This week’s big reveal of Captain America: Civil War’s Spider-Man has set the online fandom ablaze – and no wonder. This third iteration of the big-screen web-slinger has been so kept under lock and key and so shrouded in rumor and expectation, that every last detail is the cause of mass jubilation and fervent discussion.
Now it’s our turn to throw our hat into the analysis game. We’re so impressed by Tom Holland’s new Spider-Man suit – what is easily the most-anticipated costume yet in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – we thought it would be a great deal of fun to compare it with all the other actors who have worn Spidey’s outfit over the course of the past 42 years (yes, it’s really been that long) and see not only how different it is from all of its predecessors, but also how it stands up against them.
This, then, is our Ranking of Every Live-Action Spider-Man Suit.
6. Spidey Super Stories (1974-1977)
The PBS children’s series Electric Company ran from 1971 to 1977 and was billed as something of a follow-up or sequel series to Sesame Street; once kids “graduated” from the latter, they’d progress to the former, where various sketches would help them to learn how to read and write.
One of the most popular segments was “Spidey Super Stories,” where puppeteer and dancer Danny Seagren became the first actor to portray the amazing Spider-Man on either the big or small screen. In these short narrated skits, which were presented as being live-action panels in a comic book page, Spider-Man would fight crime and solve mysteries while never actually speaking – he would instead use word balloons, forcing children to read.
As might be expected from mid-‘70s public television, the budget was practically nonexistent, which meant that Spider-Man’s costume was practically threadbare (no pun intended) – just simple cloth pulled over Seagren’s body and face, making it look like a pair of kids’ pyjamas, with the actor’s facial features coming distorted through the mask. It was, needless to say, not the most flattering effect.
This is, by far, the worst rendition of the costume, and it set a pretty low bar for all future productions to reach – though, in the meantime, we’re sure he helped millions of kids along with their primary educations, which is certainly worth something.
(Fun fact: Marvel provided the character to Sesame Workshop, the producer of both Sesame Street and The Electric Company, free of charge.)
5. Spider-Man (1978-1979)
Toei, the company behind such Japanese powerhouse properties as Dragon Ball, Sailor Moon, and Battle Royal, signed a three-year deal with Marvel Entertainment back in the ‘70s that allowed each company to use one another’s IPs in any way they deemed appropriate.
The result on the Japanese end was a live-action Spider-Man television series that completely threw the character’s continuity out the window and created a brand-new mythology from scratch: in this telling, Takuya Yamashiro (played by Shinji Todo) – no, not Peter Parker – is a young motorcycle racer who witnesses a starship, called the Marveller, make a crash-landing on Earth. When he goes to investigate, he discovers Garia, the last surviving warrior of planet Spider, who injects Takuya with his own blood, thereby granting him his spider powers, and charges him to finish his interstellar battle against Professor Monster and the evil Iron Cross Army. Oh, Takuya also inherits the Marveller, which just so happens to feature the ability to transform into a giant robot called Leopardon.
Despite such bizarre deviations from the source material, the Spidey suit surprisingly remains largely intact – in fact, it bears more resemblance to the American television series Amazing Spider-Man, which was still on the air when Toei was busy prepping its own show. The main differences lie with the eyes, which revert back to “Spidey Super Stories’" flat white style. There's also the technological addition of Spider-Man’s gauntlet, which is big and shiny and which can not only activate his spider-suit, but also control Leopardon.
4. The Amazing Spider-Man (1977-1979)
We tend to think of the current decade as being the reign of the comic book film, but the superheroes originally got their mainstream cultural due in the late ‘70s in a slate of high-profile television series ranging from The Incredible Hulk to Wonder Woman to, of course, The Amazing Spider-Man.
The first stand-alone live-action Spidey series was fairly faithful to the source material (one notable difference: Peter Parker, portrayed by Nicholas Hammond, is a college student instead of a high-school student), and this mostly extended to its costume, as well. While still obviously made of cloth, it features more details in its webbing pattern, and it was the first to produce the highly influential shiny, reflective eyes, a detail which would stick all the way through 2012’s reboot movie franchise (though they would be toned down, helping to make them more believable).
