The debate has raged on in the comic book community for years now: Which is better? Teenage Peter Parker or adult Peter Parker? The Spider-Man comics have given us interpretations of the character in both forms; the early Amazing Spider-Man days and Ultimate Spider-Man have the webslinger as a young teen no older than sixteen. However, as time progressed, the Peter Parker in the original comic book aged into adulthood and the character has stayed in his late 20s/mid 30s ever since.
With Sony pushing the reset button once again with Spider-Man: Homecoming, audiences will be treated to their third live-action version of the character in the last decade. When it was first announced that Spidey would be coming to the MCU, fans went crazy with speculation as to which version of the character we were going to see.
Both Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield started off as teens when they played Spidey, so there was no way Marvel would do that again, right? Others scoffed at the idea of starting with a Parker that was already grown up; the character’s high school days were the most important of his life!
Ultimately the people in charge decided to roll with a younger Spider-Man once again. But is that really for the best? We’re about to make the case for both sides! Here are 8 Reasons Why Teenage Peter Parker is Better (and 7 Reasons It’s Worse)!
15. Better: That’s The Way It Started In The Comics
Perhaps we’re just being hard-nosed comic book purists here, but when Peter Parker first appeared in the pages of Amazing Fantasy #15, he was a nerdy high school bookworm who was a genius at science but had no friends. To counter this argument, people like to point out that Parker graduated in issue #28 of Amazing Spider-Man and has remained over the age of 18 since the late ’60s. Sure, he spent the next ten years in college (at least in real time), but the high school part of Peter’s life is relatively small compared to the rest of it.
But stop and think about what happened during these first two years of Spider-Man’s career. This was the time of his first encounters with almost every major villain in his rogue’s gallery. It was this time that Peter met some of his lifelong friends and the introduction of some of his enemies-turned-allies (like Flash Thompson). This was also when Spider-Man established his uneasy relationship with J. Jonah Jameson. It may have been a brief period of his life, but it was easily the most important.
14. Worse: The “High School Romance” Thing Has Been Done To Death
If we had a nickel for every time a movie has busted out the ol’ “high school love triangle” trope, we’d be as rich as Tony Stark. The subtitle of Homecoming suggests that fans are going to get to see Peter Parker in his least natural habitat: a dance. The trailers have already given away that Peter has a thing for his classmate Liz Allen, ogling at her in the cafeteria and going out of his way to call her as Spider-Man.
Who wants to bet that at some point, we’ll find out that Zendaya’s character has a secret crush on Peter? Or the movie will introduce “the new girl” who turns out to be Mary Jane or Felicia Hardy? Or maybe, just maybe, there will be some convoluted subplot where Liz’s parents plan to move away and Parker has to deal with loss. Audiences just might be over the predictability of Peter’s love life.
13. Better: It’s Fun To See Him Out Of His League With The Rest of The MCU
Even Captain America realizes that Spider-Man has the potential to be better than anyone else in the MCU. Spidey has the intellect of Mr. Fantastic, the agility of Nightcrawler, and the strength to hold his own against the Hulk. However, this “ultimate” Spider-Man has yet to be realized on screen; instead, we get to see Peter as he tries to keep up with the rest of his fellow heroes.
In Captain America: Civil War it was a blast to watch how Spidey interacted with the rest of the MCU during the airport fight. He held his own against the Winter Soldier without so much a breaking a sweat, and awkwardly expressed his fandom for Captain America right after he stole his shield and webbed up his arms.
This trend looks to continue in Homecoming. Peter rants about how he wishes he could be an Avenger and how the rest of the MCU keeps treating him like a child. His suit is also disabled by the “training wheels protocol” that Tony wrote into its programming. Spidey is always at his best when he’s an underdog!
12. Worse: This is the Third Time We’ve Seen This Storyline
When Sony and Marvel first announced that they were introducing a teenage Peter Parker into the MCU, fans across the world let out a collective groan. By now, everyone and their mother knows the story of Spider-Man: a young boy is bitten by a radioactive spider. He uses his powers selfishly until his Uncle Ben is killed by a random mugger. He learns that with great power comes great responsibility and devotes himself to fighting crime. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Although Marvel has already agreed to avoid telling Spider-Man’s origin again for a third time, what are the chances that there won’t be some crossover between Homecoming and the previous films? They both started with Peter in high school; he graduated halfway through the first film in the Raimi Trilogy and he spent a whole movie there in Webb’s film. Does this mean that fans are going to have to watch the same situations unfold again?
11. Better: The Setting Allows For A Revolving Door of Characters
One of the many joys of the comic book world is its constant alternation of characters. Every superhero needs their own group of people that they rely on, whether it be in or out of costume. These characters tend to get stale after a while, leading the writers to kill them off or send them out of town for an extended period of time in order to bring in new companions. Heck, even the heroes themselves aren’t immune from being replaced!
