There’s not a lot we know about Spider-Man: Homecoming, the first solo Spider-Man film set squarely in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (picking up from his debut in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War). And, let’s be honest, there’s not a lot you need to know going in. Marvel does a great job of translating the often-confusing half-century of backstory for their characters into an entertaining movie-going experience that draws from that continuity without requiring an encyclopedic knowledge of it. If, however, you’re interested in diving into some of the source material beforehand (and it’s pretty awesome, so you should) this is a handy guide to some of the stories that writers Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley and director Jon Watts seem to be drawing from for the upcoming film.
Amazing Spider-Man #2 – “Duel to the Death with the Vulture!”
Writer: Stan Lee
Writer/Artist: Steve Ditko
Collected in: Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spider-Man vol. 1 or available digitally on Comixology.
For the first time in Spider-Man’s cinematic appearances, he’ll be facing off against one of his oldest (in more ways than one) foes – the Vulture. In his first appearance, this geriatric supervillain who uses a mechanical suit to fly, executes a series of high-profile robberies. This brings him into conflict with the teenage superhero Spider-Man, who uses his scientific genius along with his superpowers to defeat the bad guy. In the first series of Spider-Man films, director Sam Raimi wanted to use the Vulture in Spider-Man 3, but eventually gave in to the wishes of the studio to use the more popular character, Venom. The use of the character here looks like a better fit, as this is a very youth-oriented take on Spider-Man, and the Vulture heightens the generational conflict of a youthful hero finding his way in an adult world.
Ultimate Spider-Man vol. 1: Power & Responsibility
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis & Bill Jemas
Artists: Mark Bagley & Scott Hanna
While Spider-Man: Homecoming is skipping Spidey’s origin story, one thing it looks to share with this modern reinvention of Spider-Man is the focus on a teenaged Spider-Man, youthful (relatively speaking) Aunt May, and a gang of high school friends. While it’s true that most of the 1960s Spider-Man comics were also set in high school, much of that experience is pretty dated now. Tom Holland’s Peter Parker isn’t a bespectacled nerd in a sweater vest, he’s an average-looking kid who is a bit of an outcast among his peers, which is the take on the character introduced in this collection. It also features a Spider-Man who is legitimately funny for the first time in years. Because this collection introduces a new take on Spider-Man, it’s also an easy jumping-on point for those new to the character and/or comics.
Civil War: Amazing Spider-Man
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artist: Ron Garney
In this collection, Tony Stark/Iron Man takes Spider-Man under his wing, giving him a new high-tech Spidey suit to fight crime in. Over time, Spidey chafes under the supervision and breaks off on his own. It’s no coincidence that in Captain America: Civil War the young hero is recruited by Iron Man and brought into the middle of the conflict, as this is the storyline that inspired that relationship. Homecoming looks to complete the arc (with likely changes) as the trailer shows Stark taking back the suit he gives Peter, leaving the young hero to prove he doesn’t need adult supervision to be a hero. Personal aside: This is the shakiest recommendation, as the characterization of Tony Stark in the comic is far more villainous than anywhere else during the Civil War storyline, or the film. Additionally, it’s part of a large comic book crossover event, so the sometimes heavy continuity might be off-putting to newer readers. But the “Iron Spider” suit and Garney’s art are great, and the Peter/Tony relationship looks like it’s here to stay in some form or another.
Ultimate Comics Spider-Man vol. 1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Sara Pichelli
No, you didn’t read that wrong. Unlike the previously-listed Ultimate Spider-Man, this series introduces his successor, Miles Morales. And, in Marvel Cinematic fashion, bits and pieces of this storyline look to have been adapted for the current film, with what looks (from the trailers) like Peter Parker attending a science-based charter school, and with a Korean-American best friend/roommate who discovers his identity (in this series, it’s Miles in place of Peter, and the friend is named Ganke Lee, rather than Ned Leeds, in the film). Oh, and here’s some Easter Egg-y trivia: back in the day, there was an online campaign to have actor/writer/musician Donald Glover cast as Peter Parker. That didn’t happen, but Brian Michael Bendis was inspired by that push and created Miles Morales, a Black/Latino successor for Peter Parker. Donald Glover would later go on to voice Miles Morales in the Ultimate Spider-Man animated series, as well as appearing in Homecoming in an unknown role.
Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane vol. 1
Writer: Sean McKeever
Artist: Takeshi Miyazawa
Okay, this one is a reach. But it’s just so fun! As previously noted, there have been other series that centered on Peter Parker in high school. This one, though, shifts the focus to Mary Jane Watson, Peter’s long-time love interest and reads like Archie comics crossed with superheroes by way of manga. This comic is much less about good guys in tights bashing bad guys in tights, and instead details the even more dramatic trials of navigating high school friendships and romances in a world full of dual identities and superheroes. It looks like MJ has been sidelined in the upcoming film, but it’s unlikely that will continue as the inevitable sequels arrive, so this is a great series to get an idea of what that relationship might look like. It’s also perfect for young adult readers who want to dip their toe into superhero comics without fully diving in.