The Amazing Spider-Man, in short, can be looked at as the equivalent to Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman: the base standard for all subsequent adaptations of the costume.
3. Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, and Spider-Man 3 (2002-2007)
Sony purchased the long-mired-in-development-hell Spider-Man theatrical rights in 1999 and immediately got to work on pumping out a big-budgeted summer tentpole release. The result, of course, was Sam Raimi’s 2002 film Spider-Man, the first movie to star the character and a production that rivaled the scope (and budget) of Fox’s recent X-Men outing.
Much attention was paid to the costume by Raimi and his crew, and just as with the TV predecessors (well, most of them), much effort was made to keep the design as close as possible to the comics. Where the filmmakers differed from their forbearers was in the existence of an actual budget (and the presence of the big screen, which picked up more detail than its television counterpart). The costume that Toby Maguire wore is much thicker and bulkier than the others, was created to be all one piece (save for the mask, of course), and features much fine detailing, such as the raised webbing (cut out with the aid of computers) and the textured pattern that runs all throughout the suit - an element that has arguably gone on to influence many superhero productions since, including Man of Steel’s Superman threads.
It is a costume that looks more substantial than the others, as if it could really stand up during superpowered fisticuffs or high-flying acrobatics – which Raimi could realize on the screen for the very first time.
2. The Amazing Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2012-2014)
With Sam Raimi’s film series crashing and burning from a creative standpoint in Spider-Man 3, and with the Spider-Man license too lucrative to let go of, Sony did the only thing it could: it rebooted the movies.
A brand-new take on the cinematic mythology, of course, necessitated a brand-new design, and director Marc Webb was only too happy to oblige. Stating that he wanted to make a more lithe, more acrobatic take, he elongated the legs of the spider emblem, reduced the size of the mask's eyes, and doubled down on the textured pattern from Raimi’s incarnation. The result is the busiest of all the Spider suits to date, but also one that somehow still feels truer to the comic book design - perhaps thanks to the subtle changing of the colors or to Andrew Garfield’s handling of the costume while on the move – or, of course, to the fact that the filmmakers opted to give the character back his web-shooters, which the previous movies had removed and replaced with an “organic” explanation, making it another by-product from the radioactive spider’s bite.
Despite the more involved styling, Garfield's version is the most believable one yet – or, at least, it was.
1. The Marvel Cinematic Universe (2016-)
Much speculation swirled around just how directors Anthony and Joe Russo would design the Web Head’s costume for the bigger, more expansive, and more grounded Marvel Cinematic Universe (and, in particular, Captain America’s corner of it), with many predicting that a younger, more realistic Peter Parker (Tom Holland) would have a correspondingly realistic, homespun outfit.
While that hypothesis may still end up being true when Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) and his merry band of superheroes first come across the New York native, what audiences finally got a chance to see this past week was a more refined, more polished take on the Spidey duds (which has led many to believe that Tony Stark has lent a helping hand in designing and manufacturing this particular iteration). Still, there is more of an “authentic” feel at work here, with the character’s original “fat spider” logo from 1962 on his back and with a tinier version on his chest. The texturing, while still present, has been drastically reduced from the previous big-screen versions, but, more importantly, Sam Raimi’s single-piece uniform has been replaced with a multi-part costume – both the gloves and the boots appear to be removable, and there seems to be web fluid cartridges attached to the built-in belt (you know, for quick refills on the go).
Finally, the most notable changes of them all include the incorporation of black all throughout the costume (given how closely the previous designers, stretching all the way back to The Electric Company, tried to hew to the source material, this is a rather bold – and striking – choice) and, of course, Spidey’s eyes, which have reverted back to the traditional white and which now are expressive, with the ability to “squint.”
Those are quite the evolutionary decisions, and they promise to be just as influential as the Amazing Spider-Man television show’s was nearly 40 years ago.
What do you make of our rankings? Do you think the brothers Russo should have gone even bolder with this sixth rendition of the Spider suit? Sound off in the comments below.