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Spider-Man - Comic Book Hero

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A red and blue web - presumably spun by superhero Spider-Man

In a world of superheroes like Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, it wasn't likely that a small time crime-fighter from New York City would ever get a look in. However, a hero for the people was making a name for himself, swinging his way through the streets of Manhattan, climbing buildings like a spider and wrapping muggers and other lowlifes up in his amazing web-like ropes. He was hardly very brave or confident. He just did what he knew he had to do. He was your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man.

Look Out! Here comes the Spider-Man...

Meet Peter Parker, teenage boy. He lives with his Aunt and Uncle in outer suburbia. He's intelligent, but not popular. He wears glasses and isn't good at sports. He likes girls, but they don't notice him. He dreams of being a superhero, but is better at chemistry and has an eye for taking photographs. One day everything turns upside down for him.

Peter visits a local laboratory, interested in the work that the lab is undertaking. The scientists have been researching radioactivity. In the midst of the tour the young man is bitten by a spider that has been exposed to various levels of radiation. Sickened, he runs from the building and soon discovers he no longer needs his glasses; he can outrun buses, and can scale up the sides of buildings. He feels stronger and faster and more powerful. A superhero - a spider-man!

After some interesting experiences, Peter needs a way of testing his new-found powers. A local television network is advertising for new wrestlers and an attractive cash prize encourages Peter to win the money for his Aunt and Uncle, to make them proud and to thank them for taking him in. Peter designs a wrestling suit for himself and takes to the stage as The Spider-Man. His abilities help him overcome wrestling giant Crusher Hogan1 in the ring and he is an instant media darling. His family, unaware of his double life, take him to one side, as Peter's schoolwork is suffering. His Uncle Ben tells him that he is growing up, becoming a man and he'll find he has the power to do anything he wants. His uncle imparts a final line of wisdom, before Peter leaves for the television studio once again:

With great power, there must also come great responsibility.

One night after a show, Peter notices a gunman escaping the studio with bags of cash. He does nothing to stop the man, believing it isn't up to him to fight crime, the police do that. Peter arrives home one night after another wrestling match to find a burglar has killed his Uncle Ben. Stunned, Peter dons his spider-man suit and tracks down the murderer, only to find it's the same man who rushed past him at the TV studio days earlier. He soon realises his Uncle Ben's words were something to live by, and Peter decides that he can do more as a hero, not a wrestler.

Leaving High School and moving into Manhattan with new friend Harry Osborn, Peter Parker soon finds himself a job at the Daily Bugle newspaper as a freelance photographer, his talent for being in the right place at the right time and taking excellent snapshots earns him the unlikely respect of J. Jonah Jameson, Editor-in-Chief. With a modest pay, Peter Parker is able to fulfil his dream and avenge his Uncle Ben, as the Amazing Spider-Man!

Does Whatever a Spider Can...

After receiving the bite from the radioactive spider, Peter Parker found he had amazing new powers:


Why is Spider-Man, Spider-Man? Because he can climb along walls, over ceilings, up drainpipes, anywhere he pleases really - just like a spider can! Peter Parker discovered that he could do this soon after he was bitten, but no one has ever been quite sure 'how'.

  • The Science of Wall-Crawling

Spiders are able to walk up walls and over ceilings by using very small hairs on their legs and feet that attach to fine nuances in the surface they are walking over. This also explains why a spider can never climb out of a bathtub because the surfaces are far too smooth. The weight of a spider's body also plays a large part in its ability to climb up walls. If a human attempted to do this, they would quite simply be too heavy and would fall off. However, some lizards are also capable of climbing up and over any terrain, including glass and other slippery surfaces. This may be a type of suction, or static cling, or even an ability to alter at a molecular level2. This might explain how Spider-Man actually performs his incredible wall-crawling (and for the record, never gets trapped in giant bathtubs).

Spider Sense

Spider-Man's most amazing and unusual ability would almost certainly be his 'spider-sense'. This sixth sense warns him of impending danger, a tingling sensation:

spider-sense...tingling...something's wrong...

…at the base of his skull. While the spider-sense never can tell him exactly what to look out for, it certainly has saved Spider-Man's skin on many occasions.

