The Defenders Has Some Hidden Spider-Man References


This article contains The Defenders spoilers.

Now that Spider-Man is back in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Spider-Man: Homecoming thanks to whatever arcane legal deal was struck between Marvel Studios and Sony, you would think that there’d be some acknowledgment of the wall-crawler in the confines of Marvel’s Netflix shows. After all, Spidey is perhaps the most New York-centric superhero in a stable of characters known for its New York-centric approach, and the Marvel Netflix shows positively revel in their NYC identity. 

Nevertheless, it’s extraordinarily unlikely that we’re ever going to see Tom Holland’s Peter Parker sharing the screen with Charlie Cox’s Daredevil (or better yet, Vincent D’onofrio’s Wilson Fisk). There are forces more powerful than any superhero at work here: lawyers. You’d think we could at least get a mention of The Daily Bugle on one of these shows, but so far, that hasn’t happened. Surely The New York Bulletin has some kind of competition in the MCU version of NYC, right? Then again, the Bugle wasn’t even introduced in Spider-Man: Homecoming, so maybe, like many print publications, it’s in trouble. You could imagine why they’d want as many photos of Spidey as possible to boost their circulation. Ah, but I digress…

There’s one major reference to a minor Spider-Man character in the final episode of The Defenders, though. In the final episode, as Misty Knight recuperates from her injuries in a hospital bed, you can see a chart on the wall…

This thing is full of fun stuff, referencing the original Night Nurse, both of Misty Knight’s creators, and the comic she first appeared in. I went into more detail about this (and all the other Marvel references on the show) right here.

But you see the name Dr. E. Wirtham? That’s “E” as in Elias Wirtham, a Spider-Man supporting character, who was created by David Michelinie and Erik Larsen in the pages of The Amazing Spider-Man back in 1990. known by his antihero/kinda supervillain name Cardiac, the man with a beta-particle accelerator for a heart and a weird energy staff thing and a rather on-the-nose cardiac-themed costume.

While you’re all saying “Cardiac? Who the hell cares?” let me take you way back. In the early ’90s, as the comic book boom really began to pick up, Marvel (and comic shops) tried to convince everybody that Cardiac was the next Punisher or Wolverine, and that his early appearances would be worth a fortune. This…ummm…this did not happen, but there was definitely early buzz on the character, even if he never achieved the kind of status that say, Cable (who first appeared the year before) did. In more recent comics, Wirtham has been aiding Spidey and working for Parker Industries.

That’s pretty much it for explicit, specific Spidey references, but there are a couple of others, that are probably coincidental but still worth pointing out.

The first is my favorite, because it’s both one of the best moments in the whole series and one of the best tracks of the 1990s. The song that plays during the big team throwdown in the final episode of The Defenders is “Protect Ya Neck” by the Wu-Tang Clan, from their first album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), which is guaranteed to make you at least 10% cooler whenever it’s playing. 

What does this have to do with Spidey, you ask? You can clearly here Inspectah Deck say “swingin’ through your town like your neighborhood Spider-Man.” While this is a perfect track for this scene with or without the Spidey reference, I can’t help but feel that Marco Ramirez and friends had themselves a little laugh at the thought of using this one with that specific lyric.

The last one doesn’t even really count, just because it’s an oft-used NYC location, and has even been used before on Marvel’s Netflix shows. Nevertheless, I am contractually obligated to point out that the rooftop garden that Alexandra meets Madame Gao is the same Rockefeller Center location where Spidey dropped of Mary Jane in the first Sam Raimi Spider-Man movie, right after the (ahem) “World Unity Day” festival/Green Goblin attack/Macy Gray concert.

I think that’s it for Spider-Man references in The Defenders, but you can find my complete guide to ALL the Marvel Easter eggs in the show right here. You can also yell at me about Spider-Man stuff on Twitter!

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