This is where the high school setting comes in handy. Think of how easy it will be for the writers at Marvel to introduce and phase out characters with this teenage Peter Parker. Of course, the mainstays like Aunt May will always be around, but you can’t tell us that we’re going to get through an entirely new Spider-Man series without having one of Peter’s teachers turn evil or seeing one of his love interests move to another school.
10. Worse: We’ve Never Seen A Successful Parker On Screen
The word “Spider-Man” may as well be synonymous with “underdog.” Almost every version of the Wall Crawler depicts him as a down-on-his-luck student who is always struggling for money and has far from the best living quarters. Remember the crappy apartment from Spider-Man 2 and 3 that he was just barely able to afford thanks to his pizza delivery job and freelance photography? If Peter is even worse off, he lives with his Aunt May well into his mid-twenties.
We’re tired of seeing Parker’s hard work and intellect go unrewarded. In the comics, the adult Spidey was able to snag a job as a full-time photographer for The Daily Bugle. After he finally parted ways with his first employer, Peter became a high school science teacher. Currently he owns his own business, Parker Industries, which he attained after he took control of his body back from Doc Ock.
9. Better: Less Identity-Crisis Drama
It’s going to be somewhat strange to see how Spider-Man fits into the MCU. Every other hero in the film series either doesn’t have a secret identity, or has already had it revealed to the world themselves. Even Black Panther’s identity was fairly quickly given away during his first appearance in Civil War. The duality of Spider-Man and Peter Parker is a key element of the webslinger’s character; there was a reason that Marvel quickly retconned his identity reveal in the comic books!
One of the best things about a teenage Peter Parker is that there’s normally less drama revolving around his identity. Sure, the villains and Jameson are always trying to sniff out the man who is under the mask, but that’s what makes it such a non-issue; they’re trying to find the man, not the boy. Nobody ever suspects Spider-Man to be a teenager! Whenever teenage Parker got unmasked, people were in shock at his age or didn’t believe that it was really him (which actually happened quite often).
8. Worse: Teenage Peter Usually Makes Dumb Choices
Not to diss any of our younger audience… but teenagers are apt to make some dumb decisions in their lifetime. It’s not their fault; they are still growing and learning about the facts of life as they go.
Peter Parker was no different in his youth. How many times does the young Avenger find himself getting out of a situation just based on pure luck and on-the-fly decisions? Remember in Amazing Spider-Man when he carried around his personal camera, with his real name still on it, while he was out fighting crime? In Homecoming, it looks like Parker is going to make another one of his snap judgement mistakes that results in him losing his high-tech suit.
Now, adult Peter can sometimes be just as reckless as his younger self. However, it doesn’t happen as often. Also, an older version of the character would be more experienced than a new hero. He’s going to know the ropes of things like criminal investigations and sneaking around, whereas his younger version may just haphazardly (or flamboyantly) stumble through the same tasks.
7. Better: He’s More Relatable
Yeah, the whole “heroes journey” trope may be beaten to death nowadays, but there’s a reason why it is one of the oldest and most-used in history. It just works! Many of the MCU’s heroes have gone through their own variation of this tale; Thor was an arrogant jerk, Cap was a scrawny loser, and Ant-Man was a common thief before they started down the path of the hero. But wait, haven’t we already seen this type of story with Spidey before? Like, in both movies and every single cartoon?
There’s a reason that Spider-Man resonates with so many fans around the world. Steve Rogers started out as righteous and noble. Tony Stark has always been rich. Thor had godlike powers since the day he was born. Peter? Peter was just a normal kid trying to get through life before he was bitten by that spider. He never asked for or wanted this. It’s only after he realized that with great power comes great responsibility that he decided to use his powers for good. It’s a powerful message that resonates with people of every demographic.
6. Worse: We’re Missing Out On The Family Dynamic
As a teen, Peter Parker is always struggling to find a balance between Aunt May, his friends, his relationships, and his life of crime-fighting. You know, typical teenager stuff. It may be fun to watch Peter try and balance his life between these different elements, but there’s only so much you can do with a younger version of the character. Peter can’t take over Aunt May’s mortgage payment. He can’t get married. He’s not going to be able to hold a stable job.
The inclusion of an adult Spider-Man has none of these issues. It may be a highly controversial topic for Spider-Man fans, but the character’s engagement and marriage to his longtime girlfriend, Mary Jane Watson, was a huge step in the life of Peter Parker. This new type of relationship added even more depth to the character: Now he had to worry about the obligations he had as a husband on top of everything else. Not to mention, the two eventually have a baby together, showing us a paternal side of Spider-Man that we’re probably not going to get out of teenage Peter. Then, there was also the whole topic of trying to take care of his (even more so) elderly aunt.