Strength and Agility

Spider-Man has the proportionate strength of a spider, able to lift at least ten times his own body weight and even more. He has been known to wield lampposts as weapons and even catch helicopters that fall from the sky! He is also able to leap great distances, run at incredible speeds and perform acrobatic and gymnastic manoeuvres with ease. He has perfect equilibrium and reaction speeds and together with his spider-sense, Spider-Man is not only an innovative and resourceful combatant, but also an asset to any Olympic Squad.


When Peter Parker was bitten by the irradiated spider he obtained many traits of a spider, but one he did not was the ability to produce webs3. With a solid background in science, Peter developed an amazing new web-like compound in the laboratory. Like a spiders' web it was sticky and translucent, but could also hold a 10-ton weight in stasis and could be moulded into various shapes. Peter constructed web-shooters for himself and attached to both wrists they held vials of the new compound for Spider-Man to use. With a distinctive two-fingered double-click like that of a computer mouse, strands of the strong gossamer flew from his hands as far as 100 metres! These webs could be used like ropes so Spider-Man could web-swing through the city like an urban Tarzan, or the web could be shot out like a weapon. With slight differences to the solution and the way that Spider-Man shoots his webs, a number of different styles could be made, all to defeat various villains.

The Costume

Spider-Man's classic red and blue suit pays homage to patriotic heroes like Superman and Captain America and was created using some old High School Dance Squad uniforms. The lightweight Lycra was perfect for performing acrobatics and two-way mirrored glasses added the vision and secrecy that Parker wanted for his mask. His gloves and shoes were especially thin at fingertip and sole so as not to impair his wall-crawling ability. The spiders he emblazoned upon his back and chest completed the ensemble.

As a necessity, Spider-Man added a Utility Belt to his costume, containing spare web-cartridges, a mini camera and 'bugs' for tracking targets. Later there was a complete overhaul when Spider-Man managed to obtain alien technology and create a new suit. Completely black (aside from the eyes and a striking white spider emblem), with unlimited web-fluid and the ability to change in response to his thoughts, Spider-Man believed he had found perfection. It wasn't until he discovered the suit was beginning to control him that Spider-Man sought the aid of the Fantastic Four. In order to rid himself of his new day and night wear, the power of sound was used to remove this new and frightening suit.

Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man...

Peter Parker/Spider-Man has many people in his life, some good and many bad. His closest friends and family help keep him together when all around is craziness! Here are a few of his nearest and dearest:

Aunt May

Peter Parker's loving Aunt, who with husband Ben took Peter under their wing when he lost both his parents. After her husband was taken from her, May turned all her attentions to caring for Peter, and as a consequence has often been the unwitting victim of many of Spider-Man's enemies.

Harry Osborn

Son of Norman Osborn of OsCorp, Harry was one of Peter Parker's classmates at High School. When Peter graduated Harry offered him a room in his bachelor pad in Manhattan. Harry and Peter often competed, both intellectually and on the romantic front, but always remained closest friends. Harry and Spider-Man however are a different story and the influence of the Green Goblin played a large part in Harry's friendship with Peter Parker in later years.

Gwen Stacy

Peter Parker's first true love, blonde 'it' girl Gwen Stacy was also a classmate of Peter's and soon became interested in Parker when his confidence boosted, thanks to Spider-Man. Peter's love was to be short lived, the Green Goblin again responsible for the tragic circumstances that followed Spider-Man's battle with the villain over the Hudson River.

Dr Curt Connors

Peter's interest in science got him a part-time laboratory assistant job that led to working closely with Dr Curt Connors, a scientist with expertise in the field of DNA4 and genetics that interested Peter on a personal basis. The two became close colleagues and friends with Parker assisting Connors' research more and more. The doctor's ideas on genetic manipulation came about after an accident lost him his right arm. He conducted experiments with human DNA and those of lizards that are able to grow back lost limbs. His genius was to become a nightmare though, in a Jekyll and Hyde type transformation that not even Spider-Man could help him with.

Mary Jane Watson

Long time girl-next-door and part-time model/actress Mary Jane Watson has always been a love interest of Peter Parker's. The fiery and popular redhead moved to New York City to live with her own Aunt after a family upheaval and became a close friend of Peter's soon after he discovered his new powers as Spider-Man. Their first face-to-face meeting is the stuff of legends, Mary-Jane speaking the immortal lines:

Face it Tiger, you just hit the jackpot.

