It’s no secret that Spiderman is well, kinda big. Popular. Huge even. Last month, The Superior Spiderman issues 1 and 2 raked in a total of over 300,000 sales (According to comichron.com). Let’s not even talk about the popularity of the movies that were produced just over a decade ago, and the TV series lovingly sprinkled between his appearance in the 60’s and the 80’s. Here we have a character that showed up, (if comicvine.com feeds me the correct information) almost 25 years after Batman, and is only tailing him by about 1,000 appearances. Even the Man of Steel tails Batman at 9,300 or appearances since his debut. What is it about good ol’ web-head that we like so much?
Perusing through internet forums and asking folks that have at least some knowledge of Spiderman’s facets (from video games, movies, comics, and other appearances), the loudest opinion is that Spiderman is the most relatable superhero character out there. When he first gets his spider-powers, he goes out and uses them to have some fun and make some money. It sounds reasonable that many of us would do the same — I sure as hell would.
Personal fantasies aside, Spiderman came swinging out of Stan Lee’s brain as a teenage character in 1962, and Stan Lee put a considerable amount of effort in ensuring that a teenage boy stayed a part of his character. Spiderman and Peter Parker are, to the extent of my knowledge, the most intertwined superhero-secret-identities out there. Even with his suit on Spiderman still acts like a wisecracking, arrogant kid while he’s fighting the forces of villany, and even when he’s Peter Parke, he’s thinking in terms of the ‘right thing to do’. In both forms he tends to make mistakes, and yet continually tries to set things right to the best of his abilities knowledge. This sets the bar of heroism at something attainable and thus more admirable to his fans. He only bests us by his superhuman strength that lets him keep taking swings from the Hulk until he deems he’s done the right thing (see Spiderman Annual #3 for this scene loved by Spidey fans and un-fans alike). For the man of Steel, it sounds like just another day at the office, but for Spidey the effect resonates as he is a character that displays his flaws to fans. Considering too that this teenage, somewhat rebellious and yet fundamentally good character showed up the 60’s, we could perhaps even attribute his early survival to an appeal to the counter-culture of the time.
Now, Spiderman is like any other superhero in that he’s iconic and recognizable. Whether or not Luke Skywalker is a superhero, we can still argue we recognize him, but with many different costumes? Going through archives Spiderman has a wardrobe so expansive Lady Gaga would be jealous. However, despite the variation in his costumes, they are still clearly and Spiderman costumes that any Spider-fan would recognize. (The the possible exception of the Bombastic Bag Man outfit after the Symbiote Saga, but it was primarily a gag piece.)
So that all said, we love Spiderman because he’s more like us than alien Superman and super-rich-super-ripped Batman have ever or will ever be, even with his penchant for slinging hammocks out of webs to relax in. In the Golden and Silver ages of comics, there was a mountain of superheroes being thrown through the presses, but it’s the unique ones like Spidey, the ones that did something different, that have enjoyed our admiration.
(Notes: All research was done thanks to the great wide web not made by Spiderman, the internet. Particularly comichron.com for sales figures and comicvine.com for overviews and summaries of the many superhero characters out there. Aside from knowledge from Jean-Paul Gabillet’s text required for this class, research was primarily word-of-mouth and forum-based, and I totally and completely welcome comments regarding why you absolutely agree or disagree or are indifferent to my piece! I’d most definitely love to hear from people that find Spiderman super-annoying. As for the referenced issue, it’s most easily found in the recently printed Spiderman: Am I an Avenger?, which is a fairly interesting cross-section of Spidey’s adventures.)