Marvel/Sony
Marvel/Sony

12 Amazing Facts About Spider-Man

Marvel/Sony
Marvel/Sony

This summer, Sony and Marvel will launch Spider-Man: Homecoming, the first in a new film series starring the third big-screen incarnation of the title character. Today it seems like we’ll never stop seeing Spider-Man at the movies, but 15 years ago, it seemed amazing that we ever saw him there in the first place. The original Spider-Man film was a massive cinematic endeavor, and it took 17 years, multiple screenplays, a costume theft, and a very convincing CGI performance to complete.

So, to celebrate 15 years of the webslinger on the big screen, here are a dozen facts about Sam Raimi's Spider-Man.

1. IT TOOK 17 YEARS TO GET IT MADE.

Spider-Man is about to launch his third big-screen franchise in 15 years, but before superhero mania took over, it was a 17-year journey just to get the character onto the big screen the first time. In 1985, amid lagging studio interest in superhero movies (at the time the only major franchise was Superman, and his series was lagging), cult film powerhouse Cannon Films acquired the movie rights to the character from Marvel for $250,000.

After several script attempts, Cannon folded, and producer Menahem Golan moved the rights to his successor company, 21st Century Films. By 1991, 21st Century was also finished, and Carolco Pictures picked up the rights, which they held until filing for bankruptcy in 1995. The Spider-Man rights then went to MGM, but Marvel—which was undergoing bankruptcy troubles of its own—filed suit, claiming they were due the rights back because the original Carolco option had expired in the summer of 1996, before MGM put a film into production.

Further complicating matters was the fact that 21st Century Film had, once upon a time, sold off home video and television rights to Columbia and Viacom, respectively. Finally, in 1999, the web was untangled when a court dismissed MGM’s claim to Spider-Man. Marvel, with the rights back at home, struck a new deal with Sony Pictures, which released Spider-Man through Columbia Pictures in 2002.

2. JAMES CAMERON CAME CLOSE TO MAKING HIS OWN VERSION IN THE 1990S.


Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for CinemaCon

When Carolco secured the rights to Spider-Man, they handed the project over to James Cameron, fresh off the success of the Carolco-produced Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Cameron, a lifelong fan of the character, produced a 57-page “scriptment” detailing his vision for the character. The scriptment, which included a romance with Mary Jane Watson and Spider-Man facing off against Cameron’s version of Electro, was well-received, and earned the director the approval of Spidey’s co-creator, Stan Lee. After turning in his version of the story, Cameron set off to make True Lies. In interviews to promote that film, Cameron seemed to indicate that his next project would indeed be Spider-Man, but Carolco’s bankruptcy halted those plans, and he moved on to Titanic instead.

3. SEVERAL MAJOR DIRECTORS WERE CONSIDERED.

By the time Columbia began production, Cameron was no longer interested in Spider-Man, preferring instead to devote himself to his own original creations. Hoping to land a big-time director for their big-time film, Columbia considered Roland Emmerich, Chris Columbus, and David Fincher, who wanted to gloss over Spider-Man’s origin and focus on the famous Death of Gwen Stacy storyline from the comics.

“My impression [of] what Spider-Man could be is very different from what Sam [Raimi] did or what Sam wanted to do. I think the reason he directed that movie was because he wanted to do the Marvel comic superhero. I was never interested in the genesis story,” Fincher told io9. “I couldn't get past a guy getting bit by a red and blue spider. It was just a problem … It was not something that I felt I could do straight-faced. I wanted to start with Gwen Stacy and the Green Goblin, and I wanted to kill Gwen Stacy.”

Eventually, the job was given to The Evil Dead director Sam Raimi, who impressed executives with his passion for the classic Marvel Comics version of the character.

4. THE GREEN GOBLIN WAS NOT THE ORIGINAL VILLAIN.

Though Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin is as much an essential part of the film now as Spider-Man himself, he was not the original choice for the webslinger’s nemesis. Back in the days when Cannon was going to produce the film, original drafts featured Doctor Octopus as the main antagonist. James Cameron ditched that idea and concocted his own version of Electro, with the Sandman as his sidekick. When Sony and Columbia began developing their version, screenwriter David Koepp introduced the Green Goblin, which Raimi favored because of his personal connection (being the father of Peter Parker’s best friend Harry Osborn) to Spider-Man’s alter-ego Peter Parker. Initially, the Columbia version was planned to feature the Goblin with Doctor Octopus as a secondary villain, but Raimi nixed that idea, believing that introducing two supervillains and a superhero in the same movie would have “compromised” all three characters.

