After the latest spider-man movie, I realized I never thought about how reimagining superheroes work. So I sat down, thought about the essential elements of spider-man (shy geek getting bit by spider, act of inconsideration leads to Uncle Ben dying, becoming a spider-themed superhero) and tried to figure out how it would work. So here’s my take on a reimagining of spider-man’s origins.
“Peter Parker”, the teacher called.
Peter put his pen down, stopped scribbling programs on the paper in front of him, and walked up. He collected his essay, stapled to it was the response from Osborne Labs. While his paper was selected as one of the top five in the class, he knew it was still not good enough to qualify for the top 20 in New York City. It’s just that the student body in this school was a bunch of lumbering fools. He sat down, and figured he should at least go through the motions of looking at the response. “Dear Mr. Parker,” the response started, “Your paper, ‘Meritocracy: Why Corporate America Should Embrace Objectivism’ has won the ‘Top 20’ award, and you are cordially invited…” Peter stopped reading. He started again, but the words did not change. He got in, he got in! Attached was a badge that would get him into the tour of Osborne Labs. “Woohoo!” he cried out, forgetting himself. “Mr. Parker,” the teacher said, huffing. “You will sit back down, and be quiet.” Peter’s enthusiasm could be silenced, but not contained. He could hardly hold himself until the school day was over.
“Aunt May! Uncle Ben!” Peter cried, as soon as he got in the house, “I got in, I got in!” Aunt May smiled, with a kind face. “Your Uncle is not yet home, but I made soup…” “Aunt May! I got in,” said Peter, interrupting his aunt, “I’m going on the Osborne Labs tour!” “That’s nice, Peter,” Aunt May responded, “I had a feeling my nephew is better than he gives himself credit for. Now, if only he would sit down and eat some soup…” “Not hungry, Aunt May,” said Peter, “got stuff to do.” Peter Parker was determined to impress the tour guide at Osborne Labs, and he decided to read up on the latest research. In the search results, something caught his eye. “Producing Spider Silk Via Goats,” was the title of the article on the science blog. Apparently Osborne Labs had patented a method to inject spider genes into goats, making them produce spider webbing. The material could be used for bullet proof light shirts, a celebrity bullet proof vest that wouldn’t bulge. He read up on the genes involved, the protein sequence and the method. It seemed like something was not working right — otherwise, Osborne Labs would already be making the material, and money, hand over fist. Last he heard, they were not doing that well financially.
“Please keep your arms and head inside the ride at all times,” joked Mr. Osborne. Peter was still reeling. Their tour guide was Osborne himself, founder, president, CEO and chair of the board. The inventor of some of the most famous drugs now in circulation. He was giving the tour himself. He wanted, Mr. Osborne explained, to get in touch with the brightest minds of the next generation, to convince them to come and work for Osborne Labs when they graduated. “Our most important asset,” he said, “is agile, bright minds. I want to convince you to come work for me.” As they walked by the spider silk lab, Peter raised his hand. Now, he thought, was the time to make the research pay off. “Mr. Osborne,” he said, “have you tried using the gene in bacteria, instead of goats, to produce the the silk?” The CEO fixed him was a calculating look. “We have considered it,” he said, gruffly, “but we concluded it was not a viable research direction.” Peter felt he’s just been slapped in the face, so cold was Osborne’s tone. Suddenly his face brightened, “We are taking over the spider’s poison to inject the genes into the goat. I have a lot of faith in that direction. Would you like to see?” Before Peter could slowly shake his head for “no”, Osborne opened the door into the lab. “Come in, Mr. Parker,” he said, “Wouldn’t want you to miss it.” Osborne took out the spider. Peter pulled back, not sure what to do. A glass jar fell to the floor, and shattered. Peter wasn’t sure who did it, but it didn’t matter. Osborne, startled, must have done something to agitate the spider. He fell to the floor, and the spider fell on Peter. He fell a sharp sting, and saw the spider fall. He then realized then Osborne was convulsing on the floor, and figured that the spider must have stung him first. Lucky for Peter, the second spider sting must not have had much poison left…enough to be painful, not enough to do much damage. “Help!” he cried out. Several people came in.
The next few minutes were a blur for Peter, as he realized the poison and adrenaline in his body were making him woozy. He sat down. The next thing he knew, some paramedic was asking him “Are you OK?” Peter shook his head to regain clarity. “I’m fine,” he said, “Where is Mr. Osborne?” “He was taken away. I’m sure he’ll be fine. We called your uncle to come and get you.” “Uncle Ben!” “He is waiting for you downstairs. The tour, I’m afraid, had to be cancelled.” Peter shakily got to his feet, and started walking downstairs. He saw Uncle Ben just beyond the turnstile. The Osborne Gift store, however, was located beyond another turnstile. He waved to Uncle Ben, and motioned that he was going to go to the gift store. Uncle Ben gave a friendly wave, and started walking toward the gift store.
