Captain America and Spider-Man. Aside from their strong moral compass, there's probably very few similarities between these two, right? As it is amusingly displayed in Avenging Spider-Man #5, there's a lot of incompatibility between the two on the surface. One is a no-nonsense soldier who still fights for the freedom of his country today, the other a wisecracking average citizen who struggles with paying the bills.
Yet little did people know, the two heroes have often shared a strong friendship with each other, and I'd assume that after Captain America: Civil War, those people would dismiss the strength of such a bond even more. Through this article, I hope to take us through a trip down memory lane and understand the true nature of their relationship.
The first time I first learned of the connection between the two wasn't from that famous speech in Civil War, the notorious comic book crossover written by Mark Millar. Rather, it was during my early days of reading Spider-Man books, when I would read every related title featuring the Webhead. During the July of 1997, Marvel held an event called "Flashback", where characters from the Silver Age (and sometimes Bronze Age) would have their past revisited. For one amazing webslinger, Peter Parker's childhood was explored by Tom DeFalco in Amazing Spider-Man issue 'minus one', when Peter stumbled upon a collection of golden age heroes, from the original Human Torch to the flag-bearing Captain America. He became inspired and dreamed of what it would be like to be a superhero.
Later on, when a kid on a skateboard caused May Parker to break her ankle, Peter wished that he had the power to stop him and protect his aunt. He soon went up to his room and began sketching webshooters, lost in his amazing fantasy of being a hero. This scene would later parallel with Steve Rogers' childhood in Avenging Spider-Man #5, where he too made a sketch of being a superhero.
To be fair, it was never really stated in that issue that he "worshiped" Captain America as some kind of idol figure . You could have replaced Cap with any hero (like say, *cough*IronMan*cough*) and he would have probably been inspired regardless. So Cap's involvement seems arbitrary at best.
However, arbitrary or not, it's undeniable that the seeds of admiration for Cap had been planted in young Peter's mind.
In the 2010 Amazing Spider-Man Annual #37, the first meeting between Spidey and Captain America was finally revealed. It's a wonderful read that fans of both characters should totally check out. As you could see above, Peter clearly has much admiration for Captain America, though the same could be said for any ordinary citizen.
However, the annual goes a step further later and touches on a significant scene that showed a level of respect not just from Spidey, but also from Captain America:
In spite of Peter's lament that he's just a nobody who would be forgotten by Cap, it's revealed at the end that he had left such a lasting impression that it led to the recruitment of Hawkeye, the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver into the Avengers team. While Cap would have probably recruited them anyway, this soft-retcon strengthened the bond between him and Spidey, showing the understanding they have for each other.
Many remembered this inspiring part of the speech that was delivered to Spider-Man. Even those who have never even read the Civil War comic learned about this speech. On a sidenote, there is actually a larger portion of the speech many tend to left out, one that was a quote from Mark Twain's "Letters from the Earth".
I really loved this speech for a number of reasons. Beyond the obvious reasons of inspiration, it's another important character moment in Marvel history that represented what Captain America stood for: the ideals and values of the country, not the country itself. The fact that it's delivered to Peter Parker is also a rather significant point, not an arbitrary one like the ones above. Here's why.
There's a misconception among many people that Spider-Man's most defining trait is that he is young. If not his youth, then it's his wisecracks. Neither of those, in my opinion, are true. They aren't the most defining traits, but maybe one of his defining traits, yes. What defines Spider-Man for me is that he's the hero you could be. He's an ordinary citizen like you or me. He has rents to pay, he has a family to look out for, and he has problems in his love life. Mundane struggles any one could relate with.
So Cap wasn't just delivering that speech to Peter Parker. He's delivering the speech to an average American citizen, one who's albeit a little more patriotic than the ordinary citizen, one who's willing to stand up for what's right in this country. This is especially true when you consider this:
In Amazing Spider-Man #536 (a "Civil War" tie-in), having seen the tyrannical actions of Tony Stark as part of the "Superhuman Registration Act", Peter decided to speak out against the act in front of national television in an awe-inspiring speech involving the human right of every ordinary citizen like him. One particular part of the speech I particular loved is this: "The question isn't what does a country stand for when things are easy. The question is - what does a country stand for when standing is the hardest? When does the country we're living in stop being the country we were born in?" Much like Steve, Peter understood that the views of a country's government might not necessarily meet the moral values a citizen stands for, the kind of values he stands for. This sentiment would later be heavily incorporated into Steve's character in his films, particularly The Winter Soldier and Civil War. It's only unfortunate the same couldn't be said for Peter.
By the way, in case you assume the above was the result of Cap's speech inspiring him - it's not. This happened in the book directly before Cap made that speech (which happened in #537). Peter took the initiative to make that speech himself, because he's awesome like that.
To be fair, this badly-depicted version of Tony Stark in Civil War did give Peter a lot of good reasons for 'standing up for what's right', so it's more understandable why Pete was #TeamCap in the book. And because the things they are fighting for in the movie had nothing to do with the superhuman registration act, and more to do with the Avengers being controlled by the government, it's understandable why he was #TeamIronMan in the film, because Peter probably wouldn't be someone involved in political conflicts like that unless it involves the average citizen like in the book. But with that being said, I was still really annoyed by his lack of connection with Cap in Captain America: Civil War. Regardless of what they were fighting for, it's still a fact that Peter had a long history with Steve in the comics. To dismiss all of that felt kinda like a slap in the face for fans who enjoyed seeing that friendship. It became particularly insulting after this scene from Spider-Man Homecoming:
"He's a criminal now." That's it. That's the only thing Cap has ever amounted to for Spider-Man in the MCU. He's some criminal to be taken down by the Webhead. Not a friend, not an idol, not a mentor; a petty criminal. 50 years of friendship washed down the drain by a single line.
And even if you take away the politics, the connection between Spidey and Cap in Civil War went beyond just political agendas.
Doing the Right Thing in the Face of Adversity
I can't tell you how much I love this scene. I didn't even care it was Drake Bell voicing the Webhead. This scene summed up more about Spidey and Cap's relationship more than any Marvel media ever did (comics aside, of course). It showed that they were two people doing what they believed was the right thing even when the whole world is against them. None could relate with this more than Spider-Man, often persecuted, misunderstood and slandered against by the public and the media. In spite of the countless hurdles he has faced, Spider-Man has always chosen the higher ground of using his powers for the responsible actions. That's what connects Spidey and Cap, beyond the politics, beyond the moral platitudes. Iron Man, who (understandably) tried to kill Bucky at the end of the movie because of personal agendas, could not be any more different from the Spider-Man that I know. Do you know how many times Peter had the chance to kill the enemies who hurt his family, but chose not to?
Of course, at the end of the day, I know well enough that the MCU movies don't necessarily have to reflect the comics to be good. This isn't about that. This is more about my own disappointment at seeing a memorable relationship torn asunder. What's done is done. Chris Evans' contract is ending after Avengers 4, so there probably won't be any chance for Spidey to buddy up with Cap like I always wanted. I've accepted that.
But I'm not one to go down without a fight. And that's what this article is about, to at least let people be aware that such a strong friendship once existed between two of my favorite heroes, and their similar virtue in doing the right thing.