Someone dressed as Spider-Man gave Pope Francis his own Spider-Man mask during a visit to the Vatican. The Spider-Man cosplayer (27-year-old Mattia Villardita of northern Italy) had come to the Vatican and had a seat in the VIP audience section of the Vatican's San Damaso Courtyard. Villardita was given an audience with the Pope and a VIP seat due to his work doing superhero cosplay and visiting sick children in hospitals (he was previously given an audience with Italy's president Sergio Mattarella). While meeting the Pope, Mattia Villardita left the religious icon with his own souvenir: his own Spider-Man mask. Honestly, Marvel could ask for better free marketing and promotion - or better blessing.
In all honesty, it's a sweet scene to see the Spider-Man character standing side-by-side with one of the world's biggest religious figures. It's a testament to the power of the iconography that Marvel has created through its superhero universe. If you don't believe that, just ask yourself: How many people could name both of the figures in those photos, accurately?
Seeing the Marvel brand continuing to be used for charitable events and representation is also pretty heart-warming. It's not hard to imagine the late, great, Stan Lee looking down on all this with pride.
2021 is a good year for Spider-Man to be upping his public image, in whatever form or fashion it may occur. December will bring the next Spider-Man movie from Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures, Spider-Man: No Way Home. Early rumors point to the threequel being a major event film, which sees the Marvel Universe in a state of fractured reality (see: the current event of Marvel's Loki TV series). Tom Holland's Spider-Man will supposedly have to face a collection of villains from all of the previous Spider-Man movies - while allegedly getting help from Spider-Men from previous films (Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield). All of that is just a rumor, but if even half of it is true, moviegoers will have every reason to end the year with one of the biggest Marvel movie experiences theaters can offer.
Spider-Man remains the most iconic (and marketable) character in the Marvel Universe. Despite all the fame that Marvel Cinematic Universe films like Avengers and Iron Man have earned, It's Spider-Man's logo and likeness that still sell the most merchandise around the world.
Spider-Man: No Way Home hits theaters on December 17th.