Brooker, W., 2002. Using the Force: Creativity, community and star wars fans. New York, London: Continuum International publishing group

Gray, J., 2010. Show sold seperately: promos, spoilers and other media paratexts. New York, London: New York University Press

Hall, S., 1997. Representation: cultural representations and signifying practices. London, California, New Delhi: The Open University Press.

Hughes, D., 2003. Comic Book Movies. Great Britain: Virgin books Ltd.




Overall, I think that ‘Spiderman’ (Raimi, 2002) and ‘The Amazing Spiderman’ (Webb, 2012) are useful examples for showing media in transition within the Spiderman franchise through the way that they deal with adapting original plot points for the different origin stories of Spiderman. The change in representation across the two films also shows how the media have transitioned over time with the way that they deal with the presentation of women, violence and heroism.

My engagement with Spiderman

The first time I interacted with Spiderman was the release of ‘Spiderman’ (Raimi) in 2002, as a child I became fascinated with the way that he was able to swing between and climb up buildings. My engagement with this original text then led me to branch out and access the text on different platforms including the comic books and PlayStation games that were released. However, the more films of Raimi’s films I went to watch, the less enthusiastic about them I became, despite this when ‘The Amazing Spiderman’ (Webb,2012) was released I refused to watch it. This was because I believed that the original ‘Spiderman’ (Raimi, 2002) was, for me, the canon version and that any other version was unnecessary. After watching ‘The Amazing Spiderman’ (Webb, 2012), however, I have decided that I was wrong and that Webb’s remake adds a well needed modification of representation to the franchise in the way it deals with females and that one of the arguments in Brooker’s book is right; the only meaningful canon is one we make for ourselves.

Representation in Spiderman

“Representation is the production of meaning through language” (Hall, 1997, pg16), though this does not necessarily have to be a spoken language. It communicates to us through the way something looks, acts, says; but also through the ideas and metaphors we understand from what we see and hear. Hall suggested that there are two systems of representation, the first system of representation is where we assign a mental representation to something, for example we consider red to be romantic or a skull and crossbones symbol to be harmful. The second system of representation is a little more complex; this is where we use these mental representations to understand meaning from visual metaphors and create more complex ideas, for example a skull and crossbones symbol on a bottle suggests that the substance inside is harmful to us or the way we colour pictures of hearts red because we see it as something that is associated with romance.

The representation in both ‘Spiderman’ (Raimi, 2002) and ‘The Amazing Spiderman’ (Webb, 2012) is very interesting to observe as Peter Parker was designed to be an outcast, an unconventional hero that we wouldn’t imagine to have superpowers. The difference in representation helps us to understand how the characteristics of an outcast have changed between the different contexts.

 tobey maguire Andrew Garfield

Above are two images of Peter Parker; on the left is Tobey Maguire’s portrayal of Peter Parker from ‘Spiderman’ (Raimi, 2002), while on the right is Andrew Garfield’s portrayal of Peter Parker in ‘The Amazing Spiderman’ (Webb, 2012). Maguire’s Peter Parker is wearing all blue clothing, which suggests to us that he’s not very fashionable; blue is also a ‘cool’ colour, which can make the audience feel as if he is distanced from them and not very socially capable. His hands are in the pockets of his coat, which also contributes to the feeling that he is closed off from the audience; however, Garfield’s body language is more open with his hands down by his sides.

Questions of canon

The Oxford Dictionary has three main definitions of canon along with subcategories of these; they are a broad rule or principle on which to judge something, creations proven to be an official work by a certain author or artist and a section of Catholic Mass, which holds words of consecration (Oxford Dictionaries, Date unspecified). In terms of analysing a media text the third definition is not relevant, but the first two definitions provide an interesting starting point for dealing with discussions of which texts are officially part of that franchise.


When we start to apply the first definition of canon to a text it begins to raise a problem. Basing an argument on whether a text is canon on a broad rule or principle is incredibly vague, for example if we establish the rule to be ‘does it tell a story about a particular character’ any text focusing on that character would therefore become canon. If the criteria were narrowed down to also include the second definition of canon, however, the analysis would become highly constrictive and canonical texts would be a rare pedigree, as only those made by one specific author would be considered official canon within the franchise. When these rules of canon are applied to Spiderman we face similar problems. Under the first definition of canon any text that tells a story about the character would be considered part of the canon or if we applied a different rule, for example ‘any character wearing the Spiderman outfit becomes part of canon’. It could be argued then that any parody of Spiderman or the behaviour of those in real life who are wearing the suit also becomes part of the franchise’s mythos along with both ‘Spiderman’ (Raimi, 2002) and ‘The Amazing Spiderman’ (Webb, 2012), despite their conflicting plots. Difficulties arise again under the second definition of canon, if a text can only be considered canon when created by a specific author it would mean that the only true canon of Spiderman is that created by the designers of Spiderman, credited to Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. If this is indeed the only accepted canon within Spiderman, would it not be the case that any aspect of Spiderman that was not created by Lee and Ditko, nor drawn by the original team of artists for the comic book, would not be considered part of the comic. The screenplays for both ‘Spiderman’ (Raimi, 2002) and ‘The Amazing Spiderman’ (Webb, 2012) were not written by the original writers for the comic, nor are both films by the same writer or director, would this not mean that neither of them are not part of the official Spiderman canon


