Spider-Man

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Spider-Man (Peter Benjamin Parker) is a fictional character, a Marvel Comics superhero, created by writer-editor Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko. The character first appeared in Amazing Fantasy #15 (Aug. 1962), and has since gone on to become one of the most popular, enduring and commercially successful superheroes worldwide, and is arguably Marvel's most famous character. When Spider-Man first appeared in the early 1960s, teenagers in superhero comic books were usually relegated to the role of sidekick to the series' main character. The Spider-Man series broke ground by featuring Peter Parker, a teenage high school student to whose "self-obsessions with rejection, inadequacy, and loneliness" young readers could relate.[1] Unlike previous teen heroes such as Bucky and Robin, Spider-Man did not benefit from adult mentors like Captain America and Batman and had to learn for himself that "with great power comes great responsibility".

Spider-Man has since appeared in various media, including several animated and live-action television series, syndicated newspaper comic strips and a successful series of films starring actor Tobey Maguire as the character.

Marvel has featured Spider-Man in several comic book series, the first titled The Amazing Spider-Man. Over the years, the Peter Parker character has developed from shy high school student to troubled college student to a married teacher and a member of the superhero team the New Avengers.

In the comics, Spider-Man is often referred to as "web-slinger", "wall-crawler" or "web-head".

Publication history

Creation

By 1962, with the success of the Fantastic Four and other stars, Marvel Comics editor and head writer Stan Lee was casting about for a new superhero idea. He said that the idea for Spider-Man arose from a surge in teenage demand for comic books, and the desire to create a character with whom teens could identify.[2] In his autobiography, Lee cites the non-superhuman pulp magazine crime fighter The Spider as an influence,[3] and in a multitude of print and video interviews Lee stated he was further inspired by seeing a fly climb up a wall—adding in his autobiography that he has told that story so often he has become unsure of whether or not it is true.[4] Jack Kirby claimed Lee had minimal involvement in the character's creation, and that the idea for Spider-Man had originated with Kirby and Joe Simon, who in the 1950s had developed a character called The Silver Spider for the Crestwood comic Black Magic, who was subsequently not used. Simon, in his 1990 autobiography, disputes Kirby's account, asserting that Black Magic was not a factor, and that he (Simon) devised the name "Spider-Man" (later changed to "The Silver Spider"), while Kirby outlined the character's story and powers. Simon later elaborated that his and Kirby's character conception became the basis for Simon's Archie Comics superhero The Fly. Artist Steve Ditko stated that Lee liked the name Hawkman from DC Comics, and that "Spider-Man" was an outgrowth of that interest.[5]

Looking back on the creation of Spider-Man, Tom DeFalco stated he did not believe that Spider-Man would have been given a chance in today's comics world, where new characters are vetted with test audiences and marketers.[6] At the time, however, Lee only had to get the consent of Marvel publisher Martin Goodman for approval for the character.[6] In a 1986 interview, Lee described in detail his arguments to overcome Goodman's objections. Goodman eventually agreed to let Lee try out Spider-Man in the upcoming final issue of the canceled science-fiction/supernatural anthology series Amazing Adult Fantasy, which was renamed Amazing Fantasy for that single issue, #15 (Aug. 1962).[7]

Comics historian Greg Theakston says that Lee, after receiving Goodman's approval for the name Spider-Man and the "ordinary teen" concept, approached Kirby. Kirby told Lee about his 1950s Silver Spider/Spider-Man, in which an orphaned boy living with an old couple finds a magic ring that gives him superpowers. Lee and Kirby "immediately sat down for a story conference" and Lee afterward directed Kirby to flesh out the character and draw some pages. Steve Ditko would be the inker.[8] When Kirby showed Lee the first six pages, Lee recalled, "I hated the way he was doing it. Not that he did it badly — it just wasn't the character I wanted; it was too heroic".[9]

Simon concurs that Kirby had shown the original Spider-Man version to Lee, who liked the idea and assigned Kirby to draw sample pages of the new character but disliked the results—in Simon's description, "Captain America with cobwebs". Writer Mark Evanier notes that Lee's reasoning that Kirby's character was too heroic seems unlikely—Kirby still drew the covers for the first issues of Spider-Man. Likewise, Kirby's given reason that he was "too busy" to also draw Spider-Man in addition to his other duties seems false, as Kirby was, in Evanier's words, "always busy".[10] Both Lee's and Kirby's explanations also do not explain why key story elements like the magic ring were dropped; Evanier states that the most plausible explanation for the sudden change was that Goodman or one of his assistants decided that Spider-Man as drawn and envisioned by Kirby was too similar to The Fly.[10]

