Costumes are an incredibly important part of superhero movies. Unlike other films, superhero movies need their costumes to be stylish, memorable, and functional all at the same time since superhero suits often augment and inform the abilities of the heroes themselves. When fans saw Spider-Man’s new suit in the trailers for Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War, they flipped out because it could only be one thing: The Iron Spider.
The Iron Spider is a special suit made for Spider-Man by Tony Stark to increase his combat capabilities during the Civil War event in the comics. In the MCU, Tony offered the suit to Peter Parker at the end of Spider-Man: Homecoming, to welcome him to the Avengers. Peter refused, of course, and so Tony has had to hold onto it ever since. Spider-Man took the suit to join the fight against Thanos’ forces, and so now curious minds need to know: just what is the Iron Spider, what’s its history, and what can it do?
Updated December 8th, 2021 by George Chrysostomou: The Iron Spider suit has continued to be a major part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Spider-Man chooses to suit up in the armor once again in No Way Home. The comics have continued to reveal further details about this incredible piece of technology though and some of these narrative points and costume features could come into play on screen in the future.
It Was The Uniform Of The Scarlet Spiders
Although other heroes and villains would suit up in the Iron Spider uniform, a group of clones adopted the costume to create a superhero squad. Dubbed Red Team, they were also referred to as Scarlet Spiders, which of course references Ben Reilly, another clone in his own right.
The recreations of the hero known as MVP were brothers and were in sync throughout all of their movements. Red Team was a squad designed to carry out stealth missions, which the Iron Spider uniform was perfect for. The arrival of MVP into the MCU is unlikely but a Red Team isn’t out of the question.
Peter Recreated The Suit
Spider-Man’s villains are incredibly intelligent, which means that Peter Parker himself has to work smarter. After the destruction of the Iron Spider suit, Parker realized he would eventually need it once more. He, therefore, recreated it from scratch using his own resources.
This is incredibly impressive considering the difference in technology available to Peter in comparison to that of Tony Stark. It’s something that the MCU’s version of Spider-Man might be able to achieve, considering he designed his wingsuit himself.
There Are Many Across The Multiverse
Earth-616 has seen plenty of characters don the armor and the MCU version of the Iron Spider uniform has only been worn by Peter. In comparison, across the Multiverse, there have been countless other iterations of this iconic costume, utilized in battle.
Earth-12041 is the designation used for the animated Marvel universe, where Peter alongside the likes of Amadeus Cho wore the costume. The Ultimate universe saw Iron Spider lead the Ultimates team, with Peter once again under the armor, while the video game world of Earth-TRN562 had Mary Jane in the suit.
It’s Been A Police Uniform
In regards to the Multiverse, there is one reality where the Iron Spider uniform is used as if it is a completely separate hero from Spider-Man. On Earth-TRN562, the web-slinger sets up a brand new police force, featuring a full range of vigilantes.
Amongst them is an officer who is referred to as Iron Spider. Although their true identity is unknown, the character fought for justice and peace, demonstrating a wide range of abilities thanks to the technology at his fingertips. Perhaps the MCU might see something similar occur to protect New York.
It’s Ready For Space Travel
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has demonstrated that Tony Stark really thought of everything when it comes to the costume he entrusted Peter with. Amongst its many features is the ability to wear the uniform out in space, as Peter has done on a few occasions.
In fact, the suit saved him from near death as he was thrown into the cosmos. The armor protects Spidey from the pressures of travel and creates an airlock that continues to provide breathable air. It’s not perfect and can’t be sustained for long but does feature some of Stark’s best tech.
Bleeding Edge technology
As seen in Avengers: Infinity War, Iron Man’s new suit uses technology from the comics: Bleeding Edge. An extremely advanced technology, Bleeding Edge means his suit is essentially composed of nanotechnology; tiny particles able to move and change at will.
The Iron Spider appears to be made of the same material in the MCU, and this isn’t really a surprise, given the suit’s history. The Iron Spider was always reliant on nanotechnology for several of its most famous abilities, and tying it to Iron Man’s most advanced suit tech makes a lot of sense.
It has a different color scheme in the comics
The Iron Spider suit has a darker red and blue color scheme, with gold highlights in comparison to the comics. On the whole, it mostly just seems like a glossier, darker take on Spider-Man’s classic look and takes a huge departure from the source material.
