Su­per­heroes: mak­ers in tights

SPI­DER-MAN. IRON MAN. THE VULTURE. THE BAT­TLE OF THE IN­VEN­TORS IS ON.

Popular Mechanics (South Africa) - - Contents -

Spidey and Iron Man show off their mak­ing chops

The lat­est take on New York’s favourite web­slinger, Spi­der-man: Home­com­ing comes out this month and is said to be deeply rooted in the tech world. Lumka Nofemele takes a look at the tech that makes our he­roes tick.

SU­PER­POW­ERS ARE PRETTY USE­FUL THINGS when it comes to sav­ing the world from bad­dies, but even in the comic book world they’re in some­what short sup­ply. That’s why some of the world’s favourite ac­tion he­roes are just or­di­nary folk who rely on their own in­ven­tive­ness and, where pos­si­ble, their day job as bil­lion­aires (hello, Iron Man). But what if you could com­bine su­per­pow­ers with the maker spirit that Pop­u­lar Me­chan­ics read­ers know all too well? You get Spi­der-man+: a fearsome blend of tech and fan­tasy.

Af­ter five movies and two ac­tors play­ing the iconic role, last year in Cap­tain Amer­ica: Civil War we were in­tro­duced to a new Peter Parker and a new Spidey suit.

Played by Tom Hol­land this time around, Parker is a scrawny teen with a love of science turned into a su­per­hero by a ra­dioac­tive spi­der. In Civil War, we see Peter in a lowtech makeshift cos­tume but in Home­com­ing he has some ma­jor up­grades.

The new suit, cour­tesy of Iron Man aka Tony Stark, fea­tures web wings un­der his arms, a GPS track­ing sys­tem, an ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence as­sis­tant, and the spi­der logo in the front of the suit can de­tach to be­come a fly­ing drone.

The one feature that Stark didn’t dra­mat­i­cally change is Spi­der-man’s web-shoot­ers. The web-shoot­ers are per­haps his most dis­tin­guish­ing trait and are re­spon­si­ble for the spi­der webs he uses for nab­bing vil­lains and swing­ing

from sky­scrapers. His up­graded web-shoot­ers feature se­lectable web types depend­ing on need and a laser tar­get­ing sys­tem. A mech­a­nism within the web­shoot­ers al­lows Spi­der-man to dis­play a Spi­der-sig­nal with the mo­tif of his mask. A util­ity belt at­tached to the suit can hold at least six spare web-car­tridges used as re­fill for the shoot­ers.

An­other dis­tin­guish­ing trait of the suit are Spi­der-man’s eye lenses, which ap­pear to be mod­elled af­ter (and make the same sound as) cam­era shut­ters. This gives him a kind of squinty look when they close in and pro­vide a greater depth of field. This mech­a­nism also helps Parker fil­ter out ex­tra stim­uli.

Stark also pro­vided Peter with the nec­es­sary tech to seam­lessly go from sav­ing the city to man­ag­ing his home­work sched­ule. By press­ing the em­blem on the suit’s chest, Peter can have the suit ex­pand and be­come sev­eral sizes larger, al­low­ing him to slip it off. It ap­pears that he can still wear his reg­u­lar clothes such as boxer shorts un­der the suit thanks to the same process, com­press­ing the suit, mak­ing it ap­pear as though he’s not wear­ing any­thing un­der­neath (as seen in the movie’s trailer).

In ad­di­tion to al­ter­ing the suit’s size, the spi­der em­blem on his chest de­taches from its socket, de­ploy­ing minia­ture ro­tat­ing blades from its tail sec­tion that al­low it to fly through the air, seem­ingly in­de­pen­dent of Spi­der-man’s con­trol. The em­blem also has a drone mode: it can fly on to a tar­get and act as a track­ing de­vice.

In Home­com­ing, Spidey will be fo­cused on track­ing Adrian Toomes, bet­ter known as The Vulture. Ac­cord­ing to the film’s di­rec­tor, Jon Watts, the movie is tak­ing a very “tech-based ap­proach” to The Vulture’s har­ness – his mode of flight. “It’s not just cool de­sign; it’s a big part of the story,” he says. “From the very be­gin­ning, we wanted to keep it tech-based, so that it’s dif­fer­ent from what we had seen be­fore.”