In an early recollection of the character's creation, Ditko described his and Lee's contributions in a mail interview with Gary Martin published in Comic Fan #2 (Summer 1965): "Stan Lee thought the name up. I did costume, web gimmick on wrist & spider signal". Additionally, Ditko shared a Manhattan studio with noted fetish artist Eric Stanton, an art-school classmate who, in a 1988 interview with Theakston, recalled that although his contribution to Spider-Man was "almost nil", he and Ditko had "worked on storyboards together and I added a few ideas. But the whole thing was created by Steve on his own... I think I added the business about the webs coming out of his hands".[11]

Commercial success

A few months after Spider-Man's introduction in Amazing Fantasy #15 (Aug. 1962), publisher Martin Goodman reviewed the sales figures for that issue, finding it to have been one of the nascent Marvel's highest-selling comics.[12] A solo series followed, beginning with The Amazing Spider-Man #1 (March 1963). The title eventually became Marvel's top-selling series[13] with the character swiftly becoming a cultural icon; a 1965 Esquire poll of college campuses found that college students ranked Spider-Man and fellow Marvel hero the Hulk alongside Bob Dylan and Che Guevara as their favorite revolutionary icons. One interviewee selected Spider-Man because he was "beset by woes, money problems, and the question of existence. In short, he is one of us".[14] Following Ditko's departure after issue #38 (July 1966), John Romita, Sr. replaced him as artist, and would pencil the character over the next several years.

An early 1970s Spider-Man story led to the revision of the Comics Code. Previously, the Code forbade the depiction of the use of illegal drugs, even negatively. However, in 1970 the Nixon administration's Department of Health, Education, and Welfare asked Stan Lee to publish an anti-drug message in one of Marvel's top-selling titles.[15] Lee chose the top-selling The Amazing Spider-Man; issues #96–98 (May–July 1971) feature a story arc depicting the negative effects of drug use. In the story, Peter Parker's friend Harry Osborn becomes addicted to pills. When Spider-Man fights the Green Goblin (Norman Osborn, Harry's father), Spider-Man defeats the Green Goblin, by revealing Harry's drug addiction. While the story had a clear anti-drug message, the Comics Code Authority refused to issue its seal of approval. Marvel nevertheless published the three issues without the Comics Code Authority's approval or seal. The issues sold so well that the industry's self-censorship was undercut[15] and the Code was subsequently revised.

In 1972, a second monthly ongoing series starring Spider-Man began: Marvel Team-Up, in which Spider-Man was paired with other superheroes and villains. In 1976, his second solo series, The Spectacular Spider-Man began, running parallel to the main series. A third series featuring Spider-Man, Web of Spider-Man, launched in 1985, replacing Marvel Team-Up. The launch of a fourth monthly title in 1990, written and drawn by popular artist Todd McFarlane, debuted with several different covers, all with the same interior content. The various versions combined sold over 3 million copies, an industry record at the time.[16] There have generally been at least two ongoing Spider-Man series at any time. Several limited series, one-shots and loosely related comics have also been published, and Spider-Man makes frequent cameos and guest appearances in other comic series.

The original Amazing Spider-Man ran through issue #441 (Nov. 1998). Writer-artist John Byrne then revamped the origin of Spider-Man in the 13-issue miniseries Spider-Man (Chapter One) (Dec. 1998 - Oct. 1999, with an issue #0 midway through and some months containing two issues), similar to Byrne's adding details and some revisions to Superman's origin in DC Comics' The Man of Steel. Running concurrently, The Amazing Spider-Man was restarted with vol. 2, #1 (Jan, 1999). With what would have been vol. 2, #59, Marvel reintroduced the original numbering, starting with #500 (Dec. 2003).

By the end of 2007, Spider-Man regularly appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man, New Avengers, Spider-Man Family and various limited series in mainstream Marvel Comics continuity, as well as in the alternate-universe series The Amazing Spider-Girl, the Ultimate Universe title Ultimate Spider-Man, the alternate-universe tween series Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane, and the alternate-universe children's series Marvel Adventures Spider-Man and Marvel Adventures (The Avengers).

When primary series The Amazing Spider-Man reached issue #546 (Feb. 2008), Marvel dropped its spin-off ongoing series and instead began publishing The Amazing Spider-Man three times monthly, beginning with #547-549 (each March 2008).

