The Marvel Cinematic Universe is constantly praised as the franchise that made superhero movies like Spider-Man a staple of modern cinema. Following its success, money-hungry studios started developing their own cinematic universes, albeit to lesser effect. Yet, the MCU did pave the way for Justice League, Wonder Woman, and more to grace our screens.
But, in truth, it is Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films (and Bryan Singer’s X-Men movies) that paved the way for the MCU. They showed general audiences that superhero movies were capable of telling intelligent stories that didn’t patronize you at the same time. These movies showed us that not all superhero films had to be like Joel Schumacher’s cheesy Batman & Robin.
But as with any adaptation of any source material, a movie has to condense things to work. Characters are often moved around into different roles or prominence and events are changed to be more movie-worthy. Sam Raimi’s fantastic Spider-Man movies are no exception.
Therefore, we thought it’d be fun to list the differences between these movies and the comics (we mostly refer to the original Amazing Spider-Man comics here). So, web-shooters at the ready, True Believers, as we play the nerdiest game of spot-the-difference on the web!
10) Spider-Man has Organic Web-Shooters
Here’s the most obvious one. You see, in the comics, Spider-Man developed mechanical web-shooters to do web-slinging. However, Sam Raimi thought that a teenager designing web-shooters was a little far-fetched. Thus, the Raimiverse’s organic web-shooters were born.
In all honesty, this change isn’t bad. It even makes for a comedic scene early in the first film where Peter is trying to work out how to shoot his web to cross a street. Part of the fun is seeing the young superhero-to-be adapt to his newfound powers and it’s what makes Spider-Man a charming film.
That said, it’s still a notable enough change to make this list. In the comics, Peter uses his genius to create different types of webbing to subdue his foes. He often complains that he needs money to purchase his web fluid. While it’s indeed unlikely a teenager could design such an amazing device, Spider-Man: The Animated Series cleverly gets around this by implying the spider that bit Peter gave him instinctive knowledge on how to build it.
9) Mary Jane Is Peter Parker’s First and Only Love
While MJ is Peter’s school crush in Spider-Man, she wasn’t in the comics. Much the opposite, in fact – for many issues, Peter tried to avoid her, since she was initially recommended as a date by his loving Aunt May. Fearing the worst, Peter eagerly dodged the bullet until he finally met her in issue #42 of The Amazing Spider-Man. The reveal that MJ was this beautiful redhead and her accompanying line “Face it, tiger – you just hit the jackpot!” is an iconic moment of comic book history.
Alas, it is Gwen Stacy who is considered Peter’s true first love in the comics and he met her in college. Spider-Man combines the caring personality of Gwen Stacy and the charisma of MJ into a composite character of her own. Unlike the comics, Mary Jane is Peter’s first and only love in the Raimiverse, with Gwen appearing in the third film only as a decoy love interest.
8) Peter Parker’s Humor Is Missing
Tobey Maguire plays Peter Parker as an earnest everyman, and that’s great. But there’s one thing missing from his performance – the humor. It’s true that Peter is extremely nerdy in Lee and Ditko’s early comics. But as the character graduates to college, he lets himself go and exhibits a more humorous side to his personality. He even starts becoming friends with Flash Thompson, Gwen Stacy, Harry Osborn, and the popular college kids.
This isn’t really shown in Raimi’s movies. Peter remains nerdy and awkward throughout Sam Raimi’s trilogy and you begin to wonder what MJ sees in him. Sure, he is a down-in-his-luck everyman in the comics, but he isn’t as sensitive as Maguire portrays him in the movies.
7) Spider-Man Doesn’t Wise-Crack As Much
Comic-readers and cartoon-watchers know that Spider-Man wisecracks his way through every battle. In Ultimate Spider-Man, it’s explained that Peter jokes around to assuage his fear in battle. While this happens somewhat in Raimi’s trilogy, it doesn’t happen to the extent that it does in the comics. And even when it happens in Raimi’s movies, we get cringe like the first film’s “You’re out, Gobby, out of your mind“. He’s supposed to be about eighteen in the movies, not ten years old!
6) Peter Parker Isn’t As Popular
Throughout Sam Raimi’s trilogy, Peter is a lonesome dude indeed. In Spider-Man 2, he only has two friends appear at his birthday party. And, as seen in Spidey 3, he’s even bullied in college. Jeez!
In the early high-school Steve Ditko-Stan Lee stories, Peter was pretty unpopular, sure. Even after the spider-bite, Peter hides his powers from the school to preserve his secret identity. Oblivious, his classmates Flash Thompson, Liz Allan, and co. relentlessly dunk on ol’ Puny Parker.
