WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for The Sensational Spider-Man: Self Improvement #1 by Peter David, Rick Leonardi, Victor Olazaba, Rachelle Rosenberg, Tom DeFalco, Ron Frenz, Sal Buscema, Chris Sotomayor and Travis Lanham, on sale now.
Marvel fan Randy Schueller pitched an idea to Marvel back in the 1980s revolving around the idea of Spider-Man getting a new black costume. Now, creators Peter David and Rick Leonardi have brought this fan pitch to life, sharing with us the Spider-Man suit we never knew. That, and the fact that Spidey only ever wore it out once.
In The Sensational Spider-Man: Self Improvement #1, Peter's classic red and blue suit is burnt to a crisp in a fight with the villain Firebrand. After a save from Johnny Storm, Peter is brought back to the Baxter Building, where Reed Richards makes him a new black suit. This suit features a slick red spider logo and several additional abilities. These include built-in web-shooters, fireproof webs and new web-gliders. The suit itself is also fireproof -- the benefit of being made from unstable molecules. As one might expect, Peter instantly falls in love with the suit. Until he starts using it, that is.
Immediately, Peter encounters difficulty using the new web-shooters, since they don't work like his old mechanical ones. They're cybernetically linked to the user, which means they only fire if Peter thinks about firing them. This causes several problems, including Spidey almost crashing a helicopter and fumbling during his second fight with Firebrand. Also, despite having used the web-wings in the past, the new web-gliders aren't quite the same; Spidey has a tough time getting adjusted to them. They practically let him fly rather than glide, which is a big, sudden change for a guy not exactly used to flying.
Perhaps the most glaring problem, though, is the reception this new suit receives. Peter swings into action, hoping to save Firebrand's ex-wife, Winona, and daughter, Rita. The villain is after the former of the two since she apparently stole some money of his. Arriving at Winona's home, Spidey sneaks in through Rita's room. But since Spidey's dressed in black, the little girl thinks he's a villain and quickly runs from him, much to Pete's bemusement.
Even after Pete gets the suit to work for him and he defeats Firebrand, displaying he's certainly a hero, Rita still doesn't like Spidey in the black suit. She asks her mother to "make the bad man go away!" After a clever Johnny Cash remark from Spidey, he leaves to return the new suit to Reed. The story concludes with Peter patching up his old red and blue suit.
As impressive and intuitive as the new suit was, it ultimately just didn't work out for Spidey. Back then, and even nowadays, he doesn't need much in the way of fancy gadgetry to do his job. It can definitely help, but it's better if Pete knows what he's working with. Take the back end of Dan Slott's Amazing Spider-Man run, for example. Spidey whipped up tons of neat tools to help himself out. He never had any problems because it was all his own tech, which he was completely familiar with.
But as much as fans may enjoy a black-suited Spider-Man, the children of the Marvel Universe clearly don't. Still, that didn't stop Pete from running with the original black suit for a long while.