Since the character’s debut in Marvel’s “Amazing Fantasy” #15″ in 1962, Spider-Man’s handy web shooters have been one of the wall-crawling hero’s most iconic gadgets. It’s natural to picture Spidey effortlessly zipping between New York City skyscrapers nabbing criminals, but the web shooters themselves have a long and surprisingly storied past.
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“Spider-Man: Homecoming” is certainly not the first film adaptation to feature them. In fact, Spidey never fails to produce a unique or revamped model when the times call for one. Throughout the character’s publication and media history, Spider-Man has made it a point to constantly modify the web shooters to fit any number of challenges and scenarios and in return they have proven to be Spidey’s most reliable (and unreliable) crime fighting weapon. Here are 15 things that you never knew about them!
15. PETE INVENTED THEM
Before the bite of a radioactive spider granted him superhuman abilities, Peter Parker seriously lacked any sort of athletic coordination, social skills and game with the ladies. What Peter never lacked was super genius-level intelligence. Nothing demonstrates this better than the fact that he invented the web shooters all on his own. Originally, they were built to help Peter succeed in a wrestling challenge, a decision that would lead to the most fateful event of the young teenager’s life: Uncle Ben’s death and the choice to fight crime as Spider-Man!
The classic design can be strapped to Peter’s wrists beneath the sleeves of his costume and also include a trigger on each palm. When Peter taps those triggers, the web fluid stored in small cartridges passes through an internal spinneret, which cuts the fluid into strands before it shoots out from an adjustable nozzle. Traditionally, Spider-Man usually utilizes a form of mechanical web shooters for his crime fighting needs. In Sony’s “The Amazing Spider-Man” and its sequel, Peter Parker, played by Andrew Garfield, invented the web shooter (with an assist from Oscorp). Meanwhile, other Spider-People in the comics, like Miles Morales and Spider-Gwen, received them as gifts.
14. DYNAMIC WEBBING
The web shooters are a little more refined than they look. So that he doesn’t accidentally shoot off a line of webbing every time he makes a fist or throws a punch, Spider-Man designed the web shooters to only fire when he quickly double taps the palm triggers. Not only that, but should Peter require an alternate type of webbing or web rope, all he has to do is alternate how he taps the trigger.
A fast second tap will simply fire a slender strand ideal for web slinging while a longer second tap adds to the strand’s thickness. If Peter wants a glue-like paste to stop baddies in their tracks, a prolonged press to his palm will do the trick. The NYPD must appreciate how Spider-Man constantly webs up and leaves safely immobilized criminals for officers to pick up, which is just a matter of Peter briskly hitting the trigger to shoot multiple strands that bind prospective foes.
13. UTILITY BELT
No hero is complete without a trusty utility belt and Spider-Man is no exception. The belt consists of spare web fluid cartridges available for easy access and reloading when the Web-Head is running low (and he always seems to be running low). Spidey can also project his infamous spider signal from the center of his belt, a feature that was included in 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War” in the form of a gift from Tony Stark to Peter Parker.
The belt also serves Peter well when he’s on the job for the Daily Bugle, as he has been known to attach a miniature camera onto the buckle to snap photos. Spider-Man’s utility belt has also been customized in the past. Peter’s on-again, off-again clone, Ben Reilly, aka the Scarlet Spider, donned a rotating belt on his wrists that was physically attached to the web shooters and worn on the outside of his costume.
12. WEB FLUID IS MADE OF…
Well, no one really knows. There’s no official statement by any of the creatives behind the various Spider-Man titles regarding their chemical composition. “Spider-Man: The Ultimate Guide” states that Peter spent countless hours in his high school laboratory working with multi-polymer compounds and eventually created an adhesive substance that became web fluid. Some of the details vary, but generally the web fluid exists in a semi-solid state while in the cartridge and it’s up to the aforementioned spinneret mechanism in the web shooters to chop the stuff up into web rope strands.
