Spider-Man is a superhero appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. Created by writer-editor Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko, he first appeared in the anthology comic book Amazing Fantasy #15 (August 1962) in the Silver Age of Comic Books. He has been featured in comic books, television shows, films, video games, novels, and plays.
Spider-Man's secret identity is Peter Benjamin Parker. Initially, Peter was depicted as a teenage high school student and an orphan raised by his Aunt May and Uncle Ben in New York City after his parents Richard and Mary Parker died in a plane crash. Lee and Ditko had the character deal with the struggles of adolescence and financial issues and gave him many supporting characters, such as Flash Thompson, J. Jonah Jameson, and Harry Osborn; romantic interests Gwen Stacy, Mary Jane Watson, and the Black Cat; and enemies such as the Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, and Venom. In his origin story, Spider-Man gets his superhuman spider-powers and abilities after being bitten by a radioactive spider; these include superhuman strength, agility, reflexes, stamina, durability, coordination, and balance, clinging to surfaces and ceilings like a spider, and detecting danger with his precognition ability called "spider-sense". He builds wrist-mounted "web-shooter" devices that shoot artificial spider-webs of his own design, which he uses both for fighting and for web-swinging across the city. Peter Parker originally used his powers for his own personal gain, but after his Uncle Ben was killed by a thief that Peter could not stop, he began to use his powers to fight crime by becoming Spider-Man.
When Spider-Man first appeared in the early 1960s, teenagers in superhero comic books were usually relegated to the role of sidekick to the protagonist. The Spider-Man comic series broke ground by featuring Peter Parker, a high school student from Queens, New York, as Spider-Man's secret identity, whose "self-obsessions with rejection, inadequacy, and loneliness" were issues to which young readers could relate. While Spider-Man was a quintessential sidekick, unlike previous teen heroes Bucky Barnes and Robin, Spider-Man had no superhero mentor like Captain America and Batman; he had learned the lesson for himself that "with great power comes great responsibility"—a line included in a text box in the final panel of the first Spider-Man's origin story, but later retroactively attributed to the late Uncle Ben Parker.
Marvel has featured Spider-Man in several comic book series, the first and longest-lasting of which is The Amazing Spider-Man. Since his introduction, the main-continuity version of Peter has gone from a high school student to attending college to currently being somewhere in his late 20s. Peter has been a member of numerous superhero teams, most notably the Avengers and Fantastic Four. Doctor Octopus also took on the identity for a story arc spanning 2012–2014, following a body swap plot in which Peter appears to die. Marvel has also published comic books featuring alternate versions of Spider-Man, including Spider-Man 2099, which features the adventures of Miguel O'Hara, the Spider-Man of the future; Ultimate Spider-Man, which features the adventures of a teenage Peter Parker in the alternate universe; and Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man, which depicts a teenager named Miles Morales who takes up the mantle of Spider-Man after Ultimate Peter Parker's apparent death. Miles later became a superhero in his own right and was brought into mainstream continuity during the Secret Wars event, where he sometimes works alongside the mainline version of Peter.
Spider-Man is one of the most popular and commercially successful superheroes. He has appeared in countless forms of media, including several animated TV series: the first original animated series Spider-Man, with Paul Soles voicing the titular character, a live-action television series, syndicated newspaper comic strips, and multiple series of films. Spider-Man was first portrayed in live-action by Danny Seagren in Spidey Super Stories, a recurring skit on The Electric Company from 1974 to 1977. In live-action films, Spider-Man has been portrayed by actors Tobey Maguire in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy, by Andrew Garfield in two films directed by Marc Webb, and in the Marvel Cinematic Universe by Tom Holland. Reeve Carney originally starred as Spider-Man in the 2010 Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. Spider-Man was also voiced by Jake Johnson and Chris Pine in the animated film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Spider-Man has been well-received as a superhero and comic book character; he is often ranked as one of the most popular and iconic comic book superheroes of all time and in all of fiction.
