By Andrew A. Smith
Tribune Content Agency
Spider-Man: Far From Home was a whiz-bang, crowd-pleaser of a movie. But, as usual with a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, there are elements with long, unmentioned histories in Marvel Comics. So with a hearty “Spoilers ahoy,” let’s dig down on some of them:
Sandman first threatened Spider-Man in the web-spinner’s fourth issue in 1963. He isn’t one of Mysterio’s Elementals, but he was undoubtedly the inspiration for one of them.
EARTH, AIR, FIRE AND WATER
The “four elements” of ancient Greek thought have a long, deep and rich history in comics, and in Marvel Comics in particular. For example, they are represented in the powers of the Fantastic Four: Mr. Fantastic’s mind and body flow like water; Invisible Woman manipulates powerful, unseen forces out of thin air; the Human Torch and Thing – OK, those two are pretty obvious. Also, four of the best-known heralds of Galactus are Silver Surfer (water symbolism), Terrax the Tamer (Earth-moving powers), Gabriel the Air-Walker (air powers) and Firelord (fire powers).
Now, Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) calls his four (phony) adversaries “The Elementals,” a name which has a direct parallel in Marvel Comics. Hellfire, Hydron, Magnum and Zephyr form a little-known group who have only appeared in a few comic books, various issues of Supernatural Thrillers (starring N’Kantu the Living Mummy) and Ms. Marvel (when Carol Danvers called herself that). They are a poorly explained group of immortal aliens who once ruled on Earth before the rise of Atlantis, and are currently in exile.
Mysterio’s Elementals are not those Elementals.
More importantly, the movie’s foursome have precursors in the wall-crawler’s own comics. Sandman (William “Flint” Baker), seen in Spider-Man 3 (2007), could be considered to have Earth-based powers, and has been a Spider-foe since 1963. Molten Man (Mark Raxton) first appeared in 1965, and has heat/fire-based powers. Cyclone (André Gerard) was depicted with air-controlling powers in 1975. Hydro-Man (Morris Bench) has been able to transform into water, and control water, since 1981.
Again, these guys aren’t Mysterio’s Elementals.
For one thing, they have never teamed up as a foursome. Amusingly, Sandman and Hydro-Man once merged accidentally to become a giant “Mud-Thing,” an experience neither much enjoyed. But Molten Man and Cyclone are pretty much loners, with the latter having the further disadvantage (for team-up purposes) of living in France.
Still, they are all Spider-enemies, familiar to comics fans. And Mysterio’s Elementals are almost certainly a wink and a nod to them. This was confirmed July 8 in a Gizmodo interview with Far From Home producer Kevin Feige, in which he referred to “the Hydro Man sequence” and “the Molten Man sequence.” Hydro-Man was even name-checked by Flash Thompson in the movie itself.
In the comics, Betty Brant is a brunette, and Ned Leeds is tall and fair-haired. But as played by Angourie Rice (left) and Jacob Batalon, they make a much cuter couple on screen. Zendaya, whose sardonic character MJ is romantically interested in Peter Parker, is at right.
In Far From Home, Ned Leeds (Jacob Natalan) has a romantic affair with Betty Brant (Angourie Rice). That’s entirely appropriate, because Betty – who was J. Jonah Jameson’s secretary and Peter Parker’s first girlfriend in the comics – was squired away by Bugle reporter Ned Leeds. The two married in 1976, although Ned was later killed by a supervillain.
SPIDER-MAN … REVEALED!
So Mysterio is dead. (Well, probably not. He’s a lying liar who lies a lot, and he’s pretty good at faking his own death, which he has done several times in the comics.) But his post-mortem (maybe) video revealed Spider-Man’s secret identity. If the comics are any indication, that’s pretty bad news.
In the comics version of Civil War (2006) Spider-Man joined Tony Stark’s pro-Superhuman Registration Act team and took his mask off on national TV. “My name is Peter Parker,” he said, “and I’ve been Spider-Man since I was 15 years old.”
