By Steven Smith
I’m not a Spider-Man guy. For me, it’s Batman all the way. For the same reasons most folks are into Batman -- no powers (except for wealth,) strong will, strict moral code, cool car, etc. -- Spider-Man never did it for me. I liked his sense of humor fine, his mouthiness towards bad guys was a hit with me...but I never got into his anxiety, fears or earnestness. His problems with girls weren’t appealing nor his being odd man out, the nerd, at school. Peter Parker wore glasses too, like I did and well, he was a nerd, and nobody liked nerds. Spider-Man, was too real, I couldn’t escape into his world, which is most likely why I never identified with him. Aside from radioactive blood, we were just too alike. Which is weird because I don’t remember ever learning about Spider-Man -- I just remember him always being there.
Spider-Man was in the very first dream I remember as a child. I was in my bed asleep floating around a giant alligator who was trying to eat me. Spider-Man was swinging through, shooting webs at the gator. The dream is pretty basic for a kid, but the weird thing was that it featured Spider-Man -- because, like I said, I’m a Batman guy. Batman was my first memory. I was two years old, sitting on a hardwood floor, wearing blue velour pajamas, watching Adam West fight Mr. Freeze. This had a resounding impact on my life plus affected every Halloween costume from then on, but for some reason Spider-Man revealed himself to my subconscious that night. He was trying to save me, and Bats was nowhere to be found. I must have seen the early Spider-Man cartoon or something, and maybe it just stuck in my head. I knew the theme song but only recall bits and pieces of the actual show.
The second time Spider-Man crossed my field of vision was while watching "The Electric Company." For years I thought Spider-Man couldn’t speak. At the time I couldn’t read the thought balloons but I understood his theme song. “Nobody knows who you are!” I would sing along. "The Electric Company" never made any reference to Peter Parker, in fact, unlike the comic, Spider-Man was accepted as a New York hero. There was no J. Jonah Jameson hunting him in the papers, nor problems with the cops. If anything, the one obstacle Spidey kept running into was how the "Electric Company" never seemed to finish a storyline. To this day I don’t know if he ever defeated the Bookworm.
In the 80’s, I was way more psyched to be into Spider-Man because of "Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends." I never missed an episode, mostly because I wanted to be Iceman. Had nothing to do with Spider-Man. He was cool and all but Iceman was a mutant and as we all know, mutants rule. And he didn’t just ice up, nope, turned into a block of ice and BAM – Iceman! Spider-Man just put on a mask. Snore. The main gripe I had about the Amazing Friends was how Spider-Man tried too hard to be funny. It didn’t have the zing I felt the comics did, and I only read them peripherally. Mostly "Marvel Team-Ups" and yes, I have the issue with the black costume.
By the early 90’s I got caught up in the with the whole McFarlane brouhaha (the webs are different!) and bought a gazillion copies of his Spider-Man comic but that was it. No clone saga, no wedding, no Venom or Carnage, nada, until Bendis came along. I had been a fan of Brian Michael Bendis starting with "aka Goldfish." I dug "Jinx" too, so when it was announced he would be rebooting Spider-Man for Marvel’s Ultimate line I had finally found my in with web-head. See I wasn’t a kid anymore; I was big bad grown up and thought that Peter Parker’s issues and foibles wouldn’t get to me. But how wrong and thrilled I was. "Ultimate Spider-Man" opened my eyes to what I already knew, Peter Parker is timeless; flawed; and the most human of all super heroes. And Bendis had an expiration date for his Ultimate character. This only adds to the tragic tale of Peter Parker.
He really is everyman, someone just trying to do the right thing for the sole reason it’s the right thing to do.
So Happy 50th Spidey. We know who you are: you’re us. To 50 more web slinging years.
Steven Smith has been a television host for 10 years, he has a cool podcast called Going Off Track which you should check out, and he just learned his copy of Ultimate Spider-Man # 1 might be worth something. None too shabby. You can check out his coverage of San Diego Comic-Con 2012 here.