As Peter got in the gift store, he saw a young man in a hoody grabbing a few of the tackiest tchotchkies and putting them in his pocket. He shrugged, deciding it’s not his business, and trying to find some piece of memoribilia that fit within his allowance. “Stop, shoplifter!” cried out a security guard, as the hooded man ran out. As the man approached Peter, he stepped aside and let him pass, as well as the security guard. He figured that the lightest footed of the two would win this match, and it was not in his interest to interfere. His eyes, however, were still drawn to follow the race. Uncle Ben, he suddenly saw, moved in to grapple with the thief. The thief wasted no time, pulling out a gun and shooting Uncle Ben in the stomach. “Unclde Ben!” he cried out, and ran to his uncle, now lying on the floor. “Peter,” Uncle Ben said, “I don’t feel good, and I’m not sure how long I have. There is something I always wanted to tell you…you are smart. You know you’re smart. That’s a great gift. With a gift like this, there must also come great responsibility. Use it for good!” Paramedics, still in the building, came quickly, shoving Peter aside.
“You can’t ride in the ambulance with us,” said the Paramedic, gruffly. “Must be 18 or older. Call some relative to pick you up?” They already called Aunt May, Peter heard earlier, based on Ben’s emergency contact. Peter knew Uncle Ben was dead, but the paramedics still had to go through the motions. Peter had enough. He got out of the building. It all happened so fast, he realized, the security guard was just now putting the cuffs on the thief. “Hey!” cried the security guard, noticing Peter, “you’re the damn kid who stepped aside, aren’t you?” Peter’s face flushed, as he turned away. The thief took advantage of the momentary distraction of the guard, pushed him away, and started running again. The guard was lying on the floor. Peter started running after the thief. It must have been the adrenaline, because he was catching up with the thief. The thief ran up, and half climbed, half jumped a metal fence. Peter, hardly aware, jumped clear of the fance, latching to a wall beside it, and then dropped down, running. The thief spared one look behind him, utter horror as he realizing the teenage behind him was closing in. He turned into a building, running up the stairs. Peter, only dimly aware of what he was doing, climbed the stairwell from the inside, overtaking the thief.
“Aaaargh!” the thief cried, bumping into Peter.
Peter grabbed his shirt, and moved to throw him off several floors worth of stairs with a strength he suddenly had. The thief wriggled. “No! Please!” he cried, as Peter stayed his hand. Up until now, he acted on instinct. Now, he realized, he had a choice. He could kill the thief for what he did to Ben, end it right then and there. But that wouldn’t be right. He would become a killer, no better than the thief. This problem could be left to the police. When the police came in to investigate, they saw a strange sight: a man hanging over the stairwell, his jacket tied to it and a shirt stuffed in his face as a gag. On him, there was a post-it note: “I stole from the Osborne Labs gift shop and killed Ben Parker. The shop clerk and security guard can testify to this.”
Peter came home, to a weeping Aunt May. By the time she got to the hospital, he learned, she was led to the morgue to identify her husband’s body. He pulled May into a hug, as they cried on each other’s shoulders. When Peter went back to his room, he tried to calmly go over the events of the day. Where did he get the spurt of strength and stamina? And climbing on the walls of the stairwell? Only now, when he thought about those, did they seem strange. As though…and his mind wondered back to his computer screen, still displaying the paper about spiders injecting their genes. “Oh,” said Peter, suddenly understanding. “Right.” His genome has been transformed, apparently, by the left-over venom. Ironically, the only thing he could not do was shoot webs.
Peter tried to go to sleep, but realized his mind was still wondering. Manufacturing the webbing had to work. He decided to risk it. The next day, Peter got the supplies he needed. His blood, he realized, held the secret — the genes were locked inside. If only a bacteria could be convinced…but that was easy. The work allowed him to have times when he thought about Uncle Ben almost not at all, and he had a bacterial manufacture of spider web material.
Peter was following his twitter feed, when he noticed a story about a police stand-off. Apparently some defendents have escaped during their trial, and now held hostages in a high-rise office building. He was ready to move past it when he saw the guy who killed Uncle Ben. He was shocked to his core. If the police storm the building, he realized, someone would get hurt. But if he used his newfound powers…and his webbing. As long as nobody would ever find out it was him. He put on a ski mask he had left over from a Halloween custom. To draw attention away from his face, he took out the most garrish clothes he had in his closet — blue exercise pants and a bright red sweater.
As he got to the office building, he quickly scaled up the side. He saw where the hostages were being held, and wanted to draw the kidnappers away. “Hey!” he cried out. He regretted crying out almost immediately, as he realized they had guns, and were happy to shoot at him. As the guns fired, Peter realized he knew where each bullet was headed before it was fired, and could step out of the path. He had the kidnappers away from the hostages, with their attention focused on him.
He start shooting the web material he made, wrapping it around his assailants. In a few short minutes, he was headed out. “I got them!” he pronounced. “Put your hands up, and stay there,” cried a policeman. Peter realized the flaw in his plan. “No can do, officer,” he said, “but remember — spider-man’s the name, and helping the people is the game.” Peter shot a line of webbing onto a nearby building, and pulled hard, moving out of the policeman’s view faster than he had time to react.
Peter couldn’t wait for next morning’s headlines. “Spat between criminals leads to most of them being recaptured: Spider-man still at loose.” he read. He realized he could have waited a bit longer. Still, he realized, it felt good to help. And it was his duty. As uncle Ben said, with great powers there must also come…great responsibility!