Spiderman – recalled WTC authentication
Spider-Man recalled World Trade Center poster
Original 'Coming 2002' Spiderman WTC poster
The film: After years of delays, the Spiderman film was finally on its way to production in early 2000, when Sam Raimi was announced as the director. The film was highly anticipated, as Spiderman is one of Marvel’s most beloved comic book characters. Sony/Columbia Pictures was the studio attached to the film. Spiderman had a large budget attached to it, in the neighborhood of $140 million.
Teaser poster versions: Three distinctly different versions of the Spiderman poster exist. In my experience, the rarest appears to be the “2002” poster, followed by the “Coming 2002” version and finally the “3 May 2002”. It appears that there was a need to have three versions of the poster in order to market the film in different areas of the world. In my personal recollection, these posters began to appear in theatres during early 2001. There have been single sided versions of these posters reported, although I personally do not have any hands-on experience with them.
Other marketing: The other piece of marketing that was used to promote the film, beyond the three posters listed above, was a large (approximately 8.5 feet x 4.25 feet) vinyl banner. This banner featured the same general artwork as the one sheet posters. This banner is relatively hard to find, as it is very large and would have been included in the recall after the tragic events of September 11th 2001.
Original Spiderman WTC banner
Recall: The Spiderman poster image featured two main components – the image of Spiderman himself, with the WTC towers reflecting in his eyes, and a large cityscape in which the Chrysler Building is prominently featured. Rumors during 2001 suggested that the studio was dealing with some legal issues in terms of unauthorized use of the Chrysler Building on the poster, although I have found no legitimate proof or evidence of this. The posters were definitely recalled the day after the events of September 11th 2001, likely due exclusively to the images of the now destroyed WTC in Spiderman’s eyes. A copy of a letter from Columbia Pictures dated September 12th 2001 has circulated on the Internet, which announced that all Spiderman teaser materials were to be taken down immediately in theatres.
Originals versus reprints – why do you think you have all the answers?:
To give you some background on myself – I have never worked in the printing industry. However, I have worked in both advertising and marketing for many years with major corporations, and I have had a lot of experience being a customer of the print industry. Many of my observations below are taken from this previous work experience. I do not believe that anyone can ever know with complete 100% certainty the history of a particular movie poster. But what we can do is make observations on the various posters and attempt to deduce what it is we are seeing, and why.
I personally own 10 copies of the ‘3 May 2002’ version, along with 2 copies of the “Coming 2002” and 1 copy of the 8 foot by 4 foot banner. Almost all of these have come from people whom I know to have been in the theatre business, or I strongly suspect were. I have handled several copies of what I consider to be reprints of the ‘3 May 2002’ poster, and still have one of the “Coming 2002” reprints in my possession, which will be used for pictures below. In my various dealings in acquiring copies of this poster, I have only ever seen what I consider to be the reprints come from sellers of unknown provenance. The sources I personally purchased from, whom I either know or believe to be in the movie theatre business, have never once sold me these reprint posters. All of what I consider reliable sellers of original Spiderman posters have had the exact same posters in their possession, featuring the exact same characteristics. In looking at the various reprints, as well as some deductive reasoning, I believe that the information provided here is correct. My personal observations also correlate to the information provided previously by Dan R., who originally began to attempt to authenticate these posters years ago – many thanks to him for his hard work.
Characteristics of originals versus reprints –
‘Coming 2002’ version (double sided):
I do not believe that what I have seen are bootlegs. I believe that they are actually reprints, produced to capitalize on the demand for these posters once the originals were recalled. The reprints have excellent print quality and share many similar characteristics to originals. Only by comparing the two can you begin to really see the differences inherent in them. Here I will attempt to authenticate the ‘Coming 2002’ version, as I currently have a reprint in my possession and can take comparison pictures. I also have taken observation notes when I have had the ’3 May 2002’ version reprints in my hands, and will refer to them later.
Gloss and the smell: Both originals and reprints stink. They really do. The smell appears to originate from the heavy gloss used on the posters. There is definitely a slightly stronger odor to originals – my belief is that this is because the originals clearly use more gloss than the reprints do. Originals also tend to roll more easily, as the gloss is so heavy on the one side that the paper is actually affected. My observation is that the originals are also slightly heavier in paper quality/weight, although this is impossible for me to measure with any degree of accuracy.
Why would the reprints use less gloss? Along with paper quality/weight, gloss is one of the most expensive options used in print jobs. Gloss is used to both draw attention to your printed work, as well as help protect whatever it is you are printing. The originals were printed with the heaviest gloss I have personally ever seen on a poster, obviously to draw attention to them in a theatre (which is what posters are supposed to do – draw attention to themselves to help promote a film). The reprints, in my opinion, attempted to reproduce this highly glossy effect, but at a lower cost, and therefore were printed with less gloss. Why use the same amount of expensive gloss that originals had, if the purpose of the reprint is not for in-theatre marketing, but actually only for re-sale to the public?
