Spider-Man is a Marvel Comics character. He first appeared in Amazing Fantasy #15, written by Stan Lee and penciled by Steve Ditko.

Stan Lee had a new idea for a superhero. There was something strange about his idea: rather than having a teenage sidekick, the hero was the teenager. That hero was Spider-Man. The editor-in-chief of Marvel at the time, Martin Goodman, was hesitant to pick up the idea, because he thought that the reference to spiders was too distasteful. However, he allowed Lee and Ditko to put the story into the last issue of a failing comic, Amazing Adult Fantasy. Stan Lee dropped the Adult from the title, and Amazing Fantasy #15 went to print.

Inside was a story about Peter Parker, a high school student (and a bit of a nerd). Orphaned as a child, he was raised by his Aunt May and Uncle Ben. Nerd that he was, one day he attended a demonstration of a new radioactive device. A spider happened to be caught in the radiation, and bit Peter shortly before dying. Dazed as a result of the bite, Peter walked out of the lab, only to nearly be hit by an oncoming car. He was warned by a buzzing in his head (what would later be known as his spider sense). Peter jumped out of the way…about 20 feet out of the way! What’s more, he was sticking to the side of a nearby building! After a little further experimentation, Peter had discovered all of his new powers.

But that’s not the important part of the story. Peter was making a quick buck exploiting his superpowers on television under the identity of Spider-Man. He even developed some web-shooters to further his act. One night, a thief ran by him while he was backstage. Rather than stop the thief, Peter let him go, figuring it was not his problem.

Returning home one night, Peter saw that his house was surrounded by police. A burglar had broken in and shot his beloved Uncle Ben. Peter heard that the police had the burglar surrounded in a warehouse. So he went to deal with the burglar himself.

Peter entered the warehouse and quickly took care of the burglar. Upon taking a closer look, he was horrified to learn that it was the thief he had let run by a few nights earlier. He could have prevented the whole thing if he had just stopped the thief! Truly, this was a tragedy the Greeks would have been proud of.

So Peter decided to devote his powers to stopping other such tragedies from occurring, learning that, ”…With great power there must also come -- great responsibility!” (Easily the most quoted line from a comic.)

So basically, Spider-Man’s career as a hero is based on guilt. But something about Spider-Man had struck a chord with teen comic book readers. They liked the idea of a hero that was just like them, a high schooler with issues that they could relate to. This is what makes Spider-Man so important. Before Spider-Man, superheroes were invincible, and had no real personal lives to speak of. They just did the hero gig all the time. The Fantastic Four were astronauts. The Incredible Hulk was a nuclear physicist. Superman was, well…Superman! Spider-Man revolutionized comic-book storytelling. Not bad for a book whose concept was distasteful.

Spider-Man's superpowers are all related to spiders (as one might expect). Recently, it was revealed that it was not the radiation that gave him his powers. Instead, the spider that bit Peter at the demonstration passed on the powers to Peter so that he could be a totem, or avatar, for spiders in general. Peter didn't know this because the radiation killed the spider before it could tell him. What exactly did the spider give him? He has the proportionate speed and strength of a spider. He sticks to walls, even through thin layers of clothing (or spandex). He has an extra “spider sense” that warns him of danger. In addition to all of these nifty natural powers, Peter created some synthetic webbing that is incredibly strong and sticky, as well as shooters for said webbing. This webbing is how he gets around, swinging from building to building on web-lines. It biodegrades after about an hour.

Throughout the years, Spider-Man has remained one of the most down-to-earth heroes out there. He lost a battle to Doctor Octopus because he had the flu. He grew up and went to college. He was evicted from his apartment. He got married. You get the idea. He’s constantly referred to as a sort of Everyman by writers and fans. This is the biggest part of his appeal.

The Spider-Man section of the Marvel Universe is home to 2 of the only characters in comics to stay dead: Uncle Ben (for obvious reasons), and Gwen Stacy (other than a clone or two). The death of Gwen Stacy was another major moment in comics. Gwen Stacy was Peter Parker's girlfriend, and when she was killed by the Green Goblin, it shocked everyone. Characters that close to the main character almost never died back then. Stan Lee himself has said that he thinks it was a bad idea. Comics lost some of their innocence when Peter lost Gwen.

But Gwen Stacy’s death is only one instance of Peter Parker’s life going badly. Most people in the city think that he’s a menace, thanks to J. Jonah Jameson’s negative (and generally false) reporting in the Daily Bugle. Peter does manage to profit from this by taking pictures of himself as Spider-Man and selling them to the Bugle. He even published a book of his Spider-Man pictures. But because he obviously is able to get close to Spider-Man, several villains have royally screwed up Peter Parker’s life trying to get to Spider-Man (few know the two are the same person); most notably Kraven, the Chameleon, and the Green Goblin.

Still, Spider-Man perseveres, and this refusal to quit is another reason people love Spider-Man. He will always be the most iconic hero in the Marvel Universe, and readers should have no problem finding stories about him: He's had about a dozen monthly series at some point or another, generally with 2 or 3 going at the same time, and in any given year there are 5 or 6 Spider-Man miniseries. Not to mention all of the guest appearances he makes in other Marvel titles, and he's a new Avenger, so he's in that book every month as well. Some would call this overexposure, but his fans will tell you that Spider-Man is a good enough character to shoulder the load.


  • Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades of the World’s Greatest Comics, by Les Daniels.
  • And of course, my own collection of Spider-Man comics.

The 2002 film was directed by Sam Raimi and starred Tobey Maguire as Spidey, Willem Dafoe as The Green Goblin and Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson.

