ByKatie Granger, writer at
MP Staff Writer, come to bargain.
Katie Granger

There's a lot resting on the shoulders of Tom Holland right now, the 19 year old newcomer to the Marvel Cinematic Universe who is set to pick up the mantle left by the Sony Spider-Men Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire before him.

Spider-Man's introduction into the MCU is an event many fans have been waiting for ever since the narrative universe kicked off near a decade ago, and when the rights agreement was struck between Marvel Studios / Disney and Sony last year the news was met with great cheer (especially after the disappointing The Amazing Spider-Man 2).

But Holland must be doing something right, because he's already got the endorsement of both Garfield and Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn, who describes the MCU Spider-Man as "the best Spidey/Peter Parker ever" and likens his performance to that of Heath Ledger's Joker and Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark / Iron Man.

Well, nothing like going in with high expectations we suppose. Not that we're likely to be seeing a huge amount of Spidey in his Captain America: Civil War debut in May, but his as yet untitled solo film (expected July 2017) will be a pivotal moment for the MCU.

There is of course much that could be improved over previous versions of Spider-Man we've seen on the big screen. It's been said so many times already that it's become a cliche when discussing the two actors, but no less accurate a statement for that: Tobey Maguire was a good Peter Parker (and an okay Spider-Man) and Andrew Garfield was a good Spider-Man (and an okay Peter Parker).

Striking the correct balance between the two personas is going to be very important for Holland's Spider-Man; though much of that lies in the script it's still down to his performance to illustrate this divide and skirt it effectively.

Spider-Man is one of the most loved characters not just in Marvel comic history, but the history of superhero comics themselves. But why is he so relatable? Well, a huge part of it is due to his age and social standing. When Spider-Man was first introduced he was a brilliantly gifted but socially awkward teenager, an orphan and a bit of a loner.

As Peter Parker he's an outsider; bullied at school by jock Flash Thompson, in love with the girl next door, and consumed by "self-obsessions with rejection, inadequacy, and loneliness". But Spider-Man, he's every teenager's escapist dream.

Spider-Man is Parker's alter-ego, his opposite twin who is adored and praised by others and provides an outlet for Peter's more likable qualities. He's an escapist fantasy and he embodies all that which Parker is not; that's the basis of what makes the Peter Parker Spidey so likeable.

Nowadays of course the young superhero is a staple in the genre, from the X-Men School for Gifted Youngsters to, uh, Superbaby. But before Spidey swung into frame teenagers and pre-teens in superhero comics were typically relegated to sidekicks (think Jimmy Olsen and Bucky Barnes). Spider-Man changed all that, and his popularity kicked the door wide open for other younger characters to enter the ring.

So funnily enough, the thing that could make Holland the best Spider-Man yet is actually his age.

Tobey Maguire was 27 years old in his first Spider-Man film, and Garfield was 29. In both instances they portrayed a high school aged Spider-Man, and despite their youthful appearances they weren't really pulling it off. Holland is 19, and will be 21 when the solo film releases. Physically he's smaller in statue and much more convincing as a 15 year old Spider-Man, especially his higher pitched voice which we heard in the second Civil War trailer.

Placing our MCU Spider-Man as a 15 year old schoolboy was a smart move. Not only does high school give us a vast environment with many iconic supporting characters (Flash Thompson, Harry Osborn, Gwen Stacy, Mary Jane, etc) it also harkens back to what is considered to be the finest run of the comics, those written by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. Even his suit design draws heavily from the work of Ditko.

It was during the time of Lee and Ditko that many of the major Spidey villains were introduced too, such as Doc Oc, Mysterio, Green Goblin, Chameleon, Electro, Lizard and Sandman. It was also around this time that Kraven the Hunter (who is rumored to be the villain in Spider-Man's next solo feature) first appeared.

Having a high-school age Spidey also ties in with the Peter Parker/Spider-Man dynamic, and gives the writers a lot of drama potential; what with Parker dealing with school, classmates, Aunt May, and - oh yeah - stopping supervillains. That old chestnut.

Tom Holland first swings into action in 'Captain America: Civil War' May 6, 2016. See him first in the trailer below!

Sources: James Gunn (via Twitter), 'The Avengers'


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