Doctor Octopus wound up being the main villain in Raimi’s Spider-Man 2, and the Sandman appeared in Spider-Man 3. Electro also eventually got his big-screen moment, appearing in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in 2014.

5. IT CHANGES A KEY COMPONENT OF SPIDER-MAN’S ORIGIN.

When Cameron composed his treatment for the film in the early 1990s, he altered one key part of Spider-Man’s origin and power set: his webshooters. In the comics, Peter Parker fashions the webshooters himself, using a super-strong, super-sticky fluid of his own design, but in Cameron’s version, the webs are organically produced by Peter’s body after he gains his powers. Raimi liked Cameron's idea, and opted to keep it.

“He sticks to walls; he can leap; why does he then have to invent a web fluid?” Raimi said in an interview with Fangoria. “Why not just mutate him far enough into a spider to produce webbing?”

6. TOBEY MAGUIRE WAS NOT THE STUDIO’S FIRST CHOICE FOR PETER PARKER.

When casting the lead role of Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Columbia initially seemed to be looking for a more classic leading man type, considering stars including Colin Farrell, Heath Ledger, Ewan McGregor, Scott Speedman, and Wes Bentley. Raimi, on the other hand, wanted Tobey Maguire—and eventually got his way after the star turned in some convincing screen tests. After an intense diet and exercise regimen to give him a superhero body, Maguire was ready for the part.

7. WILLEM DAFOE WAS NOT THE ONLY CHOICE FOR THE GREEN GOBLIN.

In casting Spider-Man’s nemesis, the studio looked at several major stars with villainous expertise, including Nicolas Cage and John Malkovich, who turned down the role for a number of reasons.

"It was everything," Malkovich told Empire in a 2000 interview. "Way too much time, not enough money, not enough of anything. I mean, if I'd have loved it, obviously I would have done it, but those sort of films aren't art films, they're business propositions."

Willem Dafoe eventually won the role.

8. THE CGI SPIDER-MAN FOOLED STUDIO EXECUTIVES.

One of the chief hurdles in producing Spider-Man was creating the convincing illusion of a man swinging between New York City skyscrapers. The production called on Industrial Light & Magic pioneer John Dykstra, who realized that some shots would require a fully computer-generated version of the title character. The shots Dykstra and his team came up with were so convincing that producer Laura Ziskin decided to see if they could fool Columbia chair Amy Pascal and Sony chair John Calley.

“I called up John Calley and Amy Pascal and told them we’d put Tobey [Maguire] in the suit and had him crawling up a building, and we’d shot a test and wanted to show them,” Ziskin recalled. “We went to the screening room and I showed the test of CGI Spider-Man—they thought it was Tobey! Then I told them that was the computer-generated Spider-Man.”

9. SEVERAL SPIDER-SUITS WERE STOLEN FROM THE PRODUCTION.

Making Spider-Man was a massive undertaking involving 100 sets and hundreds of crew members. It also required several costumes for Maguire, four of which went missing from a locked building on the Sony Pictures lot. The handmade suits were valued at around $50,000 apiece, so Sony was very eager to get them back. Eventually, a former Sony security guard was caught after authorities received a tip from his ex-wife. When his home was searched, police also discovered that he’d stolen a $150,000 Batman costume from the Warner Bros. lot in 1996.

10. A SHOT FROM ANOTHER SAM RAIMI FILM APPEARS IN THE MOVIE.

Raimi originally intended to shoot all-new material for the sequence early in the film in which Peter Parker has a fever-addled nightmare the night after his life-altering spider bite. Budgetary restraints prevented this, so Raimi instead cut together shots from the film’s opening, along with one from his 1990 superhero film Darkman.

