How do you maintain your movie high? Where do you go first after you come bounding out of the theater with a great big smile on your face? If you’re like me, when a film connects with you deeply, you cannot shut up about its exhilarating effect on your consciousness. You scream your enthusiasm towards anyone who will withstand it — family, friends, co-workers. The mission is to transform everyone around you into equal maniacs for said film. Often, however, I find that once that mission is accomplished (or dejected), the enthusiasm still needs to be coddled. With superhero movies, my next step is to dive into as many related comic books as possible, to root around in the origins and the inspirations behind the cinematic choices made by the filmmakers.
Spider-Man: Far From Home offers several avenues to travel with decades of continuity to sift, dissect, and engage. The purpose of this article is to maintain the high and recommend a variety of comic book storylines to absorb that are relevant to the interests suggested by director Jon Watts and screenwriters Chris McKenna and Eric Sommers. Naturally, a probe such as this cannot be achieved without revealing key plot elements surrounding the film. Be warned.
↓Spoilers for Spider-Man: Far From Home↓
The Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1 #13 (June 1964)
We gotta start with Mysterio, and there is no better place to begin than his first appearance. This Quentin Beck is very different from the disgruntled Stark Industries employee portrayed by Jake Gyllenhaal, but he is absolutely just as petty. Written by Stan Lee and illustrated by Steve Ditko, Peter Parker’s original encounter with ol’ fishbowl head happens when the teenager investigates a series of robberies supposedly perpetrated by Spider-Man. Peter worries that he’s undergone a psychotic break, and maybe he’s committing these crimes in his sleep. Mysterio struts into the Daily Bugle claiming to be the latest crimefighter on the block and asks J. Jonah Jameson to publish a challenge to Spider-Man to meet and battle on the Brooklyn Bridge. Using apparent magical powers, Mysterio defeats Spidey in their first battle rather quickly. Peter plants a spider-tracer on Mysterio and tracks the villain to his lair where he discovers that his wizardry is nothing more than Hollywood special effects. Relying on his spider-sense/Peter-tingle, Spidey thwarts Mysterio, reveals him to be the true culprit behind the bank robberies, and humiliates J.J.J. by stringing him up in his office.
The Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1 #618-620 (March-April 2010)
Written by Dan Slott and illustrated by Marcos Martin, the three-part “Mysterioso” storyline is one of the best examples of how gnarly Quentin Beck’s mastery over illusion can upend Peter Parker’s life. By this point in the continuity, Mysterio’s motivation stems from the immense pleasure he draws from the psychological torture of his victims. He’s not here to get rich; he’s here to destroy lives. The washed-up Hollywood effects man sees reality as his stage, and we’re all puppets to manipulate. To that end, when Beck is hired by the Maggia criminal organization to fend off the attacks of The Owl, Hammerhead, and Mister Negative, he accepts the gig only because he knows that it will inevitably put him in conflict with the friendly neighborhood wall-crawler. Drawing on his inability to break Daredevil during Kevin Smith‘s “Guardian Devil” arc, Mysterio tricks Spidey into believing that several of his much-loved but dead acquaintances were not the saintly humans he knew but wretched scumbags. He’s attacking Peter’s being by perverting his memory, and it nearly breaks him … until he sends one solid punch into that fishbowl dome.
Spider-Men #1-5 (June-September 2012)
If you’ve seen Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, then the idea of multiple universes is not an unreasonable concept. In fact, you’re probably craving your own Spider-Gwen and Peter Porker spinoff adventures. I’m with you. This miniseries written by Brian Michael Bendis and penciled by Sara Pichelli partners the Peter Parker from the main Marvel continuity with Miles Morales of the Ultimate Universe. While Far From Home exposed Quentin Beck’s multiverse concept as a hoax, this Mysterio ditches his failures of Peter Parker’s world in a scheme to achieve victory in Miles Morales’ New York. This iteration of Beck is utterly pathetic. A life of losses has driven him into mad science desperation, but if he couldn’t execute his plans properly with only one Spider-Man on his tail, battling two at the same time is an utterly hopeless endeavor. The best bits of Spider-Men come from our Peter Parker learning of the death of the Ultimate Peter Parker, and dealing with that very comic booky head-trip. Bendis takes glee in unmasking Beck as a perpetual sap, and the reader almost gains sympathy for Mysterio’s eventual defeat. He’s such a loser.