Their history has been a turbulent one, but M-J has stood by Peter Parker and Spider-Man time and time again.

Felicia Hardy/Black Cat

Felicia Hardy, daughter of cat-burglar Walter Hardy was unaware of her father's double-life until he was imprisoned when she was thirteen years old. She loved her father dearly, so she decided to train herself in martial arts, gymnastics and the criminal arts of lockpicking and safecracking. When she felt ready she took up the mantle of the Black Cat, a cat-burglar who was able to rig her escape routes so bad luck befell any who followed her. It wasn't long before she crossed paths with Spider-Man and the two were rivals, then partners and eventually lovers. Concerned for Felicia's safety, as she had no superpowers, Spider-Man forbid her from being the Black Cat. Approaching a scientist who somehow granted her the ability to cause improbable things to occur so she truly possessed the bad luck of a black cat, Felicia returned to crime until again, Spider-Man helped her reform. In times of need however, she dons the mask of the Black Cat to help her friends, especially Spider-Man.

J Jonah Jameson

Editor-in-chief of the Daily Bugle newspaper, Jameson is not so much a friend but an acquaintance, both to Peter Parker and Spider-Man. He is Peter's employer, the freelance photographer always producing snaps of Spider-Man and his fights for Jameson. As for Spider-Man, Jameson has a personal vendetta against the 'masked vigilante' and although bad press may be considered better than no press, Jameson constantly barrages Spider-Man, even to the point of funding the creation of the Scorpion and Dr Spencer Smythe's Spider-Slayers, deadly robots designed to capture the web-slinger.

Catches Thieves, Just Like Flies...

For as many friends Peter Parker/Spider-Man has, there are four times as many enemies. There are too many opponents of Spidey to list here, but the following are some that definitely warrant a mention:

The Green Goblin

Quite possibly Spider-Man's arch nemesis, the Green Goblin is a terrifying creature. Norman Osborn, founder of OsCorp was leading the development in a formula that could make humans stronger, smarter and more powerful. In an attempt to test the formula, Osborn's creation exploded, destroying much of OsCorp and leaving the scientist in hospital. On leaving hospital, Osborn realised his formula had worked, but his desire for wealth and power went to his head, and using his own funds he created a jet propelled one-man glider armed with a variety of missiles to aid him in his quest for power. Osborn created the alter ego of the Green Goblin, a Halloween-styled creature from the recesses of his psyche and with a suitably frightening mask, he became the terrifying villain. Osborn firstly wanted to use his new powers to bring down rival companies, but he eventually became manic and started his own crime ring. It wasn't long before the Green Goblin and his activities caught the attention of Spider-Man. Various battles with the Green Goblin have ended in tragedy for Spider-Man, losing both lovers and friends. Spider-Man once thought he had defeated the Goblin, when Norman Osborn appeared to be dead, but the villain continues to resurrect himself in one form or another to battle Spider-Man; the web-slinger must always be on his guard for the next attack.

Doctor Octopus

Dr Otto Octavius was a leading scientist before a freak laboratory accident left him spliced to one of his amazing creations. A set of four mechanical arms that were designed to do tiresome lab work became a part of him, his brain adapting itself to his new appendages. The accident also left Octavius sadly demented; he became a megalomaniac of the worst kind. Spider-Man has often saved Doctor Octopus from himself, but the madman continues to attempt world domination. Realising that he could not defeat Spider-Man on his own, Doctor Octopus brought together a team of super-villains. The aptly named Sinister Six, led by the Doctor, included the Vulture, Electro, Sandman, Mysterio and Kraven the Hunter; all with one desire: to destroy Spider-Man.

The Lizard

Dr Curt Connors' research led him towards splicing the DNA of a lizard into himself in order to regenerate his lost arm. With the belief that his work would aid medical science he failed to recognise the consequences. Injecting himself with a serum, the doctor quickly mutated into a gigantic lizard-man. Losing all human thought and becoming a reptilian monster, the Lizard wants to rid the world of humankind and rule as a Lizard King. Spider-Man has had many battles with the creature, all too aware that his friend Curt Connors is the man inside the beast. Connors' only saving grace is that Peter Parker knew of his research and was able to concoct a cure to return the doctor to his human state. However, a side effect of the experiment means that under moments of great stress, the Lizard returns.


