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In the cartoons, I've seen Spider-Man shoot a variety of webs from his web-shooters. The ones I can name now are:

  • Globs of sticky webbing
  • Lines of swinging webbing
  • Sticky lines of webbing

If these all come from the same device, how is he able to choose which type of webbing is shot?

(I'm as interested in the comics as the cartoons, FWIW.)

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5 Answers 5

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Marvel's official website has this diagram of Spider-Man's web shooters:

Spinneret nozzle close-up. Parts include (from right to left): Annealed brasstuping (web fluid channel); sapphire bearing and stainless steel bearing mount; stainless steel washer; teflon turbine; turbine pump vanes (variable pitch); central spinneret hole; spinneret selector wheel; retaining collar (screws not shown for purposes of clarity); amber bearing; spinneret nozzle array web line; complex web pattern; thick stream. Turbine rotates counterclockwise.

The Wikipedia entry on Spider-Man's webbing states simply that Spider-Man "can do many things with his webs" and lists many different types of webbing (the ones you listed included). All of these different types of webbing come from the same shooters; they just occur when the wrist devices are used differently.

To paraphrase the Marvel Wiki (emphasis mine):

The wristlets had sharp steel nipples which pierced the bronze caps when the cartridges were tightly wedged into their positions. The hand-wound solenoid needle valve was actuated by a palm switch that was protected by a band of spring steel which required a 65 pound pressure to trigger... The effect of the very small turbine pump vanes was to compress (shear) the web fluid and then force it, under pressure, through the spinneret holes which cold-drew it (stretches it: the process wherein nylon gains a four-fold increase in tensile strength), then extrudes it through the air where it solidified. As the web fluid exited the spinneret holes, it was attracted to itself electrostatically and thus could form complex shapes. The spinneret holes had three sets of adjustable, staggered openings around the turbine which permitted a single web line, a more complex, spun web line, and a thick stream... The 300 p.s.i. pressure in each cartridge was sufficient to force a stream of the complex web pattern an estimated 60 feet (goes significantly further if shot in a ballistic parabolic arc).

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  • Bah! My answer trumped by an answer with a picture! Got to remember that people LIKE pictures :)
    – K-H-W
    Feb 7, 2012 at 16:57
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    I just had a geekgasm.
    – AncientSwordRage
    Feb 7, 2012 at 17:22
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    Yeah; I gave the same answer, the same links, but a picture triggers a Geekgasm.. I'd grumble (since I got mine in first), but since I stole my link from his answer to ANOTHER question, I really can't complain :)
    – K-H-W
    Feb 7, 2012 at 17:46
  • Any day where I see the phrase "sharp steel nipples" in print is a good day... Jul 13, 2017 at 14:54
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As Jeff points out over in this question, this has been discussed to death over on the Marvel Wiki... But, to save you wading through pages of debate:


Take a look at the Web-Shooters page on the aforementioned Wiki; it basically says what he has said a few times in the comics; they have settings that allow him to adjust what he shoots.

The effect of the very small turbine pump vanes is to compress (shear) the web fluid and then force it, under pressure, through the spinneret holes which cold-draws it (stretches it: the process wherein nylon gains a four-fold increase in tensile strength), then extrudes it through the air where it solidifies. As the web fluid exits the spinneret holes, it is attracted to itself electrostatically and thus can form complex shapes. The spinneret holes have three sets of adjustable, staggered openings around the turbine which permit a single web line, a more complex, spun web line, and a thick stream.

(Emphasis added to specifically address your question.)

To link them up to your specific question details:

  • Globs of sticky webbing --> a thick stream.
  • Lines of swinging webbing --> spun web line
  • Sticky lines of webbing. --> single web line
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In an info insert in an early Spider-Man issue, it's explained that he can change the setting by manually spinning the nozzle to different settings.

Panel 1: Peter Parker with a chemical system in the packground, operating a machine that is streaming out webbing. The infoxes say: Fortunately for Peter Parker (and the world at large), the amazing teen-ager is a brilliant science student! He has devoted long hours of study to learning everything he can about spiders! Although it is not a matter of public knowledge, he is probably the world's greatest authority on the subject of webs and their creation... His web-making ability is one of his most closely-guarded secrets! But we CAN tell you this... he make shis own web fluid under the most exacting conditions in the lab, storing it in small, compact cylinders like miniature toothpaste tubes! Panel 2: A close-up of Peter's hand with the web-shooter shooting webbing. Infobox: As any Spider-Man reader knows, Spidey's web-shooter is worn at his wrist, and activated by the slightest touch of his finger upon the super-sensitive electrode located on the palm of his hand! Panel 3: Closeup of Spidey's utility belt. Infobox: Inasmuch as his webbing is his most potent weapon, the masked adventurer always carries spare web-fluid capsules clipped onto his ingeniously designed utility belt! By adjusting the nozzle of his web-shooter in one easy motion, Spidey can eject his web fluid in any one of three different ways... Panel 4: Spider-Man swinging on a line of webbing. Infobox: 1. As a thin, incredibly strong line... Panel 5: Spidey shooting out two webs. Infobox: 2. As a fine, quick-spreading spray... Panel 6: Closeup of Spidey shooting a gloop of white onto a wall. Infobox: 3. Or as a thick, tremendously adhesive liquid! I can't find a source at the moment, but I recall the system changing to the nozzles spinning based on the pattern Peter taps out on the trigger.

