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The Patron Saint of Superheroes

Chris Gavaler Explores the Multiverse of Comics, Pop Culture, and Politics

Sure, Andrew Garfield is adorable, and Tobey Maguire is an equally top-notch actor, but my favorite Spider-Man is still good ole Tom Cruise. Who can forget him back in 1988, fresh off the heels of Top Gun, swinging into his first pair of spandex for Hollywood’s original Spider-man adaptation? And what a supporting cast! Stan Lee as J. Jonah Jameson, Bob Hoskins as Doctor Octopus, and, wow, Lauren Bacall—what an improbably hot Aunt May!

No? Don’t remember that?

Okay, how about the 1996 Spider-Man by uberdirector James Cameron? Sure, Leonardo DiCaprio played a surprisingly potty-mouthed Peter Parker (“I’ll kill you!  Motherfucker!”), but it was really Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Doc Ock driving ticket sales. Though my favorite Spider-Man villain will always be John Malkovich as the Vulture in Spider-Man 4 (2009). Followed by Dylan Baker’s Lizard in Spider-Man 5 (2011), a part made all the more poignant after seeing Doctor Connors developed as such a sympathetic supporting character in the previous films.

This of course all happened on Earth 2. Here on Earth Prime (or Earth-0000, as Marvel aficionados term it), Rhys Ifans (remember him as the nutty roommate in Notting Hill?) is the only Lizard around. Also, the pre-Scientologized Tom Cruise parachuted straight from Top Gun to Cocktail as a superpowered mutant bartender. And poor Mr. Cameron had to set aside his Spider-Man dreams to settle for the all-time biggest Hollywood money-maker, The Titanic (would you believe Avatar is number two?).

It’s not fair, but Earth 2 has a far richer Spider-Man filmography. Though at least we dodged that B-movie Roger Corman embarrassment from 1985, worse than Mr. Corman’s unreleasable Fantastic Four a decade later. Even in alternative universes, the guy should stick with low budget Poe adaptations. Also, the unfortunate 1977 TV show The Amazing Spider-Man was a hit for the Earth 2 CBS, where it ran for seven seasons, two longer than The Incredible Hulk. Our planet’s far wiser CBS never got behind the series, airing only a total of 13, sporadic episodes, before yanking the plug in 1979. The show still has a major cult following on Earth 2, but it’s not even available on DVD here.

Right now on Earth 2, Tobey Maguire is suiting up yet again for Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 6, to be released in July 2013. That’s a whole year ahead of Earth-0000’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2. That sequel is already in Earth 2 theaters, and it’s not bad at all. The big reveals are that (SPOILER ALERT!) Peter’s father is 1) alive, 2) evil, and 3) the secret leader of Oscorp, AKA Mr. Osborne. They ripped the ending right out of Empire Strikes Back: “Luke, I’m your father!” (In both cases, Uncle Ben dies.)

Even better, not only is Earth 2’s Julie Taymor still the director of Broadway’s Spider-Man: Turn on the Dark, but she’s adapting the musical into a film too. Glee’s Kevin McHale will play Peter Parker, and American Idol’s season six winner, Jordin Sparks, is the new Mary Jane.

My only complaint about the Earth 2 Spider-Man is he wasn’t drawn by Steve Ditko. Back in that alternate 1962, Stan Lee worked with veteran artist Jack Kirby. Their Peter Parker finds a magic ring inside a spider web, and instead of web-shooters, he totes a web gun. He’s still a teenager though, and he still learns his with-great-responsibility lesson the hard way.

When I was reading comics back in the late 70s, Peter was getting cloned by the Jackal (a supervillain not even Earth 2 has filmed yet). So I have a pretty good theory where all these unsung spider-men are escaping from. I haven’t officially counted, but since it’s Spider-Man’s 50th anniversary this month, fifty is a pretty good estimate. Marvel celebrated with Amazing Spider-Man #692. The original teen superhero got his first ever teen sidekick:

Web-boy! No, wait. Spider Junior! That’s not it. Arackid?

Actually, his name is Alpha, and on Earth 2 he already has his own spin-off comic book, TV show, and film franchise. The bad news? Tom Cruise plays Spider-Man in all of them.

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