Spidey faces off against The Vulture in this concept art for Spider-Man: Homecoming. Vulture doesn’t look like an old guy does he?
By Andrew A. Smith
Tribune Content Agency
Spider-Man: Homecoming arrives July 7, and with it a raft of characters familiar to comics fans but not to the world at large. Actually, even comics fans will have to re-meet these characters, since the Marvel Cinematic Universe never repeats what it can improve.
With SPOILERS AHOY, here’s most of the cast:
Adrian Toomes is one of Spider-Man’s oldest foes, in both senses of the word. He first appeared in the second issue of Amazing Spider-Man way back in 1963. He’s also, like, a really old geezer.
Toomes is also an electronics genius, and invented an electromagnetic flying harness that defies gravity and augments his strength and stamina. (His wings are mainly for maneuverability and, you know, awesomeness.) A number of other characters have used his technology to become The Vulture, but the old bird (ha!) always claws his way back into harness.
Most of this will still apply to the character -- along with greater depth, motivation and background -- as brought to life by Michael Keaton in the movie. Keaton, you might recall, played the Dark Knight in Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992). So he was a good guy in DC movies, and now he’s a bad guy in Marvel films.
It brings to mind an otherwise nonsensical quote from The Dark Knight, another Batman movie. “You either die a hero,” said Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) in 2008, “or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”
Oddly, Keaton also played a character called Birdman, which is kind of a cross between Batman and Vulture.
THE TERRIBLE TINKERER
Electronic geniuses were thick on the ground in Amazing Spider-Man #2, because Phineas Mason first appeared in that issue. But unlike The Vulture, the self-named Tinkerer uses his talents to make gadgets and weapons for other villains. In his first appearance he appeared to be an alien wearing a rubber mask, but that later proved to be a ruse, as he is all too human (and cranky).
The list of supervillains he’s worked for ranges from big guns like The Scorpion and Mysterio to popguns like Rocket Racer and The Big Wheel. But whatever he builds, it’s usually pretty lethal. He’ll be played by Michael Chernus.
"The Tinkerer is a stupid name," declared my wife, and yes, yes, it is. That's why you won't hear it in the movie, where Mason is essentially The Vulture's right-hand stooge.
Both Vulture and Tinkerer debuted in the second issue of Amazing Spider-Man, back in 1963. Art by Steve Ditko.
Herman Schultz first appeared in 1967 when his “vibro-shock gauntlets” and his padded, quilt-pattern outfit might – I repeat, might – have been imposing. But it wasn’t long before he became something of a joke, terrified of Spider-Man and usually working as a lackey for more dangerous characters.
The movie Shocker is a bit of a mystery -- and I will leave it that way -- in that there are two of them. One is Herman Schultz (Bokeem Woodbine), like in the comics, but the other is named Jackson Brice (Logan Marshall-Green). Sharp-eyed Spider-readers will recognize that as the real name of a character named Montana, who first appeared as part of a trio called The Enforcers in 1964.
The Enforcers worked for a gang leader named The Big Man, and consisted of Montana, who was handy with a lariat; Ox, who was strong and dumb; and Fancy Dan, who was short, dressed stylishly and knew judo. It’s a bit of mystery why anyone with a gun would be afraid of these guys, but 1964 was a long time ago and we must smile indulgently.
As to the Shockers, the characters will be referred to that way, but thankfully there will be no costumes that look like something your grandmother crocheted.
What’s shocking about The Shocker is that anybody ever took a man dressed in a quilt seriously. From Amazing Spider-Man #46, 1967, art by John Romita Sr.
OMELETS AND EASTER EGGS
* Returning from their Spider-world debut in Captain America: Civil War are AUNT MAY (Marisa Tomei) and TONY STARK (Robert Downey Jr.). Absolutely no one who has seen a trailer should be surprised by this, but they are too important to leave off the list.
* PEPPER POTTS (Gwyneth Paltrow) and HAPPY HOGAN (Jon Favreau) makes their first appearance in an MCU movie since Iron Man 3. Happy's role is pretty extensive (and hilarious), but Pepper's is more of a cameo. Still, seeing Tony, Pepper and Happy in the same shot is not only a shout-out to Iron Man-the-movie, but also to early issues of Tales of Suspense, where the Armored Avenger made his debut.
