Ah, Gwen Stacy — Peter's first true love. Those who haven't read "The Night Gwen Stacy Died" or any other stories from the early Spider-Man comics surely would at least know her from the Amazing Spider-Man movie and its sequel, and perhaps from the Spectacular Spider-Man cartoon as well.
She didn't make an actual appearance in Marvel's Spider-Man's two-episode premiere, but was mentioned by name multiple times. Like Miles and Anya, she's a Horizon High student. What's so surprising about Gwen Stacy in this show? It's not the fact that she's there, but the way she's there.
Since she's lumped in with two characters who will likely don costumes and fight crime in future seasons, chances are Gwen will as well. In an alternate universe, Gwen Stacy — not Peter — was the one bitten by a radioactive spider, which led her to become Spider-Woman (although to the fans she's known as Spider-Gwen). It's possible we'll see some classic Gwen in this iteration, but I'm betting the showrunners are planning to go the Spider-Gwen route.
1. Uncle Ben
Spider-Man wouldn't be Spider-Man without Uncle Ben, so his appearance in the first episode certainly isn't surprising. However, if he were in every episode, would that surprise you?
Based on the way he was portrayed in the premiere — and the fact that he's voiced by Patton Oswald — it appears his role in Spider-Man's life is far from over. In addition to the "with great power comes great responsibility" speech, Peter had a flashback in which Uncle Ben taught him "sometimes hard work is just the break your brain needs to jump-start a new idea." Either that was a somewhat random incident, or it's the first of many flashbacks this series will offer (or the second, if the power-and-responsibility lesson counts as the first).
If you're one of those people thinking we don't need to see Uncle Ben in yet another Spider-Man story, maybe you'll find this version more interesting. Here, Ben Parker was not only instrumental to Peter becoming Spider-Man in the first place, but also memories of him help Peter as he continues to learn in crime-fighting and in school.
Max Modell, Miles Morales, Anya Corazon and Spider-Gwen are all recent additions to Spider-Man comics. It's surprising to see fan-favorites Miles and Spider-Gwen join the lineup so early, and it's surprising to see Max and Anya at all. While the appearance of classic characters like Gwen Stacy and Uncle Ben isn't unexpected, the new roles they're likely to take are.
Adding such characters is an interesting choice, and hopefully it helps to keep the story fresh, which is particularly important when we've had such a large number of Spidey comics, movies and TV shows, with a new continuity starting every couple of years. While the centerpiece for the plot is usually different from one iteration to the next, that only goes so far to reinvigorate the franchise. We love Peter Parker for his personal struggles, so his relationships with the supporting characters are going to make the most impact.
I, for one, welcome each of these surprises. I hope their presence makes Marvel's Spider-Man feel more like an ensemble show. These characters have a lot to offer, both in their own right and in the parts they'll play in Peter's life.