Fictional Character BiographyEdit
In Forest Hills, Queens, New York City, high school student Peter Parker is a science-whiz orphan living with his Uncle Ben and Aunt May. As depicted in Amazing Fantasy #15 (Aug. 1962), he is bitten by a radioactive spider (erroneously classified as an insect in the panel) at a science exhibit and "acquires the agility and proportionate strength of an arachnid." Along with super strength, he gains the ability to adhere to walls and ceilings. Through his native knack for science, he develops a gadget that lets him fire adhesive webbing of his own design through small, wrist-mounted barrels. Initially seeking to capitalize on his new abilities, he dons a costume and, as "Spider-Man", becomes a novelty television star. However, "He blithely ignores the chance to stop a fleeing thief, [and] his indifference ironically catches up with him when the same criminal later robs and kills his Uncle Ben." Spider-Man tracks and subdues the killer and learns, in the story's next-to-last caption, "With great power there must also come—great responsibility!"
Despite his superpowers, Parker struggles to help his widowed aunt pay rent, is taunted by his peers—particularly football star Flash Thompson—and, as Spider-Man, engenders the editorial wrath of newspaper publisher J. Jonah Jameson. As he battles his enemies for the first time, Parker finds juggling his personal life and costumed adventures difficult. In time, Peter graduates from high school, and enrolls at Empire State University (a fictional institution evoking the real-life Columbia University and New York University), where he meets roommate and best friend Harry Osborn and first girlfriendGwen Stacy, and Aunt May introduces him to Mary Jane Watson. As Peter deals with Harry's drug problems, and Harry's father is revealed to be Spider-Man's nemesis the Green Goblin, Peter even attempts to give up his costumed identity for a while. Gwen's Stacy's father, New York City Police detective captain George Stacy is accidentally killed during a battle between Spider-Man and Doctor Octopus (#90, Nov. 1970). In the course of his adventures Spider-Man has made a wide variety of friends and contacts within the superhero community, who often come to his aid when he faces problems that he cannot solve on his own.
In issue #121 (June 1973), the Green Goblin throws Gwen Stacy from a tower of either the Brooklyn Bridge (as depicted in the art) or the George Washington Bridge (as given in the text). She dies during Spider-Man's rescue attempt; a note on the letters page of issue #125 states: "It saddens us to say that the whiplash effect she underwent when Spidey's webbing stopped her so suddenly was, in fact, what killed her." The following issue, the Goblin appears to accidentally kill himself in the ensuing battle with Spider-Man.
Working through his grief, Parker eventually develops tentative feelings toward Watson, and the two "become confidants rather than lovers". Parker graduates from college in issue #185, and becomes involved with the shy Debra Whitman and the extroverted, flirtatious costumed thief Felicia Hardy, the Black Cat, whom he meets in issue #194 (July 1979).
From 1984 to 1988, Spider-Man wore a different costume than his original. Black with a white spider design, this new costume originated in the Secret Wars limited series, on an alien planet where Spider-Man participates in a battle between Earth's major superheroes and villains. Not unexpectedly, the change to a longstanding character's iconic design met with controversy, "with many hardcore comics fans decrying it as tantamount to sacrilege. Spider-Man's traditional red and blue costume was iconic, they argued, on par with those of his D.C. rivals Superman and Batman." The creators then revealed the costume was an alien symbiote which Spider-Man is able to reject after a difficult struggle, though the symbiote returns several times as Venom for revenge.
