Rarely does a super-hero (or super-viallain) origin story stand up to even the slightest rational scrutiny. Bitten by a radioactive spider, Peter Parker would suffer anything from a minor itch to radiation poisoning or venomous death, depending on the exact circumstances. But it’s hard to see how it could possibly lead to spider-like powers, and even harder to comprehend how it results in an ability to shoot webs, in various shapes and forms, from his wrists.
Some writers have Peter as a genius who creates mechanical wrist-worn web-shooters, but that scarcely makes things any better: if he really wanted to help the poor and downtrodden of the world he would use his genius to create such non-lethal weapons for police or military use – or as a general purpose fixative for home improvements. I’m sure Tony Stark would pay a fortune for mechanical web-shooters to add to his Iron Man suit, then Peter could invest the money in a victim support charity or crime reduction measures.
But if these stories were based on real science and technology we would have to remove the “super-” prefix, without which they lose their appeal. So I’m happy to suspend belief over each technological breakthrough or mystical power that these tales present to me, if it means a more interesting story. Hollywood take note: “interesting” doesn’t mean “as many special effects and explosions as we can fit in a 2 hour movie”. Neither does it mean telling the same origin story again and again with every reboot.
We’ve all got a shared history of Superman’s background, the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents, and Peter Parker’s accident with a radioactive spider. Those stories are done. They don’t need to be re-told after every set of three films, as a new director decides to make his own mark on a franchise. You can change actors without confusing viewers – just ask Dumbledore. A recast doesn’t have to mean a reboot. So let’s see an end to pointless super-hero reboots, and instead build on the fact that many of these tales have become part of our shared culture, providing the freedom to tell a new story, without the need to set up the same background again and again.
G1: Ouch! I've been bitten by a spider!
G2: Was it radioactive? You might develop super powers, like the ability to walk on walls, or to shoot webs from your wrists.
G1: Don't be an idiot, that sort of thing only happens in comic books. Anyway, how would that work? Real spiders don't shoot webs out of their "wrists", do they?
[Caption: Some time later…]
[Panel shows the Grey in the lavatory, suspended from the ceiling by a web that has been shot out of his bottom. He's surrounded by other mis-fired webs]
G1: Don't say a word…