Depending on its consistency when fired, the web fluid itself is incredibly strong, and according again to the “Ultimate Guide,” each cartridge holds about 1,000 yards of webbing. Once the web fluid is exposed to the open air, it begins to harden or dissolve. It’s also stated to be able to withstand temperatures of 1,000 degrees fahrenheit, so watch out Human Torch!
11. COMBAT WEBBING
Spider-Man has invented a variety of different types of webbing to help him out of most combat situations. Web fluid-wise, name it and Spider-Man’s got it (or can invent it). In Marvel’s “Strange Tales Annual” #2 from 1963, Spider-Man created a form of ice webbing to combat the fiery attacks of Johnny Storm. In a particularly horrifying demonstration of Peter’s brilliance, he laced web fluid with hydrofluoric acid that melted the Sandman in his tracks; that was in “Amazing Spider-Man” #615. What’s Spider-Man’s excuse for such questionably excessive methods? Well, to be fair, Spidey was in the throes of fighting off a seemingly endless stream of returning villains during “The Gauntlet” arc. Ol’ Web head was probably just in survival mode. A web or be-webbed sort of thing.
Recently, in Marc Webb’s 2012’s film “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” Peter Parker used a type of webbing that could conduct electricity to combat Electro, played by Jamie Foxx. In the comics, Peter has also used flame and sonic webbing to deal with those pesky symbiotes like Venom and Carnage. Some of the crazier and niche web fluid formulas include magnetic webbing, lead-lined webbing, and something called: “Micro-Coiled Z Metal.”
10. SOMETIMES IT’S ORGANIC
In the character’s long, varied history, there have been a few occasions or interpretations that saw a Spider-Man without the traditional homegrown, mechanical web shooters. Famously, in Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” trilogy, the web shooters were controversially replaced with an organic form of webbing that Peter Parker, played by Toby McGuire, shot directly from his wrists like a kind of human spider silk. Raimi, and the other creatives behind the film, toyed with the idea of keeping the mechanical web shooters, but ultimately decided to let their version of the wall-crawler spin his own all natural webs.
The “Spectacular Spider-Man” #15-16 storyline saw Peter infected by a kiss from the Queen, which literally turned him into a monstrous spider. This, in turn, led to Spider-Man having the ability to produce organic webbing for a time, coinciding with Raimi’s use of organic webbing in the films. The alien symbiote costume Peter wore (that would eventually become Venom and spawn an endless stream of symbiote plot lines) also produced an infinite supply of organic webbing for anyone wearing the suit.
9. MJ HAD WEB SHOOTERS
Following the introduction of organic webbing in the comics, the “I Heart Marvel” continuity saw Peter Parker gift a pair of his old web shooters to Mary Jane as a Valentine’s Day present, for her own protection. Of course, not all the credit goes to Peter in this case, as Tony Stark had a hand in their modification. Mary Jane wears the disguised web shooters as bracelets and she can let loose with webbing at any time by wearing special fake fingernails. Fabulous and functional.
Speaking of “normal” people using web shooters, there have been more than a few instances of inspired civilians taking a crack at inventing a version of Spider-Man’s famous gadget. Patrick Priebe, a German lab technician created a pseudo-web shooter out of a coil gun, which utilized electromagnetism to fire a harpoon instead of Spidey’s signature web fluid. Speaking of which…
8. THE STRUGGLE IS REAL
Companies have been trying to commercialize spider silk for a while now, and no wonder! It’s almost unfathomably strong! Spider silk is five times as strong as steel, three times as strong as kevlar, conducts heat and electricity, is hypoallergenic and biodegradable, and some forms of silk are 300% elastic. Taking a cue from Peter Parker, scientists just need a little luck and to put enough time in at the high school lab, and the obstacles in the way of manipulating and manufacturing spider silk will be overcome.
