Spider-Man swinging around his hometown, New York City
. Art by J. Scott Campbell.
Spider-Man (Peter Benjamin Parker) is a Marvel Comics superhero. He was created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, and first appeared in Amazing Fantasy #15 (1962). He has since become one of the world's most popular superheroes.
Spider-Man is the quintessential Marvel character. Blessed with extraordinary, spider-like superpowers, Peter Parker is beset by the travails and problems of ordinary life. His powers give him the ability to do good, but seriously complicate his career and personal relationships. In spite of this, he feels a strong duty to continue his crusade against crime and corruption. The theme of the Spider-Man series is "With great power comes great responsibility."
The character expanded the dramatic potential of the fantasy subgenre by proving that a series with a strong focus on a more human character and his personal struggles was a viable basis for a successful series.
Spider-Man is tremendously popular and is perhaps the most recognizable superhero besides Superman and Batman. Throughout the years, he has appeared in a handful of animated series, a weekly comic strip and, recently, two very successful films.
Meanwhile, Marvel has published several comic book series featuring the character (most notably Amazing Spider-Man). The character has grown from shy high school kid to troubled college student to married man, but has always continued his mission as Spider-Man at all costs.
Creation of character
Amazing Fantasy #15
(1962), the first appearance and origin story of Spider-Man with cover art by Jack Kirby
Various accounts of the character's creation have been given.
In the 1980s, Stan Lee said that the idea for the series sprang out of the apparent increased teenage interest in the new Marvel comics characters, so he decided to create a character that could cater to them specifically. One of the influences for the character came from the pulp magazine, The Spider, and perhaps from an earlier minor spider-themed character, the Tarantula from DC Comics. In the Spider-Man movie DVD extras, Lee said he was inspired by seeing a fly climb up a wall. Originally, Lee assigned Jack Kirby to illustrate the story, but after seeing his designs, decided that Jack's style was "too 'larger than life'" for what he wanted. Lee turned to artist Steve Ditko, who found the concept particularly appealing and developed a visual motif that Lee found satisfactory.
Another version comes from Joe Simon and Steve Ditko, who say that the creation of Spider-Man was based on Simon's Silver Spider (http://www.simoncomics.com/jsmag.htm). They say (Comic Book Artist/Alter Ego, Winter, 1999) that Lee got the original Simon sketches from Kirby and presented them to Ditko, who recognized Simon's work and used it as the basis for Spider-Man. Kirby stated in an interview in Will Eisner's Spirit Magazine that Lee had minimal involvement in the creation of the character.
When Martin Goodman was presented with the concept, he was resistant to the unorthodox ideas of a teenage hero with troubled personal life, but allowed the character to be used as a cover story for a dying anthology title, Amazing Fantasy, since content mattered little for a title slated to be cancelled. The story was released in issue #15, and months later, the sales figures indicated that the cover story was unexpectedly popular. Goodman called for a regular series for the character to capitalize on this success.
Peter Benjamin Parker was born to Richard Parker and his wife Mary Fitzpatrick-Parker, both of whom were agents of the CIA and later of S.H.I.E.L.D. (a fictional secret agency). Their last assignment was the infiltration as double-agents of the organization of Albert Malik, who had taken on the name of Red Skull in the absence of the original. Albert found out about their plans and arranged a plane-crash that resulted in their deaths.
After his parents' death the infant Peter Parker was left in the care of his Uncle Ben and Aunt May (Richard's older brother Benjamin Parker and his wife May Reilly-Parker), who were both in the Forest Hills neighborhood of Queens, New York City. Ben immediately took to the role of the boy's father but May was at first reluctant. She still remembered her parents blaming her own birth for the destruction of their marriage, and she was afraid that Peter might signal the end of her own marriage. In time, however, she warmed up to Peter, who unexpectedly strengthened the couple's marriage. Though Peter was always loved by the aging couple he was unpopular among those of his own age. Over time he grew to be a rather lonely, timid teenager who showed more interest in his studies and science in general than in any kind of social life. He was often the target of jokes by more popular fellow students like Flash Thompson, the high-school's star athlete.
When he was 16 years old, Parker attended a science exhibit where he was bitten by a spider which had been irradiated. The spider bite gave Parker an array of superhuman powers, including the proportional speed, strength and agility of a spider, a so-called "spider-sense" that would warn him of impending danger, a fast-healing ability that allows him to quickly recover from injuries and poisons, and the ability to cling to walls. A lesser effect was the improvement of his eyesight. Originally near-sighted and bespectacled, he now has perfect vision.
