SCI-FI GEEK: Spider-Man’s Tangled Web

Spider-Man’s secret identity has been revealed. Now, the question remains: Is he a nerdy geek or a mutated freak?

Long-standing rumors were confirmed today, as the movie trade newspapers reported that Tobey Maguire has been chosen over numerous notable young actors and is in final negotiations to play Peter Parker, the high school bookworm who becomes the wall-crawling hero from the Marvel comic book.

But, even before movie fandom can weigh in on the pros and cons of “The Cider House Rules” guy playing Spidey, director Sam Raimi and Columbia Pictures are already embroiled in a little controversy that, who knows, could maybe mushroom into a serious PR concern for makers of the Next Big Superhero Movie.

Here’s the issue: Mechanical web shooters or organic web shooters?

By now, you’re probably asking: “Say what?”

You see, Raimi wants to make what might at first seem to be a minor change in Spider-Man’s physical makeup but one that’s sure to polarize large numbers of opinionated, old school comic book fans.

In the comic, whiz kid Parker invented a wrist-mounted, mechanical device enabling him to spin a web (actually, a synthetic, superstrong compound) by which he could swing through the steel canyons.

But in the script (written by David Koepp of “The Lost World” fame), Raimi wants his Spider-Man to have web-spinning glands on the inside of his wrists.

Spider-fans are already twitching their feelers.

“Many people will find the idea of having organic web shooters positively repulsive in its own right,” Mark Cribb, webmaster of no-organic-webshooters.com, tells us. “Spider-Man’s fans have always identified with him and vicariously lived his adventures; a young man who develops bodily orifices in his wrists that project sticky goo will strike many people, including many mainstream moviegoers, as distasteful and gross.”

Yes, you read that right. There’s really a Web site called no-organic-webshooters.com, and they’ve organized a petition drive to get Spider-Man (the movie version) back to his mechanical-web-shooting roots (the comic version).

To be fair, the web gland thing isn’t Raimi’s idea. It was invented by an even bigger Hollywood director: James Cameron, who was the first A list filmmaker to take a stab at the job (he wrote a “Spider-Man” treatment a few years back). Raimi likes the idea so much, he decided to keep it.

… or Mechanical?

“I think it’s more interesting because it is one more thing he’s got to be embarrassed of,” Raimi says in a “Spider-Man” promo video, shown last week at Comic-Con in San Diego, Calif.

But the anti-organic contingent says the web shooters and the webbing fluid are essential elements of the Spider-Man mythos.

“By departing from the techno web shooters, the story misses an important opportunity to depict and develop a crucial aspect of Peter’s personality, namely, his brain power and scientific prowess,” Cribb says.

“The techno web shooters also represent an important active contribution on Peter’s part to his superhero identity. [They] show that he becomes Spider-Man by choice, not because he suddenly becomes a freak.”

Cribb says 1,050 people have signed his petition so far. And there’s another poll going on at Spidermanhype.com, wherein 17 percent of the respondents say that they won’t go see “Spider-Man” if the hero has web glands instead of shooters.

Says Cribb: “If that 17 percent actually carries through and is multiplied by the millions of potential moviegoers, that equals a lot of lost money … over something that doesn’t even have to be an issue. All it would take is to bring the Spider-Man that we all know and love to the screen. An embarrassed emotional wreck is not the Spider-Man we know.”

As this battle rages on, here comes yet another “Spider-Man” rumor to digest: Nicolas Cage as the Green Goblin?

SCI-FI GEEK is Hollywood.com’s weekly overview of interesting genre movie news.

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