11. THE WORLD TRADE CENTER WAS CUT FROM MARKETING MATERIALS AFTER 9/11.

The very first teaser trailer for the film, released in the summer of 2001, feature bank robbers escaping in a helicopter pulled into a giant web spun between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. The teaser was a major hit, but after the tragedy of September 11, 2001, Sony executives opted to pull the footage from distribution (though bits of it still exist in a montage in the final film). A teaser poster featuring the Trade Center was also pulled.

12. IT’S PACKED WITH CAMEOS.

Superhero movies and cameo appearances are basically synonymous now, but Spider-Man has a particularly large number of special guests. Spidey co-creator Stan Lee made his now-customary appearance in the film, pulling a girl away from falling debris during the Times Square action sequence, but he’s far from alone. Wrestling legend Randy Savage wrestles Peter Parker as Bonesaw McGraw, Raimi’s brother Ted appears as J. Jonah Jameson’s assistant Hoffman, and frequent Raimi collaborator Bruce Campbell appears as the ring announcer. Also featured are Xena: Warrior Princess star Lucy Lawless (“Punk Rock Girl”) and Raimi’s Evil Dead II co-writer Scott Spiegel (“Marine Cop”). Plus, as longtime Raimi fans know, Spider-Man also includes a cameo by a well-known car. The Oldsmobile Delta 88 driven by Uncle Ben is “The Classic,” Raimi’s college car, which he has featured in almost all of his films, most prominently The Evil Dead and Evil Dead II.

Additional Sources:

Comic Book Movies by David Hughes

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Recall Alert: Swiss Rolls And Bread Sold at Walmart and Food Lion Linked to Salmonella
Evan-Amos, Wikimedia Commons // CC 1.0

New items have been added to the list of foods being recalled due to possible salmonella contamination. According to Fox Carolina, snack cakes and bread products produced by Flowers Foods, Inc. have been pulled from stores in Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

The baked goods company, based in Georgia, has reason to believe the whey powder it buys from a third-party supplier is tainted with salmonella. The ingredient is added to its Swiss rolls, which are sold under various brands, as well as its Captain John Derst’s Old Fashioned Bread. Popular chains that normally sell Flowers Foods products include Walmart and Food Lion.

The U.S. is in the middle of a salmonella outbreak. In June, Kellogg's recalled Honey Smacks due to contamination and the CDC is still urging consumers to avoid the brand. The cereal has sickened dozens of people since early March. So far, there have been no reported illnesses connected to the potential Flower Foods contamination.

You can find the full list of recalled items below. If you have one of these products in your kitchen, throw it out immediately or return it to the store where you bought it to be reimbursed.

  • Mrs. Freshley's Swiss Rolls
  • Mrs. Freshley's Swiss Rolls
  • Food Lion Swiss Rolls
  • Baker's Treat Swiss Rolls
  • Market Square Swiss Rolls
  • Great Value Swiss Rolls
  • Captain John Derst's Old Fashioned Bread

[h/t Fox Carolina]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Marvel Entertainment
10 Facts About Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian
Marvel Entertainment
Marvel Entertainment

Nearly every sword-wielding fantasy hero from the 20th century owes a tip of their horned helmet to Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian. Set in the fictional Hyborian Age, after the destruction of Atlantis but before our general recorded history, Conan's stories have depicted him as everything from a cunning thief to a noble king and all types of scoundrel in between. But beneath that blood-soaked sword and shield is a character that struck a nerve with generations of fantasy fans, spawning adaptations in comics, video games, movies, TV shows, and cartoons in the eight decades since he first appeared in the December 1932 issue of Weird Tales. So thank Crom, because here are 10 facts about Conan the Barbarian.

1. THE FIRST OFFICIAL CONAN STORY WAS A KULL REWRITE.

Conan wasn’t the only barbarian on Robert E. Howard’s resume. In 1929, the writer created Kull the Conqueror, a more “introspective” brand of savage that gained enough interest to eventually find his way onto the big screen in 1997. The two characters share more than just a common creator and a general disdain for shirts, though: the first Conan story to get published, “The Phoenix on the Sword,” was actually a rewrite of an earlier rejected Kull tale titled “By This Axe I Rule!” For this new take on the plot, Howard introduced supernatural elements and more action. The end result was more suited to what Weird Tales wanted, and it became the foundation for future Conan tales.