Cropping of image: Comparing both a reprint and an original highlights an obvious difference in the cropping of the image. This cropping is visible on the bottom left hand side of the poster (see image below). The taxi cab, visible on all originals, is nowhere to be found on the reprints. In the picture below, the left poster is the original and the right poster is the reprint.
Why? Image variations such as cropping can be found in different print jobs. The interesting thing here is that the taxi cab cropping is only found on posters that exhibit the other signs of being a reprint. All original posters clearly show the taxi cab.
Taxi comparison: original (left) and reprint (right)
Other image differences: On the originals, if you look at Spiderman’s neck area, the ‘lines’ on his suit are clearly (and easily!) visible. On the reprint, which appears slightly darker, you cannot easily make out the lines on Spiderman’s neck area. The darker print job of the reprint also make the bottom area appear slightly orange, whereas an original is more yellow in appearance.
Original neck closeup - notice visible detail
Reprint neck closeup - notice lack of detail
Sizing: I never entirely like trusting poster measurements, as both human error and the accuracy of the measuring device can throw off the results. However, I will include them here for you. The measurements for both the originals and the reprints are very close. My measurements show the following: original 39 11/16 inches by 26 11/16 inches, reprint 39 ½ inches by 26 ¾ inches.
Back side of posters: The originals are clearly printed lighter on the backside, compared to the reprints.
Why? This is likely so that the originals, produced to be used in-theatre, would have been more effective in lighted display boxes (the lighter ink on the back side would have allowed more light through to the front of the poster, enhancing the desired effect). Printing lighter on the back side would have required more accuracy (and therefore been more costly) than what was required on the reprints, which appear to have the same level of printing on both sides.
Comparison shot of backside - original (left) and reprint (right)
The small print at the bottom: Originals all have the following text at the bottom of the poster: “PROPERTY OF SONY PICTURES ENTERTAINMENT, INC. FOR PROMOTIONAL USE ONLY. SALE, DUPLICATION, OR TRANSFER OF THIS MATERIAL IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED” (emphasis on SALE is mine).
Reprints have the following text at the bottom: “PROPERTY OF SONY PICTURES ENTERTAINMENT, INC. FOR PROMOTIONAL USE ONLY. DUPLICATION OR TRANSFER OF THIS MATERIAL IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED”.
Why is it important that the word ‘SALE’ is missing? You will recall that my hypothesis is that these posters are reprints, printed mainly to be used for sale to the general public. Therefore, before they were reprinted, the word ‘Sale’ was removed from the legal text at the bottom, since these posters were only being created for one main purpose – to be for sale. Sony Pictures would not offer an item for sale that explicitly read that its ‘Sale….is strictly prohibited”! The continued inclusion of ‘PROMOTIONAL USE ONLY’ on the reprints suggests that they could have also been reprinted to be used as giveaways, prizes, etc (promotional material) in addition to being ‘for sale’.
Couldn’t the word ‘Sale’ just have been ‘missed’? Extremely doubtful. In my experience, once company lawyers have vetted a piece of text that is being released to the public, you make 100% certain that the text remains as they said it should. Further, these suspected reprint posters are the ONLY Spiderman marketing items that have the word ‘Sale’ removed from them. All of my (presumed) original Spiderman posters from reliable sources, as well as all of the various known original Spiderman 2 posters and banners in my collection, contain the exact same text: ”PROPERTY OF SONY PICTURES ENTERTAINMENT, INC. FOR PROMOTIONAL USE ONLY. SALE, DUPLICATION, OR TRANSFER OF THIS MATERIAL IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED”. I believe this is because they were all produced to exist only as marketing materials, and were never to be offered for sale. It does not make sense to me that the only Spiderman marketing item that I have ever seen, across 3 different films, to omit the word ‘Sale’ in the disclaimer happens to be the one poster that was recalled, making it very desirable and therefore an obvious candidate for reprinting and sale to the public – hence the need to remove ‘SALE’ from it’s disclaimer.
The legal text found on an original - notice the wording includes 'sale'.
The legal text found on a reprint - notice the missing word, 'sale'.
The legal text found on an original 'Spiderman 2' large vinyl banner
- look familiar?
The legal text found on an original 'Spiderman 2' poster
- again, look familiar?
Characteristics of originals versus reprints –
‘3 May 2002’ version (double sided):
As I do not currently have a reprint version of this in my possession, but have in the past, my observations here will not include pictures, but rather my notes on the previous reprints I have had.
Gloss and smell: Same characteristics as listed above.
Cropping: Same characteristics as listed above, although on reprints you can see a slight bit of the taxi cab.
Back side of posters: Same characteristics as listed above.
The small print at the bottom: Same characteristics as listed above.
Other text differences on the ‘3 May 2002’ version: Originals have large text at the bottom right corner, which reads: “THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED. FOR FUTURE INFO GO TO FILMRATINGS.COM”. (On posters used in Canada, this text is often covered over by a small piece of black tape.) Reprints are missing this text entirely – likely because they were reprinted some time after the film had finally been given a rating, and that text no longer applied.
The text found on an original '3 May 2002' version.
(morphine can be found on the NSFGE poster forum.)