5. Better: It Highlights His Intellect Even More
Move over Tony Stark and Hank Pym, Peter Parker is arguably the smartest character in the entire Marvel Universe. He’s always been interested in the world of science, and has even gone as far as inventing his own technology to help him protect the streets of New York City. Spidey came up with the formula for his own web fluid, his spider-signal, and a couple vehicles. He graduated at the top of his class from both high school and college. He is currently the owner and CEO of Parker Industries, a scientific company that focuses on aerospace, defense, security, and advanced technologies. Any way you slice it, Spider-Man is one smart cookie.
The use of a younger Peter Parker allows the writers to show off his intellect even more: Marvel has already said that Peter’s high school in Homecoming is part of the STEM system, and that he invented the webbing all on his own. Plus, you just know they’re going to have him hack into his suit and override Mr. Stark’s “training wheels” program at some point!
4. Worse: Teenage Peter Deals With More Lighthearted Issues
The Amazing Spider-Man is one of those characters who thrives on being a smart-alack. Deadpool may have replaced him as Marvel’s go-to master of sarcasm, but Peter Parker’s could match wits with the Merc with the Mouth any day of the week.
That said, many writers seem to think that because of his lighthearted personality, Spider-Man shouldn’t have to deal with any darker or adult-oriented issues. This is especially true for the character as a teen. Can you imagine the horror of seeing a 15-year-old taking a beating the way the character did at the end of the original Spider-Man?
When Peter gets older, he has to start dealing with more and more adult issues. Suddenly, he has to deal with his wife having a miscarriage or his aunt getting assassinated by his enemies rather than if he’s going to make it to the dance on time or not. Adult Peter was the one who had to witness the death of his first true love.
3. Better: It’s The Best Way To Introduce J. Jonah Jameson
You know a character has been perfectly cast when it’s two reboots later, and nobody has been willing to recast him yet. The snarky and brash newspaper editor J. Jonah Jameson has been a staple of the Spider-Man comics since the very first issue. The character is uneasy about the way Spidey goes about fighting crime, and is always trying to paint him in a bad light or prove once and for all that he’s a menace to the city. Actor J.K. Simmons brought Jameson to life perfectly in Sam Raimi’s original films. Not only was Simmons hilarious, but he was able to show off the character’s more nuanced side.
Like we said earlier, the teenage Peter Parker is always down on his luck and in need of money. Typically his main source of income is from working as a freelance photographer at The Daily Bugle under the (somewhat) guidance of J. Jonah Jameson. Though he stayed on at The Bugle for a while after graduating college, Peter eventually moved on to bigger and better things. If you want to give us a proper relationship between Parker and Jameson, starting out as a teenager is the best way to go.
2. Worse: Adult Spider-Man Wouldn’t Take a Backseat to Other Heroes
Whoever is doing the marketing for Spider-Man: Homecoming is beating us over the head with the fact that Tony Stark is in the movie. This is the second reboot of the character, and Marvel and Sony want to remind us that this is the first one that is related to the rest of the MCU. On top of this, Iron Man is the most popular (and profitable) character they have right now; associating Spidey with Iron Man is sure to bring in the big bucks.
In Civil War we saw Tony Stark recruit Parker as a part of team Iron Man. In the new film, it appears Stark will act as Spider-Man’s guide on his journey to becoming a hero. One big current fear of the fans is that Spider-Man is going to end up taking a backseat to Tony in his own movie.
As an adult, Peter would have none of these issues. He would already have the experience to fight crime and control his powers without any help from the rest of the Avengers. He also wouldn’t have the trust issues with the other MCU heroes that he appears to have in the new film. Once he has proven himself as a hero, Spider-Man takes a backseat to no one.
1. Better: The Audience Can Grow Alongside Him for Years
The biggest issue currently plaguing the Marvel Cinematic Universe right now is the fact that a few of their actors are getting older and burnt out on playing the same character over and over. Iron Man 4 has been on the backburner for a while now, with the future of Tony Stark basically depending on Robert Downey Jr.’s desire to reprise the role. Chris Evans has stated that he’s ready to take a break from acting, leaving Steve Rogers’ fate up in the air after the contract is up. Nobody in the MCU is getting any younger; a majority of the characters within it will probably be either retired or recast within the next decade.
However, Tom Holland is only twenty-one years old. If he and Marvel wanted to, he could stay on as Spider-Man for the next thirty years! How awesome would it be to see Peter grow alongside those who started watching him in Civil War? If people twenty years from now could tell their children that they remember watching Holland, the same actor who was Spidey to their kids, make his debut on the big screen back in 2016?
The greatest thing about starting off Peter as a teenager is the fact that eventually, we will get to see both sides of the character.
Where do you fall on this argument? Do you think that Spider-Man is better as a teenager, or as an adult? Let us know in the comments below!