FEATURE: Why I Love Spider-man

This is a special year for everyone’s favourite webhead, because although he doesn’t look it, he turns 50. And with issue 700 of Amazing Spider-man coming our way in the next couple of months, I thought it was only right to talk about how much I love Spider-man, and, yes it might sound funny, but how much I owe the fictional Peter Parker.

I first came to know Spider-man when I was about seven or eight. I was heavily into Star Wars but through the summer months, BBC were showing Spider-man the animated series at 9am every weekday, and it quickly became a ritual that I loved more and more everyday. Before long, I felt I knew Peter like he was my best friend and also delighted as I watched him struggle with family life and the big bad world. If it wasn’t Jameson screaming at him, it was Mary Jane or Felicia Hardy being mad at him for missing their date. All these things might seem small to the average person, but they engrossed me, indoctrinated me into seeing Spider-man as the one true hero, my imaginary best friend dressed in red and blue. Sure I liked the X-Men, sure I liked Batman but there was something different about Spidey.

That something different was the same thing that endeared readers to him in Amazing Fantasy 15 back in 1962. He had a human element to him that none of the other characters did and yes, Spidey’s life was whimsical and make-believe, but his New York City was ever so slightly more real than Batman’s Gotham. I felt that I could almost touch Spidey’s life, and so simply become a part of it to the extent that I pestered my mum to take me to New York City.

I think the thing that makes Spidey so special to so many people for 50 years is Peter Parker. Batman is awesome but when I was growing up the hero felt so much more important than Bruce Wayne and I think this has kind of stayed with me. The same with The X-Men. Yes they had lives outside of being Gambit or Rogue or whoever, but at the end of the day they seemed more worried about fighting Magneto than anything else. Peter Parker was different. Peter Parker and Spider-man truly felt one and the same. You could see that they were the same person, that they were fighting for the same thing and, at the end of the day, Peter would always put his family first. It might not be the right thing for New York, but it was the right thing for them.

I would spend the next couple of summers avidly engrossed in the Spider-man animated series, and then it finished. Spidey had met Stan Lee (an awesome moment even then for me) and Madame Web was going to help Peter find Mary Jane. Things could not be better. But there was no web-head on my television screen anymore. I would wait patiently and whenever a new cartoon appeared, I would watch it but it was never the same as the one I had just seen. Unfortunately, me and Peter grew apart for a few years but, as friends do, we managed to find each other again in the form of the Raimi Spider-man films. They were not the greatest thing I had seen, but I liked them. You see, by now I started to realise just how much Peter Parker had affected my personality. I was a geek just like Peter who craved to have powers. I knew that I didn’t have anything to worry about with girls, because at the end of the day Peter managed to get Mary Jane.

But it was Spider-man 2 where I really started to delve into Peter’s world, and mine and his merged in a way they had never done before. I decided that I wanted to see what the original 60’s stories were like, and started to buy Marvel’s Essential collection. From that day on I was hooked. The work that Stan Lee and Steve Ditko did on those first thirty odd issues was tremendous, paving the way for one of my favourite issues of a comic book ever: The Amazing Spider-man issue 33. In this, Doc Ock has trapped Spidey under a huge amount of rubble, and Spidey has to battle his way out of it in order to get the medication for his Aunt May. The art and words here were truly astounding, as you felt every grimace from Peter, every try and more importantly the amount of times he failed. He tried and tried and tried again but still with no avail. Finally he realises he can not let his Uncle Ben down by losing his Aunt too and gathers up more strength than ever before. In this story, we also saw a lot of Peter’s support cast emerge – many of whom we would assume were there from the beginning: from Harry Osborn to Gwen Stacey.

Again, it was another summer and another summer spent with my favourite webby friend as I charged through every single one of the Essential books at break neck speed. I think that many people do not give John Romita the credit he deserves as he picked up where Ditko left off. To be honest, I always preferred his Peter anyway. His was more streamlined than Ditko’s and reminded me more of the Peter I knew from the animated series. But once all the Essentials were read, I had to have more. I started to read the JMS run and loved every minute of it, the ultimate series and anything I could get my hands on that had Peter Parker as the main character.

And then One More Day came. I had never cried at a comic – but I did over this. What a beautifully put together story! To me, Peter and Mary Jane were like my surrogate parents, and I felt like the kid in the middle of the divorce. I wanted to know what I had done wrong: was I not a good enough reader? Had I not been loyal? So, like many others, I left Peter for a while as he went off into his new world. For the first time we were both alone. It felt strange. I felt lost.

In my time away from him, he made tons of new friends, and I have too with the likes of Hal Jordan and Wally West. But sooner or later I knew I would be lured back. It was a couple of issues before Amazing Spider-man 600 where I saw the return of Mary Jane and I had to have it. My fake mum and dad might be getting back together! Genius! Alas, it didn’t happen, but I have remained loyal once again, even through some dire plots where it seemed like they were just trying to make Peter unlikable. However, with Brand New Day, Dan Slott and Co have been on top form, making Peter’s book once again one of the most exciting things to read, with some stunning art to boot. Slott’s ideas are so creative, and I can honestly say there are few people I would want more in control of Peter Parker.

So yes, this is my love affair with Spider-man and why he is so awesome. He will draw you into his web and cling onto you. He is the thing that I count on no matter my age (I can still be Peter Parker!). I know one day I will be older, but that does not seem to matter because we all wanted to be him and want to be like him. However cool he is, I would never want to be Batman, as he seems to have as many psychological problems as the inmates of Arkham do – but the nice boy from Queens who can fire a quip anyone’s way? The geeky boy who wears the horn rimmed glasses like every one of us? Without you, I would have never started my comic obsession that has issues going back to the silver age (yes you can blush, Pete, as they are from your series). Yes, this is how important he is to me and how important he is to society.

Pete, old buddy, you are looking pretty good for your age! Happy birthday!

GS Reporter: Luke Halsall

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