Who knows? Maybe “conventional” materials like steel will be completely replaced by spider silk. Think about it. Spider silk body armor, spider silk bridges, spider silk… everything! It’s not the craziest idea, especially when the end result equals a bunch of New Yorkers commuting to work via web slinging. This sounds like a job for Tesla. Or Tony Stark. He’s a real person, right?
7. TRACERS AND VOICE COMMANDS
Web Shooters also have some pretty dope bonus features that now come standard. Take the spider tracer for example, which is perhaps one of Spidey’s most useful gadgets and another of his brilliant inventions. The tiny, spider-shaped tracers can be shot directly out of the web shooters and attach to whatever Spidey wishes to track. Dock Ock fleeing his own wedding with his bride, Aunt May, struggling to free herself from his eight mechanical arms? Boom. Tracked. Green Goblin attacking Oscorp’s World Unity Festival at Midtown? Boom. Tracked. Roomie Harry Osborn making off with the last slice of Peter’s pizza? Boom. Tracked.
Peter even modified the spider tracers so that he could follow their signal with his spider-sense. Peter’s company Parker Industries made a version of the spider tracer for the public, which retails for $49.99. Peter has also added a voice command function to the web shooters which enables him to shoot even more variations of webbing against his foes (yes, he can shoot web bullets, and in all different directions). The voice command feature also conveniently includes the option to fire the handy spider tracers as well.
6. THEY CAN CREATE OBJECTS
Early on in Spider-Man’s comic history, it was established that Spidey’s webbing can be woven to form a myriad of increasingly useful yet often insane shapes. “Amazing Spider-Man” #1 showcased the fact that there seemed to be no limit to what he could do with that magic web fluid formula. Spider-Man can form it into a shield, safety net, barrier, pair of wings, club (and ball), parachute, raft, artistic sculptures, and even a pair of delightful skis, which Spider-Man utilizes in his swamp battle against the Lizard in “Amazing Spider-Man” #6 .
Spider-Man ups the ante soon after in “Amazing Spider-Man” #12 by creating a fire-proof umbrella and stepping stones out of webbing to escape from a roaring inferno of flames. When in doubt, Spider-Man can also just resort to shooting a thick puddle of sticky glue. Try getting that stuff off of your Kraven the Hunter, or rhino skin boots! Seemingly, the limits of the web fluid’s properties are delightfully bound by Peter Parker’s (or the writer’s) wondrous imagination.
Following the conclusion of the 2014 “Dying Wish” story line and Peter Parker’s death after switching bodies with the terminally ill and vengeful Otto Octavius, Doc Ock took over Spider-Man’s heroic duties in Peter’s stead. He was determined to do a better job than the original wall crawler and in the subsequent “Superior Spider-Man” series, Doc Ock not only improved on Peter Parker’s web fluid formula, but also made it so strong that it was completely bullet proof. Eventually, Peter Parker reclaimed his body and the Spider-Mantle in “Amazing Spider-Man” Volume 3.
This followed the conclusion of “Superior Spider-Man,” where he would soon fall victim to Otto’s web fluid enhancements himself in the form of makeshift web underwear that became impossible to remove. After dodging a few awkward remarks from the Avengers, Peter was able to dissolve the underwear with a solvent given to him by Anna Marie Marconi, Otto’s girlfriend and Researcher at Parker Industries. Yeah, Anna Marie is pretty chill about the whole “Spider-Man I thought I was in love with was actually Otto Octavius in the real Spider-Man’s body” thing.
4. THEY ALMOST NEVER EXISTED
It’s hard to believe that Spider-Man’s most iconic gadget, the item that lends so much uniqueness to the visuals of the franchise, was almost never adapted into the original version of the character. In the ’60s, Jack Kirby brought Stan Lee some sketches of the Silver Spider, an older idea Kirby’s partner and Captain America co-creator Joe Simon had developed years earlier. The Silver Spider, interestingly enough, liked to fire his webbing out the barrel of a big ol’ gun.
