Spider-Man — The Ultimate Guide
The Place to Go If You Want to Know Anything about Marvel's Flagship Superhero
Welcome to the Creators Ultimate Guide to Spider-Man! This is the place to go if you want to know anything about Marvel's flagship superhero. Spider-Man has been in the public eye for over 50 years, and his appeal continues to grow. He is the quintessential Marvel hero, and here you will find all you need to know. So read on, true believer, and enjoy!
Alter ego: Peter Parker
- Wall Crawling
- Proportional strength of a spider - able to lift around 10 tons
- Enhanced speed and agility
- Precognitive Spider-sense
After "The Other" event, Spider-Man gained these additional powers:
- Organic webbing
- Arthropod Communication (the ability to control insects/arachnids)
- Limited night vision
- Venomous stingers/fangs
- Spider tracers
First appearance: Amazing Fantasy #15 (1962)
Created by: Stan Lee & Steve Ditko
Peter Parker was a high-school student from Queens who had a passion for science. He lived with his Aunt May and Uncle Ben after his parents disappeared while he was a child. One day, while attending a scientific demonstration, Peter is bitten by a radioactive spider. It is this event that changes his life forever. The bite of the spider gives Peter the proportional strength and speed of a spider as well as the ability to cling to walls. It also gifts him with a precognitive "spider-sense" which warns him of any potential dangers.
At first, Peter decides to use his powers for personal gain, performing on television and becoming a wrestling star. One fateful day, he fails to stop a thief from escaping with the takings of a particular fight. When he returns home, he discovers that his Uncle Ben has been murdered. Peter is distraught and seeks revenge, so he dons his costume once more and follows the police to the killer. It is here that he realises his tragic error in judgement - Uncle Ben's killer was the thief he had failed to stop earlier! It is at this moment that Peter vows to use his powers to honour his uncle's memory, and Peter learns the valuable lesson that with great power, there must also come, great responsibility.
But why IS Spider-Man so loved? What is it that makes him special amongst the many other superheroes available? The answer dates back to the earliest stages of the character. Stan Lee had wanted a hero that would appeal to younger audiences, someone that teenagers could identify with. So instead of some multimillionaire or super soldier, Lee chose to make Spider-Man a teenager himself. At the time, teenage superheroes were usually sidekicks, but not Spider-Man - he would be a hero in his own right!
One of the biggest draws to Spider-Man is his alter ego, Peter Parker. Storylines would often be as much about defeating the villains as they would be Peter struggling to balance his double life. Peter has vulnerabilities, he is not a godlike being or a successful businessman. He is just a normal kid that something amazing has happened to. He is frequently late for school or misses social events due to his adventures as Spider-Man and, in a cruel irony, Spider-Man's biggest fan is Peter Parker's biggest tormentor - Flash Thompson. It is this everyman aspect to the character that appeals to fans across the world - he is one of us!
Spider-Man has one of the most eclectic and well known rogues galleries in comic books. It covers the full gamut of villains raging from petty thugs and criminals to cosmic powered villains and even demons. Spidey deals with crime lords such as the Kingpin and Silvermane on one hand, while battling superpowered foes such as The Lizard or Electro on the other. There are a three villains who could be argued to be Spidey's arch-nemesis however - The Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus and Venom.
The Green Goblin
The Green Goblin is perhaps Spider-Man's best known villain, primarily due to one crucial event in the wall-crawler's history. It was the Goblin who was responsible for the legendary story - The Night Gwen Stacy Died. After discovering Spider-Man's true identity, the Goblin chooses to attack Spider-Man in a much more personal manner, by kidnapping his girlfriend, Gwen Stacy. As the story's title suggests, this ultimately ends with the death of Gwen Stacy. Before this, superheroes had not failed so devastatingly outside of an origin story. Of course, Peter ignored the robber who would go on to kill Uncle Ben in his origin story, but this was uncharted territory for comic books. Gwen was arguably Peter's one true love, something which fans will debate forever, and it is for this reason that the Green Goblin is so notorious.
Doctor Octopus is a genius scientist who had created some mechanical arms to help him safely perform experiments. One day, an accident caused the arms to be permanently fused to him and he began a life of crime. It is often argued that he and Peter Parker are very similar, both are very intelligent and have a passion for science. The key difference between the two is Peter's sense of responsibility that was drilled into him by his Uncle Ben. Over the years Doc Ock has taken many guises, he was the infamous "Master Planner" as well as the person who organised the Sinister Six. He actually succeeded in defeating Spidey in their first fight. Later stories included Doc Ock almost marrying Aunt May and the notorious Superior Spider-Man (more on that later). It could be argued that he is the only enemy to truly defeat Spider-Man because of this storyline.