In addition to his physical powers, Spider-Man used mechanical web shooters to spin webs in a variety of ways. Current Spider-Man continuity has given him organic web shooters like those seen in the Spider-Man movies.
Though the death of a loved one is a commonplace motive for crime-fighting in comics, Spider-Man is driven by guilt rather than revenge. Initially, Parker designed a costume and adopted the identity of Spider-Man in order to win money as a wrestler. After being denied prize money for a match he'd won, he didn't try to stop a burglar who robbed the ringleader, figuring he didn't owe the ring any favors. But his beloved Uncle Ben was later killed by the same thug he had allowed to escape. Grieving that he'd failed to prevent Ben's death, he devoted himself to fighting injustice, driven by the lesson that "with great power comes great responsibility".
Spider-Man eternally tries to do the right thing, but is viewed with suspicion by many authority figures. He is often considered little more than a lawbreaker himself, thanks largely to a smear campaign by J. Jonah Jameson, publisher of the daily newspaper the Daily Bugle. Ironically, Parker works as a freelance photographer for Jameson, selling photographs of himself as Spider-Man.
As originally conceived by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, Peter Parker was something of an everyman character. However, as with many characters spanning a lengthy publishing history and handled by multiple creators, Spider-Man's history is somewhat convoluted. He continued working as a freelance photographer for the Daily Bugle and living with his elderly and somewhat fragile Aunt May until he graduated from high school. He enrolled in the fictional Empire State University where he befriended Harry Osborn, who was in fact the son of his arch-enemy the Green Goblin, and Gwen Stacy, with whom he would have a lengthy romance.
Stacy was eventually killed by the Green Goblin, who himself seemingly died soon thereafter in battle with Spider-Man. Parker eventually wed long-time friend, Mary Jane Watson, an occasional fashion model and actress, though not before he engaged in lengthy on-again off-again relationship with semi-criminal Black Cat.
This marriage did not overly affect his career as a crime-fighter, until it was discovered that she was pregnant. This caused him to retire for a time, turning the mantle of Spider-Man over to Ben Reilly. After Reilly was killed by the Green Goblin and his daughter apparently stillborn, he returned to the role (an alternate version of his daughter who survived later got her own title, set 15 years into the future, titled Spider-Girl). Later, the stresses of his dual identity coupled with Mary Jane's tempestuous career as a model/actress and capricious editorial mandates led to the two separating. However, the two later reconciled.
Currently, Parker works as a science teacher at his old high school, lives in a Manhattan apartment, has reconciled with Mary Jane, and still receives the occasional visit from his Aunt May (who was at one point thought dead -- but the elderly woman who died was, in a widely-derided plot twist, revealed to be a "genetically-altered actress" who impersonated her while May was held captive by villains). She has since learned the truth about her nephew's secret identity.
The irradiated spider's bite caused a variety of physiological mutations in Peter Parker's body that mirror the characteristics of a spider.
His physical strength, agility, and reflexes were greatly improved. He gained a fast-healing ability that allows him to recover quickly from mild to moderate injuries (although nowhere near as quickly as X-man Wolverine). In addition, his vision also lost its myopia.
Spider-Man also gained the ability to adhere to any smooth surface, allowing to him to support more than his own weight while on a vertical surface or upside down. He can also grip any solid object with any part of his body as long as it can accommodate the mass of the object. For instance, if he wanted to catch a ball, all he would really need is one fingertip to make contact. It has been theorized that his body can consciously attract the basic molecules of a solid object when pressed against it. Another idea is that this ability is similar to static electricity. However, the superhero has had trouble keeping his grip on heavily lubricated surfaces.
Spider-Man's most subtle power is his spider-sense. A form of clairvoyance or sixth sense, it unconsciously activates and alerts him to any threat to himself, manifesting as a tingling at the back of his skull. While it cannot tell him of the exact nature of the threat, Spider-Man can judge the severity of it by the intensity of the tingling. For instance, if an enemy passes by Spider-Man with no intention of interacting with him, the spider-sense would give a low signal indicating that he should be alert for a possible danger. On the other hand, if there is an immediate lethal physical danger to Parker such as a sniper is taking aim and about to fire for a kill shot, the spider-sense's tingling would take on an almost painful intensity to indicate a need to take extreme evasive action without hesitation.
