As tentpole movies increasingly become vehicles to move items off store shelves, one "product" that has excelled at leveraging onscreen placements is "geography." And when it comes to comic book titles and their real life cities, probably no hero is better at local marketing than Spider-Man.
No surprise then that, with a brandtastic new Spider-Man reboot hitting cinemas today, Sony and Marvel marketers leveraged Peter "Spider-Man" Parker's real life New York City home as part of its amazing marketing campaign, with one mild-mannered exception.
The Staten Island Children’s Museum hosted "Tarantulas and Treats." Legendary fanboy hangout Forbidden Planet Comics hosted "Meet the Lizard" Rhys Ifans, the actor who plays villain The Lizard. The Empire State Building lit up red and blue. The American Museum of Natural History — which knows a thing or two about how to leverage Hollywood's marketing machine — played host to an event where "Spider-Man himself delivers the first spider to the museum’s 'Spiders Alive!' exhibit." And after a bumpy preview, Spider-Man is still a hit on Broadway.
Manhattan has figured into many a superhero storyline. Marvel's Fantastic Four and The Avengers called the city home. Gritty neighborhood Hell's Kitchen was the stomping ground of blind hero Daredevil. Grim vigilante The Punisher came to be after his family was executed by the mob in Central Park. Captain America, Steve Rogers, was born on Manhattan's once-sketchy, now-chic Lower East Side. Upcoming Batman reboot The Dark Knight Rises also makes a dystopian nod to the Big Apple with its Gotham City setting.
And recent Hollywood adaptations of Marvel heroes have also made sure to use New York as a backdrop and character. Fantastic Four and Daredevil and, more recently, Captain America and The Avengers all set large portions of their action in The Big Apple. Yet, no title meshes with New York like Spider-Man.
Spider-Man was born in New York and throughout his story, from page to screen, the city has been a lead character. Parker's employer, The Daily Bugle newspaper, is located in the iconic Flatiron building. Spider-Man even has his own special movie tour of New York ("If you love Spider-Man, you can’t miss checking out the historic NYC landmarks and monuments featured throughout the trilogy!")
The 2002 original movie, memorably, features an epic battle on the city's Queensboro bridge over the East River:
A decade later, the 2012 reboot features an epic battle with a dramatic bridge jump:
Spider-Man's New York story even ties in with the city's own tragedy. In 2001, to promote the upcoming release of the film, a teaser trailer for Spider-Man featured the World Trade Center towers prominently.
Just weeks after the trailer's release, the twin towers were gone, and the trailer was pulled. And when the movie finally hit the screen, a few jingoistic notes had been added, including a man with a pipe yelling at Spider-Man's foe, "You mess with one of us, you mess with all of us." The scene was added after the film had been completed.
Marvel even released a widely acclaimed special 9/11 issue of the Spider-Man comic book.
But in the 2012 Amazing Spider Man's marketing campaign — what with its museums and lit-up Empire State Buildings — it seems that promoters have forgotten (or willfully ignored?) a central New York City element of the Spider-Man tale: Queens.
The Forest Hills neighborhood of New York's Queens borough is where Peter Parker grew up, went to school, and became Spider-Man. In fact, Parker's home with Uncle Ben and Aunt May was located at 20 Ingram Street, a real address.
Oddly enough, when Spider-Man 3 held its "Spider-Man week in NYC" five years ago, it made sure to give Queens some love. In addition to events at the Bronx and Central Park Zoos as well as the American Museum of Natural History, Spider-Man 3 held its premiere in Parker's home borough of Queens. Adding insult to injury, the 2012 Spider-Man week held an event at Yankee Stadium. The city's other MLB franchise, the Mets, have their homefield in Queens.
It seems the rebooted Amazing Spider-Man is different from its predecessor after all, although you can't fault Sony Entertainment for making Spidey Week 2012 all about its stars giving back to NYC.