Venom was created when Peter Parker finally discarded his black costume after finding out that it was actually an alien symbiote. After it was rejected by Peter, the alien found a suitable host in Eddie Brock, a reporter who had a deep hatred of Spider-Man. Brock had incorrectly exposed the identity of a serial killer to the world before the real killer was found by the web-slinger. As a result of this, Brock was fired from his job and became suicidal. When he came into contact with the symbiote, it was a match made in heaven and the two combined to become Venom. Venom is a dark mirror of Spider-Man who has the added advantage of not activating Peter's Spider-Sense. This is due to the bond that Peter had shared with the symbiote, this also meant that Venom knew all of Peter's secrets. Venom would often play psychological games with Peter in an attempt to ruin his life or tarnish his reputation. This psychological aspect was something that had not really been explored before, and Venom played it to perfection.
Over the years, Spider-Man has featured in many groundbreaking storylines, the aforementioned The Night Gwen Stacy Died is one of these. As well as being involved in many of Marvel's big crossovers such as Secret Wars, Spider-Man has been involved in many high-profile stories of his own. Including The Night Gwen Stacy Died, we also have the much-maligned Clone Saga of the '90s, the controversial Superior Spider-Man and also Spider-Verse as four examples.
The Night Gwen Stacy Died
As explained above, this story was a huge turning point in, not only Spider-Man's history, but comic book history as well. Norman Osborn had been suffering from amnesia, forgetting his dual-life as The Green Goblin, but after his son, Harry, enters rehab for drug abuse, he has a breakdown and remembers his life of crime. This also causes him to remember Spider-Man's true identity after he had previously discovered it. Osborn decides to resume his campaign against Spider-Man and does so by targeting his loved ones.
At the time, Peter Parker was dating Gwen Stacy, a classmate at university, and Osborn kidnapped her. Driven by a combination of panic and rage, Peter followed him to the George Washington Bridge and the two fought. During the ensuing battle, The Green Goblin throws Gwen from the bridge. Seeing his lover plummeting towards the water, Peter shoots a web-line and catches her... But little does he know that he has accidentally caused her death. The whiplash caused from the sudden stop had been so strong, that Gwen's neck broke. Tragically, Peter initially thinks he has saved her, but all too quickly he realises that Gwen is dead.
Many argue that this storyline was the end of the "Silver Age of Comics" and was the catalyst for much darker, grittier stories. Never before had a superhero failed so badly, and the consequences of Gwen's death would be felt for many years to come.
The Clone Saga
The '90s were a messy time for Spider-Man and this was mainly due to the Clone Saga. The story was devised as a way to return Spider-Man to his status quo, with Marvel's editors feeling that he had strayed too far from his original portrayal. Peter Parker was no longer the down on his luck teenager, he was married to Mary Jane Watson and was expecting his first child. The argument was that this would alienate many readers as it aged the character too much. But this was just the start of the issue.
Thanks to the villainous Jackal, Spider-Man had a clone running around and it was decided that this clone would be brought back. The clone, now calling himself Ben Reilly (a combination of his Uncle Ben and Aunt May's maiden name), had returned to Peter's life after a five-year absence. But then it began to get a bit complicated. It was revealed that Ben Reilly was in fact, the real Peter Parker. This revelation allowed Peter to take a back seat and give Ben the starring role. Ben was everything Peter was, except he had not had years of stories that had aged him.
Peter temporarily retires and leaves the mantle of Spider-Man to Ben. He even loses his powers for a while during his retirement until a near-death experience restores them. As the story developed it became more and more confusing, many different writers all had different ideas of how to end the clone saga until it finally came to an end in 1998. Peter returned to New York and discovers, along with Ben and the Jackal, that they had all been manipulated by Norman Osborn the whole time. Osborn had returned from the dead and revealed that he had faked the original test results - Ben was the clone after all! The two Spider-Men then battle the Green Goblin with neither really knowing the truth. That is, until Ben sacrifices himself to save Peter and, upon his death, he disintegrates like any other clone.
To celebrate Spider-Man's 50th anniversary, Marvel decided to shake up Spider-Man's status quo massively - by replacing him with Doctor Octopus! In Amazing Spider-Man #700, Otto Octavius is dying, and as a final throw of the dice, he transfers his mind into Peter Parker's body. But before Peter dies in Otto's frail body, he realises that they still have a small psychic connection, and teaches his enemy the lessons he has learned as Spider-Man. After witnessing Peter's experiences, Otto vows to become a Superior Spider-Man!
