Following the successful release of his newest film, I wanted to celebrate one of the most popular comic book characters ever created. He’s been called Amazing, Spectacular, and Superior, but he needs no further introduction than Spider-Man.
There are many things that make Spider-Man stand apart from other heroes. Spider-Man boasts a unique costume, a habit of making jokes under pressure and his exceptional roster of villains. But what truly sets Spider-Man apart from other heroes is the his status as an everyday guy that was put in an extraordinary situation, and he’s simply trying to do the right thing. When Spider-Man returns home after thwarting a mugging or defeating a super villain, he doesn’t return to a mansion or a fortress of solitude. He returns to a normal life, where he gets kicked around and struggles to make ends meet. On top of being a superhero, he has to manage his relationships with girls, friends and his family. What makes Spider-Man so special is the man under the mask, Peter Parker, and the sacrifices he makes to uphold his responsibility to the greater good.
Perhaps one of the most well known superhero origin stories of all time, Peter Parker was an incredibly gifted high school science geek who was subjected to constant bullying. But when he was bitten by a radioactive spider, he gained the agility and proportional strength of an arachnid. With his newfound abilities, Peter takes on the mantle of Spider-Man for fame and money. However, when Spider-Man refuses to stop a thief, that same criminal later murders his father figure Uncle Ben Parker. Haunted by his own inaction and the opportunity he ignored to stop the thief, Peter vows to use his powers for the greater good. “With great power, there must also come great responsibility.”
The guilt that haunts Peter after the death of his Uncle Ben is one of the character’s defining traits. To become Spider-Man, and the responsibility that entails, Peter is forced to choose the greater he can do in secret as Spider-Man. Making that decision means constantly disappointing his own friends and family. Since his introduction in 1962, we have followed Spider-Man as he navigated through high school, college, marriage and his own career. Not only does Peter Parker have to struggle with constant bullying and general bad luck, but his alter-ego Spider-Man is branded as a menace and criminal by the #FakeNews Daily Bugle newspaper. Despite the fact that Peter never catches a break, he always does the right thing, which is a hallmark of the character. Spider-Man is not perfect as a character, and that is one of the reasons he has drawn such a massive fanbase.
While the character of Spider-Man is unique on his own, he also has some of the most interesting and exciting villains in comics. Including characters like The Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, Wilson Fisk, The Vulture, Sandman, Scorpion, Electro, Mysterio, Kraven, The Rhino, Carnage, and Venom, Spider-Man has one of the most stacked rogues galleries in comic books.
Spider-Man’s powers have stayed consistent since his debut. Spider-Man is incredibly powerful, having the proportionate strength of an arachnid, and he has an extraordinary level of agility. The bite from the spider also gave him the ability to climb walls, and he is given a sixth-sense referred to as “Spider-Sense” which alerts him to immediate danger. While the spider in the Tobey Maguire film in 2002 gave Peter the ability to shoot webs, the original Peter Parker used his science genius to create his own webbing and build himself web shooters.
Along with his web shooters, Peter has used his scientific genius to construct other gadgets. These include his Spider-Signal, a Spider-Man theme flashlight built into his costume, Web Wings that allow Spider-Man to glide, and even a short lived Spider-Mobile.
Debuting in Amazing Fantasy #15 in August 1962, Spider-Man quickly skyrocketed to fame. After becoming one of Marvel’s highest selling characters, Spider-Man has become Marvel’s flagship character as well as a cultural icon. To date, Spider-Man’s merchandise has surpassed 1 billion dollars, and the character’s merchandise beats Batman, Superman and The Avengers combined.
When Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man movie directed by Sam Raimi debuted in 2002, it set records and opened the door for the golden age of superhero movies and changed summer blockbusters forever. Spider-Man over $100 million on its first weekend, which had never been accomplished before. On top of the character’s films, the character has also had multiple televisions shows, video games and even a Broadway show (I saw it, it was amazing.) Spider-Man continues to be an insanely popular and profitable character, with no signs of slowing down in the near-future.
Ultimate Spider-Man by Brian Michael Bendis: This comic is very near and dear to my heart, and is quite possibly my favorite comic of all time. Ultimate Spider-Man was the book that began my passion for comic books, and its the perfect jumping on point for new comic book fans. A 200 issue story, Ultimate Spider-Man is a modern retelling of Spider-Man’s story with a definite beginning and ending. Ultimate Spider-Man is the pinnacle of superhero comics, and I would recommend it to any Spider-Man fans.
Spider-Man Blue by Jeph Loeb: One of the most emotional comics I’ve ever read, Spider-Man: Blue details Spider-Man’s relationship with the late Gwen Stacy as Peter laments over his lost love. Spider-Man Blue is narrated by Peter as he speaks to Gwen through tape recordings, recounting their story together and how he has been able to grow. Spider-Man Blue is a must read for Spider-Man fans, but bring tissues.
The Amazing Spider-Man #1-38 by Stan Lee: For those of you that have never read through Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s original run of the Amazing Spider-Man, you are absolutely in for a treat! It’s wacky, fun and absolutely worth it to read through the run that started it all.