The hype for Captain America: Civil War is building, but there's one thing that everybody's excited about: Spider-Man. Tom Holland is playing the newest incarnation of the wall-crawler, and early reviewers are suggesting he's one of the best parts of the movie.
This version of Spider-Man is very different to anything seen on the big screen before. As Kevin Feige told Slashfilm:
"We wanted to show a much younger Spidey, in contrast to our other heroes, a Spidey who — as was he was in the early ’60s, when he was first created in the Marvel bullpen — was totally different from the Marvel heroes. The other heroes don’t have to worry about homework. They don’t have to worry about being home at a certain time. That’s what makes Spider-Man Spider-Man."
Take a look at the Avengers to date, and one thing's for sure: you don't see much youth. Tony Stark is middle-aged, Black Widow and Hawkeye have been in the spy game for decades, and Captain America is an experienced soldier with years of superheroics behind him. In contrast, Spider-Man is entering the scene as a teenager, still at high school. It's a radically different formula.
Is it time for the younger heroes to join the cast?
One of the oddities of the MCU is how little it resembles the current Marvel Comic Universe. Take Tony Stark - in the MCU, Robert Downey Jr. is the big name, the scene-stealer who commands a massive paycheck. His Tony Stark is at the centre of everything Marvel Studios are trying to do. Over in the comics, meanwhile, Marvel have just tried to pull the same kind of trick off with the launch of their All-New All-Different Marvel range. Sales figures suggest they haven't been successful.
Another key difference, though, is the rise of younger heroes. Over in the comics, the books that are getting critical acclaim include Spider-Gwen, Ms Marvel, Nova, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (!), and the latest addition, Moon-Girl and Devil Dinosaur. We're in a slightly awkward position with these books, because we can't possibly know just how they're performing. The Diamond sales figures only cover estimates of paper sales, while Marvel have described some of these as selling better digitally.
Where traditional comic book fans grew up with the X-Men and the Avengers, and so are invested in them, right now the comics are creating a new generation of superheroes. Today's new comic book readers are picking up whimsical and creative books that introduce fantastic new characters. Often these are 'legacy heroes' who are built on the foundation of what has gone before - as Spider-Gwen is related to Spider-Man, for example. But, although Sony were reportedly fascinated by Spider-Gwen's success, none of these characters have actually made their way over to the big screen.
Tom Holland's Spider-Man changes everything. There's a sense in which he can bridge the generations; for viewers (like myself) who grew up loving the Spider-Man comics, he can be a reminder of everything we first loved. For viewers who are new to superheroics, they're about to get the experience of growing up alongside their superhero. Meanwhile, Marvel can feel free to start adding other young superheroes into the mix, following Spider-Man's lead. The recently-announced Cloak and Dagger series is a case in point; it's a teen romance starring two young superheroes.
Hot on the heels of Cloak and Dagger, is it possible we'll soon start to see other teenage superheroes? Maybe soon Marvel will shift their gaze to the likes of Ms Marvel, Nova, the Young Avengers, or the Runaways?
Over the next few weeks, I'm going to explore some of these young superheroes. I'll be looking at what makes them unique and effective in the comics, and how they could be added into the Marvel Cinematic Universe - whether in films or TV series. I'm excited about the future of the MCU, and I believe some of these superheroes have the potential to become stars in their own right.