Superior Spider-Man was more than just a comic storyline though, for 31 issues (initially, I'll explain more in a minute), Superior Spider-Man was the core Spider-Man book. The story showed how different Otto was to Peter, rather than acting on instinct, Otto would meticulously think of every possible course of action, searching for the most logical solution. An example of this is when he decides to kill the serial killer, Massacre, rather than hand him over to the authorities. Otto was much more ruthless than Peter, but he ultimately finds that his methods fail as the Green Goblin is able to secretly take over New York. Otto realises in the end that Peter is truly, the Superior Spider-Man, and heroically sacrifices himself so that Peter can defeat the Goblin.
This storyline was highly controversial, with Dan Slott receiving death threats from fans when the story broke. But the fans who stayed along for the ride were in for a treat. Superior Spider-Man was a Spider-Man story without Peter Parker that allowed for one of his greatest villains to find redemption. It was a brilliant story arc that was truly a love-letter to Peter Parker.
Hot on the heels of Superior Spider-Man, Dan Slott promised fans the biggest Spider-event ever. Spider-Verse involved a group of life-force stealing vampires battling an army of Spider-Men and -Women. The Inheritors survived by absorbing the life-force of animal totems, and they had a particular fondness for Spider-totems. They travelled throughout the multiverse killing a multitude of Spider-powered beings. In order to combat The Inheritors, Spider-UK assembled a team of Spider-Men from throughout the multiverse, this included Peter Parker - the Amazing Spider-Man.
Meanwhile, in an alternate version of 2099 (shown in Superior Spider-Man 32 and 33), the Superior Spider-Man was also assembling his own team. He had initially became trapped in the future due to the events of the Necessary Evil storyline in Superior Spider-Man and was searching for a way home. His team featured some of the more ruthless Spider-Men and -Women, arguably similar to himself. Eventually, the two teams meet and, as with all superhero team-ups, disagree on how they should defeat The Inheritors. Despite their initial disagreements, the Spider-Team becomes a formidable team and defeat The Inheritors by luring them to a universe ravaged by nuclear war.
Spider-Verse had a number of tie-ins, it was truly a huge event and the scale was justified as Dan Slott promised to feature "every Spider-Man ever!". So many Spider-characters uniting to battle a common enemy was truly a sight to behold, and the legacy lives on with the ongoing Web Warriors series!
As you would expect from Marvel's flagship hero, there have been many different adaptations of the character's story in film and television. The first of these was the 1967 cartoon series - Spider-Man. The series totalled 52 episodes, running for three years and it was this series that immortalised the words "Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can". Yes, it is thanks to the 1960s Spider-Man that we have one of the most iconic superhero theme tunes ever.
After this, the character next appeared in Spidey Super Stories, a recurring element during the PBS children's series, The Electric Company. He then was played by Nicholas Hammond in the live-action The Amazing Spider-Man which ran for 13 one-hour episodes. Also during the '70s, Toei Company in Japan created their own live-action series based on the character. Spider-Man (or Supaidaman) shared the costume of the American Spider-Man, but that was about it as far as similarities are concerned. Takuya Yamashiro was the man behind the mask who was given his powers after an encounter with an alien called the "Marveller" from the planet "Spider". As well as battling his enemies personally, he also had a giant robot called Leopardon to call upon (this version even appears in Spider-Verse!).
Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends was the next animated adaptation during the 1980s. This series featured Spider-Man teaming up with Iceman and a new character by the name of Firestar. The three Spider-Friends combined to battle a number of foes from throughout the Marvel universe and also teamed up with other Marvel heroes such as Captain America and Iron Man. Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends was generally well-received by fans and was named number 59 on IGN's 2009 list of the Top 100 Animated Series.
Next up was Spider-Man: The Animated Series (and we all know how much I love this series!). Many fans would claim that this series is the quintessential Spider-Man animated series and the show continues to have a huge following today. It is so well liked that John Semper Jr., the head writer of the series, now has a Facebook page dedicated to the series with over 13,000 likes. This series successfully adapted many of the stories from the comics including Venom's origin and even adaptations of Secret Wars and the Clone Saga. This series was followed by a (very!) loose continuation known as Spider-Man Unlimited which lasted only 12 episodes and actually finishes on a cliffhanger.
