Today marks three months since the premiere of Spider-Man: Homecoming. The movie picks up with Peter (Tom Holland) starting his sophomore year of high school. He’s desperate to go back to the big
leagues and work with the Avengers, feeling unfulfilled by his role of friendly neighborhood vigilante.
While watching the movie over the summer, I noticed striking comparisons between Peter’s journey and that of another familiar teen hero, Percy Jackson, protagonist of the popular children’s book series based on Greek mythology (spoiler alert).
1. Sympathetic Villains: The central conflicts in Homecoming and the Percy Jackson series revolve around the feelings of being forgotten, being ignored. Before becoming Spider-Man’s nemesis, Vulture, Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) is a blue-collar worker trying to make a better life for his family.
Leading the cleanup effort following the Avengers’ battle with aliens promises a big payday for Toomes. However, the job soon gets taken over by the Department of Damage Control, an agency run by the U.S. government and Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), who helped create the wreckage in the first place.
Unemployed and tired of being screwed over, Toomes enters the much more lucrative business of illegally dealing alien tech left behind and finally makes a name for himself. Though Spidey ultimately takes him down, Peter is sympathetic to his plight.
Furthermore, as misguided as his methods may be, Toomes has a valid grudge. Superheroes swoop in to take down villains and get the glory. But how much are they really helping average citizens?
Percy’s main rival (Luke Castellan) is also driven by a desire to prove himself. Abandoned as a baby by his godly father (Hermes) and left in the care of his mentally unstable mortal mother, Luke is desperate to take the gods down a notch.
Kronos, the titan who wants to take Olympus back from the gods, tragically manipulates Luke into turning on his friends and becoming a pawn.
In the end, Luke is the hero of the series. He sacrifices himself to stop Kronos’ rise and end the conflict that’s tearing the demigods of Camp Half-Blood apart.
Nevertheless, as Percy, who struggles with his own feelings of abandonment, boldly tells the gods later, the bloodshed could all have been avoided if they had simply acknowledged their children more.
2. Hometown Heroes: Peter and Percy are actually both from Queens, N.Y., and their heroics often stem from a compulsion to protect and defend their city. New York City landmarks also feature heavily in both stories. Trying to prove himself to Tony, Peter almost sinks the Staten Island Ferry in a botched attempt to apprehend Toomes and his band of minions.
In the Percy Jackson universe, Mount Olympus is located above the Empire State Building, and Camp Half-Blood, a refuge for demigods, is on Long Island. Additionally, the final battles between Percy and Luke/Kronos takes place on bridges, streets and tunnels throughout Manhattan.
3. Teenage Dreams: After he defeats Vulture, Peter is finally offered what he’s been working so hard to secure: an invitation from Tony to officially join the Avengers. But Peter realizes that Tony was actually right all along in holding him back. He decides to stay a kid for a little longer and further develop his crime-fighting skills, much to Tony’s surprise.
Percy is offered the chance to become an immortal god after defeating Kronos. But much to the gods’ chagrin, he turns down their offer, not wanting to abandon his friends.
He asks the gods to swear on the River Styx that they will claim their children, ensuring that no future demigods will have to suffer the pain that Luke and many others experienced.
4. Love Interests: Peter’s primary love interest in Homecoming is Liz (Laura Harrier). Ignoring the complication of her dad being the bad guy, the uplifting part of their storyline is the fact that Liz is not a stereotypical “it” girl who Peter thinks is out of his league.
She genuinely likes and respects Peter. While viewers might expect Peter to end up with Michelle “MJ” Jones (Zendaya), they’re hard-pressed to root against Liz.
Percy also has multiple love interests, one of whom is Rachel Elizabeth Dare, a mortal girl he meets while on a quest to rescue his other love interest and best friend, Annabeth Chase. Rachel gives Percy a chance to feel like a normal kid. Their relationship isn’t complicated or tense.
Percy fails to understand initially that the tension between Annabeth and him is the result of a far deeper connection. And yet, while readers are most likely rooting for Annabeth and Percy to end up together, they have to acknowledge that Rachel cares a lot about him too.
Regarding the final couples, Peter and Percy are clueless initially about MJ and Annabeth’s respective crushes on them. To be fair, the confusion results from the girls’ propensity for teasing them mercilessly and hilariously.
Percy is also quite intimidated by Annabeth early on, but they become friends fairly quickly and a couple at the end of the Percy Jackson series. It’ll be interesting to see the MJ-Peter relationship develop in the 2019 sequel.