* Jennifer Connelly, who played Betty Ross in Hulk (2003), will be heard as KAREN, the voice of the Spider-Man suit’s artificial intelligence, and not as Betty Ross, because Hulk isn’t considered MCU canon. Interestingly, Connelly’s real-life husband Paul Bettany was the voice of the Iron Man suit’s artificial intelligence, before being cast as The Vision.
* PRINCIPAL MORITA (Kenneth Choi) isn’t from the comics. But a PAT MORITA, also played by Choi, appeared in Captain America: The First Avenger as one of the Howling Commandos in World War II. What a tangled web we weave!
* Donald Glover plays AARON DAVIS, who (in the comics) comes from a parallel universe, where he is a villain, The Prowler. More importantly, he is the uncle of that universe’s Spider-Man, Miles Morales, who has recently made a permanent move to this universe, where he and original-recipe Spider-Man are pals. There is no chance this is a coincidence, and I expect to see him in a future movie.
* Michael Mando plays MAC GARGAN. In the comics, Gargan becomes The Scorpion, although not in this movie. That’s what the English majors call foreshadowing.
* ANNE MARIE HOAG (Tyne Daly) was the director of Damage Control in the comics, a company that cleans up and repairs after superhero battles. Yes, Damage Control is making it to the big screen -- dare we hope for a standalone movie some day?
* COACH WILSON isn’t from the comics, but any excuse to get comedian Hannibal Buress on screen is OK by me. The other teachers at Midtown in the cast are either minor comics characters or non-existent. The only item of interest is MS. WARREN (Selenis Leyva), who shares the surname of one of Spidey’s greatest foes, The Jackal.
THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT
There are lots of students in the cast from Midtown High, where our pal Peter Parker matriculates. In most cast lists, they only have first names. Some, however, are pretty obvious.
* NED (Jacob Batalon) is likely the movie version of Ned Leeds, a character that didn’t appear in the comics until he was an adult, where he was a rival for the affections of Peter’s first girlfriend, J. Jonah Jameson’s secretary Betty Brant. Since there’s a BETTY in the cast (Angourie Rice), she’s pretty obviously the Betty we already know. Look for a lot of Ned, but Betty is mostly seen in group shots.
* Flirty LIZ (Laura Harrier) and bully FLASH (Tony Revolori) are undoubtedly Liz Allan, a near-miss for comic book Peter in the girlfriend department, and Flash Thompson, perpetual persecutor. Both have meaty roles here.
* MICHELLE is a character who doesn’t exist in the comics -- at least by that name. But since she’s played by Disney star Zendaya, allowances can be made.
The other kids aren’t so obvious or important -- at least for now. But the Marvel movies wiki (marvelcinematicuniverse.wikia.com) lists some last names that hint at future possibilities. That’s to be taken with a web-shooter full of salt, of course. But if they’re correct, then:
* SALLY (Isabella Amara), JASON (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.) and TINY (Ethan Dizon) are three characters introduced in the 25-issue Untold Tales of Spider-Man, launched in 2011 to fill in gaps between the first 23 issues of Amazing Spider-Man. Spoiler: Not all of them made it out alive.
* ABE (Abraham Attah) is Abraham Brown, introduced in Deadly Hands of Kung Fu magazine as an adult in 1974, one of the mystically-powered martial artists Sons of the Tiger. He later went solo as Black Tiger, and turned out to be the brother of Hobie Brown, this universe’s Prowler, who is a good guy.
* CINDY (Tiffany Espensen) is Cindy Moon, who (in the comics) grows up to be the superhero Silk. CHARLES (Michael Barbieri) is Charlie Murphy, who (in the comics) is one of Peter’s high school tormentors. SEYMOUR (J.J. Totah) is Seymour O’Reilly, in another one of Flash's sycophants who (in the comics) later comes to a sticky end as the D-list supervillain Darter.
As noted, what happened in the comics won’t necessarily happen on screen. But it might!
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