On Spiderman

Spider-Man: Class Straddler as Superhero

By Matthew Pustz

Spider-Man was one of my favorite superheroes as a teenager. I’m sure that part of the reason I identified with him was because he was a lonely, alienated guy who didn’t have the best luck when it came to relationships. Looking back at it now, though, the more important reason for my identification was his financial situation. Because he has to worry about helping to pay for Aunt May’s frequent hospital stays, as well as everyday expenses like rent and tuition, Peter is forced to work at the Daily Bugle when he’d rather be focusing on his college classes or fighting crime as Spider-Man. This was a situation I could understand, unlike that of Batman and other heroes, who apparently had no occupation beyond being independently wealthy. Spider-Man knew what it meant to struggle financially, to want to move up in the world, and to feel obligations to the family and friends that might be left behind. As the child of a middle-class family with working-class roots, this appealed to me, and Spider-Man became one of my favorites because of his social class.

Although I wouldn’t have thought about it when I read the stories twenty-five years ago, Spider-Man is clearly working class. Peter Parker isn’t rich, but he has a job. Unfortunately, being a freelance photojournalist is not the most secure occupation. Presumably, Peter didn’t get any benefits or health insurance from the Daily Bugle, and if he didn’t get any pictures for that day’s paper, he didn’t get paid,  …

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