Born in 1962 on the pages of "Amazing Fantasy" #15, Peter Parker and his secret hero identity, Spider-Man, have grown up over the past forty years, both in real time and on the page. A puny nerd from Queens, Parker, as the well-known story goes, was bitten by a radioactive spider on a class field trip, gaining powers and strength wildly at odds with his lanky frame and shameful self-image.
Sam Raimi film adaptations of the canon, wildly successful in the early 2000s, buzzed through Spider-Man's long history, taking star Tobey Maguire quickly from awkward teen to full-grown photographer and world weary hero. Now that "(500) Days Of Summer" director Marc Webb is taking over the reigns for a reboot starring Andrew Garfield, he's got to take a new direction -- and he's doing exactly that, by going back to the comic's roots.
Talking with the LA Times at Comic-Con, Webb revealed his plans to find the heart of who Peter Parker was when he was initially given his powers by that rogue experimental arachnid, even if that means changing the superficial identity people know so well.
"Nerds are no longer pariahs and knowing how to write computer code is longer a [mocked] quality. What was important in those early comics was this notion that Peter Parker is an outsider and how we define that in a contemporary context," Webb told the Times' Hero Complex blog. "That, I think, was one of the challenges for us -- getting Peter Parker's outsider status to be current. Peter Parker is a real kid. He's not a billionaire. He's not an alien. He's a kid who gets picked on and gets shoved to the outside. The 90-pound weakling, that's who Spider-Man is when he gets bit. So much of the DNA of the character is the fact that he was a kid when he got bit. He is imperfect, he is immature and has a bit of a punk rock instinct. In his soul he's still a 90-pound weakling even after [the transformative bite]."
Another aspect that shapes Peter Parker's heroism going forward is the death of his Uncle Ben, a loss he feels responsible for causing. That's something Webb understands, as well.
Ultimately what this movie is about is a kid who grows up looking for his father and finds himself. And that's a Spider-Man story we haven't seen before," he recently told Entertainment Weekly.
Luckily, he's found a perfect vessel in Garfield; as he points out in the LA Times interview, Garfield has already played a nerd -- in "The Social Network" -- and the star himself has said that he relates to his character, body and otherwise.
"I'm just going to work as much as I can, because it's been such an important symbol to me since I was four years old," he told Cinema Blend last September. "It's meant so much to me, and it's given me so much hope as a skinny little streak of piss, who feels more powerful inside than he looks on the outside. Every skinny boy's dream. I'm very lucky."
For more from Webb, click over to the LA Times.