The Kingpin promptly hired an assassin to go after Parker’s family, who mortally wounds his aunt, May Parker. Peter exhausts every avenue to save Aunt May, including pleading with Dr. Strange (who is unable to help). In desperation, he and his then-wife Mary Jane Watson, literally make a deal with the devil – Marvel’s version, called Mephisto. The demon saves May and erases Parker’s secret identity from every mind on Earth, but in exchange also erases the Parker-Watson marriage, and everyone’s memory of that. Because, you know, he doesn’t like to see heroes being happy. (And neither do Marvel’s editors, because it makes for boring stories.)
To say that Marvel Fandom Assembled didn’t care for this story, titled “Brand New Day,” is an understatement. Let’s hope the movies don’t make the same mistake.
Marvel Earth faced a “Secret Invasion” of Skrulls in 2008. That’s not likely to happen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but the Skrulls and Nick Fury are certainly up to something.
A lot of jaws dropped in the after-credits stinger, which revealed that the Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) we’d seen throughout the movie were actually Skrulls, shapeshifting aliens introduced in Captain Marvel. (Which helps explain how “Fury” was fooled so easily by Mysterio.) That gives rise to several tantalizing possibilities from the comics.
One is “Secret Invasion,” a huge crossover that took over most of Marvel books from April through November 2008. The premise is that Earth’s defenders gradually become aware that an unknown number of people, including powerful politicians, Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, have been replaced by the Skrulls, with the goal of invading and conquering Earth.
Nick Fury was the first to recognize the threat, because he’s Nick Fury. More specifically, it’s because in pillow talk, his girlfriend, La Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine, expresses desire for a food she normally doesn’t like. Fury, being Fury, is immediately suspicious and shoots her in the head. In death, “Val” is revealed to be a Skrull, and the game’s afoot.
Well, Captain Marvel depicted the Skrulls as sympathetic refugees, so unless that’s changed, “Secret Invasion” isn’t a likely possibility.
Unless the threat comes from another race. One with a history of antagonism towards Earth. One whose members include humanoids that could pass easily for Earth people. One which has “sleeper cells” on Earth, as mentioned by the faux Fury in “Far From Home.”
Could we be facing a “Secret Invasion” … from the Kree?
That’s one possibility. Another is S.W.O.R.D.
The Sentient World Observation and Response Department is responsible for dealing with extraterrestrial threats, and is headquartered in an orbiting space station named The Peak. First revealed in X-Men comics in 2004, among its most important members is a certain Carol Danvers, a.k.a. Captain Marvel, who happens to be good friends with Nick Fury.
Is The Peak what Fury and the Skrulls are building in space?
A third possibility is “Original Sin,” a series which revealed that the original Fury had been secretly dealing with alien threats for decades, often employing methods that the term “war crimes” is insufficient to describe. In this series he kills Uatu, the alien from the race of Watchers who, well, watch everything. At the end of Original Sin, Fury’s punishment is to take Uatu’s place, watching every version of the Earth across the multiverse from his headquarters on the Moon, but unable to act.
Frankly, I find it hard to believe that the MCU would do that to Fury. Mainly because it would probably make Sam Jackson angry, and I don’t think anybody has the guts to do that.
The upshot is that we really don’t know what Fury was doing in space. But all those Skrulls gives rise to an interesting idea. It’s not something that’s likely, given what Feige, the Avengers: Endgame directors, Robert Downey Jr. and virtually all MCU officials have said in interview after interview about Iron Man’s fate being pretty final. But nevertheless, here’s a thoughtful thought that’s fun to think thoughts about:
What if the Tony Stark who died in Endgame was a Skrull?
Find Captain Comics by email (firstname.lastname@example.org), on his website (captaincomics.ning.com), on Facebook (Captain Comics Round Table) or on Twitter (@CaptainComics).
The "Ned Leeds" character in Spider-Man: Far From Home (and previously, in Spider-Man: Homecoming) is a dead ringer for Ganke Lee, the buddy and sidekick to Miles Morales's Spider-Man in the Ultimates Universe. So much so that it irritates me to no end that they didn't just call him Ganke.
Did Ganke appear in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse? I haven't watched that yet. (But will when my eyes are working again.)