Fictional character biography

In his first appearance, Peter Parker is introduced as an orphaned science whiz kid teenager living with his aunt and uncle in the Forest Hills section of New York City. He is a brilliant student but the subject of mockery by his peers who regard him as a bookworm. One day he gets bitten by a radioactive spider during a science demonstration. He gains spider-like powers such as super-strength the ability to climb walls and a phenomenal jumping skill. Peter's own cleverness enables him to develop gadgets that fire webbing.

As Spider-Man, he becomes a successful TV star. One day at a studio he refuses to stop a thief, saying that it is the job of the police not that of a number one star. Weeks later his beloved guardian, Uncle Ben, is murdered and an angry Spider-Man sets off to capture the killer. When he does, he is horrified to find that the man is none other than the thief he refused to arrest. Learning that with great power comes great responsibility, Spider-Man becomes a vigilante.[17]

After his uncle's death, Peter and his Aunt May become desperate for money, so he gets a job as a photographer at the Daily Bugle selling photos to J Jonah Jameson, who vilifies Spider-Man in the paper.[18] As he battles his enemies for the first time, Parker finds juggling his personal life and costumed adventures difficult, even attempting to give up.[19][20] Fortunately, in the course of his adventures Spider-Man has made a wide variety of friends and contacts within the superhero community, who often come to his aid when he faces problems that he cannot solve on his own.

Enemies frequently endanger his loved ones,[21] with the Green Goblin managing to kill his girlfriend Gwen Stacy.[22] Though haunted by her death, he eventually marries Mary Jane Watson, and much later reveals his civilian identity to the world,[23] furthering his already numerous problems. His marriage to Mary Jane and public unmasking are later erased due to a deal made with the demon Mephisto, resulting in several adjustments to the timeline, such as the resurrection of Harry Osborn and the return of Peter's mechanical web-shooters.[24]

Enemies

Spider-Man has one of the best-known rogues galleries in comics. Spider-Man's most infamous and dangerous enemies are generally considered to be the Green Goblin,Doctor Octopus and Venom. Others include the Lizard, the Chameleon, the Hobgoblin, the New Goblin, Kraven the Hunter, Carnage, the Scorpion, the Sandman, the Rhino, Mysterio, the Vulture, Electro, the Kingpin, Hydro-Man, the Shocker, and Morlun. As with Spider-Man, the majority of these villains' powers originate with scientific accidents or the misuse of scientific technology, and they tend to have animal-themed costumes or powers. At times these villains have formed groups such as the Sinister Six to oppose Spider-Man.

Supporting characters

Spider-Man was conceived as an ordinary person given great power, and the comics detail his civilian life, friends, family and romances as much as his super-heroic adventures.

Some of the more important and well-known members of his extensive supporting cast include:

  • Aunt May – Peter Parker's loving aunt, who, along with her husband Uncle Ben, raised him after his parents died. After the murder of her husband, May is virtually his only family, and they are very close.
  • Uncle Ben - Peter Parker's uncle and father figure. He is tragically murdered by a burglar that Peter had allowed to escape before. Peter believes that his uncle's death was morally his fault, and he decides to use his powers responsibly and become a super-hero.
  • Mary Jane Watson – Originally merely Gwen Stacy's competition, 'MJ' eventually became Peter's best friend and wife. Her marriage to Peter was later erased due to a deal made with Mephisto to save Aunt May's life. She remains married to him in the MC2 canon and the Spider-Man newspaper strip.
  • J Jonah Jameson – The irascible publisher of the Daily Bugle newspaper. While he employs Peter Parker as a photographer, he is also Spider-Man's greatest critic and largely responsible for public distrust of the hero.
  • Joseph "Robbie" Robertson – Editor-in-chief at the Daily Bugle, a moderating influence on Jameson, and a father figure to Peter after Uncle Ben's death
  • Betty Brant – Secretary at the Daily Bugle who was once in love with Peter.
  • Gwen Stacy – Peter's college girlfriend, who is tragically killed by the Green Goblin after she refused to give custody of her children to their biological father Norman Osborn, (the Goblin's true identity), who she had an intimate relationship with behind Peter's back.
  • Flash Thompson – Peter Parker's high school tormentor, later one of his closest friends. Due to brain damage, he suffered amnesia and regressed to his bullying personality, though he eventually recovered from this.
  • Harry Osborn – Peter's best friend in college, who eventually follows his father's footsteps and becomes the second Green Goblin, ultimately resulting in his death. He was resurrected due to the erasure of Peter's marriage to Mary Jane, and all related events, from history.
  • Black Cat – a reformed cat burglar who was Spider-Man's girlfriend and partner at one point, but rejected him when he revealed his identity to her, as she was only interested in his costumed persona. She eventually learned to love Peter on his own merit, but never on the level she loved Spider-Man.

