Nearly thirty years ago, Michael Keaton redefined Batman for a generation of comic book movie fans. But this summer, Keaton is making his Marvel Cinematic Universe debut as the Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming. And while the Vulture isn’t as well known among the general public as some of Spidey’s other enemies, director Jon Watts and the film’s creative team have found an inventive way to transform a low-level villain into a true bird of prey.
While speaking with USA Today, Watts and Keaton revealed that Adrian Toomes was an actual scavenger long before he became the Vulture in this continuity. In the MCU, Toomes runs his own scavenging business and it is his job to clean up after the various superhero battles—including the alien invasion of New York from The Avengers. It’s that leftover alien technology that will allow Toomes and the Tinkerer to create the Vulture suit and begin selling weapons and armor to other criminals. This could lead to alternate origins for several other Spider-Man villains, and the report indicates that Bokeem Woodbine’s Shocker is one of the early recipients of their new weapons.
But is that all that different from the Vulture we’ve seen before?
According to Keaton, his version of Toomes is very disgruntled over his lot in life, especially when his business is threatened by Tony Stark. “Some people see themselves as victims — he sees himself a little bit like that,” Keaton told USA Today. “He probably would have a strong argument that he never got a fair shot — a lot of ‘Why not me? Where’s mine?’”
This is actually not too far away from the Vulture’s comic book origin. When he was introduced by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko in 1963, Adrian Toomes was an elderly engineer and an inventor who created a flying harness that greatly increased his strength. He didn’t turn to a life of crime until he was betrayed by his business partner. Sounds like a set-up for conflict between Vulture and Tinkerer in this iteration, no? But unlike his counterpart, Keaton’s Vulture will have his identity hidden by a mask/helmet, as it just wouldn’t be very intimidating if the MCU’s Vulture went full comic book.
Because of his advanced age, even comic book fans have had trouble taking the Vulture seriously as a threat to Spider-Man. That’s why there have been a few different takes on the Vulture—and even some replacements who attempted to usurp his name and legacy. The most significant Vulture revamp came in the ’90s, when Toomes briefly had the technology to literally drain the youth from his victims and reclaim his lost vitality. That take on the Vulture didn’t last long, and he was soon back to his elderly appearance.
Honestly, the Vulture needed a major revamp to work for a modern audience on the big screen. He’s never been one of Spider-Man’s A-list foes despite his status as one of Spidey’s first ever supervillains. Giving the Vulture a blue collar background may make him more relatable, and it makes sense that his initial grudge will be with Tony Stark rather than Spider-Man. Spidey will only become a factor in the Vulture’s life when he starts taking steps to bring him back down to Earth.
What do you think about Spider-Man: Homecoming‘s new take on the Vulture? Take flight in the comment section below!