Spider-Man is easily one of the most iconic superheroes of all time. He’s one of the primary faces of Marvel Comics. Outside of comic books, he’s starred in multiple animated series, movie series and reboots, and his own video games. The most recent Spider-Man video game has even become the fastest selling PlayStation exclusive of all time. Spider-Man has clearly proven that he is leading man material in many forms of media. However, Tom Holland’s Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is treated more like a sidekick.
Spider-Man made his first ever comic book appearance in 1962, and made his television debut in a 1967 animated series simply titled Spider-Man. That’s a very quick commercial success for the web-slinger. In 1994, another animated Spider-Man series aired on Fox Kids. There have been several Spider-Man video games and even a live action TV series in Japan. In the early 2000s, Sam Raimi directed a live action Spider-Man movie trilogy starring Toby Maguire, which revolutionized effects in film making and helped push superhero movies to the top of the box office. The movie franchise was later rebooted where the titular character was played by Andrew Garfield. He has always been a main character, but then the Spider-Man movie franchise was rebooted yet again, this time within the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The MCU version of Spider-Man is played by actor Tom Holland. Holland portrays the character especially well. Not only does he look the part, but he also captures Peter Parker’s dorkiness and Spidey’s wit perfectly. He’s an ideal wall crawler. The one issue though is that he’s been belittled and treated more like a side character.
Spider-Man joined the MCU in Captain America: Civil War, another character’s movie. He only joins the fight because Tony Stark discovers Peter Parker and his abilities and asks for his help. Peter isn’t seen in full costume until toward the latter half of the movie. Spidey does star in his own MCU film in the appropriately titled Spider-Man: Homecoming, but even in that, he feels like Iron Man’s sidekick trying to earn some validation as a superhero. He’s Spider-Man; he shouldn’t need validation! Throughout the film, both Stark and Happy Hogan talk down to him and tell him to stop getting into trouble. Spider-Man is a superhero. Running head first into danger to help people is what he’s meant to do! Also, a lot of what Spider-Man is able to do in Homecoming, like gliding on web wings, is only because of Tony Stark’s aid.
The web-slinger’s most recent appearance in the MCU was Avengers: Infinity War. Finally, Spider-Man is in an Avengers movie! That’s something fans have been waiting a long time for. However, he sort of just tags along with Iron Man despite being told to stay behind like Rick Grimes talking to Carl in the earlier seasons of the Walking Dead. He doesn’t feel like an Avenger so much as Iron Man’s assistant.
So far in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it has seemed like Spider-Man needs to rely on other heroes to play off of. Characters like Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, and Black Panther were able to have their own movies without having to rely so heavily on other heroes, so why can’t Spidey stand on his own? Perhaps it is because Marvel Studios and/or Disney were concerned about movie-goers not seeing it after being rebooted so soon after another Spider-Man film series. If so, that’s rather ridiculous since superhero movies will almost definitely do well, Spider-Man is already a beloved character by many, and people have been hoping to finally see the hero in the MCU.
I understand that Spider-Man joined the MCU roster late in the game (due to complications with movie rights with Sony) after others like Captain America and Iron Man have already been established as the main characters. However, that doesn’t mean that he needs to play second fiddle in his own movie. Marvel Studios does use the character well, creating awesome and memorable moments like when he stole Captain America’s shield, leaped through Doctor Strange’s portals, rescued his classmates from a falling elevator, or took down Ant-Man like a Star Wars AT-AT. They just seem hesitant with letting him be his own character.
Spider-Man is one of the most popular comic book characters out there. Most people are happy to see him finally be a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but Marvel Studios needs to give him room to breathe. As much as I love seeing him interact with Iron Man, Captain America, and Star Lord, I also want to see him just be the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man we know and love. There are many fun and familiar Spider-Man characters like Aunt May, MJ, and his colorful cast of villains, but Marvel Studios basically replaced them all with Iron Man. I hope that in future MCU movies we get to see more focus on Spider-Man being his own hero.