Following the success of Sam Raimi's Spider-Man (more on that in a moment), MTV produced Spider-Man: The New Animated Series. This was a loose continuation of Sam Raimi's film with Peter Parker attending Empire State University alongside Harry Osborn and Mary Jane Watson. Despite the involvement of Brian Michael Bendis (a BRILLIANT Spider-Man writer), the series was cancelled after 13 episodes. This may have been due to the budget as CGI was used to create the series.
After a five-year absence, the wall-crawler returned in The Spectacular Spider-Man - another huge success. The Spectacular Spider-Man is the biggest contender to the '90s series in terms of popularity due to the quality of the storytelling. The aim was to try and create an updated Spider-Man by combining elements of the character's long history with the relatively new Ultimate Spider-Man comic book. It places Peter in high school and features the first full television adaptation of Gwen Stacy, though she did have a cameo during the '90s series. Though it ran for two series, a third was planned but never created due to Disney's purchase of Marvel.
This leads us to the current Ultimate Spider-Man series. This was quite a departure from The Spectacular Spider-Man as Spidey now worked for SHIELD along with a number of other teenage superheroes. Ultimate Spider-Man has been met with a mixed reaction from fans who had been expecting more of a straight adaptation of the Ultimate Spider-Man comics. The series is obviously aimed at a younger audience as Spider-Man has to learn important lessons about responsibility and what it means to be a hero, but it also utilises cutaway gags which many fans have criticised. Viewers have stated that Marvel seem to be attempting to turn Spider-Man into Deadpool based on the way he breaks the fourth wall, the team-up element has also had mixed success as Spider-Man is traditionally a loner. However, the series continues to this day and has introduced the first animated versions of a number of Spider-characters such as Kaine and Miles Morales.
Spider-Man has featured in six films, with a seventh currently in production. There have been three actors portray Peter Parker on the big screen so far - Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield and Tom Holland and each were praised for their depiction of the character. However, the films have had a varying degree of success.
In 2002, Sam Raimi released the first of this trilogy - Spider-Man. Tobey Maguire was the man in the mask for this film and it was a huge success, smashing box office records for opening day takings as it eventually became the highest-grossing superhero movie ever until The Dark Knight overtook it. The film dealt with Spider-Man's origin story as well as pitting Spidey against the Green Goblin. There were a few changes made to the origin story in an attempt to modernise it. For example, Peter is bitten by a genetically-altered spider rather than a radioactive one as so much more is known about radiation than it was in the 1960s when Spider-Man was created. Another example is Spider-Man developing organic webbing as Sam Raimi felt it was unrealistic that a teenager would be able to develop complex web-shooters.
Spider-Man 2 followed with Peter doing battle with Doctor Octopus. This was another huge success, with particular praise going to Alfred Molina's portrayal of Otto Octavius. Spider-Man had to deal with the fallout of the original film while also struggling to balance his life as a superhero and as Peter Parker. The film was a critical and commercial success and if anything, the hunger for more Spider-Man films was only growing. Unfortunately however, Spider-Man 3 was a bit of a mixed bag. Many felt it was trying to balance too many elements in the story, this included adapting the black costume on screen and also culminating with three villains. Viewers were also disappointed with the films depiction of Venom.
Despite plans for a Spider-Man 4, Sony decided to reboot the series with a new director and cast. The appropriately named Marc Webb was chosen to direct The Amazing Spider-Man and this time, Andrew Garfield played the web-slinger. This film dealt with Peter battling the Lizard while also trying to solve the mystery of this parents' disappearance. Though The Amazing Spider-Man had a favourable reaction, there were criticisms that the reboot had happened far too early and it was too similar to Sam Raimi's first film. Despite this, a sequel was released in 2014.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was another that was met with mixed reviews. Though many praised the cast, particularly Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, there are a number of criticisms that the film is overstuffed with content. It suffers from the fact that it is trying to set up a whole cinematic universe, with many of the plots in the film working as a set up for the future universe. There was also the issue that there were too many villains, as in Spider-Man 3. But all of this may have been a blessing in disguise, as without the mixed reception to The Amazing Spider-Man 2, we may not have had Spidey in the MCU.
Captain America: Civil War marked Marvel Studios' first depiction of Spider-Man on screen. This time, the decision was taken to have Spider-Man return to his high school roots, with Peter Parker being 15 years-old. Though he is not in the film for very long, we are given the very definition of Spider-Man during his appearance in the film (as I explained here). Excitement is building for his first MCU film, the appropriately named Spider-Man: Homecoming, and many cannot wait to see Tom Holland's first full film as the web-slinger!