Why the MCU needs Spider-Man

Spider-Man is my favorite superhero of all time.

I was a kid of the 90s and grew up with the classic 90s cartoons. I saw the animated adventures of the X-Men, Batman, and Superman. But none of those heroes spoke to me in the way Spider-Man did.  Initially, I think everyone is drawn in by the spectacle of Spider-Man. His costume is bright and colorful. His powers are unique and fun to watch on-screen. He even cracks jokes as he fights iconic villains.  Spider-Man can pull people (or more specifically kids) in easily.

Opening title card of Spider-Man series from 1994
Opening title card for Spider-Man (1994)

But what make Spider-Man appealing to generation after generation of fans isn’t a cool costume or a fun power set. It’s the character of Peter Parker himself.

Peter Parker is a nerd, an outcast, a dweeb whose constantly being picked on. He doesn’t have many friends, he has trouble talking to girls, and more often than not his superheroing negatively impacts his personal life.

Peter is us.

We understand his struggles because we are just like him. He has to deal with problems that seemed way out of his league. He’s often the underdog in a fight. That feeling of being the underdog speaks to everyone on some level. So when he triumphs over seemingly insurmountable odds, we cheered because we think we too could overcome anything.

Infographic showing most profitable superheroes in terms of box-office and merchandise
Infographic showing global sales of the most popular superheroes. Courtesy of the Hollywood Reporter

Spider-Man/Peter Parker’s relatability is why he is the most profitable superhero in the world. That’s why people have enjoyed the character’s adventures for over 60 years. That’s why we’re all excited for the character’s upcoming sixth live-action film (seventh if you include Captain America: Civil War) in Spider-man Homecoming.

Spider-Man’s relatability is the reason he is so important to the MCU. As was shown quickly and to great effect in Civil War, Peter has grown up idolizing these heroes, much in the same way we have. He’s an outsider watching everything going on with child-like glee. Spider-Man represents us, the audience, in the MCU.

As the MCU has grown, so too has its characters. The early films were much more grounded and character-focused, giving the audience a chance to get to know these larger-than-life people. But once we knew them as characters, Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and the rest of the Avengers had to go on bigger and bigger adventures in order to keep us entertained. To keep us watching, the Marvel heroes had to keep one-up themselves until they reached the point that they were unkillable.

After nearly a decade of the MCU, the mainline heroes have become icons in pop culture. It seems like they have always been around and will always be around. They seem untouchable, they seem beyond us.

It is for this reason that Spider-Man is needed for the MCU. As an outsider looking in, Spider-Man can comment and critique the mainline heroes.  He can be a response to the big, world-ending third-act climax trope plaguing the MCU films.

Much like how Ant-Man tried to be a heist film and Doctor Strange flirted with adding some horror elements to the MCU, Spider-Man, as a character, can add something new to this franchise. He can add the audience perspective to what is happening in the movie. He can be awed to be in the company of his heroes and geeking out that he can hold his own in a fight with them.  Spider-Man gives the fans a chance to place themselves in the next MCU adventure in a way not possible before.

Hopefully, Spider-Man in the MCU represents a shift for the future of the franchise. Hopefully now we can start making these heroes more human and less god-like. Hopefully we can start to see ourselves in our heroes again. Because if there’s anything Spider-Man has taught us, it’s that anyone can be a superhero.

Who’s your favorite superhero? Let me know in the comments down below or talk to me on Twitter @CBloodRojas. 

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