The spider-sense not only alerts Spider-Man to threats to his physical safety, but it also warns him to threats to his privacy such as being observed while changing identities. Spider-Man also uses the spider-sense as a means to time his evasive maneuvers to the point where he can avoid multiple gunshots or machine gun fire. When combined with his superhuman reflexes and agility, this makes him an extremely difficult target who is almost impossible to shoot in combat. Extremely skilled martial artists taking Spider-Man on hand to hand often have better luck wounding him, although he is formidable in close quarters as well.
Although his spider-sense has saved his life innumerable times, Spider-Man has learned the hard way that it can be beaten. For instance, the Green Goblin once secretly attacked him with a gas that temporarily suppressed this perceptive ability, allowing the supervillain to shadow him and learn his secret identity. Additionally, the alien symbiotes Venom and Carnage are not recognized by the spider-sense. This gives the supervillains an edge that Spider-Man often has trouble countering.
The phrase "My spider-sense is tingling" has since become an ironic catch phrase in American pop culture.
In addition to his amazing powers, the famous Wall Crawler (a nickname for Spider-man. Other known nicknames for him is Web Slinger, Webhead and Spidey) also has super strength. Spider-Man can lift 10 tons or more if he is under great stress or pressure.
Because of his strength, he can leap to great heights. Spider-Man can jump the width of a city block, or almost five stories straight up.
Although the details and proportions have changed somewhat over the years, with a few notable exceptions, Spider-Man's costume has remained fairly consistent. The standard costume is a form-fitting fabric covering his entire body. From the waist down it is dark blue, except for mid-calf boots with a black web pattern on a red background. From the waist up the fabric is the reb-and-black web pattern, except for his back, sides, and insides of his upper arms, which are dark blue. There is a large red spider outline on his back, and a smaller black spider emblem on his chest. The mask has large white eyes rimmed with black, that allow him to see but hide his eyes. He is sometimes depicted with webs connecting his arms to his torso.
Several alterations occurred when Ben Reilly replaced Peter Parker in the role. He placed more emphasis on the spider on the chest, making it large enough to cover the entire torso. Instead of a large red spider on his back, the web pattern and spider emblem were repeated there. The gloves had web-shooters on the outside, and the web design on the boots and gloves was partially replaced with dark blue.
The most significant alteration to Spider-Man's costume came about in the mid 1980s, after his returned from the Secret Wars. He appeared in an almost all-black costume, with a large white spider emblem on the chest and back, and with small white squares on the back of his hands. This costume is usually referred to as the "black Spider-Man". The costume turned out to be a living creature, capable of generating its own webbing, while heightening most of Spider-Man's abilities. He got rid of it eventually after finding out it was alive, but donned a non-living version of the costume for many years until his wife had a run-in with the new occupant of the costume, Eddie Brock, or Venom.
Although he is usually of limited financial means, Spider-Man has developed personal equipment that plays an important role in his superhero career.
Spider-Man's web-shooters are one of the character's most distinguishing traits. They are wrist mounted devices that fire a fibrous adhesive very similar to material spiders use to construct webs. The trigger rests high in the palm and requires two taps to activate, so Peter can't accidently fire the shooter if he makes a fist or his hand hits the trigger.
The default setting has the adhesive threaded through a special mesh to take on a spider web like design. The substance dries almost immediately into a strong material that can support very heavy loads: into the one-ton range. Typical uses of his webs include creating long swing lines which he uses to travel through the cavernous chasms between the Manhattan high-rises. He can change the setting to a wide spray to ensnare criminals, and to form protective shields or nets. He can also form crude objects with a heavy application. In addition, when Spider-Man desires it, he can fire the web fluid as a straight liquid when he needs to use the substance's maximum adhesive strength. However, the default meshed spray generally allows for sufficient strength while being more versatile in its use and easier to remove when desired. The substance is formulated to dissolve after one hour which is generally sufficient time for Spider-Man's needs while ensuring the webs he makes do not cause undue litter. In addition, Parker can modify the fluid formulation to suit particular specialized needs when called for. The web-shooters can also be used to expel other liquids, using interchangeable cartridges, but are seldom used to do this.
In some versions of the character (such as the Spider-Man 2099 comic series, and the popular Spider-Man movie of 2002), the character generates webs organically from his own altered spider-like biology, instead of mechanical web shooters.
Spider-Man has also developed small electronic "spider-tracers" which allow him to track objects or individuals. The outer casing is shaped like a spider and is designed to cling to a target without attracting attention. While he originally threw his tracers at a target in the hopes that at least one hits, he later developed a wrist launcher which ejects tracers above the wrist while the web is fired from below to allow for more precise and reliable applications of the tracers.
