I greatly enjoy watching matches of Marvel VS Capcom: Infinite (MvCI) on YouTube. It’s entertaining with its bright colors while I eat at my desk between more purposeful endeavors. This interest of mine started because I loved Marvel VS Capcom 2 (MvC2) back in the day (over 15 years ago, in fact). This game is a spiritual successor to that title, but very different in most aspects. One thing they have in common is Spiderman as a playable character. And I have some thoughts about that…First, I’d like to explain that I’m only a casual gamer, for what that’s worth. This game is shiny and lovely and fun to watch, though I doubt I’ll ever play it. MvC2 was also dazzlingly busy and colorful, but the controls were arguably more forgiving. In that game, a player had three characters on his team. While there was certainly skill required in that game, a complete novice could simply press two buttons simultaneously on the controller and activate super moves for his entire team, creating a dazzling discharge of beams and explosions that could perhaps obliterate an opponent if timed correctly. And with 56 playable characters to choose from, it could be said that there was something for everyone, including the button mashers among us. MvCI, on the other hand, is far more tailored to “professional gamers”, who are willing to invest dozens of hours into honing the nuances and timing schemes of just two characters into a precision tagteam of victory. For a casual gamer like me, that’s a lot of pressure.
Second, I’d like to mention that I did not grow up with, nor do I follow comic books now. Generally, I have no opinion of them, but like coffee, I just never caught on. It’s easy to understand why a comic book fan would enjoy MvCI so much. The game creators have released multiple “costumes” for each of the characters from various iterations of said characters and what not, and the graphics have immensely improved in almost twenty years. More than ever, fans can feel like they get to be their favorite Marvel or Capcom heroes.
This is what brings me to my thoughts about one hero in particular. Again, I stress that I am mostly unfamiliar with the Spiderman canon, however, mainstream fan culture and Hollywood have forced enough of the Spiderman lore down my throat much like the Harry Potter series et al. Unless you subsist quietly in your fallout shelter year after year, you’re going to know a few things about Spiderman. Perhaps it’s my ignorance to this lore that makes it easier for me to criticize the Spiderman I see in MvCI. After all, I only know surface-level details, and it makes it easier to objectively comment on his presence as a playable fighter in this game.
Consider that all the games in the Marvel VS Capcom franchise have lasers and guns and big kabooms all over the place. You have giant robots and titanic space alien combatants and even literal gods (Thor, ahem). For perspective, keep in mind that in this game there is more than one playable character with a literal flaming skull for a head. Then you also have Spiderman. Sure, the fans can be excited to see their favorite comic book hero tearing it up with the rest of the roster. But I would imagine it’s difficult for a fan to eschew the greater part of his story to waive him into the ranks of bona fide super heroes and villains. Let’s cover a few easy background details:
- In the comics, Spiderman is a scrawny kid in high school. He gets bitten by a radioactive spider (I think), and it makes him acrobatic and adroit. Ok, that’s all fine and good. In the video game, you’re throwing a teenager who weighs all of 130 pounds soaking wet into the pen with literal destroyers of planets. And you thought the comics used license!
- In the comics, Spiderman wears street clothes like a normal teenager until he needs to fight crime, at which point he dons the skintight body suit. We all know the Spandex look comes from the early days of comics, when the real trailblazers were producing a lot of content on their own in short order, and it was easiest and most fantastic to simply draw the lithe bodies in motion like from a figure studies art class. For that reason, we can conventionally give the Spandex look a pass. And I can even understand it makes the most sense to port your comic hero into the video game in the same suit. As iconic as that makes him, though, we should all recognize that a young boy in a body stocking is punching and kicking literal space robots who are shooting lasers at him.
- In the comics, Spiderman does create some sort of web fluid on his own or maybe with a teacher at school (I think), and he later uses this neat web shot stuff to repel up and down buildings or swing through an urban jungle on a web vine. In the video game, the web becomes a token projectile for a character who otherwise has no such firepower to offer. So you can imagine he’s going to need a lot of web to keep up with the bullet storms erupting from some of the other fighters. Spiderman has webs for days! Of course we’re going to suspend belief when rockets and lasers rain down in this galactic sparring match. But it’s so beyond impossible for such a compact and scrappy fighter to be toting around such a volume of this web goop. He easily expels his weight in webs every clock-counted second of the fight. One of the moves fires a creamy blob of web the size of a watermelon, which snags the opponent and promptly encapsulates them in a cocoon of despair that literally covers the opponent’s entire body and outward several inches. It’s difficult to imagine the amount of compression and containment so much web would require until discharged in such a fashion. It’s like sneezing and unknowingly expelling a gooey booger twice the size of yourself, then repeating this disastrous action several times in the course of a few minutes. There’s a super move that literally covers the screen in web. Such pressure built up inside! Nobody light a match (or flaming skull), or Spiderman’s going up like the Hindenburg!
- In the comics, Spiderman has oodles of slick little speech bubbles in which to nail the punchline in an action shot against his formidable foe. As he is a child, we can expect and enjoy such a repartee as “Time for a beatdown!” or “In your face!”. Even early Batman-style “Pow” and “Bang” would be acceptable on paper. In the video game, we have a child talking smack to intergalactic conquerors who think nothing to impale him on an energy sword. My favorite is watching Spiderman pull off a street fighting uppercut against Nemesis, who is a giant embodiment of aberration and undead doom with a messed up face and a thirst for gore. Spidey is saying something like “With great power comes a great smack down!” Does anyone think those words are stinging to a fifteen-foot-tall rotting abomination in a lead apron with tentacles erupting from his sides and a bazooka strapped to his arm? Oh, and during the aforementioned super move that covers the screen in web, Spiderman is rhapsodizing about his awesome web formula, literally citing its unique secret formula for such incredible tensile strength. Gamers love it when you talk tensile to them!
I guess my point is we’ve transcended the role of the comic hero and reached a point of no return with the super hero. We can’t root for a young Peter Parker, who is working up the courage to ask out Mary Jane, when we have seen the same kid in Spandex physically punching The Incredible Hulk in the face until he’s unconscious. These are two very different heroes. I mean, it’s kind of funny to take someone not super and make them a super hero in a wacky game filled with lasers and explosions. MvCI could add Stephen Hawking to the roster and treat him like Professor X, flinging other combatants all over the arena with his mind and shooting missiles out of his wheelchair. But once they’ve created that super hero, don’t also sell me a comic about the everyday hero unlocking the mysteries of space and science. I suppose I won’t be surprised when he ends up as downloadable content in the next expansion pack…