Why Spider-Man looks so weird in Captain America: Civil War

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We’ve finally got a look at the newest iteration of Spider-Man, the one who will connect to a solo Spider-Man film co-produced by Sony’s Amy Pascal and Marvel Studio head Kevin Feige. As expected with all things superhero, reactions to the first look at the new costume for the familiar character were mixed. To some, the suit looked like a smooth, candy-coated CG mess, while others immediately recognized and appreciated the Silver Age-inspired design.

If you think Spider-Man looks a little weird this time around, that might be because most of the Spider-Man suits designed for the screen accentuate texture on the costume, and with how quickly this passed through whatever in-browser player in which it was viewed, the texture on the current suit looked more like a fake, computer-generated sparkle.

The first major on-screen costume from Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man movie in 2002 accentuated the webbing pattern and the logo on the front by raising them up from the fabric and making them reflective. The red-and-blue fabric itself was printed with a faint hexagonal pattern and detailed to define the muscle suit below it.


Tobey Maguire as the 2002 Spider-Man.

The blue and red of the suit were traditionally patterned with a straight line across the back and a red belt wrapping around the waist of the bodysuit. The red spider logo on the back of the suit, like the one on the front, was large and had details like joints and mandibles.


By the time Spider-Man was rebooted for Marc Webb’s Amazing Spider Man in 2012, the webbing on the suit reverted to black, but sunk below the surface of the red parts in an inverse of the accentuation on Raimi’s design. For this second movie suit, the texture was added in the extreme to the red and blue fabrics. The red was patterned with ovular divots, and the blue was covered with a black, raised hexagonal pattern. The logo on the chest extended the bottom legs of the spider to make the webbing pattern below.

Andrew Garfield as 2012's Amazing Spider-Man

Andrew Garfield as 2012’s Amazing Spider-Man.

The back of the suit drew out the lower legs of the red spider logo and broke up the straight line across the back of the shoulders. Instead of the red belt going all the way around the waist, it goes across the small of the back, then curves down the legs of the suit into the boots.


For Amazing Spider-Man 2, they pulled back on the extreme choices of the ASMre-design and made much to-do about the character’s new look. The secondAmazing suit looked like it was influenced by the way the character looked in the Ultimate Spider-Man comic book line from the 2000s. The webbing got raised over textured fabric like in the Sam Raimi version of the suit, the eye lenses got enlarged to their on-screen maximum, and the patterns on the fabric got less bombastic.

Andrew Garfield for Amazing Spider-Man 2 in 2014

Andrew Garfield for Amazing Spider-Man 2 in 2014.

The back of the suit kept the extended spider legs on the red logo, but made the line across the back of the shoulders straighter, and restored the red belt swath that went around the waist.


All these suits have been designed based on bringing Spider-Man to the screen in a unique but recognizable way in the modern age of filmmaking. This meant playing off designs of the character rooted in the late 1980s and early 1990s combined with the film industry’s expectation of what making a superhero costume entails.

There are many good design reasons to add texture to superhero costumes, and a certain degree is a necessity to establish any kind of realism. What makes the new Marvel/Sony Spider-Man design so surprising compared to the other Spider-Man costumes is that it isn’t based on any recent design of the character from the comics and it exists in Stark contrast (rimshot!) to the gritty designs of Warner Bros. or Fox’s superhero universes.

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Captain America: Civil War’s Spider-Man costume isn’t going to raise or sink the black webbing lines that make the pattern on the red fabric. In fact, if the webbing pattern is running vertically, they’re two small black lines suggesting a negative space line.

Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 1.55.40 PM

The texture on the red fabric is even less apparent than it was on the toned-down Amazing Spider-Man 2 suit, so much so that the compression in the YouTube trailer masked it entirely. Both the blue and the red fabrics have very slight textures to them, which is going to aid in how real it looks in the theater. But they’re subtle enough to make something like the Amazing Spider-Man 2suit look like it was sewn together from old basketballs by comparison.

Click to expand to full resolution.

Click to expand to full resolution.

The spider logo on the front is the smallest it has ever been, and if you freeze the trailer at the correct time, you can see that the red spider on the back is a completely different design than the previous movie iterations — one that recalls the Silver Age costume of the character.

cw back

Steve Ditko was the first artist to draw Spider-Man, and he’s the one who defined the eye lenses, the ovular-shaped back spider logo, and the red belt.

Spider-Man, as drawn by Steve Ditko.

Spider-Man, as drawn by Steve Ditko.

John Romita picked up the character, and the new Civil War suit has a similar chest logo to the one Romita drew.


Spider-Man, as drawn by John Romita.

The cool thing about the Civil War Spider-Man suit (besides the extra cartridges for his web-shooters) are the mechanical eyes. You can hear them whir as the black borders on the lenses contract, amazingly, from a John Romita-sized eye to a Steve Ditko-sized eye.


When it was announced that Sony and Marvel were going to team up for this new version of Spider-Man, Marvel Studios seemed excited to be able to portray their character in the way they felt best for the first time since Stan Lee sold the rights to make Amazing Spider-Man movies in the 1970s. What the final Spider-Man design ended up being was a barely modernized version of a classic design, the next logical step for a company that introduced purple-skinned Paul Bettany with a yellow MacGuffin jewel embedded in his head.

Marvel’s message seems to be speaking clearly through its design: this is a character you recognize in a way you’ve never seen him before. This time, though, the solution was to go subtle and to recall the comic book roots of the character.

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Why Spider-Man looks so weird in Captain America: Civil War

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