By Carter Glace, staff writer
Just before spring break, comic fans were delighted with a much-awaited sight: the return of Spider-Man. In the latest trailer for “Captain America: Civil War,” the webbed hero was finally revealed. After years of Sony fighting to keep the rights to the character, he is finally a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with his own film coming in 2017. But in our excitement of seeing Spider-Man along with our beloved heroes are we missing a big opportunity. Is Marvel’s rush to make their Spider-Man film keeping them from seeing the chance to use him to his full potential? Should Spider-Man really be on television?
While many bemoan the glut of superhero movies currently being made and accuse them of creative stagnation, the current lineup of television shows has managed to get exponentially better in a very few short years. “Gotham” might be a dud and I’m not particularly fond of “Arrow,” but “Agent Carter,” “Agents of Shield,” “Supergirl,” “Legends of Tomorrow” and “Flash” are wonderfully engaging. And that’s before we take into account Marvel’s excellent run with Netflix. And looking over these shows, Spider-Man may secretly be perfect for a televised format.
The hurdle the Spider-Man franchise continually runs into is a matter of limited space. Certain heroes fit well in two- or three-hour films because they have a handful of iconic villains and moments that need to be on film. But a lot of what makes Spider-Man iconic are the kinds of things that have to be sanded off to keep the runtime down. Even the best Spider-Man films have to limit his school life, his various romantic interests, his genius mind and his job. Thirteen episodes a year would give his character space to breathe, and there’s more than enough intrigue to keep it from feeling stretched thin. You could finally have Spider-Man in school, instead of just having a few scenes in school than graduating. You could focus on the romance and take full advantage of Peter Parker’s entire world of characters. Think about how much ground Sam Raimi managed to cover in just three movies — imagine if he had double the time.
That same sentiment can be applied to his cast of villains. Much like The Flash, one of his defining characteristics is his massive rogues gallery. And as we saw with “Spider-Man 3” and “Amazing Spider-Man 2,” trying to get as many of those villains in two hours as possible typically doesn’t work out. As the animated “Spectacular Spider-Man” showed, you can build an entire ecosystem of villains from episode to episode. “The Flash” isn’t through its second season and has already built an impressive world of villains as well.
In the Marvel Universe, Spider-Man would also be a much better fit for The Defenders than the Avengers. While he’s Marvel’s most well known hero, he has almost always been a hero on a smaller scale. That’s a part of what defines him: Peter Parker is a kid from Queens trying to use his powers to help those without power. And there is almost no other hero more tied to a location than him and New York. Having him on a team dedicated to defending this one city feels right at home with his character.
It’s a hard sell for Marvel to potentially give up on so much money, but is there still that much? The box office shows Spider-Man films have diminishing returns, and while selling it as a part of the Marvel Universe could help, will it be able to overcome franchise fatigue? Spider-Man is still my favorite hero after all of these years, and I want to see the biggest and best version of him as humanly possible for The Marvel Cinematic Universe. And that might just be on the smaller screen.