Other versions

In addition to his mainstream incarnation, Spider-Man has had been depicted in other fictional universes.

Cultural impact

Spider-Man has become Marvel's flagship character, and has often been used as the company mascot. When Marvel became the first comic book company to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 1991, the Wall Street Journal announced "Spider-man is coming to Wall Street"; the event was in turn promoted with an actor in a Spider-Man costume accompanying Stan Lee to the Stock Exchange.[25] When Marvel wanted to issue a story dealing with the immediate aftermath of the September 11th, 2001 attacks, the company settled on the December 2001 issue of The Amazing Spider-Man. In 2006, Spider-Man garnered major media coverage with the revealing of the character's secret identity, an event detailed in a full page story in the New York Post before the issue containing the story was even released.

In 2008, Marvel announced plans to release a series of educational comics the following year in partnership with the United Nations, depicting Spider-Man alongside UN Peacekeeping Forces to highlight UN peacekeeping missions. A BusinessWeek article listed Spider-Man as one of the top ten most intelligent fictional characters in American comics.

Notes

  1. Wright, 210.
  2. DeFalco, 1.
  3. Lee & Mair, 130.
  4. Lee & Mair, 126. — "He goes further in his biography, claiming that even while pitching the concept to publisher Martin Goodman, 'I can't remember if that was literally true or not, but I thought it would lend a big color to my pitch'."
  5. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ditko-history
  6. 6.0 6.1 DeFalco, 9.
  7. Daniels, 95.
  8. Ditko, "Alter Ego." — "'Stan said a new Marvel hero would be introduced in #15 [of what became titled Amazing Fantasy]. He would be called Spider-Man. Jack would do the penciling and I was to ink the character.' At this point still, 'Stan said Spider-Man would be a teenager with a magic ring which could transform him into an adult hero — Spider-Man. I said it sounded like The Fly, which Joe Simon had done for Archie Comics. Stan called Jack about it but I don't know what was discussed. I never talked to Jack about Spider-Man... Later, at some point, I was given the job of drawing Spider-Man.'"
  9. Theakston, 12.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Evanier, 127.
  11. Theakston, 14.
  12. Daniels, p. 97
  13. Wright, pg. 211
  14. Wright, pg. 223
  15. 15.0 15.1 Wright, p. 239
  16. Wright, p. 279
  17. Amazing Fantasy #15 (Aug. 1962)
  18. The Amazing Spider-Man #1 (March 1963)
  19. The Amazing Spider-Man #50, (July 1967)
  20. The Amazing Spider-Man #100 (Sept. 1971)
  21. As, for example, in The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 (1963)
  22. The Amazing Spider-Man #121 (June 1973)
  23. Civil War #2 (June 2006)
  24. The Amazing Spider-Man #545 (Dec. 2007)
  25. Wright, p. 254

References

  • Daniels, Les (1991) Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades of the World's Greatest Comics. New York: Harry N. Abrams. ISBN 0-8109-3821-9
  • Ditko, Steve (2000) Alter Ego: The Comic Book Artist Collection. TwoMorrows Publishing. ISBN 1893905063
  • Evanier, Mark; Gaiman, Neil (2008) Kirby: King of Comics. Abrams. ISBN 081099447X
  • Kit Kiefer; Couper-Smartt; Jonathan (2003) Marvel Encyclopedia Volume 4: Spider-Man. Marvel Comics. ISBN 0-785-11304-5
  • Lee, Stan (1974) Origins of Marvel Comics. Simon & Schuster, New York. ISBN 0671218646
  • Lee, Stan; Mair, George (2002) Excelsior!: The Amazing Life of Stan Lee. Fireside. ISBN 0-684-87305-2
  • Theakston, Greg (2002) The Steve Ditko Reader. Pure Imagination, Brooklyn, NY. ISBN 1-56685-011-8
  • DeFalco, Tom; Lee, Stan (2001) Spider-Man: The Ultimate Guide. Dorling Kindersley Publishing, New York. ISBN 078947946X
  • Wright, Bradford W (2001) Comic Book Nation. Johns Hopkins Press ISBN 0801874505

External links