Spider-Man just had birthday number 50 in August of 2012. If you don’t know who Spider-Man is where have you been? He is the most popular hero ever released by Marvel and has been followed by fans for half a century. Created by writer-editor Stan Lee and writer-artist Steve Ditko, he first appeared in Amazing Fantasy #15 (August 1962). Lee and Ditko conceived the character as an orphan being raised by his Aunt May and Uncle Ben, and as a teenager, having to deal with the normal struggles of adolescence in addition to those of a costumed crime-fighter. Spider-Man’s creators gave him super strength and agility, the ability to cling to most surfaces, shoot spider-webs using devices of his own invention which he called “web-shooters”, and react to danger quickly with his “spider-sense”.
The Spider-Man series featured Peter Parker the alter-ego of the superhero, a high school student who was bitten by a radioactive spider and became Spider-Man. The real story was how a young man with all the problems of growing up could balance his secret identity of Peter Parker with superhero. Peter was a nerd self-obsessed with rejection, loneliness, and thoughts of inadequacies. In the early 60’s young readers could relate to his predicament and he soon became very popular. After the death of Uncle Ben he felt responsible for his murder and vowed to catch the man. Later he resigned himself to emulated his uncle’s words “with great power there must also come great responsibility”—a line included in a text box in the final panel of the first Spider-Man story. The rest is comic book history and changed Peter Parker’s life forever. This gave birth to many wonderful stories about Spider-Man.
As the most recognized Marvel superhero he has appeared in many forms of media, including several animated and live-action television shows, syndicated newspaper comic strips, and a series of films starring Tobey Maguire as the “friendly neighborhood” hero in the first three movies. Andrew Garfield has taken over the role of Spider-Man in a reboot of the films. Reeve Carney stars as Spider-Man in the 2010 Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. Plus there have been hundreds of comics produced with a huge supporting cast of characters and villains.
Peter Parker was raised by his loving aunt, May Parker, and his uncle and father figure, Ben Parker. After Uncle Ben is murdered by a burglar, Aunt May is virtually Peter’s only family, and she and Peter are very close. J. Jonah Jameson is depicted as the publisher of the Daily Bugle and is Peter Parker’s boss and as a harsh critic of Spider-Man, but publishing editor of the newspaper and confidant Robbie Robertson is always depicted as a supporter of both Peter Parker and Spider-Man. Eugene “Flash” Thompson is commonly depicted as Parker’s high school tormentor and bully but in some comic issues as a friend as well. Harry Osborn, son of Norman Osborn, is most commonly recognized as Peter’s best friend but has also been depicted sometimes as his rival.
Peter Parker’s romantic interests started with his first crush, the fellow high-school student Liz Allan, then he had his first date with Betty Brant, the secretary to Daily Bugle newspaper. After his breakup with Betty Brant, Parker eventually falls in love with his college girlfriend Gwen Stacy, daughter of New York City Police Department detective captain George Stacy, both of whom are later killed by supervillain enemies of Spider-Man. Felicia Hardy, the Black Cat, is a reformed cat burglar who had been Spider-Man’s girlfriend and partner at one point in the history of Spider-Man. But the keeper for Peter was the red headed Mary Jane Watson who eventually became Peter’s best friend and then his wife.
Spider-Man enemies are a real rogues gallery of supervillains. Spider-Man faced such foes as the Chameleon (The Amazing Spider-Man #1), the Vulture (#2), Doctor Octopus (#3), the Sandman (#4), the Lizard (#6), Electro (#9), Mysterio (#13), Green Goblin (#14), Kraven the Hunter (#15), Scorpion (#20), the Rhino (#41), the Shocker (#46), and later Wilson Fisk, also known as the Kingpin. After the Green Goblin was killed, a villain called the Hobgoblin was developed to replace him in #238. After Spider-Man rejected his symbiotic black costume, Eddie Brock, an ex-journalist with a grudge against Spider-Man joined with the symbiotic and became the villain Venom in issue #298. Carnage, another symbiote-based villain, was introduced issue #344. The Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus and Venom are generally described or written as his greatest enemies.
Spider-Man is one of the comic icons who has made it big and will be around for many more years despite the fact he is 50 years old. He came around at the right time to become one of the greatest comic success stories in comic book history. Happy birthday Spider-Man from all of us at Comics Talk, stay tuned comic faithful for more. 🙂 Walt