This movie is a masterpiece. It tells the story of Spider-Man's origin and his battle against his first arch-nemesis, the Green Goblin. The story stays very true to Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's original tale of Peter Parker's transformation into Spider-Man, with the exception of the addition of Mary Jane and the Green Goblin, who originally didn't show up until much later in the comic's timeline.

If the plot shines, then the direction shines even brighter. Sam Raimi was perfect for this project, and oh my Lord does it show. As soon as Tobey Maguire dons the Spidey costume, it's like the artwork from the comic is jumping onscreen and being transformed into full-color 3D reality. The camera angles, the lighting, Spidey's body language and movement, even the dialogue...everything is exactly as I remember it from the comic. It's obvious that Raimi knows this story and knows it well. Every little detail -- even the lighting and definition of the muscles in Spidey's legs as he perches on a wall -- is absolutely perfect.

It's been said in many reviews that Tobey Maguire is to Spider-Man what Christopher Reeve was to Superman. While I don't disagree that Chris Reeve was an amazing Superman, I don't feel the comparison does Tobey justice. His portrayal of the webslinger is dead-on accurate. The expressions on his face, the way his eyes widen, the way he moves and speaks...all of it conveys the same feelings I had when I read the Spider-Man comics and, later, the excellent novels by Diane Duane, et. al. Tobey knows this character. He is Peter Parker, and his Peter Parker is Spider-Man. As for the other characters, they're by no means outdone. Everyone in this movie is brilliantly-cast and every character is flawlessly-acted, as if they had been ripped right out of the comics.

The feeling I got when I saw Spidey swinging through Manhattan was incredible. It brought back the elation I felt as a kid when I imagined what it would be like to swing from building to building, dodging light-poles and cars and other obstacles. Once again, Raimi's direction shines, and his portrayal of Spider-Man webslinging through New York City is, again, true to the vivid artwork of the comic.

All controversy aside (who really cares if the web-shooters are organic or mechanical?), this is the best comic book movie ever to come out of Hollywood. I can't get enough of it. If you were ever a Spider-Man fan, you owe it to yourself to see this movie.

The late 70's saw an influx of television series based upon the adventures of heroes and superheroes. Where the early 70's saw hour after hour taken up with private investigators, the late 70's took us to outer space in the future with Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and his robot companion Twiki ("Bidi Bidi Bidi"), showed us the adventures of Wonder Woman, making Linda Carter a household name, and gave us the weekly adventures of the Incredible Hulk, producing a memorable line ("You wouldn't like me when I'm angry") and forever fusing the image of Lou Ferrigno in green body paint and a fright wig into our collective consciousness. But amazingly during this time, a famous hero was brought to the small screen in a completely forgettable hour adventure show - the amazing Spider-man.

The show began as a pilot in 1977 starring Nicholas Hammond as Peter Parker. True to the comics origins, Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider and gained amazing abilities, including the ability to climb walls and increased strength. Unfortunately, from there the comics and the television series begin to diverge. While the comics (and the later movie) tell of how Peter lost his beloved uncle due in some aspect to his own actions, the television series just had him slap on the spandex and begin climbing walls in what can only be charitably referred to as questionable special effects.

The original pilot was met with a certain amount of success so the following year an hour drama starring Hammond. The only other two characters that made the leap from the four colors to the small screen were Parker's Aunt May and his boss J. Jonah Jameson. The rest of the cast was made up of your typical 1970's cast, two co-workers, one white and one black.

The stories didn't involve super-villains and such, but instead, people building atomic bombs, mind control chemicals, kidnappings, etc. - all the usual 70's TV fodder. The lack of real action, the sub-standard special effects, and the paper thin plots soon had the minimal viewership fleeing. Spiderman only saw a couple of seasons and soon was no more.

My least-favorite memory of the series was the eye pieces in the webcrawler's outfit. For as long as anyone can remember, the eye holes in Spider-man's mask were covered with a material that kept people from seeing his eyes, but allowed him to see out. Unfortunately, despite breakthroughs in aviator's glasses by the 70's, the costume designer for Spider-man decided to go with something that resembled pieces of a pasta colander to cover the eyeholes. Though not a huge issue, I remember even back then dismissing the whole show if they couldn't do better than that.

In later days, Spider-Man/Peter Parker has been portrayed on film by a variety of actors; indeed, there have been three separate movie franchises that showcase the character. The first, starring Tobey Maguire, had three movies: Spider-Man (2002), Spider-Man 2 (2004) and Spider-Man 3 (2007). The second, starring Andrew Garfield, had two movies: The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014). The third franchise, which is incorporated into the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe, has thus far included Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017), Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) and Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021), and stars Tom Holland as Spider-Man. Holland also appeared in these other MCU films: Captain America: Civil War (2016), Avengers: Infinity War (2018) and Avengers: Endgame (2019).

There are more video games based on Spider-Man than any decent society should permit. Some of the more successful ones include his 1991 outings for Sega (Spider-Man The Videogame in the arcades, Spider-Man versus The Kingpin for home formats), his numerous Acclaim-published efforts (Maximum Carnage, Spider-Man and the X-Men), and his recent Playstation and PC game, simply titled Spider-Man, which was narrated by Stan Lee.

One of the coolest features of this newest game is that Spidey doesn't allow the player to enter swearwords in the save game dialogue box. (Hey, I found this accidentally when trying to enter "Don't get cocky, Spidey" after performing a particularly skillful manouvre.) He actually scuttles on screen and replaces them with nice words with a hearty thump, to whit:-

C - U - N - Thwap! COOKIE

F - U - C - Thwap! FUDGE

S - H - I - Thwap! NICE

OK, he is sworn to fight crime, but surely he has his priorities a bit mixed up.

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