But in the comics, once Peter reaches college, he surrounds himself with a clique and becomes quite popular. No longer the nervous nerd, Peter is handsome and charming even if he does retain some dorkiness. Hanging out with Harry Osborn, Gwen Stacy, and even his old foe, Flash Thompson, Peter isn’t the awkward loner of high school. Yet, this is exactly how Peter comes across in all three Raimi movies, which is a shame.
5) Spider-Man Has A Personal Connection with All His Villains
Look, I get it, I really do. Especially in a movie, higher stakes are involved when the main protagonist is personally connected to the villain(s). But it’s still a difference worth noting – in the comics, Peter isn’t personally connected to every villain that appears like Raimi’s movies.
In the Amazing comics, Norman Osborn was introduced in the same issue he reveals he is the Green Goblin. Peter had never met him prior unlike the films. Spidey also never had met Otto Octavius prior to his turning rogue (although the 90’s animated series did have him as Peter’s former science camp teacher). However, in Spider-Man 2, Octavius is a hero of Peter’s and they develop a friendship before his villainous turn.
Having Peter personally connected to the villains is by no means bad. In fact, narrative-wise, it raises the emotional stakes of the battles. But did they really need to connect Sandman to Peter in SM3? We already had New Goblin and Venom as Peter’s ‘personal villains’ in that movie, after all. Not to mention that retconning Sandman as Uncle Ben’s killer partially ruined the first movie…
4) Peter Parker Loses His Powers When He Temporarily Retires
Amazing Spider-Man #50 is a monumental issue but not because of its number. It’s the first issue that Peter gives up being Spider-Man. He would proceed to take on the identity on and off again continuously from thereon over the years.
Spider-Man 2‘s plot is partly influenced by Amazing Spider-Man #50 where Peter gives up being Spider-Man for the first time. The difference is that Peter gives up being the wall-crawler because it’s messing up his social life and the media thinks he’s a menace to society. He doesn’t lose his powers, however, which makes his retirement all the more powerful. He still has the powers but refuses to use them to help others.
In Raimi’s sequel, Peter loses his powers around the time he gives up. It’s implied this is because he really doesn’t want them – that there’s a mental link between that desire and their functionality.
3) The Symbiote Suit’s Origin is Different
The symbiote saga is one of the most fondly remembered arcs in Spider-Man comics history. It tested the wall-crawler in ways not before seen and gave him a cool new suit to boot. Trivia Fact: The idea was invented by a 22-year-old Marvel fan who editor Jim Shooter paid $220 for his contribution.
In the comics, Spider-Man’s black suit is a living organism – a symbiote – that Peter produces in an alien machine in Marvel’s Secret Wars saga. However, Spider-Man 3 follows the 90’s cartoon by having the symbiote come from space. The only difference between the cartoon and the Raimiverse, though, is that the symbiote’s origins are never clearly explained in the latter.
The symbiote suit also never changes Peter’s personality in the original comic. However, it certainly does in Raimi’s film – to results that have spawned memes throughout the internet.
2) Harry is Peter Parker’s Best Friend in High School
In the original Amazing Spider-Man run, Peter wouldn’t meet Harry Osborn until issue #32 when he first attends college at Empire State University. Even then, their relationship is frosty for a while before the two become best friends. But alas, in Spider-Man, the pair are best friends in high school.
In fact, they appear to only have each other during this time. It’s not until Harry discovers that Peter is Spider-Man at the end of the second film does he develop hatred for him. This begins their rivalry which indeed manifested in the comics, resulting in his eventual death.
1) Spidey Doesn’t Start Fighting Crime Until He Finishes High School
The big thing about Spider-Man in 1962 was that he was the first superhero to work solo while in high school (well, okay, he was preceded by Superboy in 1944, but since that one is a spin-off character of Superman, surely he doesn’t count?) But ironically, the Raimiverse has Peter Parker start his crime-fighting career after his high school graduation. In the comics, Peter Parker fought crime while in high school for 31 issues before going to college. Meanwhile, Ultimate Peter Parker was in high school the entirety of his superhero career.
It’s not a big deal as such, but it’s a notable enough difference to list. Regardless, The Amazing Spider-Man movies brought Peter Parker back to high school, only to have him graduate at the start of the second. When they rebooted Spidey again for the MCU, they brought him back to high school once more, possibly to differentiate the character from the universe’s already extensive list of adult superheroes.