Spider-Man originally used a small receiver device to follow the tracers. However, he eventually learned that he could tune the tracer signal frequency to his own spider-sense for more convenient use, but the receiver is still used as a back-up and long-range measure.
Spider-Man keeps his regular field equipment in a specially designed utility belt that contains his web fluid cartridges and his tracers.
It also carries his camera, which has an extended rear metal plate that allows him to use his web to position it without interfering with its functions. The camera also has an automatic shutter mechanism linked to an internal motion detector so it will take a picture whenever Spider-Man moves in front of the camera lens.
Finally, the belt contains a strong light called a Spider Signal that creates an image of his mask when activated. He typically uses it not only for a light source, but as a way of unnerving opponents and to call attention.
In addition, the Human Torch once helped Spider-Man build a car called the Spidermobile which had a paint job and modifications that follow his spider motif. Unfortunately, Spider-Man had never learned to drive and he crashed the car soon after receiving it.
Also, early on in his career, Peter bought a motorcycle.
Spider-Man first appeared in Amazing Fantasy #15. After that he was given his own series. Many followed, but currently these are his main titles:
He also has had a number of series that are since canceled or have been given new names:
- Marvel Team-Up, a series that featured Spider-Man paired with another different Marvel Comics super-hero on a monthly basis
- Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man, this one was renamed Spectacular Spider-Man in 1988 with issue 134
- Web of Spider-Man, created in 1985 and canceled in 1995 with issue 129
- Spider-Man, a series created in 1991 specifically for creator Todd McFarlane
- Untold Tales of Spider-Man, a retcon series intended to enrich Spider-man's early super-hero career, canceled in 1997
- Sensational Spider-Man, the fifth core title of the Spider-Man line, canceled in 1998
- Spider-Man Unlimited, A quarterly book which kicked off the "Ultimate Carnage" story arch.
Spider-Man has been adapted to television numerous times, through a short-lived live-action television series and several animated cartoon series.
- The first was produced in 1967 by Grantray-Lawrence Animation, which soon went bankrupt. In 1968, animator Ralph Bakshi took over. Bakshi's episodes, which suffered from extremely low budgets, were stylized and featured dark ominous settings and pervasive background music. One episode reused complete background animation, characters, and storyline from an episode of Rocket Robin Hood. The series may be best remembered for its theme song. Spider-Man was voiced originally by Bernard Cowan and later by Paul Soles.  (http://www.spiderfan.org/shows/tv_60s/index.html)
- Spider-Man was also an occasional character in the children's educational show The Electric Company which presented brief tales using a combination of animation and live action.  (http://www.spiderfan.org/shows/tv_electric_co/index.html)
- In 1977, a short-lived live action television series was produced, starring Nicholas Hammond in the title role. Although the series earned good ratings, fans complained about its low-budget production values and its writing, which neither followed the comics' spirit nor provided adventures that were distinctively appropriate for the character. It also suffered from a sporadic broadcast schedule. The CBS Television Network cancelled it, along with Wonder Woman, to avoid being called "the superhero network."
- In 1978, a live action Spider-Man series was produced for Japanese television by Toei, but apart from Spider-Man's costume it was not based on the original source.
- In 1980, with the creation of the animation studio Marvel Productions Ltd., Marvel endeavored to translate more of their comic characters to television. Towards this end the cartoon series Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends was created featuring Spider-Man, Iceman of the X-Men, and a new character, Firestar. Actor Dan Gilvezan gave voice to this incarnation of the wall-crawler.
- In 1994, another successful series was made for the Fox Network, (to accompany their X-Men series) with Christopher Daniel Barnes providing the webslinger's voice. This series had a bigger budget and used a novel system of one large story arc per season developed by John Semper. As a result each of the individual 65 episodes (starting with season 2) were called "chapters."  (http://www.spiderfan.org/shows/tv_90s/index.html)
- In 1999, another series named Spider-Man Unlimited was developed for Fox (intended to be an Expanded Universe final season of the 1994 show) in which Spider-Man is transported to an animated Counter-Earth. Here Spidey was voiced by Rino Romano.  (http://www.spiderfan.org/shows/tv_unlimited/index.html)
On May 3, 2002, the film Spider-Man was released. It was directed by Sam Raimi and starred actor Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker. The film featured a number of impressive CGI effects to bring Spider-Man to life. Though the film adaptation took a number of liberties with the character's history and powers, most notably giving him organic web-shooters rather than mechanical, it was essentially true to the character and was widely embraced by the viewing public. Earning more than $403 million at U.S. box offices, it was the highest-grossing movie of the year, outperforming Star Wars: Attack of the Clones (the first Star Wars movie not to be the biggest box-office hit of the year). Spider-Man 2 was released on June 30, 2004; Spider-Man 3 will be released on May 4, 2007. Spider-Man went on to become the fifth highest-grossing film in North American history -- not adjusting for inflation -- with a total take of more than $800 million internationally.