Parker proposes to Watson in The Amazing Spider-Man #290 (July 1987), and she accepts two issues later, with the wedding taking place in The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21 (1987)—promoted with a real-life mock wedding using actors at Shea Stadium, with Stan Lee officiating, on June 5, 1987. However, David Michelinie, who scripted based on a plot by editor-in-chiefJim Shooter, said in 2007, "I didn't think they actually should [have gotten] married. ... I had actually planned another version, one that wasn't used." In a controversial storyline, Peter becomes convinced that Ben Reilly, the Scarlet Spider (a clone of Peter created by his college professor Miles Warren) is the real Peter Parker, and that he, Peter, is the clone. Peter gives up the Spider-Man identity to Reilly for a time, until Reilly is killed by the returning Green Goblin and revealed to be the clone after all. In stories published in 2005 and 2006 (such as "The Other"), he develops additional spider-like abilities including biological web-shooters, toxic stingers that extend from his forearms, the ability to stick individuals to his back, enhanced Spider-sense and night vision, and increased strength and speed. Peter later becomes a member of the New Avengers, and reveals his civilian identity to the world, furthering his already numerous problems. His marriage to Mary Jane and public unmasking are later erased in the controversial storyline "One More Day", in a Faustian bargain with the demon Mephisto, resulting in several adjustments to the timeline, such as the resurrection of Harry Osborn, the erasure of Parker's marriage, and the return of his traditional tools and powers.
That storyline came at the behest of editor-in-chief Joe Quesada, who said, "Peter being single is an intrinsic part of the very foundation of the world of Spider-Man". It caused unusual public friction between Quesada and writer J. Michael Straczynski, who "told Joe that I was going to take my name off the last two issues of the [story] arc" but was talked out of doing so. At issue with Straczynski's climax to the arc, Quesada said, was
...that we didn't receive the story and methodology to the resolution that we were all expecting. What made that very problematic is that we had four writers and artists well underway on [the sequel arc] "Brand New Day" that were expecting and needed "One More Day" to end in the way that we had all agreed it would. ... The fact that we had to ask for the story to move back to its original intent understandably made Joe upset and caused some major delays and page increases in the series. Also, the science that Joe was going to apply to the retcon of the marriage would have made over 30 years of Spider-Man books worthless, because they never would have had happened. ...[I]t would have reset way too many things outside of the Spider-Man titles. We just couldn't go there....
As one contemporaneous journalist observed, "Spider-Man has a terrible identity problem, a marked inferiority complex, and a fear of women. He is anti-social, [sic] castration-ridden, racked with Oedipal guilt, and accident-prone ... [a] functioningneurotic". Agonizing over his choices, always attempting to do right, he is nonetheless viewed with suspicion by the authorities, who seem unsure as to whether he is a helpful vigilante or a clever criminal.
Notes cultural historian Bradford W. Wright,Spider-Man's plight was to be misunderstood and persecuted by the very public that he swore to protect. In the first issue of The Amazing Spider-Man, J. Jonah Jameson, publisher of the Daily Bugle, launches an editorial campaign against the "Spider-Man menace." The resulting negative publicity exacerbates popular suspicions about the mysterious Spider-Man and makes it impossible for him to earn any more money by performing. Eventually, the bad press leads the authorities to brand him an outlaw. Ironically, Peter finally lands a job as a photographer for Jameson's Daily Bugle.:212
From his high-school beginnings to his entry into college life, Spider-Man remained the superhero most relevant to the world of young people. Fittingly, then, his comic book also contained some of the earliest references to the politics of young people. In 1968, in the wake of actual militant student demonstrations at Columbia University, Peter Parker finds himself in the midst of similar unrest at his Empire State University.... Peter has to reconcile his natural sympathy for the students with his assumed obligation to combat lawlessness as Spider-Man. As a law-upholding liberal, he finds himself caught between militant leftism and angry conservatives.:234-235
Powers and equipmentEdit
Main article: Spider-Man's powers and equipment
A bite from a radioactive spider on a school field trip causes a variety of changes in the body of Peter Parker and gives him superpowers. In the original Lee-Ditko stories, Spider-Man has the ability to cling to walls, superhuman strength, a sixth sense ("spider-sense") that alerts him to danger, perfect balance and equilibrium, as well as superhuman speed and agility. Some of his comic series have him shooting webs from his wrists. Brilliant, Parker excels in applied science, chemistry, and physics. The character was originally conceived by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko as intellectually gifted, but not a genius. However, later writers have depicted the character as a genius. With his talents, he sews his own costume to conceal his identity, and constructs many devices that complement his powers, most notably mechanical web-shooters. This mechanism ejects an advanced adhesive, releasing web-fluid in a variety of configurations, including a single rope-like strand to swing from, a net to bind enemies, a single strand for yanking opponents into objects, strands for whipping foreign objects at enemies, and a simple glob to foul machinery or blind an opponent. He can also weave the web material into simple forms like a shield, a spherical protection or hemispherical barrier, a club, or a hang-glider wing. Other equipment include spider-tracers (spider-shaped adhesive homing beacons keyed to his own spider-sense), a light beacon which can either be used as a flashlight or project a "Spider-Signal" design, and a specially modified camera that can take pictures automatically.