In 1962, with the success of the Fantastic Four, Marvel Comics editor and head writer Stan Lee was casting for a new superhero idea. He said the idea for Spider-Man arose from a surge in teenage demand for comic books and the desire to create a character with whom teens could identify.: 1 As with Fantastic Four, Lee saw Spider-Man as an opportunity to "get out of his system" what he felt was missing in comic books. In his autobiography, Lee cites the non-superhuman pulp magazine crime fighter the Spider as a great influence,: 130 and in a multitude of print and video interviews, Lee stated he was inspired by seeing a spider climb up a wall—adding in his autobiography that he has told that story so often he has become unsure of whether or not this is true. Besides the name, the Spider was wanted by both the law and the criminal underworld (a defining theme of Spider-Man's early years), and had through years of ceaseless struggle developed a "sixth sense", which warns him of danger, the inspiration for Spider-Man's "spider-sense". Although at the time teenage superheroes were usually given names ending with "boy", Lee says he chose "Spider-Man" because he wanted the character to age as the series progressed, and felt the name "Spider-Boy" would have made the character sound inferior to other superheroes. He also decided to insert a hyphen in the name, as he felt it looked too similar to Superman, another superhero with a red and blue costume that starts with an "S" and ends with "man" (although artist Steve Ditko intended the character to have an orange and purple costume). At that time, Lee had to get only the consent of Marvel publisher Martin Goodman for the character's approval. In a 1986 interview, Lee described in detail his arguments to overcome Goodman's objections. Goodman eventually agreed to a Spider-Man tryout in what Lee, in numerous interviews, recalled as what would be the final issue of the science-fiction and supernatural anthology series Amazing Adult Fantasy, which was renamed Amazing Fantasy for issue #15 (cover-dated August 1962, on sale June 5, 1962). In particular, Lee stated that the fact that it had already been decided that Amazing Fantasy would be canceled after issue #15 was the only reason Goodman allowed him to use Spider-Man. While this was the final issue, its editorial page anticipated the comic continuing and that "The Spider-Man ... will appear every month in Amazing."
Regardless, Lee received Goodman's approval for the name Spider-Man and the "ordinary teen" concept and approached artist Jack Kirby. As comics historian Greg Theakston recounts, Kirby told Lee about an unpublished character on which he had collaborated with Joe Simon in the 1950s, in which an orphaned boy living with an old couple finds a magic ring that granted him superhuman powers. Lee and Kirby "immediately sat down for a story conference," Theakston writes, and Lee afterward directed Kirby to flesh out the character and draw some pages. Steve Ditko would be the inker. When Kirby showed Lee the first six pages, Lee recalled, "I hated the way he was doing it! Not that he did it badly—it just wasn't the character I wanted; it was too heroic".: 12 Lee turned to Ditko, who developed an art style Lee found satisfactory. Ditko recalled:
One of the first things I did was to work up a costume. A vital, visual part of the character. I had to know how he looked ... before I did any breakdowns. For example: A clinging power so he wouldn't have hard shoes or boots, a hidden wrist-shooter versus a web gun and holster, etc. ... I wasn't sure Stan would like the idea of covering the character's face but I did it because it hid an obviously boyish face. It would also add mystery to the character....
Although the interior artwork was by Ditko alone, Lee rejected Ditko's cover art and commissioned Kirby to pencil a cover that Ditko inked. As Lee explained in 2010, "I think I had Jack sketch out a cover for it because I always had a lot of confidence in Jack's covers."
In an early recollection of the character's creation, Ditko described his and Lee's contributions in a mail interview with Gary Martin published in Comic Fan #2 (Summer 1965): "Stan Lee thought the name up. I did costume, web gimmick on wrist & spider signal." At the time, Ditko shared a Manhattan studio with noted fetish artist Eric Stanton, an art-school classmate who, in a 1988 interview with Theakston, recalled that although his contribution to Spider-Man was "almost nil", he and Ditko had "worked on storyboards together and I added a few ideas. But the whole thing was created by Steve on his own... I think I added the business about the webs coming out of his hands.": 14 Ditko claimed in a rare interview with Jonathan Ross that the costume was initially envisioned with an orange and purple color scheme, rather than the recognizable red and blue.
Kirby disputed Lee's version of the story and claimed Lee had minimal involvement in the character's creation. According to Kirby, the idea for Spider-Man had originated with Kirby and Joe Simon, who in the 1950s had developed a character called the Silver Spider for the Crestwood Publications comic Black Magic, but the character was left unused. Simon, in his 1990 autobiography, disputed
Kirby's account, asserting that Black Magic was not a factor and that Simon devised the name "Spider-Man" (later changed to "The Silver Spider"), while Kirby outlined the character's story and powers. Simon later elaborated that his and Kirby's character conception became the basis for Simon's Archie Comics superhero, the Fly. Artist Steve Ditko stated that Lee liked the name Hawkman from DC Comics, and that "Spider-Man" was an outgrowth of that interest.
