Superheroes: makers in tights
SPIDER-MAN. IRON MAN. THE VULTURE. THE BATTLE OF THE INVENTORS IS ON.
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.