J Jonah Jameson's desire to unmask Spider-Man was the driving force behind the creation of the Scorpion. The Daily Bugle's Editor-in-chief hired one Macdonald Gargan, a private detective, to track Peter Parker in order to find Spider-Man. Peter's 'spider-sense' meant that Gargan failed. However Jameson was funding an experiment whereby he could create a mutant scorpion-man. Gargan volunteered for the project with a little monetary incentive and the Scorpion was born. With amazing strength and a scorpion's tail that was connected to Gargan's neural pathways, 'the natural enemy of the spider' proved more than a match for Spider-Man on their first encounter, nearly having Peter Parker unmasked in front of Jameson. Spidey managed to escape, but the Scorpion remains a threat.


Peter Parker's rival at the Daily Bugle, Eddie Brock was a failed photojournalist. He blamed Peter Parker and Spider-Man for his own shortcomings and held a hatred for them both. The alien symbiote that was Spider-Man's black suit found in Brock a kindred spirit as it was rejected by Spider-Man and hated him also. On joining together, Venom was created, a huge creature with giant teeth and a slobbering tongue. Inheriting the powers of Spider-Man and the desires of Eddie Brock and due to the alien symbiote's contact with Spider-Man, Venom received all the powers and abilities of the web-slinger, along with all of his secrets! The creature, a mix of Brock and the alien, is invisible to Spider-Man's spider-sense, has unlimited organic webbing and is twice as strong as Spidey. Able to surprise the wall-crawler whenever it pleases, wherever it pleases, Venom is an unpredictable and fearsome opponent, often terrorising Spider-Man and his friends and family.


Venom's carrier Eddie Brock soon found himself in a high security prison after an attack on Spider-Man went wrong. He was imprisoned in the same cellblock as one Cletus Kassady, an insane serial killer. The alien symbiote that was Venom freed Brock from his cell, but in the process some of it was left behind. Sensing the psychotic wants of the killer, the symbiote joined with Kassady and they became Carnage, a creature more powerful than Spider-Man and Venom combined. With all the abilities of both Spider-Man and Venom, Carnage is able to create living weapons from itself, and with a wanton lust for needless killing and bloodshed the psychotic creature is quite probably one of Spidey's most dangerous foes.


Otherwise known as crime boss Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin is a major player behind the scenes of any crime in New York City and most of the World. An enormous man, he used his strength and size to intimidate others until he reached the top of his league. Spider-Man has constantly put the proverbial spanner in the works and with seemingly endless funds the Kingpin has hired son of Dr Spencer Smythe, Alistair, to create more Spider-Slayers to hunt down Spider-Man and dispose of him once and for all.

Every one of these people in the life of Spider-Man makes for a complex web of intrigue and action. Spidey certainly has a full diary, every day of the year!

Like a streak of light, he arrives just in time...

The co-creation of writer Stan Lee5 and artist Steve Ditko, Spider-Man's first outing came in Amazing Fantasy #15, published in August 1962. Lee changed the title of the cancelled Amazing Adult Fantasy book and Jack Kirby drew the action packed cover portraying a web-slinging Spider-Man capturing a criminal on the off chance that a growing younger fan base would notice the new hero. Considered unmarketable by the editors of Marvel Comics, Spider-Man was almost literally an over-night success. It wasn't long before he had his own comic; the Amazing Spider-Man #1 was published in March 1963. The team of Lee and Ditko soon found their creation competing with the heavyweight heroes of DC Comics, Superman and Batman.

But why was Spider-Man so successful? He was different to the other heroes of the day. He was young, a teenager. Most teenagers in comics were either sidekicks or throwaway characters. He had teenage problems to go along with his superhero problems. He was never confident in his own abilities or powers and often hid behind lame, cheesy jokes and wisecracks. Unlike Superman's spectacular heroics and Batman's silent-hunter technique, Spider-Man's in-your-face, often cheeky and distractive style of fighting made him unique in an impish way. This made him 'one-of-the-gang', a more accessible type of hero, which was furthered by the fact that Spider-Man lived in a real place, not 'Metropolis' or 'Gotham City'. Peter Parker lived in Forest Hills, a suburb of New York City. He has his feet firmly on the ground (most of the time) and struggles to get by in the real world, let alone battle super-villains, criminals and even terrorists6.