Simon concurred that Kirby had shown the original Spider-Man version to Lee, who liked the idea and assigned Kirby to draw sample pages of the new character, but disliked the results—in Simon's description, "Captain America with cobwebs". Writer Mark Evanier notes that Lee's reasoning that Kirby's character was too heroic seems unlikely—Kirby still drew the covers for Amazing Fantasy #15 and the first issue of The Amazing Spider-Man. Evanier also disputes Kirby's given reason that he was "too busy" to draw Spider-Man in addition to his other duties, since Kirby was, said Evanier, "always busy".: 127 Neither Lee's nor Kirby's explanation explains why key story elements like the magic ring were dropped; Evanier states that the most plausible explanation for the sudden change was that Goodman, or one of his assistants, decided that Spider-Man, as drawn and envisioned by Kirby, was too similar to the Fly.: 127
Author and Ditko scholar Blake Bell writes that it was Ditko who noted the similarities to the Fly. Ditko recalled that "Stan called Jack about the Fly", adding that "[d]ays later, Stan told me I would be penciling the story panel breakdowns from Stan's synopsis." It was at this point that the entire concept of the strip went through a major overhaul. "Out went the magic ring, adult Spider-Man and whatever legend ideas that Spider-Man story would have contained." Lee gave Ditko the premise of a teenager bitten by a spider and developing powers, where Ditko would expand upon to the point he became what Bell describes as "the first work for hire artist of his generation to create and control the narrative arc of his series". On the issue of the initial creation, Ditko stated, "I still don't know whose idea was Spider-Man". Ditko did, however, view the published version of Spider-Man as a separate creation to the one he saw in the five pencilled pages that Kirby had completed. To support this, Ditko used the analogy of the Kirby/Marvel Thor, which was based on a name or idea of a character in Norse mythology: "If Marvel's Thor is a valid created work by Jack, his creation, then why isn't Spider-Man by Stan and me valid created work, our creation?"
Kirby noted in a 1971 interview that it was Ditko who "got Spider-Man to roll, and the thing caught on because of what he did". Lee, while claiming credit for the initial idea, had acknowledged Ditko's role, stating, "If Steve wants to be called co-creator, I think he deserves [it]". He has further commented that Ditko's costume design was key to the character's success; since the costume completely covers Spider-Man's body, people of all races could visualize themselves inside the costume and thus easily identify with the character.
A few months after Spider-Man's introduction, publisher Goodman reviewed the sales figures for that issue and was shocked to find it was one of the nascent Marvel's highest-selling comics.: 97 A solo ongoing series followed, beginning with The Amazing Spider-Man #1 (cover-dated March 1963). The title eventually became Marvel's top-selling series: 211 with the character swiftly becoming a cultural icon; a 1965 Esquire poll of college campuses found that college students ranked Spider-Man and fellow Marvel hero the Hulk alongside Bob Dylan and Che Guevara as their favorite revolutionary icons. One interviewee selected Spider-Man because he was "beset by woes, money problems, and the question of existence. In short, he is one of us.": 223 Following Ditko's departure after issue #38 (July 1966), John Romita Sr. replaced him as penciller and would draw the series for the next several years. In 1968, Romita would also draw the character's extra-length stories in the comics magazine The Spectacular Spider-Man, a proto-graphic novel designed to appeal to older readers. It lasted for two issues and represented the first Spider-Man spin-off publication, aside from the original series' summer Annuals that began in 1964.
An early 1970s Spider-Man story ultimately led to the revision of the Comics Code Authority. Previously, the Code forbade the depiction of the use of illegal drugs, even negatively. However, in 1970, the Nixon administration's Department of Health, Education, and Welfare asked Stan Lee to publish an anti-drug message in one of Marvel's top-selling titles.: 239 Lee chose the top-selling The Amazing Spider-Man; issues #96–98 (May–July 1971) feature a story arc depicting the negative effects of drug use. In the story, Peter Parker's friend Harry Osborn becomes addicted to pills. When Spider-Man fights the Green Goblin (Norman Osborn, Harry's father), Spider-Man defeats him by revealing Harry's drug addiction. While the story had a clear anti-drug message, the Comics Code Authority refused to issue its seal of approval. Marvel nevertheless published the three issues without the Comics Code Authority's approval or seal. The issues sold so well that the industry's self-censorship was undercut, and the Code was subsequently revised.: 239
In 1972, a second monthly ongoing series starring Spider-Man began: Marvel Team-Up, in which Spider-Man was paired with other superheroes and supervillains. From that point on, there have generally been at least two ongoing Spider-Man series at any time. In 1976, his second solo series, Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man, began running parallel to the main series. A third series featuring Spider-Man, Web of Spider-Man, launched in 1985 to replace Marvel Team-Up. The launch of a fourth monthly title in 1990, the "adjectiveless" Spider-Man (with the storyline "Torment"), written and drawn by popular artist Todd McFarlane, debuted with several different covers, all with the same interior content. All four versions combined sold over three million copies, an industry record at the time. Several miniseries, one-shot issues, and loosely related comics have also been published, and Spider-Man makes frequent cameos and guest appearances in other comic book series. In 1996, The Sensational Spider-Man was created to replace Web of Spider-Man.