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  • I recall the same thing - a pattern (or just a number) of taps on the trigger.
    – RDFozz
    Jul 2, 2018 at 21:30
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In Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 (1964), it was stated that Spidey could expel his webbing in three different ways by adjusting the nozzles on his web-shooters.

By adjusting the nozzle of his web-shooter in one easy motion, Spidey can eject his web fluid in any one of three different ways...

  1. As a thin, incredibly strong line...

  2. As a fine, quick-spreading spray...

  3. Or as a thick, tremendously adhesive liquid...!

Explanation of Spider-Man's web-shooters from Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1.

By Amazing Spider-Man Annual #4 (1967), he'd apparently modified his web-shooters so that he could vary the output based on how many times, and for how long, he depressed the triggers on his palms.

The amazing web-fluid can gush out in many different forms, depending upon how long Spidey's finger remains upon the sensitive control button...

A short tap releases a thin, cable-like strand, recommended for swinging... or stringing guitars!

A longer period of pressure releases more fluid, forming an icky, echhy, blochhy, sticky blob... useful in pasting a foe against a wall... like!

A series of brisk, staccato taps releases multiple cable shapes which can be formed into a decorative netting pattern!

Explanation of Spider-Man's web-shooters from Amazing Spider-Man Annual #4.

A similar explanation was given in Spider-Man: The Ultimate Guide (2007).

TWO TAPS

Peter designed his web-shooters so that he wouldn't accidentally fire them every time he made a fist. Resting in the palm of his hand, the trigger works just like a computer's mouse. He must tap twice in rapid succession to release his webbing.

DIFFERENT STROKES

Peter has improved upon his initial design. He now switches between different forms of webbing by the way he taps his trigger. With a short second tap he releases a thin cablelike strand that is perfect for web-swinging. A longer second tap increases the strand's thickness for additional support. If Spidey prolongs the pressure on the trigger, web fluid squirts out in the form of an adhesive liquid that can paste a foe against a wall. A series of brisk taps discharges many thin strands that form a fine spray of webbing, perfect for blinding an opponent.

Explanation of Spider-Man's webbing and web-shooters from Spider-Man: The Ultimate Guide.

Spider-Man's entry in the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A-Z #11 (2009) provides detailed diagrams of both the mechanical and organic web-shooters, and states the following:

The effect of the very small turbine pump vanes is to compress (shear) the web fluid and then force it, under pressure, through the spinneret holes, which cold-draws it (stretches it: the process wherein nylon gains a four-fold increase in tensile strength), then extrudes it through the air where it solidifies. As the web fluid exits the spinneret holes, it is attracted to itself electrostatically and thus can form complex shapes. The spinneret holes have three sets of adjustable, staggered openings around the turbine that permit a single webline, a more complex, spun webline, and a thick stream.

Diagrams of Spider-Man's web-shooters from Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A-Z #11.

Explanation of Spider-Man's abilities and accessories from Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A-Z #11.

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Good question, but when it comes down to it, the shape, size, viscosity, and adhesiveness of Spider-Man's webbing is determined by ... the mystery of Peter Parker's ingenious design! It's kind of like the enigmatic spider sense - it just works that way because the writer of the story wanted it to. It's great to think logically, but asking a question like this about a character who is only partially believable is over-thinking it a bit. Although apparently, Spider-Man's webshooters have sensitive trigger buttons that require variations of palm-squeezing techniques (using alternate fingers or tapping the trigger twice, for example) to fire different forms of webbing. Exactly what these little slight-of-hand tricks are is pretty much unexplained, or at least, vary from comic to comic.

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    This really isn't an answer, and there are two answers that give references that do describe how the webbing is shaped, so the information in your answer is already disproven.
    – Monty129
    Dec 13, 2013 at 18:22
  • Disproven? That's saying a lot for a ficitional set of devices, don't you think? These webshooters don't exist, therefore the overload of pseudoscience in those answers above mine are null and void. They were added to the in-universe canon a long time after Stan Lee and Steve Ditko first came up with them, probably by a writer who asked the same question posed here. Besides, the sources provided as answers describe (with imagined detail) how the webbing is compressed, sheared and fired, with only a line or two at the end explaining the three spinnerets. I tried to explain how Spidey chooses Dec 13, 2013 at 22:49
  • -between them i.e. finger tapping etc. Dec 13, 2013 at 22:50
  • Marvel's official website is as cannon as it gets for a description of how they work. The question was looking for in universe answers which where given by the two previous answers. Yours does not have any of that information.
    – Monty129
    Dec 14, 2013 at 20:04
  • The question is: How does Spider-Man control his webbing? Whilst the comments before mine, though very well researched, don't really delve into HOW Spider-Man, himself, selects each type of webbing; it's almost as if he has a mental connection with the webshooters at times, that's how ridiculous the whole thing is. My explanation mentions, as I said last time, that he exerts control of the webfluid by squeezing the trigger button in different ways (not that that provides much detail, but like I said - it's fiction. We can suspend our disbelief with it). My original comment is just as relevant. Dec 15, 2013 at 9:43

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