On Spiderman

Peter Parker's Penance

By Lawrence Watt-Evans

Consider two boys. The first is a lad not yet in his teens who sees his beloved parents gunned down in the street by a petty crook, and who is helpless to do anything to save them.

The second is a teenager whose beloved uncle is gunned down by a petty crook, and who realizes that he could have prevented this by stopping that same man earlier.

By lucky chance, both boys have exceptional abilities. Both swear to fight crime, so that other innocents will not suffer as they have. Both youths train themselves, both equip themselves with a miniaturized high-tech arsenal, both put on lurid costumes, and both go out on the streets, taking the fight to the foe.

Except the first boy becomes a grim avenger, a creature of the night, a humorless, relentless, obsessed crimefighter, so focused on his unending war against evil that even his best friends sometimes doubt his sanity.

And the second becomes your happy-go-lucky, fun-loving, wisecracking, friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, always ready with a smart remark.

How does that work?

Logically, shouldn’t Spider-Man be just as grim and driven as Batman? Or even worse? After all, he really is partly responsible for his uncle’s death, where there was nothing young Bruce Wayne could have done to save his parents. Yet there Spidey is, web-swinging happily through the streets and tossing off quips as if he hadn’t a care in the world. Isn’t that a bit, well, heartless of him? What happened to all that guilt, all that angst over his  …

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