We all know the warm and whimsical story of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, don’t we? Directed by John Hughes (the man behind Home Alone and The Breakfast Club), Ferris Bueller sees Matthew Broderick as that infamously wily, witty and rebellious teen who outsmarts the adults (especially his teacher — Jeffrey Jones’s Mr Rooney) to have a whale of a time outside the confines of school. Hmm, now doesn’t that sound a tad familiar?
Let’s face it, there are certain similarities between the two iconic characters of Peter Parker and Ferris Bueller, at least in their high school lives. Though Peter’s exploits as #SpiderMan are a little more extravagant, he too has to avoid being caught by authority figures and his loved ones. And we all know just what a quick thinker he is!
Everyone’s looking forward to seeing more of #TomHolland’s take on Spider-Man, following his standout introduction in Captain America: Civil War. Certainly, Spider-Man: Homecoming looks set to be a very entertaining ride, but according to Marvel honcho Kevin Feige, #Homecoming will be heavily influenced by the thoughtful movies of John Hughes, including #FerrisBuellersDayOff.
But, did you know that Spider-Man and Ferris Bueller have actually been connected for much longer than we though? How did the worlds of Spider-Man and Ferris Bueller collide?
“Les Jeux Sont Faits. Translation: The Game is Up.”
The hormone-filled, turbulent years of adolescence are formative for everyone, and John Hughes is known for sensitively examining this tumultuous period in his movies. It helps that his movies are also very funny, and carefully capture the tone of their time and place in history — it's no wonder that Hughes's work continues to be wildly popular. Ferris Bueller has really seeped into popular culture, and has been spoofed and referenced in everything from USA Network’s Suits to Deadpool.
Comic books have always been aware of the culture that spawned them. The writers at Marvel like to riff on pop culture, especially if it allows them to poke fun at their rivals. However, as we will soon see, their spoofing is not limited to comic book movies. In the long-running Ultimate Spider-Man series, which modernized the titular teen-hero for the new millennium, it is clear that writer Brian Michael Bendis is a big fan of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. As you can see below, the series takes frequent cues from Bueller’s cinematic capers, in many shapes and forms!
1. “Bueller?... Bueller?... Bueller?”
Ben Stein’s droning, ever-questioning Economics Teacher has long been quoted by Ferris Bueller fans. Out of his few lines, his famously repetitive roll call is cited the most. So what’s this part of the movie got to do with Ultimate Spider-Man?
Well, Peter Parker stays in high school for far longer than he does in his original comic book series. Through these various story arcs, we see more of Peter as he struggles to balance his student life and the demands of his superhero career, because unfortunately for him, crime and super villains aren’t restricted by the school day. As such, Spidey’s missed quite a few of those roll calls at the start of class. But hey, isn’t this teacher a bit familiar?
Yup, in Issue #82, Ben Stein’s character is instantly recognizable by his hair and glasses, and his overzealous repetition of the lead characters’ name.
And this isn’t even the first time that we’ve seen Ben Stein appear in the series...
2. “Voodoo Economics.”
This is probably the most obvious Ferris Bueller reference that people have spotted in Ultimate Spider-Man (it is in Issue #2, after all), but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t any less amusing. As we see in the above clip, the Economics Teacher of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off persistently continues talking to a highly bored and generally uninterested class about the American Depression.
Throughout Spider-Man, we see no shortage of disconnected students (thank you Flash and Kong) but, if the above panels are anything to go by, Midtown High clearly has a scarcity of lecturers, and have resorted to borrowing them wholesale from the movies!
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3. Teenage Romance
Ah, l’amour! High school is filled with the exploits of hormone-fueled teenagers ready to flex their romantic muscles, and both Spidey and Ferris are no exception. Another similarity they share is that both characters are lucky enough to have landed themselves popular and attractive girlfriends, in the forms of Mary-Jane Watson and Sloane Peterson (Mia Sara) respectively.
The members of these power couples are clearly infatuated with each other, and though they are not yet of legal age, they are already planning on tying the knot(s) as soon as possible.