In 1998, writer-artist John Byrne revamped the origin of Spider-Man in the 13-issue limited series Spider-Man: Chapter One (Dec. 1998–Oct. 1999), similar to Byrne's adding details and some revisions to Superman's origin in DC Comics' The Man of Steel. During that time, the original The Amazing Spider-Man ended with issue #441 (Nov. 1998), and The Amazing Spider-Man started with volume 2, #1 (Jan. 1999). In 2003, Marvel reintroduced the original numbering for The Amazing Spider-Man and what would have been volume 2, #59, became issue #500 (Dec. 2003).
When the main series The Amazing Spider-Man reached issue #545 (Dec. 2007), Marvel dropped its spin-off ongoing series and instead began publishing The Amazing Spider-Man three times monthly, beginning with #546–548 (all January 2008). The scheduling of The Amazing Spider-Man lasted until November 2010, when the comic book expanded from 22 pages to 30 pages for each issue. Later on, The Amazing Spider-Man was published twice a month, beginning with #648–649 (both November 2010). The following year, Marvel launched Avenging Spider-Man as the first spin-off ongoing series in addition to The Amazing Spider-Man, since the previous ones were canceled at the end of 2007. The Amazing series temporarily ended with issue #700 in December 2012 and was replaced by The Superior Spider-Man, which had Doctor Octopus serve as the new Spider-Man by taking over Peter Parker's body. Superior was an enormous commercial success for Marvel, and ran for 31 issues before the real Peter Parker returned in a newly relaunched The Amazing Spider-Man #1 in April 2014.
Following the 2015 Secret Wars crossover event, a number of Spider-Man-related titles were either relaunched or created as part of the "All-New, All-Different Marvel" event. Among them, The Amazing Spider-Man was relaunched and primarily focuses on Peter Parker continuing to run Parker Industries and becomes a successful businessman who is operating worldwide.
In Forest Hills, Queens, New York City, Midtown High School student Peter Benjamin Parker is a science-whiz orphan living with his Uncle Ben and Aunt May. As depicted in Amazing Fantasy #15 (Aug. 1962), he is bitten by a radioactive spider (erroneously classified as an insect in the panel) at a science exhibit and "acquires the agility and proportionate strength of an arachnid". Along with heightened athletic abilities, Parker gains the ability to adhere to walls and ceilings. Through his knack for science, he develops a gadget that lets him fire adhesive webbing of his own design through small, wrist-mounted barrels. Initially seeking to capitalize on his new abilities, Parker dons a costume and, as "Spider-Man", becomes a novelty television star. However, "[h]e blithely ignores the chance to stop a fleeing thief, [and] his indifference ironically catches up with him when the same criminal later robs and kills his Uncle Ben." Spider-Man tracks and subdues the killer and learns, in the story's next-to-last caption, "With great power there must also come—great responsibility!"
In the first issue of The Amazing Spider-Man (March 1963), despite his superpowers, Peter struggles to help his widowed Aunt May pay the rent, is taunted by Flash, and continues fighting crime and saving the city as Spider-Man, but his heroic deeds engender the editorial wrath of newspaper publisher of the Daily Bugle, J. Jonah Jameson, holds a grudge against Spider-Man, and continues making false statements about Spider-Man despite his heroism. Peter gets hired as a freelance photographer by Mr. Jameson to take pictures of Spider-Man, with him being unaware that Spider-Man is Peter Parker. Spider-Man fights his enemies, including superpowered and non-superpowered supervillains—his arch-enemy and nemesis Green Goblin, and then Doctor Octopus, Sandman, Chameleon, Lizard, Vulture, Kraven the Hunter, Electro, and Mysterio, defeating them one by one—but Peter finds juggling his personal and superhero life difficult. In time, Peter graduates from high school and enrolls at Empire State University (a fictional institution evoking the real-life Columbia University and New York University), where he meets roommate and best friend Harry Osborn and girlfriend Gwen Stacy, and Aunt May introduces him to Mary Jane Watson. As Peter deals with Harry's drug problems, and Harry's father, Norman Osborn, is revealed to be the Green Goblin, Peter attempts to give up his costumed identity for a while. Gwen Stacy's father, New York City Police detective Captain George Stacy, is accidentally killed during a battle between Spider-Man and Doctor Octopus (issue #90, November 1970).
