When the trailer for Spider-Man: Homecoming drops later tonight, there's a good chance that fans will finally get their first live-action look at The Vulture.
The Vulture is said to be played by Michael Keaton, known to comic book fans as Batman in the first two modern-era feature films based on the character and -- in a strange coincidence -- not even a stranger to aging winged avengers given his Academy Award-nominated role in Birdman.
But who is he, really, and why is "old guy who can fly" a compelling antagonist for a kid who's already battled Ant-Man, Black Panther, and Captain America? Well, that's why we're here.
In the comics, there have been several different versions of The Vulture over the years and across various continuities, but the main one -- the one most likely to be represented in Keaton's depiction -- is Adrian Toomes, who became a villain after he invented a winged suit, which gave him the powers of flight and superhuman strength.
After being orphaned and raised by his brother at a young age, his brother then suffered a catastrophic accident and Adrian had to raise him instead. He ultimately became an electrical engineer and founded a small company, then lost control of it when he became so obsessed with the science that he let his partner walk away with all the money. Toomes's latest invention, a harness that would allow its wearer to fly, also granted him enhanced strength and relexes, and he used it -- first to take revenge on the ex-partner who wronged him, and then to take what he felt was rightfully his from the rest of the world as well.
Once a member of the Sinister Six, The Vulture's harness was seen briefly in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 as what would have been a build-up to the Sinister Six themselves having a movie. Because Sony abandoned that franchise in order to reboot with Spider-Man: Homecoming, Keaton's Vulture is unrelated to the previous tease.
“The first time we see the Vulture is terrifying,” franchise star Tom Holland said in an interview. “It’s like a horror movie: really scary, very intense and shocking.”
Terrifying as The Vulture, maybe, but one has to wonder whether Robert Downey, Jr. might be feeling the competition from Michael Keaton in civlilian life: The Vulture is certainly in the age range for dating Aunt May in the comics (although it's really Doctor Octopus who managed to steal her heart).
Jon Watts, the director of Spider-Man: Homecoming, said that the seemingly-simple nature of The Vulture is actually a big part of what made him appealing to the filmmaker.
“It’s fun to think that if Spider-Man is a regular kid who becomes a superhero, there’s got to be a bunch of regular guys who become supervillains, too,” Watts said.
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Spider-Man: Homecoming hits theaters July 7, 2017, and the first trailer for the film will debut later tonight. Check back for much more coverage of the film throughout the night.