Main article: List of Spider-Man supporting characters
Spider-Man has had a large range of supporting characters introduced in the comics that are essential in the issues and storylines that star him. After his parents died, 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, always saying negative things about the superhero in the newspaper, although his publishing editor 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. Meanwhile Harry Osborn, son of Norman Osborn, is most commonly recognized as Peter's best friend but has also been depicted sometimes as his rival in the comics.
Peter Parker's romantic interests range between his first crush, the fellow high-school student Liz Allan, to having his first date with Betty Brant, the secretary to Daily Bugle newspaper publisher J. Jonah Jameson. 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. Mary Jane Watson eventually became Peter's best friend and then his wife. Felicia Hardy, theBlack Cat, is a reformed cat burglar who had been Spider-Man's girlfriend and partner at one point.
Main article: List of Spider-Man enemies
Writers and artists over the years have established a rogues gallery of supervillains to face Spider-Man. As with him, the majority of these villains' powers originate with scientific accidents or the misuse of scientific technology, and many have animal-themed costumes or powers.[note 6] Early on Spider-Man faced such foes as the Chameleon (introduced in The Amazing Spider-Man #1, March 1963), the Vulture (#2, May 1963), Doctor Octopus (#3, July 1963), the Sandman (#4, Sept. 1963), the Lizard (#6, Nov. 1963), Electro (#9, Feb. 1964), Mysterio (#13, June 1964), the Green Goblin (#14, July 1964), Kraven the Hunter (#15, Aug. 1964),the Scorpion (#20, Jan. 1965), the Rhino (#41, Oct. 1966)—the first original Lee/Romita Spider-Man villain—the Shocker (#46, March 1967), and the physically powerful and well-connected criminal capo Wilson Fisk, also known as the Kingpin. The Clone Saga introduces college professor Miles Warren, who becomes the Jackal, the antagonist of the storyline. After the Green Goblin was killed, a derivative villain called the Hobgoblin was developed to replace him in #238 until Norman was revived later.After Spider-Man rejected his symbiotic black costume, Eddie Brock, a bitter ex-journalist with a grudge against Spider-Man, bonded with the symbiote (which also hated Spider-Man for rejecting it), gaining Spider-Man's powers and abilities, and became the villain Venom in issue #298 (May 1988). Brock briefly became an ally to Spider-Man when Carnage, another symbiote-based villain, went on a murderous spree in issue #344. At times these enemies of Spider-Man have formed groups such as the Sinister Six to oppose Spider-Man. The Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus and Venom are generally described or written as his archenemies.
Main article: Alternative versions of Spider-Man
Due to Spider-Man's popularity in the mainstream Marvel Universe, publishers have been able to introduce different variations of Spider-Man outside of mainstream comics as well as reimagined stories in many other multiversed spinoffs such as Ultimate Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2099, and Spider-Man: India. Marvel has also made its own parodies of Spider-Man in comics such as Not Brand Echh, which was published in the late 1960s and featured such characters as Peter Pooper alias Spidey-Man, and Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham, who appeared in the 1980s. The fictional character has also inspired a number of deratives such as a manga version of Spider-Man drawn by Japanese artist Ryoichi Ikegami as well as Hideshi Hino's The Bug Boy, which has been cited as inspired by Spider-Man. Also the French comic Télé-Junior published strips based on popular TV series. In the late 1970s, the publisher also produced original Spider-Man adventures. Artists included Gérald Forton, who later moved to America and worked for Marvel.[62