Ac­cord­ing to the comic books, The Vulture was once an elec­tron­ics en­gi­neer, led to a life of crime due to mis­for­tune in busi­ness. The Vulture is bril­liant in the fields of elec­tron­ics and me­chan­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing, with a great tal­ent for in­ven­tion. So, build­ing his sig­na­ture har­ness was an ef­fort­less task.

He cre­ated his har­ness orig­i­nally as only a fly­ing de­vice, but later came to find that it granted him su­per­hu­man strength. The har­ness also in­creases his re­sis­tance to in­jury, to the point that he can sur­vive blows from Spi­der-man’s en­hanced strength.

Cap­tain Amer­ica: Civil War showed us that Peter Parker has a knack for graft­ing to­gether ad­vanced pieces of tech­nol­ogy from scraps he finds in the garbage. We have no doubt that he will be us­ing more brain than brawn to take down this par­tic­u­lar vil­lain.

The em­pha­sis on tech­nol­ogy in Home­com­ing makes sense when we con­sider the ma­jor cameo that will take place in the movie: when Peter Parker finds him­self fac­ing off against a man in a weaponised fly­ing suit. Be­cause of that, it is only fit­ting that his men­tor – and one of Mar­vel’s great­est minds - Tony Stark comes to his aid.

Stark aka Iron Man is a wealthy busi­ness mag­nate, en­gi­neer, su­per­hero and most likely an avid Pop­u­lar Me­chan­ics reader. Stark is an in­ven­tive ge­nius whose ex­per­tise in the fields of math­e­mat­ics, physics, chem­istry and com­puter science ri­vals that of his fel­low he­roes Reed Richards (Mr Fan­tas­tic), Hank Pym (the cre­ator of the Ant-man suit) and Bruce Ban­ner (the In­cred­i­ble Hulk).

As you might have heard, the Iron Man story starts with Tony Stark suf­fer­ing a se­vere chest in­jury dur­ing a kid­nap­ping in which his cap­tors at­tempt to force him to build a weapon of mass de­struc­tion. He in­stead cre­ates a pow­ered suit of amour to save his life and es­cape cap­tiv­ity. Later, Stark aug­ments his suit with weapons and other tech­no­log­i­cal de­vices he de­signed through his com­pany, Stark In­dus­tries. He uses the suit and suc­ces­sive ver­sions to pro­tect the world as Iron Man.

The weapons sys­tems of the suit have changed over the years, but Iron Man’s stan­dard of­fen­sive weapons have al­ways been the re­pul­sor rays that are fired from the palms of his gauntlets. Other weapons built into var­i­ous in­car­na­tions of the ar­mour in­clude:  The uni-beam pro­jec­tor in its chest  Pulse bolts (that pick up ki­netic energy along the way; so the fur­ther they travel, the harder they hit)  A de­fen­sive energy shield that can ex­tend up to 360 de­grees.

Stark has mod­i­fied suits, like the Hulk­buster heavy ar­mour used if he ever needs to come to blows with The Hulk. He also cre­ated The War Ma­chine, worn by his best friend and side­kick Jim “Rhodey” Rhodes.

In the comics, Spi­der-man al­most al­ways turns to tech­nol­ogy to de­feat the Vulture so there is no doubt that he will be do­ing ex­actly that in the movie. We will all find out ex­actly how the showdown goes down when Spi­der-man: Home­com­ing hits cine­mas on 7 July. PM

Left: Spi­der-man takes on the Vulture in the new Spi­der­man: Home­com­ing movie out July 7. Right: Peter Parker is a hero on a bud­get. He may have a high-tech suit but his cracked phone screen re­minds us that he’s just a teen try­ing to fin­ish high school af­ter all.

Top: Af­ter the Vulture at­tacks a ship full of peo­ple, Spi­der-man tries to use his en­hanced strength and web­slingers to save them. This scene is also an ode to the orig­i­nal Spi­der-man tril­ogy in which Spidey, then played by Tobey Maguire, tries to stop a train from crash­ing in a sim­i­lar way. Above left: Michael Keaton brings high-fly­ing vil­lian The Vulture to life. Above right: Peter’s se­cret is safe with his best friend and fel­low science geek Ned Leeds.

Spi­der-man has al­ways wanted to be like Iron­man now he gets to fight crime in New York City along­side him.

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