In spite of a profitable Amazing Spider-Man 2 solo film, Spider-Man is once again being rebooted at Sony - this time in partnership with Marvel Studios to bring the Wall Crawler into The Avengers shared universe. The move marks one of the quickest turnarounds for a reboot in movie history - since it will be less than two years between the time that Andrew Garfield bowed as Spider-Man in summer 2014 and the debut of Tom Holland in spring 2016's Captain America: Civil War. As a result, the Internet is awash in speculation about Peter Parker's costume, potential enemies, and love interests.
We know, with certainty, that after debuting in Civil War, Parker will resurface for his own standalone Spider-Man movie - and that Sony intends to bring the character back to his high school days. Balancing school, friends, romance, and saving the world has always been a key part of Spider-Man's themes and social commentary - but which comic books, specifically, is director Jon Watts reading to prepare for his Spider-Man movie?
Speaking to Den of Geek! during a recent interview for the director's latest project Cop Car, Watts again confirmed that he's aiming for a John Hughes-inspired tone in the Spider-Man solo film - but also offered up his pre-Spider-Man comic book research/reading list:
We’ve heard online that you’re going to bring Peter back to high school, and that we should to expect a John Hughes-y sort of vibe -
Jon Watts: Yeah!
Have you been looking at any comics in particular to help shape that? Because, when I heard that, Ultimate Spider-Man was the first thing that sprung to mind…
JW: Oh, I love that. Ultimate is great. I love Ultimate. We have the freedom to pull from anything, but I really like what [Brian Michael] Bendis did. A lot. That felt like… that was Peter Parker back in high school. And, spending as much time with his high school problems as it did with his superhero problems, which I think is really a lot of fun.
There’s also some really funny comics stuff, like, the Archies. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the Spider-Man Loves Mary-Jane series, but they have this really great anime-style illustration, and it’s all just about Peter Parker’s relationships. It’s like the soap opera of Peter Parker in high school. Those are really funny, too.
I’m just sitting around reading comic books all day - it’s a pretty great job.
It's hard to know from the interview if Watts is name-dropping the Ultimate Spider-Man run because it is truly inspiring direction in the solo movie - or because the interviewer lead him into it ("Ultimate SpiderMan was the first thing that sprung to mind..."). Clearly, Watts has read Ultimate Spider-Man comics and even has other favorites (Spider-Man Loves Mary-Jane) but will Ultimate Spider-Man shape the 2017 solo movie?
Like prior Spider-Man (not to mention shared MCU) films, it's unlikely that any one single storyline will be adapted in the upcoming solo movie; yet, Watts isn't stretching when he says that the Ultimate Spider-Man storyline covers a lot of bases the filmmaker has previously teased - especially Peter Parker's various relationships, responsibilities, and friendships. After all, much like the Sony and Marvel Spider-Man partnership, the Ultimate Spider-Man series was designed to take the traditional Wall Crawler framework (same origin story as well as key players) and modernize the tale for new readers.
Instead of pushing Spider-Man in a new direction, writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Mark Bagley actually went back to the original introduction of Spider-Man in Amazing Fantasy #15 - expanding the 11 page story into a full seven issue print arc (180 pages in total). The result was a refreshed Spider-Man comic book - built on the same foundation as the original Wall Crawler. Bendis and Bagley continued to collaborate on Ultimate Spider-Man for 111 issues - one of the longest partnerships on a single book series in comic history. Given the breadth of Bendis and Bagley's work on Ultimate Spider-Man, it'd be impossible to pin-down exactly which storylines and ideas Watts will absorb; however, under Bendis, Ultimate Spider-Man walked a thoughtful line between classic Web Slinger stories - charged with modern sensibilities.
After Marc Webb's Amazing Spider-Man films, which attempted to tell an "untold" story (that happened to be a lot like Sam Raimi's "told" story) with updates that made Peter Parker "cool" rather than "modern," Bendis' Ultimate series could be the perfect blend of classic themes with updated aesthetics. Of course, there isn't one single version of Parker in the comics, so Watts (like Webb and Raimi before him) has room to play - and develop his own iteration of Spider-Man on screen.
Still, if the filmmaker is looking to tell a John Hughes-like high school tale - about an orphaned teenager, trying to balance school, a job, and his relationships who also happens to have been bitten by a radioactive spider - it sounds as though Watts is on the right track. There's plenty to praise about Bendis and Bagley's Ultimate run - but, above all else, the pair told compelling, exciting, and relatable Spider-Man stories. With a Spider-Man set for appearance in Captain America: Civil War and a solo film set to premiere one year later (on July 28, 2017), we should know more soon.
In the meantime, fans can debate whether Watts' love for the Spider-Man Loves Mary-Jane series means MJ will be Parker's primary love interest this round? With Gwen Stacy playing such a large part of The Amazing Spider-Man series, it's unlikely that Marvel will revisit that storyline in their reboot - but, given that the solo movie will be the first of many appearances by Parker, will the studio introduce the Mary Jane romance this early? Could Watts introduce a young Felicia Hardy or a different Parker love-interest - to give room for the Mary Jane relationship to develop over multiple movies?
Interestingly, Parker shares his secret identity with Mary Jane early-on in the Ultimate series but that arc shares similar beats with Webb's depiction of the Gwen Stacy story - meaning that Watts could, in theory, introduce the Mary Jane romance early on but would have to walk a careful line to avoid yet another rehashing of the Spider-Man movie series' rumination on superpowers, personal desires, and public responsibility.
Captain America: Civil War will release on May 6, 2016, followed by Doctor Strange – November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man – July 28, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; Black Panther – February 16, 2018; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 – May 4, 2018; Ant-Man and the Wasp – July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel – March 8, 2019; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 – May 3, 2019; Inhumans – July 12, 2019; and as-yet untitled Marvel movies on May 1, July 10 and November 6, 2020.
Source: Den of Geek!