Spider-Man 2 was 2004's third-most financially successful movie and 15th-most financially successful movie of all time. It premiered in more North American movie theaters than any previous movie. Its first-day gross ($40.5 million) surpassed its predecessor's $39.4 million record. The only higher single-day movie gross was Shrek 2's $44.8 million in the first weekend of its May 2004 release.
Spider-Man 2's opening-day gross was even more impressive for occurring on a Wednesday, usually a weak day of the week for movies. The first Spider-Man's opening-day record was set on Friday, a more traditional opening day; Shrek 2's record-breaking day was the Saturday after the Wednesday of its release.
Spider-Man 2's three-day weekend (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) total failed to beat its predecessor's $114.8 million record, but its six-day $180.1 million total outpaced The Matrix Reloaded's $146.9 million mark.
Spider-Man first appeared in video game form in 1982, in the Parker Brothers game Spider-Man for the Atari 2600.  (http://www.spiderfan.org/software/console/1983_parker_brothers/index.html) Subsequently, Spider-Man games were created by Acclaim, Sega, Paragon Software Corporation, LJN, and Activision for various video game consoles over the years. Spider-Man has also been featured as a character in several fighting games made by Capcom, beginning with Marvel Super-Heroes and continuing in the Marvel vs. Capcom series.
Two three-dimensional Spider-Man games (Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2: Enter Electro) were developed for the PlayStation by Neversoft, using a similar engine to their Tony Hawk's Pro Skater games. The first title also appeared on Sega Dreamcast, Nintendo N64 and PC.
In tandem with the 2002 release of Spider-Man the movie, Activision released Spider-Man, the first Spider-Man game for all the major video game console systems, including GameCube, Xbox, PlayStation 2 and PC, as well as a portable version for the Game Boy Advance.
Most recently, the 2004 video game Spider-Man 2 by Activision was released along with the Spider-Man 2 movie, also for GameCube, Xbox, PlayStation 2, PC, plus handheld versions for both Game Boy Advance and N-Gage. Like the movie, it opened to critical and commercial success. The fall of that same year also saw the release of another portable version of Spider-Man 2, this time for Nintendo's new handheld, the Nintendo DS.
2005 will see another version of Spider-Man 2, this time for Sony's new handheld, the PlayStation Portable; to debut in the first quarter of the year along with the system.
Spider-Man, along with numerous villians and supporting characters. Art by Tom Raney.
Spider-Man has one of the best-known rogues galleries (list of enemies) in comics. Among the most infamous supervillains he encounters regularly are:
In the comics, others have used the Spider-Man identity. These include:
- Ben Reilly, a clone of Parker, who also fought crime as the Scarlet Spider.
- Miguel O'Hara, the Spider-Man of Marvel 2099.
- Ezekiel, a mysterious man who claims Peter to be the latest in a long line of Spider-Men, beginning with Anansi.
Spider-Men in other comic continuities include:
- Yu Komori in Spider-Man: The Manga.
- Ultimate Spider-Man in the Ultimate Marvel Universe, a Peter Parker who began his career more recently, and is still in high school.
- Peter Parquagh in 1602
- Pavitr Prabhakar in the Indian adaptation of Spider-Man.  (http://www.gothamcomics.com/spiderman_india/)
Spider-man imitators in real life include :
- "Spider Dan" Goodwin, who in 1981, climbed the glass of the Sears Tower and the John Hancock Center in Chicago using suction cups.
- Alain Robert nicknamed Spiderman, rock and urban climber who has scaled more than 70 tall buildings using his hands and feet, without using additional devices. He sometimes wears a Spiderman suit during his climbs. In May 2003, he was paid approximately $18,000 to climb the 312-foot, Lloyd's of London, to promote the premiere of the movie Spider-Man on the British television channel, Sky Movies.
Spider-Man in music
The theme song to the 1960s cartoon rendition of Spider-Man (called "Spider-Man") has been covered by:
Spider-Man in pop culture
On Halloween 2004, an estimated 2.15 million U.S. children dressed up as Spider-Man, making it the year's most popular costume.
- Marvel.com - Official webpage (http://www.marvel.com/publishing/showcomic.htm?id=2)