It’s really not what the Iron Spider looked like in the comics. The original Iron Spider had a much brighter, redder color scheme. Designed to emulate the hot rod red and gold colors of Iron Man’s classic armor, the Iron Spider was clearly meant to demonstrate Spider-Man’s loyalty to Tony Stark. Since this isn’t such a point of contention in the MCU, it makes sense to steer away from that obvious parallel.
It can do everything Spider-Man’s first suit could do
One of the main subplots of Spider-Man: Homecoming involved Peter Parker figuring out everything his new, Stark-designed suit could do. Initially, Peter was limited to using the suit’s basic functionality, but as the film went on he hacked into its full capabilities, and then Tony took it away from him.
These capabilities included an array of webbing types, a reconnaissance drone, an onboard computer named Karen, and enhanced optical lenses, among others. In Homecoming, Spider-Man discovered that the new suit (first given to him by Tony in Captain America: Civil War) greatly enhanced his combat abilities. It stands to reason that the Iron Spider would keep all those assets, on top of all the things it adds.
One of the benefits of Bleeding Edge’s nanotechnology is this upgrade to Spider-Man’s classic ammunition. Nanotechnology is largely used in sci-fi and other kinds of narratives relying on fanciful tech, as a tool to explain why characters and machines can do things that should be physically impossible. The Bleeding Edge armor certainly falls into that category, as Iron Man’s armor and the Iron Spider suit can do several things that simply aren’t possible.
The Iron Spider can manufacture Spider-Man’s proprietary webbing on the fly, essentially making it so that he can never run out of it. Depleted webbing would make it very difficult for Spider-Man to get around, and the Iron Spider simply erases this problem, allowing him to fight on without worrying.
As anybody who has watched his movies knows, Spider-Man can take a punch. The Iron Spider armor takes that to the next level, as it utilizes Stark technology to make the suit both flexible and durable. In the comics, the Iron Spider suit was designed specifically for combat against powerful heroes and villains, not to mention the fact that it was bulletproof.
The Iron Spider suit appears to use the same tech as Iron Man’s armor, and fans will remember in Infinity War Iron Man gets punched by Thanos. Iron Man certainly doesn’t seem to take that punch well, but his armor holds up with almost no visible breakage. If the Iron Spider can expect a similar level of defense, Spider-Man will be able to take some serious punches— perhaps even by the likes of Thanos himself in practice.
Another benefit of Bleeding Edge technology is its optical technology. Since the Iron Spider suit is made of nanotechnology, the particles can rearrange themselves to look how Spider-Man wishes them to.
In the comics, the Iron Spider allowed Spider-Man to appear however he wanted. If he wanted to look like the classic Spider-Man (and not the souped-up Iron Spider), he could. If he wanted to look like he did with the alien symbiote Venom as his suit, he could. The Iron Spider was meant to push Spider-Man to the limits of his powers, and adding to his camouflage and stealth capabilities was a big part of that.
A lot of people in the comics have worn it
The Iron Spider suit may be relatively new to the MCU and made just for Peter Parker, but it’s a bit of a different story in the comics. Since the suit made its debut in the lead-up to the Civil War comic event, Peter’s usage of it was somewhat contingent on him continuing to be on Iron Man’s side. Thus, when Spider-Man switched sides during the Civil War event, the door was opened for other people to try on the Iron Spider.
Aside from the Scarlet Spiders – three heroes employed by Stark to fight in the armor – there have been several other characters to take it for a spin. Miles Morales’ uncle Aaron Davis, other criminals, and even Mary Jane Watson have all worn it in the comics—and that’s not even counting characters in alternate realities!
It’s (literally) impossibly skintight
Marvel superhero movies have always been a mix of CGI and practical effects, and that interplay extends to the costumes. Most Marvel superheroes on the set of Infinity War had at least some practical element to the costumes, as the costume department tries to make them look as real as possible.
However, that just wasn’t possible for Spider-Man on the set of Infinity War, as the Iron Spider suit was so skintight and physics-defying that they had to create the costume entirely out of CGI. While everyone else on set was wearing costumes that cost thousands of dollars, Tom Holland was wearing a motion capture suit, which he says is most similar to wearing a pair of “pajamas.” The sneak peek into the secrets of the Marvel movie magic shows it isn’t as glamorous as it would seem.
