On Spiderman

Spider-Man: Ultimate Loner-Ultimate Partner

By Robert Greenberger

The first time Peter Parker used his newly acquired powers was to earn money by challenging a professional wrestler in the ring. The teenager with the slight build stepped into the squared circle and easily bested Crusher Hogan. Peter could have had a lucrative career wrestling with his webbed mask gimmick.

But most readers know what happened next: looking out only for himself, he let a thief run by, and that same thief subsequently killed his uncle Ben. Guilt drove Peter to don a colorful costume and become a superhero, so he could prevent other criminals from taking the lives of others’ loved ones in his beloved New York City.

The thing that made Spider-Man unique when he debuted was that he was a superhero the reader could relate to: a teenager who felt out of place in the world, like his young teen readers. Peter’s parents were long dead, and then one of the two people who raised him was gone. The media, as represented by the Daily Bugle’s acerbic J. Jonah Jameson, declared him a vigilante and a menace. He had no friends as Peter Parker, and certainly no one would befriend him while he wore that full-face mask. After all, arachnophobia was a common fear, similar to instinctual dislike of reptiles and insects.

As written by Stan Lee and illustrated by Steve Ditko in the 1960s, Spider-Man became one of the freshest characters to grace the four-color pages in years, earning both reader sympathy and empathy, something that couldn’t be  …

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