In honor of Masks: A New Generation Movie 2: Electric Boogaloo (AKA Spider-Man: Far From Home) being in theaters, I wanted to take a look at this version of Spider-Man through the lens of Masks, both to provide you with some skinned-up versions of the playbooks to match Peter, and to delve more deeply into the way Masks treats superheroes.
A lot of Masks is built on my understanding of comics and comic-book stories, and the playbooks are a core pillar of that understanding. A playbook in Masks isn’t a suite of powers or a description of origin story. It’s a bundle of story elements, dilemmas, and features that speak to a character’s particular arc. The Legacy isn’t about any specific set of powers—it’s about inheriting a mantle and the pressure that comes with it.
That matters here because, especially in the world of movies, what hero has had more versions than Spider-Man? All of them were bitten by radioactive spiders, all of them had an Aunt May, all of them put on the red-and-blue costume, etc. etc. But that’s all window dressing to the way that the different movie versions of Spider-Man would almost certainly be different playbooks in Masks: A New Generation. Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man feels like a pretty quintessential Janus the whole way through—struggling with his dual life and the responsibilities therein. (Until Spider-Man 3, when he becomes The Guy Who Dances to Music Nobody Else Hears.) Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man has more than a hint of the Delinquent in it, and even the Star—he plays to the crowd quite a bit. And Shinji Tōdō’s Spider-Man (of the Toei-produced Japanese Spider-Man show from the ’70s) is some kind of mech-wielding Nova.
That brings us to Tom Holland’s Spider-Man. In Spider-Man: Homecoming (AKA Masks: A New Generation: The Movie), Pete was really a Protégé. (If you disagree, fight me.) It’s not a perfect 1 to 1 parallel, but his relationship with Tony Stark is very mentor/protégé. What’s more, while the story does involve some issues around his double lives, that’s not really the core conflict—it’s mostly about “Am I an Avenger? Am I worthy of being an Avenger?”, which is a much more Protégé style conflict (“Am I good enough to be on the same team as my mentor?”).
But things are very different in Spider-Man: Far From Home…
***SPOILER WARNING FOR AVENGERS: ENDGAME***
His mentor is gone. Most of the time in a Masks game, if a Protégé’s mentor died, I would either push them to choose a new mentor, or I would ask if they’re really still a Protégé, and support a playbook change. Pete being on his own, without Tony, is one of the core story-arcs of Far From Home… and if that’s the case, then that seems to suggest his playbook is different. Again—playbooks are sort of chunks of story arcs, and if his story arc is not the same as Homecoming, then that implies his playbook isn’t the same.
SO! What playbook is he now? Well…
Maybe he’s the Legacy!
Far From Home positions Peter to pick up the remnants of Iron Man’s, and even the Avengers’, legacy. He’s one of the most public and most easily accessible of those who fought against Thanos, and people are looking to him to uphold all that Tony Stark built—not least because he’s still wearing his Iron Spider suit in the movie! The most important member of the Legacy—Tony himself—isn’t around, but Happy Hogan is, and even Nick Fury can be seen as part of the overarching legacy. Plus, the movie is clearly setting up a conflict wherein Peter believes Mysterio to be a better inheritor of the legacy than himself—classic Legacy storylines!
Or maybe he’s the Soldier!
The Soldier works on behalf of a larger organization—canonically in Masks, it’s A.E.G.I.S. (periods necessary). For Spidey, it’s S.H.I.E.L.D. (periods still absolutely necessary). Nick Fury and Maria Hill hijack Peter’s European vacation to demand that Peter perform his necessary duties to keep people safe—sounds exactly like a Soldier’s plight me! Even when you’re off-duty, you’re on-duty. This one’s a little bit more of a stretch, and clearly it’s a tenuous situation—it’s hard to imagine Spidey continuing to be a Soldier when he returns to New York—but it’s an interesting way of considering a new take on Spider-Man after the events of Endgame.
Or maybe he’s the Janus!
The classic Spider-Man playbook. At least as much as any other hero, Spider-Man has always been defined by juggling his two lives… it’s just that sometimes the particular Spider-Man story we’re reading or watching doesn’t put as much emphasis on that. After all, in a world where secret identities aren’t really a thing, and where several important people in Pete’s life already know his dual identities, the core issue of the Janus becomes less pronounced. But throw Pete into a distinctly unsuperheroic situation—a school trip to Europe—surrounded by friends, classmates, love interests, teachers, and overall a TON of people who have no idea of secret identity, and then poke him with dangerous superheroic situations that demand action while making it hard for him to slip into his costume unseen… You’ve suddenly got a perfect recipe for a Janus!
Which one is he, really? Well, that’s part of the glory of choosing a playbook in the first place! Depending upon which story and which aspects you were most interested in, you could choose any of these playbooks and have it still feel right! It’s almost never true that a single major superhero is defined by a single playbook in all of their stories. As the character changes and the stories change, so too do their arcs and in turn their playbooks.
All that said, he’s clearly the Legacy. Fight me.