2. BUT A “PROTO-CONAN” STORY PRECEDED IT.

A few months before Conan made his debut in Weird Tales, Howard wrote a story called "People of the Dark" for Strange Tales of Mystery and Terror about a man named John O’Brien who seemed to relive his past life as a brutish, black-haired warrior named … Conan of the reavers. Reave is a word from Old English meaning to raid or plunder, which is obviously in the same ballpark as barbarian. And in the story, there is also a reference to Crom, the fictional god of the Hyborian age that later became a staple of the Conan mythology. This isn't the barbarian as we know him, and it's certainly not an official Conan tale, but the early ideas were there.

3. ROBERT E. HOWARD NEVER INTENDED TO WRITE THESE STORIES IN ORDER.

Howard was meticulous in his world-building for Conan, which was highlighted by his 8600-word history on the Hyborian Age the character lived in. But the one area the creator had no interest in was linearity. Conan’s first story depicted him already as a king; subsequent stories, though, would shift back and forth, chronicling his early days as both a thief and a youthful adventurer.

There’s good reason for that, as Howard himself once explained: “In writing these yarns I've always felt less as creating them than as if I were simply chronicling his adventures as he told them to me. That's why they skip about so much, without following a regular order. The average adventurer, telling tales of a wild life at random, seldom follows any ordered plan, but narrates episodes widely separated by space and years, as they occur to him.”

4. THERE ARE NUMEROUS CONNECTIONS TO THE H.P. LOVECRAFT MYTHOS.

For fans of the pulp magazines of the early 20th century, one of the only names bigger than Robert E. Howard was H.P. Lovecraft. The two weren’t competitors, though—rather, they were close friends and correspondents. They’d often mail each other drafts of their stories, discuss the themes of their work, and generally talk shop. And as Lovecraft’s own mythology was growing, it seems like their work began to bleed together.

In “The Phoenix on the Sword,” Howard made reference to “vast shadowy outlines of the Nameless Old Ones,” which could be seen as a reference to the ancient, godlike “Old Ones” from the Lovecraft mythos. In the book The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, editor Patrice Louinet even wrote that Howard’s earlier draft for the story name-dropped Lovecraft’s actual Old Ones, most notably Cthulhu.

In Lovecraft’s “The Shadow of Time,” he describes a character named Crom-Ya as a “Cimmerian chieftain,” which is a reference to Conan's homeland and god. These examples just scratch the surface of names, places, and concepts that the duo’s work share. Whether you want to read it all as a fun homage or an early attempt at a shared universe is up to you.

5. SEVERAL OF HOWARD’S STORIES WERE REWRITTEN AS CONAN STORIES POSTHUMOUSLY.

Howard was only 30 when he died, so there aren’t as many completed Conan stories out in the world as you’d imagine—and there are even less that were finished and officially printed. Despite that, the character’s popularity has only grown since the 1930s, and publishers looked for a way to print more of Howard’s Conan decades after his death. Over the years, writers and editors have gone back into Howard’s manuscripts for unfinished tales to doctor up and rewrite for publication, like "The Snout in the Dark," which was a fragment that was reworked by writers Lin Carter and L. Sprague de Camp. There were also times when Howard’s non-Conan drafts were repurposed as Conan stories by publishers, including all of the stories in 1955's Tales of Conan collection from Gnome Press.

6. FRANK FRAZETTA’S CONAN PAINTINGS REGULARLY SELL FOR SEVEN FIGURES.

Chances are, the image of Conan you have in your head right now owes a lot to artist Frank Frazetta: His version of the famous barbarian—complete with rippling muscles, pulsating veins, and copious amounts of sword swinging—would come to define the character for generations. But the look that people most associate with Conan didn’t come about until the character’s stories were reprinted decades after Robert E. Howard’s death.

“In 1966, Lancer Books published new paperbacks of Robert E. Howard's Conan series and hired my grandfather to do the cover art,” Sara Frazetta, Frazetta's granddaughter owner and operator of Frazetta Girls, tells Mental Floss. You could argue that Frazetta’s powerful covers were what drew most people to Conan during the '60s and '70s, and in recent years the collector’s market seems to validate that opinion. In 2012, the original painting for his Lancer version of Conan the Conqueror sold at auction for $1,000,000. Later, his Conan the Destroyer went for $1.5 million.

