MCU Spider-Man’s Style and Spider-Suits
Peter Parker, AKA Marvel’s iconic super hero Spider-Man, has undergone many significant style evolutions in his suits across Marvel Cinematic Universe appearances. No matter the look, his outer threads always reflect the inner journey.
Audiences first meet Peter Parker in Captain America: Civil War when Tony Stark, desperate for more firepower on his team, heads to New York City to recruit him. The first suit shown on screen in the MCU is his homemade suit. Featuring what appears to be a red hooded vest over a blue tracksuit plus a red ski mask with goggles, it is clear that this outfit is obviously something that the high schooler created himself with limited supplies.
The homemade appearance of the suit says a lot about Peter at this point in his hero’s journey; he works with what he has, which is admittedly not much, but his design is still intentional. His true identity is hidden, and he has already committed to a distinct color scheme and heroic identity for himself. He is also armed with web shooters of his own making, letting viewers know right away that his inherent intelligence is an important part of his role as Spider-Man.
Peter seems equal parts sheepish about and protective of his suit, and therefore himself. In his eyes, his neighborhood deeds pale in comparison to what Iron Man and the Avengers do, so it only makes sense that he leaps at the opportunity to take his super powers to the next level.
Spider-Man’s First Spider-Suit from Tony Stark
As Captain America and Iron Man prepare to face off, Tony summons Peter by shouting the now iconic line, “Underoos!” Flipping onto screen, Peter uses his web shooters to take Captain America’s shield away and bind his hands. His suit looks more like the classic Spider-Man that many viewers are familiar with. His eyes shift and change shape to suggest the expressions underneath and the suit fits him well; it is a clear improvement over his homemade outfit. In spite of all of the upgrades that Tony provided him with, he honored Peter’s roots as Spider-Man by maintaining the red and blue color scheme that Peter had chosen for himself. Even in a multi-million dollar suit created by Tony Stark himself, Peter is able to retain his unique heroic identity, eager to prove himself yet still a kid at heart.
In Spider-Man: Homecoming, viewers finally see how Peter came to own his Stark suit through a vlog made by Peter himself. Ushered overseas by Happy Hogan, Peter remains in an unshakeable state of awe at everything happening to him. This reaches a fever pitch when he is given a case that is described as a “minor upgrade.” The movie then grounds itself in Peter’s hometown of Queens, NY, where Peter reverts to the level of heroics he engaged in prior to his service in Captain America: Civil War.
The contrast between the high-tech suit and the level of crime that Spider-Man is responding to beautifully highlights Peter’s own inner dilemma; having had a taste of real heroics with the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, Peter recognizes that he is capable of more than the daily troubles of his neighborhood. The same suit that aided him in facing Captain America is now being used to accomplish things such as trying to keep a young man from stealing a car. In spite of his upbeat and positive nature, it is clear that Peter is frustrated with the situation. Calling Happy, who has been charged with responsibility for Peter’s activities, Peter leaves him a voicemail saying, “I just feel like I could be doing more.”
When Peter later confronts the Vulture, he finds himself in over his head as the villain soars upward with Peter in tow only to drop him from the sky. Tony sends one of his suits to the rescue, and admonishes Peter for his behavior. Frustrated by these imposed limitations, Peter enlists the help of his best friend Ned to turn off the “Training Wheel Protocol” in his suit, granting him access to high-powered capabilities including extensive web options and Instant Kill Mode.
Having skipped all of the steps to become accustomed to his suit, Peter struggles to effectively use the suit when he continues to investigate the weapons sales in Washington, D.C. When a Chitauri device in Ned’s backpack detonates on the elevator in the Washington Monument, Peter leans heavily on the suit’s A.I., Karen, and uses the reconnaissance drone to assess the situation. Although Peter’s courage and love of his friends is an important part of their eventual rescue, Peter is clearly relying on the suit’s capabilities. He allows both the suit and his eagerness to prove himself to make him lose sight of his heart and innate abilities, both of which are at the core of what makes him a hero.
A near-disaster with the Staten Island Ferry causes Tony to take the suit back, forcing Peter to return to his roots. When Peter begs Tony to let him keep the suit, telling him that he is nothing without it, Tony wisely replies, “If you’re nothing without the suit, then you shouldn’t have it.”
Peter Trades the Homemade Suit for the Iron Spider
Peter eventually learns that his crush’s father is the Vulture and the head of the weapons operation he has been trying to stop. No longer having the benefit of his Stark suit, Peter is forced to resort to his homemade suit and the instincts he depended on prior to meeting Tony Stark. The Vulture proves to be a formidable foe, and buries Peter in rubble before taking off to commandeer a plane loaded with the Avengers’ weapons.
Peter begins to panic; his fear and his homemade suit clash with the boy in the high-tech suit who took on heavily armed criminals with ease. As Peter shouts for help, his eyes fall on his mask in the water beneath him. In a poignant moment, he sees his mask covering one half of his reflection with his bare face on the other side. He hears Tony’s words about the suit in his mind and recognizes the wisdom behind it. He is something without that suit. Cheering himself on, Peter manages to escape, stop the Vulture’s plans, and, true to his incredibly good heart, saves the Vulture from a fiery death in a wreckage of his own making.
