Earlier this year, Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures partnered together to launch the new Spider-Man trilogy, and Spider-Man: Homecoming was a tremendous success. Now, Marvel Animation has launched its own new iteration of Spider-Man in a new and tremendously fun animated series. Set just two weeks after Peter Parker was bitten by that radioactive spider, Marvel's Spider-Man charts his early days as a superhero, much like Homecoming. But how do these two Spider-Man relaunches compare?
Both Move Foward With A New Spider-Man
First, let's look at what the two relaunches have in common. Both have chosen to feature a teenage version of Spider-Man who's new to his super-powers. In the case of #SpiderManHomecoming, Peter has been Spider-Man for roughly six months. However, in Marvel's Spider-Man, the first episode tells us he was bitten by the radioactive spider only two weeks ago!
While both the new movie and the animated series introduce us to a fresh-faced web-slinger, they take a very different approach. In Homecoming, we're introduced to a Spider-Man who's struggling to deal with his newfound strength and agility. He routinely slips, over-compensates, falls on his butt, or accidentally swings into a pool. What's more, we're told that the lenses of Tony Stark's suit are designed to regulate the hyper-sensitivity of his senses (although it's worth noting that he doesn't struggle with this when he's forced to give the costume back).
The Peter Parker of Marvel's Spider-Man is very different. His agility is instinctive; he only really over-balances when he stops to think too hard about what he's doing. Likewise, this Peter seems to have an instinctive control over his hyper-senses, and Marvel's Spider-Man devotes a few scenes to show how he even manages his spider-sense. In contrast to Homecoming, Marvel's Spider-Man shows us a Peter Parker who's struggling to master his home-made web-shooters. He's constantly playing around with the pressure in order to control the "viscous fluid," and at one point a web-cartridge breaks, fixing his arm to a chunk of metal. Both show us a new Spider-Man, one who's struggling to master his powers, but the movie and the animated series take very different approaches to demonstrating that.
Notice the different approach with the origin stories, too. Homecoming ditches the origin story completely while Marvel's Spider-Man embraces it in a series of web-based shorts, hitting all the classic beats in an updated style. Whereas Kevin Feige feared that fans were already too familiar with the origin story, the animated series rejoices in it.
Tying in to this, Homecoming and Marvel's Spider-Man have very different goals. Both introduce Spider-Man to a world that's already populated with superheroes and super-villains. In the case of Homecoming, the movie goes to great lengths to establish Peter as a hero who longs to be an Avenger. In fact, the mentor / student relationship between Tom Holland's Spider-Man and Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark was such a major part of the marketing that some fans referred to Homecoming as Iron Man 4!
In contrast, Marvel's Spider-Man doesn't really care about the wider universe, although we do hear a throwaway mention of Tony Stark's armor, revealing that Stark's identity as Iron Man is public knowledge. However, that's literally all the effort that Marvel's Spider-Man goes to in order to build ties to other superheroes.
#Marvel Studios took a different approach with Spider-Man's villains, too. They assumed viewers had already seen all the classic tropes, and so heavily adapted them. As a result, many of the classic relationships are ditched, although there are still some deliberate homages. It's hard not to see echoes of the Green Goblin in Michael Keaton's Vulture, who's positioned as the father of Peter's would-be girlfriend.
On the other hand, Marvel's Spider-Man happily sets up the classic arcs, right down to clearly establishing Harry Osborn as the future Green Goblin. The Vulture and the Scorpion are essentially one-note villains, barely developed as characters, as the series is more interested in using them to set up major character arcs for Peter, Harry, and the rest of the supporting cast. The contrast is fascinating, and tied to the fact that we're being re-introduced to Spider-Man in two different mediums.
Classic Relationships & Concepts
Both the movie and the TV series introduce us to Peter Parker as a school-kid, and go to great effort to adjust that setting in order to make it feel fresh. In Homecoming, we meet Peter as a student at Midtown High, based on the Bronx High School of Science. In fact, Holland even attended the High School for a couple of days in order to understand the US school system!
The movie happily reinvents key characters in Peter's world. Liz Allan is race-swapped and transformed into the Vulture's daughter, the name of Ned Leeds is essentially applied to the more recent character of Ganke, and Zendaya's Michelle becomes the new MJ.
Contrast this with Marvel's Spider-Man. The series features Peter leaving Midtown High in order to attend Horizon Academy, a new school setting that's inspired by the ongoing Dan Slott comics. Here, we see a fascinating blend of older and newer characters; the first episode introduces us to Miles Morales and Anya Corazon, for example, but we're also soon hearing mention of Gwen Stacy and Aunt May's friend Anna Watson — whose niece is sure to make an appearance later in the series.
The most notable difference, of course, is the death of Uncle Ben. Poor Uncle Ben doesn't even get a mention in Homecoming, and the movie goes out of its way to avoid that famous quote. Marvel's Spider-Man, however, takes Ben's death — and the theme of "Power and Responsibility" — as the absolute emotional core of Spider-Man's identity. Core Lane — Marvel's Senior Vice President of Animation & Family Entertainment — explained why to ScreenRant:
"I think you need that touchstone to make [Spider-Man] believable. Because as good a kid as Peter is, that is a hard choice to make every day. You lose so much. So that’s why we thought it was important to give that connection with Uncle Ben."
He's right. Fundamentally, Homecoming failed to center in on Spider-Man's core concept. The Spider-Man of Homecoming seems to be mostly influenced by the idea of impressing Tony Stark and becoming an Avenger. The film goes to great efforts to blunt the edge of the "Power and Responsibility" lesson; every time Peter has to make the hard call, circumstances change, and people are okay with him letting them down. Peter skips the Academic Decathlon? His fellow students are too upset after a near-death experience to get mad at him. Peter ditches Liz at the Homecoming Dance? She's too upset after learning her father's a supervillain to get really mad at him. The movie desperately avoids making Peter deal with the consequences of his actions.
Marvel's Spider-Man, meanwhile, embraces them. We're given frequent flashbacks to Uncle Ben, who's a constant presence in the series. When Peter heads off to tackle the Scorpion, he soon realizes the fight is talking too long, and now he's late for school. Meanwhile, his heroism continues to drive a wedge between Peter and Harry, setting up a clear betrayal arc going forward. As in the comics, Peter Parker must choose to act responsibly, and there are consequences that he must deal with as a result. The animated series is much closer to the core concept of Spider-Man in this respect.
Both relaunches have to be viewed as a success. Spider-Man: Homecoming kicks off a whole new film trilogy, and fans couldn't be more thrilled at Tom Holland's portrayal. Meanwhile, Marvel's Spider-Man is the latest in a long line of animated shows, and is a fascinating blend of classic concepts and ones that feel newer, fresher. As much as I love Tom Holland's Peter Parker, I honestly can't help but feel that the animated series provides fans with a far more recognizable Spider-Man.
Which Spider-Man relaunch did you prefer?