Spiderman is a Marvel Comics fictional superhero created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. The character first appeared in ‘Amazing Fantasy’ in August 1962 when the combined efforts of Lee, a writer-editor, and Ditko, a writer-artist, signaled the start of a younger generation of superheroes. A teenager finally entering an arena previously occupied only by mature superheroes!
In the early part of the 1960s, Stan Lee, then editor or Marvel Comics, was considering introducing a new type of superhero. At that time, ‘The Fantastic Four’ was enjoying considerable success, but they were adult heroes and there was a rising demand by teenagers for comic book heroes with which they could identify. Stan Lee decided to create a character that would meet this demand.
That is why Spiderman was conceived and eventually given âlifeâ as the orphan Peter, cared for by Uncle Ben and Aunt May Parker. The fact that he was a teenager made him immediately attractive to teenage readers of Marvel Comics. He was the typical neighborhood boy who had the normal problems of adolescence to deal with, despite his special mission as a costumed crime fighter. Teenage readers could identify with him at a basic level, and Spiderman rapidly gained in popularity among the younger generation.
Lee once explained the inspiration that led him to create this character. Around that time there was a normal human crime-fighter known as ‘The Spider’ who was a significant influence, and he was also inspired to create a character that could walk up walls just like a spider that he saw doing just that. He imagined a crime fighter that possessed the ability of a spider to travel around his environment.
It was not easy for Lee to get the consent of Martin Goodman, Marvel Comics’ publisher at that time. Eventually, Goodman agreed and Lee initially approached artist Jack Kirby to bring the character to life. He was asked to provide some drawings of what Spiderman could look like, but made the character look too ‘heroic’ rather than the ordinary teen conceived by Lee. Ultimately, Steve Ditko came up with a representation that Lee found acceptable.
Costume and Sticky Shoes
Ditko recalled how he designed the first artwork for Spiderman, particularly the costume that he considered a very important aspect of the characterization. Each design feature of the costume had to have a specific function or purpose, such as the shoes that were able to cling to any surface. Spiderman’s face also had to be hidden, so that the true person beneath could not be revealed.
That person is not the powerful gung-ho person you might imagine, but Peter Parker, a shy high school student. Most teenagers could easily identify themselves with him and with his feelings of rejection, inadequacy and loneliness. Spiderman had no mentor, but had to learn the rudiments of being a superhero by himself. He was neither like Bucky who had Captain America nor Robin who had Batman to tutor him.
Lee’s concept was actually a dangerous divergence from the mainstream superhero character, where teenagers played a secondary role to the main adult character. It was not long before Spiderman learned for himself that “with great power comes great responsibility”.
Also, just as Superman had Lex Luthor and Batman had the Riddler and the Penguin, Spiderman required an arch nemesis which came in the form of Venom. Although just one of the many villains with whom Spiderman crossed paths, Venom was the most powerful and most evil.
Spiderman: The Amazing Drugbuster!
Goodman was surprised to find that the first issue of Spiderman was one of Marvelâs highest-selling publications! Early the following year, in March 1963, the first issue was followed by a solo series with ‘The Amazing Spiderman’ as issue #1. This series surpassed all previous in terms of sales, and the character became very popular with reader, particularly with teenagers. Some college students ranked Spiderman alongside some of their favorite genuine human revolutionary heroes.
In the early 1970s, Stan Lee was asked by the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare to publish an anti-drugs message in Marvel’s publications. He chose Spiderman as one of the top-selling titles to carry the message. At that time, the Comics Code strictly forbade the depiction of illegal drug use in any form, even negatively, and Lee’s clear anti-drug message did not receive the authority’s approval. However, he decided to publish regardless and the issues carrying the message sold very well, resulting in the Comics Code being revised.
In 1972, Spiderman was paired up with other heroes and villains in ‘Marvel Team-Up’ in his second monthly ongoing series. While the main series was still being published, a second solo series titled ‘The Spectacular Spiderman’ was launched in 1976, and a third series was launched in 1985: ‘Web of Spiderman’ that replaced ‘Marvel Team-Up’. In 1990, the title Spiderman was used solo.
Spiderman became the flagship character of Marvel Comics and also the company mascot. He was one of the companyâs most popular and commercially successful superhero characters, and has made many appearances in animated and live action TV shows, newspaper comic strips, and several movies.
Revamps of the original Spiderman stories were eventually released, and there were times when different series were running concurrently. This period was following a trend in the policy of Marvel Comics, because several other superhero character stories were also published in a revamped form.
Perhaps this was an attempt to revive the early success of the original tales, although the character has never really been out of favor. Later stories included ‘The Amazing Spiderman’ and ‘New Avengers and the Spiderman Family.’
Tobey Maguire was the first to depict his character on screen as the friendly neighborhood hero. He has played the character in a number of movies, although there is currently a plan to use Andrew Garfield as the superhero. The 2010 Spiderman Broadway version titled ‘Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark’ featured Reeve Carney in the lead role.
A Gamble Vindicated
The Spiderman character is described by different critics in different ways, but they generally agree in describing him as having an identity problem. Peter Parker definitely has an inferiority complex, is prone to accidents, is anti-social, and is often suspected of being a clever criminal. The editor of The Daily Bugle, the company he would later be working with, has launched a campaign against the âSpiderman menace”.
Teenagers can identify with many of these character traits, which is perhaps why he has become so popular and has vindicated Stan Lee’s gamble many times over. The latest Spiderman publication (November, 2011) is the ‘Avenging Spiderman’ featuring the superhero with the Red Hulk battling the Moloids during the New York Marathon! The story was written by Zeb Wells, with some fantastic artwork by Joe Madureira. This is not the last you will see of the super-teenager Spiderman/Peter Parker.