It can fly
Web-slinging is one of the most recognizable and fun parts of Spider-Man’s powers, as he gets around by using his webs like Tarzan uses vines to soar through New York City. In the comics, the Iron Spider essentially makes that mode of transportation obsolete, as it allows Spider-Man to fly.
Just like the tweaked color scheme, this demonstrates that the MCU’s Iron Spider isn’t meant to imply that Spider-Man is under the thumb of Iron Man. Giving Spider-Man the ability to fly would rob him of his unique way of getting around, but there’s always a chance that Spider-Man will get in a tight spot and surprise everyone by flying away.
It manages body heat
At first, this may sound like a cute gimmick, as the Iron Spider suit can cool down Spider-Man’s body temperature so he doesn’t overheat amidst the exertion of battle. While this would be nothing to sneer at (given how Marvel superheroes’ costumes tend to be very hot), it actually fulfills a more important purpose.
The Iron Spider not only cools off the wearer but can cloak the body temperature so much that it won’t be as visible on infrared cameras. This contributes quite a bit to Spider-Man’s stealth activities, as combined with the camouflage, it makes it very difficult for enemies to detect him through the naked eye or through technology.
It administers first aid
The Iron Spider suit being made of nanotechnology opens a lot of doors in terms of the suit’s capabilities. The Iron Spider doesn’t just protect Iron-Spider from harm with its enhanced armor and offensive weapons; it can also heal him if he does get damaged. While not capable of anything terribly complicated, the suit’s nanotech can maneuver itself in ways to protect its wearer from, say, losing too much blood.
If the suit’s technology is smart enough to move around on its own and repair itself (and it is), it shouldn’t be a surprise that it can also repair its wearer. The first aid the suit can deliver is limited, but Spider-Man will take whatever advantage he can get when he’s fighting opponents as powerful as the Mad Titan.
Perhaps the most striking design element of the Iron Spider suit in the comics was its three mechanical arms, sometimes known as “waldoes.” The arms have a multitude of uses for Spider-Man in the comics, from combat to climbing to cameras stored in the tips to see around corners. They’re light, flexible, and durable, and Spider-Man can stow them in a kind of high-tech backpack on his back.
The MCU has taken advantage of the design, showcasing the metallic arms in a number of dangerous situations. They’ve gotten Spidey out of quite a few scrapes and are part of the reason he continues to utilize this suit more so than others.
It can listen in on police conversations
It should come as no surprise that a high-tech suit designed by Tony Stark has the ability to tap into emergency broadcasts and even double as a police scanner. Tony is known for his propensity for surveillance, as demonstrated both in the comics and in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Spider-Man suit that Tony gives Peter even has tracking and recording functions to monitor Spider-Man’s movements, called «The Baby Monitor Protocol» – more on that later.
Tony basically wants access to as much information as possible, and if he has to hack into police communications, that’s fine by him. Naturally, the Iron Spider needed this same kind of capability, as its onboard computer is capable of relaying these important broadcasts to Spider-Man.
Parts of it can detach
It’s not just the mechanical arms that give the Iron Spider its ability to help Spider-Man handle dangerous objects. While the waldoes are certainly helpful for picking potentially harmful things up, the Iron Spider’s nanotechnology allows it to also detach pieces of itself to cover such objects.
The Constituent Costume Containment could potentially even make radioactive asteroids safe to be around. The idea is that since the comic accurate suit is made of nanotechnology, it can essentially move around on Spider-Man’s skin. If it can do that, it can move itself off of Spider-Man’s skin. This is an ability that would only be useful in extremely specific situations though.
It records everything
In the MCU, the Iron Spider is the second suit Tony Stark made for Spider-Man. Both of them include cameras and an onboard computer, so it seems natural that the cameras record everything and send it to Tony. In the MCU, Tony is more of a mentor figure to Spider-Man, so this facet of the suit isn’t worrying, as it seems clear that Tony is just looking out for Peter in a pseudo-parental fashion.
In the original comics, the Iron Spider’s recordings had a more sinister purpose. In the comics, the Iron Spider was created for Civil War, in which Tony Stark’s paranoia and authoritarianism reached their peak. He was wary of anyone betraying him, and so the Iron Spider watching Spider-Man’s every move became a symbol of a totalitarian surveillance state, and Tony’s mistrust of his allies.
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