Spider-Man’s organic web-shooters were introduced in his first Sam Raimi film, and made their way into the world of comics for a short time.
One of the most easily recognizable parts of Spider-Man’s iconic look is his mechanical web-shooters. First appearing in Amazing Fantasy #15 by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby, Stan Goldberg and Artie Simek, the famous gadgets actually pre-date the hero himself, having originally been constructed to accommodate his newfound powers during a short-lived career as an amateur wrestler. The devices, which work by engaging a trigger attached to the palm to release the cartridge fluid, were later integrated into Spider-Man’s crime-fighting arsenal where they have remained an integral feature ever since.
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With Peter Parker’s genius and ingenuity, it is no surprise that his inventions have undergone multiple developments over the years. For his mechanical web-shooters, such advances have included the likes of acid webbing, taser webbing, and voice command. However, a different kind of upgrade was later received as a result of its introduction in the 2002 blockbuster film, Spider-Man.
While Sam Raimi’s trilogy consisted of numerous deviations from the source material, arguably the main change that ruffled the most feathers was having Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker develop organic web-shooters as a result of the genetically-engineered spider bite. Inheriting a spider’s ability to generate its own webbing was not only logically sound but favored Peter’s financial situation in which he struggled to pay rent, let alone procure the funds to replace his web cartridges at the required rate.
The choice ultimately proved a controversial one with many long-time fans unhappy with the decision to rewrite Spider-Man lore – some believing it to discount Peter’s intelligence and innovation while others argued that it detracted from his vulnerability, hereby making him less accessible. However, the idea – adopted by Raimi from its inclusion in filmmaker James Cameron’s treatment – went on to pave the way for the inclusion of organic webbing in future comic runs.
Organic web-shooters first appeared in the comics in the crossover story arc “The Other” created by a number of writers and artists including Peter David, Reginald Hudlin, and J. Michael Straczynski. When a brutal encounter between a dying Spider-Man and the vampire-like creature Morlun ended with the Wall-Crawler’s death, his subsequent rebirth resulted in increased powers including night-vision, stingers, and the development of organic webbing.
The organic web-shooters also appeared in Spectacular Spider-Man #20 by Paul Jenkins and Paco Medina. In the issue, Peter is turned into a giant spider by villainess the Queen and is reborn with abilities including reading the minds of insects and organic webbing.
Natural spinnerets also feature in stories pertaining to Scarlet Spider (Kaine Parker), Spider-Man 2099 (Miguel O’Hara), and Silk (Cindy Moon), among others.
However, the movie inspired idea fell flat of permanently cementing its place in Spider-Man’s mythology and was later redacted in Amazing Spider-Man #545, the conclusion of the controversial “One More Day” by Straczynski and Joe Quesada. When Peter and Mary Jane cut a deal with the Devil to save Aunt May, their agreement with Mephisto results in several alterations including erasing both their marriage and the public’s knowledge of Spider-Man’s identity from existence. It is also presumed that Mephisto reversed Peter’s abilities as in the following issue, as Spider-Man is seen once again using mechanical web-shooters.
Despite the impact of Raimi’s trilogy, fan and creator devotion to Spider-Man’s mythos saw the character return to his roots in both the comics and subsequent feature films (Sony’s The Amazing Spider-Man duology and the recent MCU series, respectively) However, the return of organic web-shooters is not entirely outside the realm of possibility in either medium and could certainly make a comeback in future comic runs or cinematic projects. And should a live-action multiverse film ever be on the cards, the inclusion of former and current iterations of the character – whether in comic-accurate or experimental glory – would surely please all fans, no matter their stance on the age-old debate.
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