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Does it matter that Spider-Man is a different character on TV, movies and comics?

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As of this week, the comics version of Spider-Man is about as different as you can get from the movie version, played by Andrew Garfield. And Marvel's also publishing an Ultimate version of Spider-Man who's now Miles Morales. Meanwhile, on television, there's a Spider-Man who's ostensibly the same character as Garfield's, but 70 percent less angsty and friends with the folks from S.H.I.E.L.D.

Over at Comic Book Resources, Graeme McMillan asks if it's a problem that Spider-Man has different continuity, as well as quite different takes on the character, in different media:

The notion that there are multiple interpretations of Spider-Man as a concept is curious, though, pushing the notion of Spider-Man as brand or franchise over character; it reduces the character to particular signifiers, scrubbed clean of the long history of the comic book incarnation. Spider-Man ceases to be one entity, but becomes a generic name for a number of similar ones, independent of each other in the same way that Batman did in the 1960s, with the Adam West incarnation seeming like a different person with the same name as the version that appeared in the comics, yet becoming the version the world came to remember and believe in for decades afterwards.

But is the brand name and fairly consistent costume enough to make all of these different characters "Spider-Man" in equal measure? If that's the case, then could an audience embrace Miles Morales, the comic-book Ultimate Spider-Man as "Spider-Man" in a movie? I'm unconvinced; I suspect that there's a core "Spider-Man" myth (or, at least, identity) in the mass pop culture mind, and that anything that doesn't conform to that is dismissed by the majority of people. For most people, Spider-Man has to have a Peter Parker who has to lose his Uncle Ben and go from zero to hero, even if most people in the story don't know that, and that's the basis of the character; everything else within that is up for grabs.


As McMillan points out, this question has been settled long ago for Batman — since at least the 1960s, we've accepted that there are different versions of the character in different media. Meanwhile, Steven Moffat has apparently put the brakes on a planned Doctor Who movie, which would have presented the character with a fresh continuity, on the grounds that there can only ever be one Doctor Who continuity (Peter Cushing aside.)

I've always figured that any character who gets big enough to have a truly mass audience is going to get a looser and looser continuity, especially across media. You probably don't get to be as big as Batman without making room for an Adam West version and a George Clooney version and a Kevin Conroy version. But what do you think? [Comic Book Resources]