The Synergy Behind Two Spider-Man Posters
A dose of symbolism from the new international poster
None of these notes are meant to uncover any intention behind the designers of these posters or films. Any resonance between the definitions of the symbols, their appearance in the media, and the themes or plotlines lies somewhere between completely coincidental and absolutely intentional. This applies to all of my symbol and theme digging.
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The image on the left is one of several promotional pieces used for Tom Holland’s first Spider-Man movie, "Homecoming". On the right, a new poster for the upcoming “No Way Home”.
Both posters are simple in their layout and content, but still contain plenty of details worth commenting on.
The main focus for this post is the use of colors, especially the significance of blue.
Warning: May contain thematic spoilers?
The colors emphasized are blue and red for Spiderman himself — who is wearing a yellow jacket — as well as black, and white.
The red is the same as Tony Stark’s red — blood, but especially fire. Peter’s fire is already balanced and cooled by his own, self-contained blue — hence, the blue and red suit.
Within the context of the image blue corresponds to water, the sky, Stark Tower, and the letter ‘A’.
The blue tower is reaching up above Peter’s head or heart.
He lays easily at a slight angle across a black surface that stretches down past the bottom of the poster.
The Chrysler building is present and easily serves as a symbol for the rising sun. Along with the tower and the letter ‘A’, the rising sun is a symbol of ascension, a theme that’s at the core of the ‘spirituality’ of Marvel.
Peter is wearing the light and warmth of the sun as he lays daydreaming of joining team Avengers. Yellow is also associated with youth, as it’s the color of the sun before it starts to set.
In another version of the same poster, however, the Chrysler building is absent. I’m not sure why, perhaps because it was placed directly above Peter’s groin. The discrepancy is suspect.
Another promotional piece has Spiderman standing on a yellow cab with the sun placed directly between his legs. The symbolism for sexual awareness and maturity becomes firmly connected by his blossoming relationship with Mary Jane (M.J.).
Red for heat and passion. Yellow for the daytime of his youth.
Blue is Peter’s balance for red.
“Blue is darkness made visible” — Derek Jarman
Blue is the beautiful nothingness of a clear daytime sky, and is mirrored on the reflective surface of a dark, yet translucent ocean.
After “Homecoming”, the blue on Peter’s outfit becomes black following Peter’s encounter with Thanos and Tony’s sacrifice.
The black of his new outfit points not merely to the darkness of a void, but to a surge of the deep, unconscious instincts of the lizard brain, which otherwise lay pacified, dormant, or always quietly at work in the shadows.
It simultaneously points to the darkness of restful sleep, where vivid, lucid dreams, as well as his true adult “self” will form.
The sun is gone. The blue mirage of the sky fades and reveals the ocean at night.
No Way Home
Prominent colors are black, red, and yellow again. There is a blue glow from the screen he’s sitting on.
The cloudy blue sky has turned into a stormy gray.
It’s December and snow is falling. The blue in his costume is gone, and the water is frozen.
“Lock him up” obscured partially by Peter’s arm.
Blue is the realm of the unreal — or of the surreal. Blue stands still and resolves within itself those contradictions and alternations in fortune — day following night — Which modulate human life. Indifferent and unafraid, centered solely upon itself, blue is not of this world: it evokes the idea of eternity, calm, lofty, superhuman, inhuman even.¹
A sea of contradictions and alternations in fortune — In other words, the potentials that lie within each day.
Dreams are formed in the dark and born at dawn; tomorrow is shaped by the internal disposition of the mind, and by everything surrounding it as external circumstance — by what has already been manifest.
Each passing day hides the stars behind an azure blanket, and realizes a countless host of potentialities, which blossom, often clumsily or even horrendously, into the present string of time. The quiet of a dreamy night charges these diverse, overlapping potentials. Otherwise, we drag ourselves though the day like zombies.
Peter is aware of these potentials, aware of what could happen, and this awareness, this submergence in the illuminated sea, are what grant him his “spidey senses”, or psychic abilities.
Blue’s relation to the surreal is natural. The color rarely occurs in nature, though. Its most obvious expression is the sky, which has no color at all, but is lit by a thin band of visible light scattered by the Earth’s atmosphere. Water’s association with blue is only due to its reflection of the sky.
Apply the color blue to an object and it will reduce, cut open and destroy its shape. Paint the surface of a wall blue and it is no longer a wall. Movement and sound, like shapes, disappear into blue, sink and vanish like a bird in the sky. Insubstantial in itself, blue disembodies whatever becomes caught in it¹
Blue ‘reduces’, or dissolves as water does to a cube of sugar or salt, and tempers the fire.
Internalized, the light blue of the sky becomes meditative, while the dark blue sea surrounding his head in the first poster signals daydreaming.
Between “Homecoming” and “No Way Home” is Spider Man: “Far From Home”. A prominent theme in “Far From Home” is the media — and Peter’s world, and his mind, being disembodied by exposure to theatrical, chaotically deceptive performances personified by the villain “Mysterio”, who’s headpiece is a cloudy-blue dome.
The end-credits scene doubles down on this theme and connects it directly to ruinous effects of warped media.
The darkness of the structure below him in the first poster has surged upwards, and his blue is being projected out into the world by a giant screen.
His mask is off and the back of his head appears quite shrouded as well, highlighting his unwanted exposure to the world and whatever lingers in the shadows reaching the highest layers of his mind.
The etheric “mystery” of Spiderman is gone, and out from the screen pours the disembodying blue light upon the world, dissolving it, returning it not to a nurturing night, but to a cold night of chaos. Such chaos was contained and illuminated in Peter, but is now being externalized, breaking his world down into a dream or nightmare of overlapping realities represented as a multiverse — the vast potential latent in chaos.
It’s not clear to me yet how this connects to his relationship to M.J., but if a thought arises I’ll be sure to share.
Lot’s more to say about ‘Spider Man’, but this is already going on too long. Thanks for reading, though!
The Penguin Dictionary of Symbols
The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America, by Daniel Boorstin
All images belong to Marvel Studios