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Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man

Spider-Man: No Way Home
by yo go re

Welcome back, buddy.

Our friendly neighborhood hero swings in to help his fellow Spideys in his iconic suit.

There's a bit in John Green's 2012 The Fault in Our Stars where the main characters, Hazel Tellington and Augustus Gloop, exploit the Make-A-Wish Foundation to do a little light sex-tourism to the Anne Frank House and then go meet her favorite author, just so she can ask him what happened to the characters after the end of his novel. He bluntly tells the kids that nothing happened to the characters, they were fictional, and ceased to exist when the last page was turned. This, quite understandably, pisses her off. In her case, it was because she identified with the main character, saw herself in them, and wanted to find some promise of hope or confirmation of inescapable finality in finding out what happened next; to use the book to map her own future.

I mention all this because I similarly got let down by a text - namely, Tobey Maguire's role in No Way Home. (And Andrew Garfield's, to a lesser extent.) When the other Spideys showed up, it was clear their stories had stopped dead as soon as the final credits rolled. The last thing Tobey-Man did was fight Venom, and then apparently just stayed home for the next 12 years? This was an opportunity for the filmmakers to hint at wider adventures, and they punted. Imagine if Tom-Holland-Peter had complained to his new big brothers about Mysterio, and Tobey-Peter had said "Mysterio? Guy with a punch bowl on his head? Me too!" Or when Andrew said he fought a Russian guy in a rhinoceros machine, Tobey could have said he met one fused into an impenetrable suit. "You met a Vulture? I met a Vulture!" Grow the world, guys, don't leave it stagnant! I realize that in truth nothing did happen, but that doesn't mean you need to treat them like nothing happened.

Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man was sculpted by Dennis Chan, and the work that had to go into it is daunting! Remember, Tobey's suit was fully textured all over, and had raised webs covering the red parts of the suit. Now, we got some really nice movie Spideys from ToyBiz back in the day, but this one outshines them. We sincerely hope, for Dennis' sake, that doing all that texture was easier in the 2020s and working digitally than it was for anyone working in clay in the 2000s. Is there a "apply surface to entire area" button, or did he still have to go in and carve out all those little bumps individually? We do know the webs were able to be done as their own separate thing, for what that's worth.

This figure was originally done for a three-pack, and... did that ever come out? I know there were almost comical delays for the few people who did order it, but since I was part of the large cohort smart enough to recognize that set for the scam it was, I didn't buy it and thus I don't know if it finally did come out or not. It was a blatant scam because none of the Spider-Men came with unmasked heads, so it was apparent from the instant Hasbro revealed it that there would be better versions released almost immediately. And this is that better version. Dennis Chan got to sculpt a Tobey Maguire head to go on the body he'd already made, but the portrait was finalized by Daniel Salas. Art director Dan Rheaume encouraged them not to try to split the difference between back-then Tobey and back-now Tobey, but just to embrace the current look and make the best toy possible. Honestly, though, Maguire aged so gracefully this could easily be from any of his movies.

There have been some decently articulated Raimi Spideys before, but none as good as this. The figure has a barbell head, pec hinges, swivel/hinge shoulders, swivel biceps, double-hinged elbows, swivel/hinge wrists, a balljointed chest, hinged waist, balljointed hips mounted on a hinge, swivel thighs, double-hinged knees, and swivel/hinge ankles. You'll recognize that as the sort of articulation Hasbro began on their Fortnite figures, which is a great assortment. The only thing missing is some sort of swivel for the shins, because the angle of his boots doesn't support it. And maybe hinged toes.

The paint accurately delivers the familiar dark blue and dusty red we first saw on the screen 22 years ago. His webs are the same silver as his eyes, and are painted decently enough for a mass-market toy. The figure doesn't include any accessories, just the extra head, and an alternate pair of thwip hands. His normal hands are a fist for the right hand, and a "sticking to the wall" left hand.

Fox's X-Men films had come out before Sony's Spider-Man, but Spidey proved you don't need to be embarrassed of the comicbook look for your heroes (the villains were a different story, though). The movie was also the impetus for the first Free Comicbook Day, starting the tradition of always having some comic movie open on the first weekend in May that continues today. No matter how good a movie is, the quality of toys it gets will depend entirely on when it's released; like, we still don't have any good Matrix figures, because it came out when major companies weren't interested in R-rated movie toys, so the license went to N2 (*snicker*), and when they were done with it, it was picked up by McFarlane at the pinnacle of his "I don't believe in articulation" powers. And so until a company decides to go backwards for nostalgia's sake, we will never have good Matrix toys. And while the Spider-Man movie toys were quite nice for their time, they can barely count as "average" today. So Hasbro using the excuse of No Way Home to bring this classic version of the character into the modern day is a huge win for all of us.

-- 01/16/24

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