Spider-Man has been seen in an incredible amount of comics, written and drawn by an astounding number of talented artists including, Steve Ditko, Jack 'King' Kirby, John Romita Sr. and Jr., Gil Kane, Gerry Conway, John Buscema, Archie Goodwin, John Byrne, J.M DeMatteis, Erik Larsen (Savage Dragon), Tom DeFalco, Todd McFarlane (Spawn), J. Michael Straczynski, Brian Michael Bendis, Jeph Loeb/Tim Sale(DareDevil: Yellow, Superman: A Man for All Seasons, Batman: The Long Halloween) and many, many more. Spider-Man stories can be read in the following collections7:

  • Amazing Fantasy
  • The Amazing Spider-Man
  • Spectacular Spider-Man
  • Sensational Spider-Man
  • Ultimate Spider-Man
  • Spider-Man Unlimited
  • Spider-Man
  • Spider-Man: Blue
  • The Pulse
  • Marvel Age Spider-Man

And no doubt the list will continue to grow!

Wealth and fame, he's ignored, action is his reward...

With an infectious popularity Spider-Man soon found his way onto the small screen and after a lengthy legal battle Hollywood obtained the okay to produce a major motion picture about the web-head. Some of Spider-Man's appearances on celluloid are listed below8:

  • Spider-Man - Animated Series 1967

  • The Amazing Spider-Man - Film Length Pilot for TV Series 1977

  • Spider-Man Strikes Back - Film Version of TV Series 1978

  • Spider-Man and the Dragon's Challenge - Film Version of TV Series 1979

  • Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends - Animated Series 1982

  • Spider-Man - Animated Series 1994

  • Spider-Man Unlimited - Animated Series 1999

  • Spider-Man - Film, starring Tobey (Cider House Rules) Maguire, Kirsten (The Virgin Suicides) Dunst and Willem (Platoon) Dafoe. Director Sam (Evil Dead) Raimi. 2002

  • Spider-Man: The New Animated Series - Animated/CGI Series 2003

  • Spider-Man 2 - Film, starring Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst and Alfred Molina. Director: Sam Raimi. 2004

  • Spider-Man 3 - Film, starring Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst and Thomas Haden-Church. Director: Sam Raimi. 2007

  • Spectacular Spider-Man - Animated Series 2008

  • The Amazing Spider-Man - Film, starring Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone and Rhys Ifans. Director: Marc Webb. 2012

Wherever There's a Hang Up, You'll Find the Spider-Man!

There are many games and toys associated with the Spider-Man franchise. Ever since computers were able to produce characters that could kick, punch and jump, Spidey has been there. From the Commodore 64 to the newest PC, on PlayStation, X-Box, and various Nintendo consoles. But 'video' games aren't the only sort. Trading Card games, Role Playing Games like HeroClix, versions of family classics like Monopoly and even Spider-Man based Chess sets are available. There are Spider-Man plush toys, pose-able figurines, Web-Shooters, T-Shirts, Costumes, Mugs, key-rings, ad infinitum. There's a Spidey surprise for every occasion!

To Be Continued...

Spider-Man will surely carry on attracting new fans and pleasing old ones with his ceaseless adventures, and with the success of his transfer to the big screen, the wall-crawler is likely to be around for many more years.

www.spiderfan.orgBBC Film siteBBC Cult
1No relation to Hulk Hogan - WWF Professional Wrestler2For more information see:What drives a gecko up the wall?3In the 2002 Spider-Man Movie, the web-shooters are in fact a biological part of the super-hero, not man-made.4See also: Genome Sequencing5Also creator of the Uncanny X-Men, the Incredible Hulk, the Fantastic Four, Dare-Devil, Silver Surfer, Sgt. Fury and the Howling Commandoes, The Avengers, Iron Man and more.6The Amazing Spider-Man #36: Spider-Man becomes involved in helping the victims of the 9/11 attack on New York City.7Please be aware not every Spider-Man title has been listed as there are hundreds, including guest appearances, TV/movie tie-ins etc.8Again, please be aware that not every screen depiction of Spider-Man can be credited, there are far too many!

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