Stan Lee showed the sketches to Steve Ditko, who pronounced them too similar to a different Simon/Kirby character: The Fly. So, Ditko proceeded to redesign the character and thankfully kept the spider theme. The web gun would later pop up later — like everything else absolutely insane about comics — in the ’90s, toted by none other than the Marvel/DC Amalgam character, Pete Ross/Spider-Boy (a title passed over by Stan Lee when developing the original Spider-Man).
3. BEN REILLY IMPROVED PETE”S DESIGN
Love it or hate it, no Spider-Man list has ever been written without some passing mention of the infamous “Clone Saga.” During that particular arc, Ben Reilly, one of Peter Parker’s clones, created by Professor Miles Warren, aka the Jackal, returned to New York and fought alongside Peter. Eventually, Peter and Ben took a test to determine once and for all who the original wall-crawler was. To their surprise (and readers everywhere), Peter was determined to actually be the clone. So, naturally Peter gave up crime fighting, took up grunge music, and moved to Portland with Mary Jane, freeing up Ben Reilly to become first the Scarlet Spider and then Spider-man!
In Ben’s quest as the new Spider-Man in town, he improved on many of Peter’s designs and spared no expense on the web shooters. Not only did he awesomely wear those bad boys on the outside of his costume, but added the ability to fire stingers in the form of tiny web-based missiles. Ben also created impact webbing, which released tendrils upon impact and encased the target of choice in a cozy cocoon. The stingers and the impact webbing clearly served very specific and tactical functions, unlike the Scarlet Spider’s blue sleeveless hoodie.
2. THE RUNNING LOW-DOWN
Even though Spider-Man carries dozens of web fluid cartridges between the web shooters themselves and the accompanying utility belt, even though he has installed a warning light to give him a heads up when the supply is in the red, web cartridge ammo still tends to run low, which creates a bit of a difficult situation for a superhero who depends upon the ability to constantly sling web rope from his hands in order to get around, let alone survive. Honestly, Peter Parker has had issues with his patented web shooter technology since day one. In the “Amazing Spider-Man #1,” when Peter’s spider sense finally hones in on the real Chameleon, his web shooters come up empty. How much web fluid does Peter actually pack in those web shooters? The figures vary, but a good visual representation comes from the controversial “One More Day” story line. Peter angrily unleashes all the webbing he has to stop Iron Man completely in his Stark Industries-funded metal boots, and it works!
Even the Sam Raimi films incorporated Spider-Man’s longstanding low web fluid issue by making his organic webbing power suffer a form of impotency. In “Spider-Man 2,” as Peter starts to doubt his life choices, particularly his choice to be Spider-Man instead of living a normal life with Mary Jane, his powers begin to disappear, leaving him unable to stick to walls, sense danger with his spider sense and of course, sling web lines.
The latest incarnation of the wall crawler certainly used mechanical web shooters to their fullest in “Captain America: Civil War” and it’s since been confirmed that Peter Parker will be sticking with the tried and true shooters for this year’s upcoming “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” Although, they appear to be a little more advanced than previous versions. The new suit itself sports other interesting additions like a recon drone, GPS, and the long awaited web wings.
According to Director Jon Watts, Tony Stark may be the mastermind behind these little flourishes, which is certainly in-line and inspired by the more recent relationship Tony and Peter have shared in comics over the last several years. Unfortunately, the style decision to feature the web shooters prominently on the outside of the costume is probably not a conscious reference to Ben Reilly or the Scarlet Spider. Who knows? The sequel to this film might well be “Spider-Man: Homecoming 2: Clones, Clones, Clones.” Sony or Marvel is bound to get around to the Clone Saga someday if the current rate of superhero related releases keeps up!
What do you know about Spidey’s web shooters? Spin us up a tale or two in the comments!
“Spider-Man: Homecoming” opens in North American theaters on July 7th.
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