Actor Jacob Batalon’s role in Spider-Man: Homecoming was revealed on Tuesday, and it’s actually a little surprising. Batalon will play Ned Leeds, a character from the original Spider-Man comics re-purposed into Peter Parker’s high school best friend. That development is particularly interesting, considering that role has always belonged to Harry Osborne.
In the comics, Ned Leeds and Peter Parker actually meet when the two are co-workers at The Daily Bugle, the fictional newspaper where Parker sells pictures of Spider-Man. Leeds and Parker have a friendly rivalry, competing for the affection of Bugle reporter Betty Brant. Parker, realizing that Brant can’t accept his Spider-Man alter-ego, gives up pursuing her, allowing Leeds and Brant to get married.
Due to the high school setting, it appears that Leeds has been de-aged alongside Parker, and is now a 15 year-old student, and Parker’s best friend. Batalon reveals some of aspects of his friendship with Parker in a recent interview.
“We are both in high school; we are about fifteen. And it’s just about Peter dealing with being a superhero and going through puberty. He still has to worry about homework; he still has to worry about his crush liking him, while trying to save someone who’s probably in a burning building. He can’t tell anyone because he’s not the cool kid, so he’s just stuck with this really cool life that he can’t tell anyone about.”
When Batalon’s casting was first announced, the role of Ganke Lee was already cast to Michael Barbieri. Leeds actually makes more sense considering that the character was changed into the Korean-American Ned Lee in the animated Spider-Man series. The fact that Batalon is playing Leeds does raise some new questions regarding his future role in Homecoming.
In the comics, Leeds becomes brainwashed into becoming one of the Hobgoblin’s henchmen, often carrying out criminal acts dressed as the supervillain. While it’s unclear whether or not something similar might happen to Homecoming’s version of Leeds, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility.
Secondly, where is Harry Osborne? Canonically, Parker’s best friend from high school has always been the wealthy Harry Osborne, whose father Norman Osborne is the Green Goblin. Considering the past two Spider-Man movie series featured Osborne, played by James Franco and Dane DeHann respectively, it might be time to retire Osborne in favor of new characters. Especially since Homecoming seems to be incorporating elements of the Miles Morales Ultimate Spider-Man universe.
Whether or not Leeds ends up as a villain, or a hybrid version of Ganke remains to be seen, but the changes to the character are enough to suggest that Spider-Man: Homecoming will be a completely different Spider-Man film from the previous iterations.
Spider-Man: Homecoming hits theaters July 7, 2017.