During the dog days of summer, long after school has let out, Spider-Man: Homecoming will be filling movie theater seats. At long last, Spider-Man will sling his webs in a solo movie set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The new Homecoming trailer released today gives us a thorough glimpse at what to expect from Spidey’s newest big screen adventure. As we met him in Captain America: Civil War last year, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is a teenager who attends high school in Queens, New York. The trailer highlights Peter’s struggles balancing crime fighting with the demands of high school, being mentored by Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.), his desire and impatience to become an Avenger, and the nefarious plans of the movie’s villain, the Vulture (Michael Keaton).
One of the most interesting plot points in the trailer is Tony demanding Peter give back his Spider-Man suit. In an effort to bond Tony Stark and Peter Parker in the MCU, we know Tony gifted Peter with a Stark Tech upgrade to his Spider-Man suit, which Peter debuted in the epic airport battle in Civil War. Obviously, Peter kept the suit with Stark’s blessing to continue being Spider-Man. In Homecoming, it seems after Tony warns Peter to stay away from the Vulture, an incident involving the Vulture ripping a ferry in half is a flashpoint to growing tension between Stark and Parker. Peter does surrender the Stark Tech suit and spends a portion of the movie fighting the Vulture wearing the homemade outfit he initially donned when his early exploits as Spider-Man ended up on YouTube.
Spider-Man has worn a handful of homemade costumes over the years. In his very first appearance, Amazing Fantasy #15 written by Stan Lee and drawn by Steve Ditko, Peter first’s foray as Spider-Man was strictly a money-making opportunity. He took on a famous pro wrestler named Crusher Hogan in an open challenge, but his “costume” was merely a white sweater, blue trousers and dress shoes with a webbing hood obscuring his entire head. Sam Raimi’s original Spider-Man movie in 2002 took this wrestling scene one step further: Tobey Maguire’s Peter took on Bonesaw McGraw (Macho Man Randy Savage) in a steel cage match wearing a ridiculous looking red and blue outfit that would be a precursor to his Spidey suit. In Mark Webb’s 2012 reboot The Amazing Spider-Man, Andrew Garfield’s Peter tried to fight crime wearing black street clothes, a red mask and black sunglasses. Falling into an abandoned wrestling arena and seeing a poster of Mexican lucha libre masks inspired Garfield’s Peter to design his Spider-Man suit. Tom Holland’s Spider-Man wears a mix of his two predecessor’s homemade suits: red and blue, a hoodie, a full face mask, and black goggles.
Technically, since his inception the comic book Spider-Man has always worn a homemade suit. Along with being a scientific genius who designed his own web shooters, Lee and Ditko’s Peter was remarkably gifted with a needle and thread. Not only did he sew his Spider-Man costume from scratch, he repaired it from rips and tears numerous times over the years. Obsessive about maintaining his secret identity, Peter couldn’t even ask his Aunt May to lend him a hand with a sewing machine. The alien symbiote that became Venom was the first Spider-Man costume that Peter didn’t sew himself. Since then, Peter has worn some professionally made Spider suits, including the Iron Spider armor Tony Stark once gifted to him and the high tech outfit he wears in the current comics. However, all of the Spider-Man films have tended to veer against superhero costume fashion designer being part of Peter Parker’s skill set.
In the MCU, Tony Stark is rightfully proud of the high-tech upgrade he designed for his young protege, and Peter is even more delighted to wear it. Tony is a man who can be defined by the suit he wears. As Steve Rogers mocked him in the first Avengers movie, “Big man in a suit of armor. Take that off, what are you?” Tony’s retort, of course, was “Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist.” Even when not encased in his armor, Tony takes pride in his Tom Ford suits and looking the part of a billionaire playboy. However, unlike the other Avengers – and unlike Spider-Man – Tony Stark knows deep down he’s not Iron Man without the armor. Tony does have a heroism in his heart, but the Iron Man suit is what makes him super.
The symbolism of Peter surrendering the Spider-Man suit and being forced to go back to wearing his homemade suit in Spider-Man: Homecoming is thematically interesting. Peter pleading with Tony “I’m nothing without this suit!” speaks to Peter’s youthful confusion as to who and what Spider-Man is. Peter is a Millennial who doesn’t have a lot of money, but likes gadgets as much as anyone his age would. The Stark Tech Spider Suit isn’t just a brand identity for Spider-Man, it’s a personal status symbol only he owns. It’s understandable Peter would be reluctant to give that up, and for him to equate Spider-Man with the costume he wears.
“If you’re nothing without that suit, then you shouldn’t be wearing it,” is a pure, ego-check life lesson from Tony Stark, a master egotist who actually has quite a bit of wisdom to impart to young Peter about the struggles and costs of superheroism. Tony also knows Peter’s fears are unfounded – by virtue of his amazing powers and the heart he shows every time he puts himself on the line to help others, Peter is Spider-Man no matter what he wears. This is something Stark himself (perhaps a bit envious though he’d be loathe to admit it) cannot claim about his own superhero identity. However, Stark is also a man who loves status symbols, a trait teenage Peter can’t seem to help but share, and they both know Spider-Man is cooler in the Stark Tech Spider suit.
One of Power Rangers‘ themes was the Rangers learning to trust and accept themselves and each other before they could earn the right to Morph into their armor. Spider-Man: Homecoming might be following a similar thematic track with Peter surrendering his Stark Tech suit, overcoming the hubris he’s developed being Spider-Man since Civil War, and starting over in his homemade suit before earning the right to wear the Spider-Man costume once again. Peter’s homemade suit, instead of something ridiculous he wears as a joke, becomes the most basic expression of Spider-Man; a stripped down, low-tech symbol that clothes aren’t what make him Spider-Man or a superhero. Peter Parker is a hero no matter what he’s wearing; a lesson it seems he will need to understand and come to terms with before earning the right to wear his most famous costume once more.