Why is it so important for Spider-Man to become part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
Avengers: Age of Ultron didn’t connect in the same fundamental, almost Star Wars level, ways that the first film did. Part of this is just due to an overall sense of “been there done that” that even the comic fans are unable to shake from their collective conscious; but I’m of the opinion that the real problem goes much deeper than that, and that it is only the precursor to a troubling trend that seems to be on the rise as superhero movies become more popular. Today, we’re going to talk about what we as comic book fans are doing to alienate ourselves from the rest on the audience, and the steps we can take the get back to the soul of what we love about comic books and superheroes in the first place. Before we even start to get in to the nitty gritty of what these problems are, one simple truth must first be clarified. Kids love superheroes.
Remember when you begged your mom to buy that comic when you were 9 years old? That moment multiplied over generations is the reason these films have not only emerged in to box office success stories, but have also shattered pop culture expectations in ways that not even we the comic crowd could have foreseen. But now that success has been achieved and we have surely emptied ourselves of years of built up “I told you sos”, it’s high time for us to sit down and shut up just like the rest of the audience. But we haven’t. Instead, we’ve have taken the box office hostage, and we have proven to be not so generous when it comes to sharing the spoils. Oddly enough this has shown the larger audience that not only should they feel justified in alienating our group, but we’re actually asking for it. The reason for this stems from the magnitude and quality of these films, compared to the attempts to bring them to life in our youth. Sadly, as fans who have been touting these properties for much longer than other media enthusiasts, we believe that we’re owed this particular notch in our win column, an assumption that has set our little group of critics at the high point of the “people to please” column.
You may hate me for saying it, but what we’re talking about here is a group of grown up gen X and Y comic book fans trying to build a better childhood for themselves. When that childhood is ironically the reason for their love of these stories in the first place. But in so doing, we have taken away something that isn’t ours. These stories of men and women who fight evil and tyranny, both petty and dire, both at home and in places far away were not meant for us alone. Now a certain age, maturity, or experience level is required to even get you past the first page. Okay, to be fair these comics of yesteryear grew with their audience. Daredevil alone had a sharp ninety degree turn in to much more serious territory around the late 70’s and early 80’s, and that makes sense. The people who grew up reading Daredevil were experiencing stories that matched their new maturity level as they aged. There is nothing wrong with this practice, in fact as I grew up watching cartoons and anime and reading books, I felt incredibly rewarded by my heroes’ stories mirroring my own. What we’re talking about now is on a different level though. We have overcomplicated our stories to a point in which we can scarcely follow them, so what hope is there for a kid who just wants to read about a hero with the will to do what’s right? It has gotten out of control. Now we’ve pushed the “kid’s stuff” to the side, and limited the quality “They’re kids, they don’t notice that kind of thing.”
But they actually do. Whether you realize it not, kids can tell when something isn’t quite right.
So where does Spider-Man fit in to this? Surprisingly, despite some significant misteps on film, an increase in exposure from rival heroes, and a shaky television presence; Spiderman is still the most popular superhero among young children (Yes, even more than Batman…though just barely). Why is this? Spider-Man represents the best part of being a hero. Anyone can do it! Even if you’re young, you can help make the world you live in better.
Now, what the Marvel Cinematic Universe is doing is just great. It’s even alright that these are more adult oriented films. Quality science fiction is in short supply nowadays, and so you can always find something good in Marvel’s movies. But until this point the lack of accessibility to the films has sent a message to kids that not only were they not invited, they weren’t wanted. This isn’t right. Daredevil’s Netflix series proved to us what a truly adult oriented superhero story could be, and it was fantastic. It didn’t dumb it down or shy away. It told the bare story with the seriousness of a crime drama. The fact that it happened in the shadows of the MCU made it all the better. In fact, sometimes the best way to show something is part of a larger world is to separate it entirely. That is the essence of an adult oriented story. It makes you think. It makes you examine the narrative from individual character perspectives, and it leaves you to draw your own conclusions based on your own biases and experiences that you are fully conscious of. It’s serious, smart, fast, and incredibly complicated; but any fun to be had comes from those very realizations.
That is why we need Spider-Man.
There’s a part of us that has been overthinking the essence of the superhero. Breaking it down to its lowest common denominator, and dissecting it until we’ve learned everything we can about how it works; but no matter how many times you take a body apart, you can never find the soul. Spider-Man represents the true freedom of being a superhero, and though the character has seen some of the darkest days of all the heroes, he still knows what it means to be The Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man. Kids should be seeing this part of the superhero story; not just the danger or the tension nor the complication, but the fun and the levity. Spider-Man represents an invitation in to the world of intrigue that is the MCU, and a possible perspective for the young mind; a less complicated and more accessible view of a world of gods and monsters. We need Spider-Man to bring back something that has been sorely missing from the modern superhero story. The fun part of being one of the good guys.