On History: Web Wings?

By | Tuesday, December 06, 2016 Leave a Comment
So there's been all this discussion lately about how they're adding some underarm webbing to Tom Holland's costume in the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming. The discussion usually is quick to note how Steve Ditko drew them in for the first issue, and John Romita picked up on them, but whether or not they continue to be seen in the comics is hit or miss depending on the artist. The question then, in a response to the purported movie usage as a sort-of built-in glider or wings, pivots to "Has Spider-Man ever actually used those underarm webbing things to fly?"

A couple of quick Google image searches turn up these two images...

Considering that I recalled one of those images and I'm not even much of a Spider-Man fan, I don't doubt there were hundreds of Spidey fans out there who immediately could've told you that he's done these full-on wings before, and the underarm webbing was never really used like that. The single panel is from Amazing Spider-Man #8; the extended sequence is from Avengers Annual #11. Neither of which were particularly difficult to locate online.

Now, maybe it's because my interest in Marvel comics spun out of a more archeological nature. I enjoyed trying to figure out how all these pieces fit together to form a overarching universe. So I'm perhaps more tuned in to the broader picture of their history, but I'm just surprised that, in the discussions I've seen, very few people bring these ideas up -- that if Spider-Man wanted to use his webbing to fly, or even glide, he'd need to design something different than his usual underarm webbing. A lot of folks have brought up his penchant for creating web parachutes, but mostly in response to the general question of can Spidey "make stuff" with his webbing.

I suppose this is perhaps why I don't feel as much attachment to the Marvel Universe any more. Marvel has over the past decade or so, largely eschewed historical context and continuity, and it would seem that their primary audience has as well. Rather, the audience they've attracted in recent years is not very concerned about long-term continuity, and the previous audience who has, like me, largely left.

That's their prerogative to change directions, of course, and I certainly can't fault them for trying a different approach to attract new readers. After all, the older guys like me who liked the continuity are getting older and literally dying off. So a change of this magnitude needs to take place in order to corporately survive. (Well, survive as a publisher. They're making more than enough off films and licensing these days that they don't have to worry much about closing shop even if they stop doing comics altogether.) Whether or not it's a change that will be successful or not in the long term remains to be seen, but it does seem to bode well for them in the near term.

And the only apparent downside is that, as the movies and TV shows become more and more well-known, the people who can identify the source material become less and less forthcoming to this new audience they might well resent, or even acknowledge.
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