Our latest look at Miles Morales’ video gaming escapades last week revealed that his new PlayStation game is giving him a techno-powered foe to fight in the form of the Tinkerer. And while Spider-Man: Miles Morales’ take on the character is very different to what we’ve seen before, they do have comics (and cinematic!) history.
The Tinkerer we met in last week’s brief gameplay segment of Miles Morales is a neon-infused, armored techy, a mysterious masked woman Miles must stop from pilfering Roxxon supplies before she and her equally armored-up gang, the Underground, can swipe it. But the Tinkerer of Marvel’s comics—and seen briefly in Spider-Man: Homecoming as a member of the Vulture’s gang, played by Michael Chernus—is an older man by the name of Phineas Mason.
Introduced in the comics in Amazing Spider-Man’s second issue back in 1963, Mason has never had superpowers, but is instead just one of the Marvel universe’s many genius-level intellects, a whiz kid across multiple scientific and engineering fields. His true passion was invention, so he opened up a repair shop to get the chance to use his knowledge to help people fix and tweak their possessions.
But the emergence of superhuman beings riled Mason, who believed natural talents like his were being overlooked by people who used their newfound powers with reckless abandon as costumed vigilantes and criminals. His obsession drove him to prove that he too could enter the world of costumed villainy relying only on his wits and his passion for technology, taking on the Tinkerer moniker and hiring his shop out as front for developing supervillain tech.
His debut teamup saw him outfit Quentin Beck, a.k.a. Mysterio, with the gear to help pull off the illusion of a mysterious alien invasion that befuddled even Spider-Man—who crossed paths with Mason running an errand for his school professors before discovering that Mason’s store was a front. Although the Tinkerer seemingly escaped Spider-Man’s clutches for good at the climax of the story (with Peter convinced he’d escaped into space with the aforementioned “aliens”), Mason has hung around as an obscure slice of the Spidey rogues’ gallery ever since. He’s teamed up with all sorts of Marvel villains over the years—at one point earning himself the ire of the Punisher who, instead of killing him for his criminal associations, merely stabbed his spine, temporarily paralyzing him—acting as a go-to for villains to get their illegal tech.
Most recently he played a big role in Chip Zdarsky and Adam Kubert’s run on Spectacular Spider-Man, which gave Mason a wild new background story where he’d actually spent his life of tinkering and criminal aid trying to prepare for Earth’s invasion by a race of alien A.I. called the Vedomi, after encountering a scout when he was younger. Though Mason was playing both sides of the superpowered spectrum to advance his goals and research—which was to help the Vedomi attack the humans he so despised—Spider-Man eventually defeated him thanks to a little time-travel and a pep-talk or two, convincing the dismayed Mason that humanity didn’t need to suffer at large because of his own worldview.
Suffice to say, all of this is likely not going to factor into the version of the Tinkerer we’re getting in Spider-Man: Miles Morales. Beyond the age and gender switchup, the version we’ve glimpsed in the game has some obvious connections—in the form of tech-based criminality—but otherwise seemingly a mystery. We don’t know her beef with Roxxon, or why she’s taken up a gang of their own instead of outfitting other supervillains, other than the fact we know this universe’s Peter Parker put a bunch of said supervillains behind bars in the game before this (Miles is set roughly a year later).
But the Tinkerer represents an opportunity for Miles as a hero and Miles Morales as a game. The character’s obscure enough that Insomniac can really put its own spin on the idea of a non-powered villain, in the same way it gave us its own compelling take on a much-more known figure like Doc Ock in Marvel’s Spider-Man. But the Tinkerer as the gang leader of some amped-up crooks also feels like significant enough a challenge for a young hero like Miles to handle; he’s experienced at this point but not quite up to the years of webslinging that Peter had.
We don’t have all that much longer to see how he does (and we do, too) when Spider-Man: Miles Morales comes to PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 in November.
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