Having seen important growth in Peter, Tony offers him a spot as a member of the Avengers, and shows him the Iron Spider suit. Finally seeing that there is nothing wrong with being a Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man for a while longer, Peter thanks Tony for the opportunity but turns it down. When he gets back home, he finds his high-tech suit in a paper bag, featuring a note from Tony that says, “This belongs to you.”
Spider-Man Uses the Iron Spider Suit in the Infinity War Saga
The Iron Spider suit finally gets to see action in Avengers: Infinity War when Peter ducks out of a school field trip to help Bruce Banner, Doctor Strange, Wong, and Tony face members of Thanos’s Black Order. Trying to be helpful, Peter rides the spaceship of the invading forces into the atmosphere but he doesn’t account for the depleting oxygen levels and loses consciousness. Tony quickly deploys the Iron Spider suit to save him.
Their dynamic from Spider-Man: Homecoming repeats, with Tony trying to send Peter home to safety. This time, however, he proves himself to be up to the task, and Peter proves a valuable ally in fights against Ebony Maw and later Thanos himself. Finally, the suit and Peter’s abilities as a hero are on par with one another. The suit itself is armored like Tony’s and has more capabilities, while still maintaining the core colors that Peter chose for himself to honor his roots and his inherent traits that make him a hero. In spite of everyone’s best efforts, Peter is lost in the Snap. When he returns in Avengers: Endgame, he appears in the same suit. He also loses Tony, his mentor and father figure, while wearing the suit that he created for him.
The Iron Spider suit is seen once again during a fundraiser in Spider-Man: Far From Home. In spite of the trials he has faced as an Avenger, Peter clearly feels out of his depth with his public persona as a hero. He quickly grows overwhelmed as reporters ask him about the Avengers and note what big shoes he has to fill now that Iron Man is gone. Wearing the suit that Tony made for him, the loss of his mentor feels even more acute for both Peter and the audience. Surrounded by reminders of Tony, Peter is left to question what his role is without Tony there as a source of encouragement and guidance.
Spider-Man’s Stealth Suit Era with Mysterio
When he meets Quentin Beck during his class trip to Europe, he clearly feels relief at finding another father figure. He agrees to help Quentin, also known as Mysterio, face the Elementals under the condition that he will not be recognized as Spider-Man while doing so. He gears up in a black stealth suit, and his efforts to not be recognized are rewarded by others thinking he was a new hero altogether (known hilariously as Night Monkey). While Mysterio seems to not mind, and even relishes in the recognition of his heroics, Peter shuns the spotlight. He wants to keep his loved ones safe from the consequences of his identity being revealed, and he’s motivated by doing the right thing instead of the fame and accolades that come with being a hero.
Feeling that he is not up to the legacy left to him, Peter relinquishes E.D.I.T.H., a high-powered artificial intelligence system created by Tony, to Quentin. Peter soon realizes this was a mistake but when he confronts Quentin, the villain leverages Peter’s doubts against him, using his drones to make Peter’s greatest fears and pains play out before him.
Spider-Man’s Custom Suit and Mysterio’s Defeat
Realizing the gravity of his mistake, Peter seeks advice from Happy Hogan, who assures Peter that even Tony could not live up to his own legacy and that Tony only sacrificed himself because he knew Peter would still be there to protect the world. As Peter creates his own customized suit using Stark technology, he manages to honor Tony’s legacy while also stepping out from his shadow. Instead of creating a suit that strictly follows Tony’s design, Peter is so encouraged by the faith that Tony had in him that he uses his instincts and intelligence to create a suit of his own.
Arriving in London, Peter faces Quentin and his horde of drones, but still takes a significant beating. Bloodied, suit torn, and contending with the power of Mysterio’s illusions, Peter’s previous lesson from Spider-Man: Homecoming comes to the fore when he depends on his own skills and instincts instead of the suit. Tuning into his “Peter tingle,” Peter is able to take out the drones even though he cannot see them. He removes his mask as he speaks to what turns out to be an illusion of Quentin.
In a moment of incredible instinct, he grabs the real Quentin’s wrist sight unseen and prevents himself from being shot. Unmasked, with a damaged suit and wounded body, viewers are reminded once again that Peter’s true gifts are a part of him. Fancy suits, a secret identity, and even a larger-than-life mentor are certainly advantages, but they would be nothing without everything that Peter possess within himself.
Throughout his time in the MCU, Peter has grappled with balancing his abilities, his role as a hero, and his everyday life as a teenager. He has struggled to live up to the heroic levels of the Avengers, and upon finding his place among them, is rocked by the loss of the man that brought him into the fold.
His suits — starting off homemade, progressing to more advanced suits, and eventually graduating to a high-tech model of his own making — truly reflect his journey as the hero Spider-Man and Peter Parker, the good-hearted high schooler from Queens. Fans are surely eager to see the path of both of these identities, as well as his new Spider-Man suits in action, when Spider-Man: No Way Home swings into theaters on December 17.