Aw, isn’t that lovely? You might initially argue that seeing our characters talk about marrying each other isn’t that comparable. Surely it happens in loads of teen movies? However, in both Ferris Bueller and Ultimate Spider-Man, the characters reaffirm their amorous intentions in various circumstances over and over again, with a very similar use of language. Coincidence? I think not!
4. The Dash Back Home
OK, so we’re near the end of Ferris Bueller here. The fun has been had, but it's getting late and Ferris soon realizes that he risks getting caught out by his parents upon their return from work. In a mirthful and madcap sequence, he has to sprint back home. Towards the end of the clip, we see that Ferris very nearly gets seen by his Dad (Lyman Ward) as they end up side-by-side.
Sound familiar, Spidey-readers? Well, it should!
In the Hollywood arc of Ultimate Spider-Man, Aunt May has been away in Florida. Little does she know, her nephew Peter has been off superhero-ing hundreds of miles away in Brazil, courtesy of his kidnapping by Doctor Octopus. At this point, she has no idea he is Spider-Man, and he is unaware that she is flying back earlier than she had originally said.
As a result, the two of them unknowingly return to New York at the same time, and later cross paths twice as they travel from the airport back to Queens. In a remarkably similar way to Ferris (albeit with added spider-powers), a beleaguered Peter then has to dash back at top speed to avoid being detected. These scenes are so familiar, from the inter-cutting between the parents and their teenage wards, to the fact that they glance their way and mistakenly think they're imagining things. The two teenagers cut it very fine, and they even have a showdown at their journey's end. In Ferris's case, its with Mr Rooney, and in Peter's, there is a gun-toting Gwen Stacy.
5. “Rooney Eats It!”
In one of the funniest credit scenes of all time, a battered and bloodied Mr Rooney has to make what is essentially a walk of shame home after his unsuccessful attempt to catch Ferris. Forced to board a school bus filled with his own students, his mood is not improved by their staring, or by the graffiti which mentions him by name. Though Rooney isn’t mentioned in Issue #78 of Ultimate Spider-Man, a similar piece of graffiti appears on the door of the girl’s bathroom, where Mary-Jane sulks following one of her break ups with Peter, reading “Tandy Bowen Bites.”
Though many will recognize who Tandy Bowen is in the original Marvel Universe, the change-up between “Bites” and “Eats It” could be seen as a subtle reference back to this hilarious scene in Ferris Bueller. Some may find this connection to be a little tenuous, but seeing as there are so many similarities between the two properties, I don’t think we can rule it out. Anything is possible!
Bonus! Spidey’s In The Breakfast Club
The Breakfast Club is another of John Hughes’s most famous works, and Ultimate Spider-Man makes sure that it references this as well! Sure, Homecoming has that cool cast photo mimicking the famous group pose, but comic book Spidey beat them to it by several years. For those who haven’t yet seen The Breakfast Club, there isn’t much food involved. Rather, it features the burgeoning relationships between a group of high-schoolers, who have been brought into school on a Saturday for their detention.
Funnily enough, a comparable situation happens in the pages of Ultimate Spider-Man. In Issue #65 Peter, Mary-Jane, Flash, Kong and Liz Allan are put in detention following their group tussle of a few days prior.
They too make new discoveries throughout the course of the day, but the conclusion is arguably not as uplifting as John Hughes’s.
Wow, Brian Michael Bendis sure likes his 80’s movies, doesn't he?
With all these clever and funny references, it’s clear that there are great similarities between the world of Spider-Man and Ferris Bueller, and that the overall tone and focus of John Hughes is very complementary to that of our favorite wall-crawling hero. Reading through this is sure to give any fan an even greater appreciation for the works of Bendis and Hughes, and make them even more hyped for Spider-Man: Homecoming! Here’s hoping that the upcoming movie will just be as warm, exciting and uplifting as those it attempts to emulate!
Have you noticed any more Ferris Bueller references in Ultimate Spider-Man? Got any more movie gags in your favorite comics? Head to the comments and let me know!