Some people thought that the new Spider-Man: No Way Home movie was going somewhere no other web-slinger adventure has previously gone when images surfaced online of Spidey with Pope Francis at the Vatican. However, this was not a scene from the much awaited and endlessly teased Spider-Man: No Way Home, but in fact was a cosplayer who had been invited to have an audience with the Pope and was in one of the VIP seats in the Vatican’s San Damaso Courtyard.
27 year old Mattia Villardita from northern Italy was granted the audience with Pope Francis due to his on-going work visiting sick children in hospitals dressed as their favorite webbed-wonder on a voluntary basis, for which he had previously been granted a similar honor with Italian president Sergio Mattarella. During his time meeting the Pope, Villardita handed the head of the catholic church his own Spider-Man mask. With the hype surrounding the character at the moment, Marvel must be clapping their hands at this kind of promotion that money just can’t buy.
While it is both a light-hearted moment to witness and also a testament to how some people are willing to spend their time making the lives of others a little better, it is also a reminder of the iconographic power of Marvel and their creations. While there are many superheroes that fans would instantly recognize, there are few who could be shown with a photo of the character standing side by side with one of the biggest religious icons of the world and not be able to name both.
Marvel, along with other Disney characters, are some of the most popular designs used for cosplay artists everywhere, and are particularly popular when it comes to children being able to meet their idols in as close to the flesh as possible. For those who then turn this into a charitable cause, providing the joy that only magical characters can bring to children who need a little boost, there is no way to deny that they deserve all the accolades that they receive, and it is likely that the late, great Stan Lee couldn’t have wished for a better way for some of his characters to be used and remembered.
The timing of the meeting between the two icons could not have come at a better time for fans of Spider-Man. With the promotional campaign for the third solo MCU outing of the Peter Parker and his alter ego set to kick off anytime soon, it is another sign that there is no getting away from Marvel even in the holy confines of the Vatican. Despite the recent popularity of the Avengers and their individual parts, it is still the Spider-Man image and logo that can be found on the most merchandise across the world. For a character with such a checkered history on the big screen, from terrible TV movies to the disappointment of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3 and The Amazing Spider-Man movies which failed to quite ignite the spark, even without the MCU’s current Spider-Man hitting all the right notes, it is unlikely the character would have been less iconic than he ever has been, and Spider-Man: No Way Home will only further cement his place in Hollywood history when it arrives in theaters on December 17.