Spoiler alert: Spider-Man: Homecoming’s plot, including one pivotal scene, is discussed in full below.
There’s a lot to love about Spider-Man: Homecoming: the awkward high school moments like the little boy in chess club or the academic decathlon team sneaking out of their hotel rooms to swim; a massive character reveal; the elastic fight scenes; and, of course, Tom Holland’s star-making turn as Peter Parker.
But one of the best parts of the film is a loving homage to Peter Parker’s co-creator, Steve Ditko.
In Homecoming’s third act, Peter confronts the Vulture (Michael Keaton) in his lair as he’s preparing to rob a plane carrying all kinds of important technology and weapons. The Vulture takes off with his jetpack, flying around the building and slicing through its load-bearing pillars, causing it to collapse. Because he’s airborne, he escapes unscathed. But Peter is buried underneath tons of rubble — crying, injured, and feeling defeated.
The scene looks to be a live-action tribute to Amazing Spider-Man No. 33, co-written by Stan Lee and Ditko, the latter of whom also drew the comic:
That arc, “If This Be My Destiny” (which ran from issues 31 to 33), is considered one of the best Spider-Man arcs of all time. And Ditko’s illustration work has been praised for how it shows the pain that Spider-Man feels, as well as his doubt and resiliency — you could erase the entire monologue, and the way Ditko draws Spidey’s body language and expression would tell the entire story, in spite of the fact that the character is wearing a mask:
In Amazing Spider-Man No. 33, the circumstances are a bit different than they are in Spider-Man: Homecoming, in that Spider-Man is facing a different villain (Doctor Octopus) and is pinned by rubble while trying to reach a serum that he needs in order to save Aunt May’s life.
But the sentiment is still the same.
In both Amazing Spider-Man No. 33 and Spider-Man: Homecoming, the scene shows Spider-Man at his weakest — he’s down and out. He’s broken and bruised and needs help. But he doesn’t give up, because he needs to save the innocent people whose lives depend on him.
One of the frequent criticisms that comics fans level against Stan Lee’s legacy is that Lee took all of the credit and often left none to spare when it came to work and characters that he co-created with legends like Ditko, including Spider-Man. But this scene in Spider-Man: Homecoming won’t let anyone forget what a genius Steve Ditko was at giving life to the legendary webslinger.