In his book ‘Using the Force’ Brooker also tries to tackle this issue surrounding what texts can be considered canon using the case study of Star Wars (Lucas, 1977- ) and its fans to question what can and can’t be considered canon (2002). He begins this investigation by quoting Sansweet’s introduction to the ‘Star Was Encyclopaedia’, where he attempts to answer what exactly can be referred to as Star Wars canon. Sansweet’s argument declares that only the three movies that were written, directed and executively produced by George Lucas are the absolute canon within the franchise; also canon but not as high on the canonical hierarchy are approved adaptations of the text, while everything else is regarded as a quasi-canon (1998). Brooker then starts his own investigation into canon by looking at the opinions of Star Wars fans commenting on a forum called (Anonymous, 1996- ). The final arguments that these fans put forward about what is considered canon can be simplified into three different types; if the original author created the text, if those aspects of the expanded universe are later proved to be true in the original text and a third argument stating that a singular canon is an illusion and the only meaningful canon is a personal one mediated by the consumer. Although the first argument is similar to the second definition of canon earlier, the second and third arguments offer us new ways of exploring the canon of Spiderman. Despite the third argument’s claim that there is no singular canon, Marvel’s website does contain a chronological summary of the Spiderman story (Marvel, Date unspecified) meaning that there is an official canon for Spiderman. Both of the films ‘Spiderman’ (Raimi, 2002) and ‘The Amazing Spiderman’ (Webb, 2012) are based on the events of Spiderman’s official canon, suggesting that they may in fact be considered canon, the events that make up the films are not in the chronological order suggested by Marvel’s summary. This raises the question of whether the chronology of a story affects it’s status as a piece of official canon, something not specified in either the original definitions of canon nor Brooker’s evaluation of fan opinions and may be something for debate as media continues to transition in the future. Ultimately, Brooker’s evaluation does offer perhaps the most useful opinion on the subject so for: “canon is a slippery thing” (Brooker, 2002, pg 106).


The Context of Spider-man


<–Cover of Amazing Fantasy #15 (Aug.1962)

Spiderman first appeared in the comic book Amazing Fantasy #15 (Aug. 1962) and was designed by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, Spider-man’s own comic ‘The Amazing Spiderman’ was released a year later in 1963. It told the story of a young gifted scientist, Peter Parker, who was bitten by a genetically altered spider and gained multiple superpowers; including the ability to cling to surfaces, enhanced strength and reflexes as well as the ability to sense danger (Marvel, Date unspecified). The character of Spiderman was one of the first high school age comic book heroes and was intended to feature themes of rejection, inadequacy, and loneliness(Wright, 2001) to which younger teenage audiences could relate to.

A film trilogy of Spider-man was made featuring the films ‘Spiderman’ (Raimi, 2002), ‘Spiderman 2’ (Raimi, 2004) and ‘Spiderman 3” (Raimi, 2007) and a reboot of the Spiderman films made of ‘The Amazing Spiderman’ (Webb, 2012) and ‘The Amazing Spiderman 2’ (Webb, 2014). While both film series tell the story of Spiderman, they do so in slightly different ways with Webb’s films focusing more on the science behind the genetic manipulation of the spider, Spiderman and his enemies; while Raimi’s films focused more on the difficulty of marinating Spiderman’s real identity as a secret. The comic book has also been adapted into other platforms spanning animated TV shows, toys, games and other memorabilia. A Broadway musical called Spider-man: Into the Dark premiered into 2011 with Bono and The Edge from U2 writing the music and lyrics (The Week, 2011)


The media exists in an almost constant state of transition as it adjusts to the new technologies available to create distribute media texts. Along with these rapid changes in technology, audiences are now more active than ever and are continually having an effect on the way texts are produced, consumed and producing texts of their own.


Spiderman’ (1962- ) is an interesting media phenomenon to observe in this transitioning context because of the large number of texts that contribute to the overall story. However, many of these texts present the story of Spiderman in a variety of ways creating debates over what in the expanded universe can be considered ‘canon’, part of the official story, and what is not. The creation and distribution of these texts over time also help to reveal a change in the representation, ideological meaning conveyed through images and sounds, of the story and characters between these texts and how certain aspects have changed in the time of their production.


The Amazing Spiderman Logo

Over the course of these blog entries I intend to further analyse Spiderman using the two origin films ‘Spiderman’ (Raimi, 2002) and ‘The Amazing Spiderman’ (Webb, 2012) to explore questions about what texts can be considered canon and which may not be officially recognised though Brooker’s evaluation (2002). I will also be looking into how representation has changed between the two texts and what effect that has on the origin story of Spiderman. But ultimately, I intend to look at how this media phenomenon is an example of media in transition and how this may influence media practice as this age of transition continues.