Still, despite all of Frazetta’s accomplishments, his granddaughter said there was one thing he always wanted: “His only regret was that he wished Robert E. Howard was alive so he could have seen what he did with his character.”

7. CONAN’S FIRST MARVEL COMIC WAS ALMOST CANCELED AFTER SEVEN ISSUES.

The cover to Marvel's Conan the Barbarian #21
Marvel Entertainment

Conan’s origins as a pulp magazine hero made him a natural fit for the medium’s logical evolution: the comic book. And in 1970, the character got his first high-profile comic launch when Marvel’s Conan The Barbarian hit shelves, courtesy of writer Roy Thomas and artist Barry Windsor-Smith.

Though now it’s hailed as one of the company’s highlights from the ‘70s, the book was nearly canceled after a mere seven issues. The problem is that while the debut issue sold well, each of the next six dropped in sales, leading Marvel’s then editor-in-chief, Stan Lee, to pull the book from production after the seventh issue hit stands.

Thomas pled his case, and Lee agreed to give Conan one last shot. But this time instead of the book coming out every month, it would be every two months. The plan worked, and soon sales were again on the rise and the book would stay in publication until 1993, again as a monthly. This success gave way to the Savage Sword of Conan, an oversized black-and-white spinoff magazine from Marvel that was aimed at adult audiences. It, too, was met with immense success, lasting from 1974 to 1995.

8. OLIVER STONE WROTE A FOUR-HOUR, POST-APOCALYPTIC CONAN MOVIE.

John Milius’s 1982 Conan movie is a classic of the sword and sorcery genre, but its original script from Oliver Stone didn’t resemble the final product at all. In fact, it barely resembled anything related to Conan. Stone’s Conan would have been set on a post-apocalyptic Earth, where the barbarian would do battle against a host of mutant pigs, insects, and hyenas. Not only that, but it would have also been just one part of a 12-film saga that would be modeled on the release schedule of the James Bond series.

The original producers were set to move ahead with Stone’s script with Stone co-directing alongside an up-and-coming special effects expert named Ridley Scott, but they were turned down by all of their prospects. With no co-director and a movie that would likely be too ambitious to ever actually get finished, they sold the rights to producer Dino De Laurentiis, who helped bring in Milius.

9. BARACK OBAMA IS A FAN (AND WAS TURNED INTO A BARBARIAN HIMSELF).

When President Barack Obama sent out a mass email in 2015 to the members of Organizing for Action, he was looking to get people to offer up stories about how they got involved within their community—their origin stories, if you will. In this mass email, the former Commander-in-Chief detailed his own origin, with a shout out to a certain barbarian:

“I grew up loving comic books. Back in the day, I was pretty into Conan the Barbarian and Spiderman.

Anyone who reads comics can tell you, every main character has an origin story—the fateful and usually unexpected sequence of events that made them who they are.”

This bit of trivia was first made public in 2008 in a Daily Telegraph article on 50 facts about the president. That led to Devil’s Due Publishing immortalizing the POTUS in the 2009 comic series Barack the Barbarian, which had him decked out in his signature loincloth doing battle against everyone from Sarah Palin to Dick Cheney.

10. J.R.R. TOLKIEN WAS ALSO A CONAN DEVOTEE.

The father of 20th century fantasy may always be J.R.R. Tolkien, but Howard is a close second in many fans' eyes. Though Tolkien’s work has found its way into more scholarly literary circles, Howard’s can sometimes get categorized as low-brow. Quality recognizes quality, however, and during a conversation with Tolkien, writer L. Sprague de Camp—who himself edited and touched-up numerous Conan stories—said The Lord of the Rings author admitted that he “rather liked” Howard’s Conan stories during a conversation with him. He didn’t expand upon it, nor was de Camp sure which Conan tale he actually read (though it was likely “Shadows in the Moonlight”), but the seal of approval from Tolkien himself goes a long way toward validation.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios