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American society as well as American filmmaking took a hard hit on Sept. 11, 2001. Before that infamous day, the twin towers of the World Trade Center had been an iconic landmark of the New York City skyline, used as an establishing shot dozens of times over.
The view of those gleaming skyscrapers used to be a staple of nearly any movie or television program set in the Big Apple. They were featured in several major Hollywood productions including “Ghostbusters,” “Home Alone 2,” “Trading Places” and the third “Die Hard” movie starring Bruce Willis.
There have also been a variety of documentaries made about the towers, like 2008’s “Man On a Wire” which features Phillipe Petit illegally spanning a high wire and dancing between the buildings for more than an hour.
A pair of hijacked 747s later and that memorable skyline image suddenly changed.
The attitudes of the American people refocused on how to properly honor the fallen, both the citizens trapped in the towers as well as the first responders who gave their last full measure to save as many of those souls as possible.
In the following years, entertainment media began looking for ways to integrate and adapt to this element of living history. The CBS police procedural “CSI: New York” turned into the skid; the character of Detective Mac Taylor (Gary Sinise) lost his wife in the attacks.
Released in 2006, “World Trade Center” and “United 93” depicted the events of the first responder crews and what happened to the flight that crashed into the field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, respectively.
But if you jump back to 2002, a stylized superhero film helmed by then-indie horror director Sam Raimi took a different tack when “Spider-Man” (2002) began its promotions in early 2001, teasing its release.
A promotional trailer displayed Spidey catching a rogue helicopter full of bank robbers in a massive web spanning between the twin towers. The scene was removed from the final cut because of concerns it might be tasteless to victims’ families.
But Marvel and “Spider-Man” did provide a proper way of mourning those tragic events from 21 years ago.
“Amazing Spider-Man,” Vol. 2, Issue 36 was the first comic book published in the wake of the disaster. Dubbed the “Black Issue” because of its solid black cover, it features a mostly dialogue-free story as readers see the event through the titular hero’s eyes.
In a word — it is sobering.
Spider-Man helps clear debris and pulls people to safety at ground zero. He mourns the loss “of innocents and innocence” as the narrative reads. He meditates on Captain America and the parallels with Cap’s World War II experiences.
But he also marvels at the resilience of both New York as a community and the American people while admonishing and rebuking the actions of the “madmen” who perpetrated the act, recognizing that not even villains like Magneto and Dr. Doom were so callous as to accomplish this level of destruction.
There have been plenty of movies and TV shows paying homage to the towers in the last two decades. Some do it to reference that bygone era prior to the attacks, others to depict what took place during the attacks.
Regardless of the source, it is clear that 9/11 forever made a crucial impact to the heart of this media art form.