Spider-Man's Origin Story: What Secrets Could Be Hidden In The Tale Marvel Hasn't Told?
We all know the story of Spider-Man.
We all know the story of Spider-Man. On one fateful day, young Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider, and his life changed forever. We've seen it played out in countless comics and TV shows, and twice on the big screen. That's why Marvel decided we didn't need a reprise, and introduced Tom Holland's wall-crawler as a character who's already had his spider-powers for six months.
There's another reason, though. It's because we may not know the origin as well as we think we do, and Marvel has deliberately given themselves room to manoeuvre.
Rewriting The Origin Story
Marvel has gone to a lot of trouble to embed Spider-Man in the ongoing narrative of the MCU. They even retconned him into Iron Man 2, acknowledging a long-running fan theory — even if it caused (more) complications to the awkward continuity of Homecoming.
It's only in a recent interview that we've really gotten a sense of how Spider-Man's origin in the MCU could have changed. As my fellow Creator Max has noted, Kevin Feige and Jon Watts were asked about an intriguing possibility: that this version of Uncle Ben actually died during the Battle of New York. On the face of it, it's a smart move; it would explain Aunt May's fear of superheroes, and would add extra depth to her warning to Peter that he should run if he ever stumbled across superhero action. It's also a possibility that I'm sure would anger and irritate a lot of older Spider-Man fans, so for all the narrative potential, I'm not sure it would be a wise move.
By not showing us an origin story, and by deliberately keeping references to a minimum, Marvel has left themselves a lot of wriggle-room.
Three Possible Ways The Story Could Change
It may surprise you to hear that, over in the comics, Spider-Man's origin story has been continually retconned and rewritten, leaving Marvel with some fantastic story ideas. In 2001, for example, J. Michael Straczynski added a whole new mystical dimension to the story. He revealed that Peter was what he called a "spider totem," a person who gained powers through a mystical link to an animal. He suggested that the spider-bite was no coincidence, but that Peter Parker was destined to become a totem. Smartly, Straczynski carefully pitched the idea so it could be avoided if you didn't like it.
As the years have passed, though, the idea of the spider totems has become a fundamental one for countless Spider-Man stories. Straczynski's villainous Morlun, for example, traversed the multiverse in hunt of totems, feeding off their lifeblood. This became the basis for Dan Slott's 2014 'Spider-Verse' event, which united countless Spider-Men from across the multiverse, and introduced the popular character of Spider-Gwen.
When Brian Bendis headed up the Ultimate Comics relaunch of Spider-Man, he revealed that the spiders were genetically modified by Oscorp. Years later, he was able to have a similar spider bite Miles Morales, creating a whole new Ultimate Spider-Man. That concept was heavily adapted for Sony's two Amazing Spider-Man films, but could easily form the basis for introducing Miles Morales into the MCU as another Spider-Man.
Spider-Man's origin story has been continually retconned and rewritten, leaving Marvel with some fantastic story ideas.
Most recently, in 2014's 'Original Sin' arc, Dan Slott revealed that the spider hadn't actually died after biting Peter Parker; it survived, and went on to bite his classmate, Cindy Moon. Tiffany Espensen plays the role of Cindy in Spider-Man: Homecoming and, although she didn't display any spider-powers in the film, it would be easy to retcon her as another spider-powered character.
Marvel Studios has been smart not to show the origin story. All of these possibilities are on the table; could there be more spiders out there? What made that spider unique? Where did the spider come from? In the MCU, the simple answer is: we have no idea. Marvel can tell any story they want, weaving characters and concepts into Spider-Man's backstory with ease. It's a stroke of genius. It's all the more impressive given Homecoming including Tiffany Espensen's Cindy, and featured a nod that Marvel visionary Kevin Feige has confirmed points to Miles Morales. It's going to be fascinating to see how this trilogy takes shape.