In issue #121 (June 1973), the Green Goblin throws Gwen Stacy from a tower of either the Brooklyn Bridge (as depicted in the art) or the George Washington Bridge (as given in the text). She dies during Spider-Man's rescue attempt, and Spider-Man swears revenge against his nemesis; a note on the letters page of issue #125 states: "It saddens us to say that the whiplash effect she underwent when Spidey's webbing stopped her so suddenly was, in fact, what killed her." The following issue, Spider-Man vengefully attacks and overpowers the Green Goblin, who kills himself accidentally in the ensuing battle with Spider-Man.
Working through his grief, Peter eventually develops tentative feelings toward Mary Jane, and the two "become confidants rather than lovers". A romantic relationship eventually develops, with Parker proposing to her in issue #182 (July 1978), and being turned down an issue later. Peter went on to graduate from college in issue #185, and becomes involved with the shy Debra Whitman and the extroverted, flirtatious costumed thief Felicia Hardy, a.k.a. the Black Cat, whom he meets in issue #194 (July 1979).
From 1984 to 1988, Spider-Man wore a black costume with a white spider design on his chest. The new costume originated in the Secret Wars miniseries on an alien planet where Spider-Man participates in a battle between Earth's major superheroes and supervillains. He continues wearing the costume when he returns, starting in The Amazing Spider-Man #252. The change to a longstanding character's design met with controversy, "with many hardcore comics fans decrying it as tantamount to sacrilege. Spider-Man's traditional red and blue costume was iconic, they argued, on par with those of his D.C. rivals Superman and Batman." The creators then revealed the costume was an alien symbiote, which Spider-Man rejects after a difficult struggle, though the symbiote returns several times as Venom for revenge. Peter proposes to Mary in The Amazing Spider-Man #290 (July 1987), and she accepts two issues later, with the wedding taking place in The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21 (1987)—promoted with a real-life mock wedding using actors at Shea Stadium, with Stan Lee officiating, on June 5, 1987. David Michelinie, who scripted based on a plot by editor-in-chief Jim Shooter, said in 2007, "I didn't think they actually should [have gotten] married. ... I had actually planned another version, one that wasn't used." Peter publishes a book of Spider-Man photographs called Webs, and returns to his Empire State University graduate studies in biochemistry in #310 (Dec. 1988).
In the controversial 1990s storyline the "Clone Saga", a clone of Parker, created in 1970s comics by insane scientist Miles Warren, a.k.a. the Jackal, returns to New York City upon hearing of Aunt May's health worsening. The clone had lived incognito as Ben Reilly, but now assumes the superhero guise the Scarlet Spider and allies with Parker. To the surprise of both, new tests indicate Ben is the original and Peter is the clone. Complicating matters, Mary announces in The Spectacular Spider-Man #220 (Jan. 1995) that she is pregnant with Peter's baby. Later, however, a resurrected Green Goblin (Norman Osborn) has Mary poisoned, causing premature labor and the death of her and Peter's unborn daughter. It is later revealed that The Green Goblin switched the results of the clone test in an attempt to destroy Peter's life by making him believe himself to be the clone. Ben is killed while saving Peter, in Peter Parker: Spider-Man #75 (Dec. 1996), and his body immediately crumbles into dust, confirming Ben was the clone.
In issue #97 (Nov. 1998) of the second series titled Peter Parker: Spider-Man, Parker learns his Norman Osborn kidnapped Aunt May and her apparent death in The Amazing Spider-Man #400 (April 1995) had been a hoax. Shortly afterward, in The Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 2) #13 (#454, Jan. 2000), Mary is killed in an airplane explosion. She is revealed to be alive in volume 2, issue #28 (#469, April 2001), but she and Peter are completely separated in the following issue.
Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski began writing The Amazing Spider-Man, illustrated by John Romita Jr., beginning with volume 2, #30 (#471, June 2001). Two issues later, Peter, now employed as a teacher at his old high school, meets the enigmatic Ezekiel, who possesses similar spider powers and suggests that Peter, having gained such abilities, might not have been a fluke—that Parker has a connection to a totemic spider spirit. In vol. 2, #37 (#478, Jan. 2002), Aunt May discovers her nephew Peter is Spider-Man. Peter and Mary reconcile in (vol. 2) #50 (#491, April 2003), and in #512 (Nov. 2004)—the original issue numbering having returned with #500—Parker learns his late girlfriend Gwen Stacy had had two children with Norman Osborn.
He joins the superhero team The New Avengers in New Avengers #1–2. After a deranged, superpowered former high-school classmate destroys their respective homes, Parker, Mary, and May move into Stark Tower, and Peter begins working as Tony Stark's assistant while freelancing for The Daily Bugle and continuing his teacher career. In the 12-part 2005 story arc "The Other", Peter undergoes a transformation that evolves his powers. In the comic Civil War #2 (June 2006), part of the company-wide crossover arc of that title, the U.S. government's Superhuman Registration Act leads Spider-Man to reveal his true identity publicly. A growing unease about the Registration Act prompts him to escape with May and Mary and joins the anti-registration underground.
In issue #537 (Dec. 2006), Aunt May is critically wounded from Wilson Fisk's sniper, and enters into a coma. Peter, desperate to save her, exhausts all possibilities and makes a pact with the demon-lord Mephisto, who saves May's life in exchange for Parker and Mary agreeing to have their marriage and all memory of it disappear. In this changed reality, Spider-Man's identity is secret once again, and in #545 (Jan. 2008), Mary returns and is cold toward him. The controversial storyline "One More Day" rolled back much of the fictional continuity at the behest of editor-in-chief Joe Quesada, who said, "Peter being single is an intrinsic part of the very foundation of the world of Spider-Man". It caused unusual public friction between Quesada and writer Straczynski, who "told Joe that I was going to take my name off the last two issues of the [story] arc", but was talked out of doing so. At issue with Straczynski's climax to the arc, Quesada said, was
...that we didn't receive the story and methodology to the resolution that we were all expecting. What made that very problematic is that we had four writers and artists well underway on [the sequel arc] "Brand New Day" that were expecting and needed "One More Day" to end in the way that we had all agreed it would. ... The fact that we had to ask for the story to move back to its original intent understandably made Joe upset and caused some major delays and page increases in the series. Also, the science that Joe was going to apply to the retcon of the marriage would have made over 30 years of Spider-Man books worthless, because they never would have had happened. ...[I]t would have reset way too many things outside of the Spider-Man titles. We just couldn't go there....
In this new continuity, designed to have very limited repercussions throughout the remainder of the Marvel Universe, Parker returns to work at the Daily Bugle, which has been renamed The DB under a new publisher. He soon switches to the alternative press paper The Front Line. J. Jonah Jameson becomes the Mayor of New York City in issue #591 (June 2008). Jonah's estranged father, J. Jonah Jameson Sr., marries May in issue #600 (Sept. 2009).
During the "Secret Invasion" by shape-shifting extra-terrestrials, the Skrulls, Norman Osborn shoots and kills the Skrull queen Veranke. He leverages this widely publicized success, positioning himself as the new director of the S.H.I.E.L.D.-like paramilitary force H.A.M.M.E.R. to advance his agenda, while using his public image to start his own Dark Avengers. Norman, by himself, leads the Dark Avengers as the Iron Patriot, a suit of armor fashioned by himself after Iron Man's armor with Captain America's colors.
Harry is approached by Norman with the offer of a job within the Dark Avengers. It is later revealed that it is a ruse to coerce Harry into taking the American Son armor, whom Norman had planned to kill, in order to increase public sympathy. When Harry has the option of killing Norman, Spider-Man says to decapitate him, since Norman's healing factor may repair a blow to the head. Spider-Man also cautions Harry that killing Norman will cause Harry to "become the son Norman always wanted". Harry instead backs down, and turns away from his father forever.
At Loki's suggestion, Norman Osborn creates a rationale to invade Asgard, claiming the world poses a national security threat. He is defeated, and ends up incarcerated in the Raft penitentiary. A conflict between Spider-Man and Doctor Octopus over Osborn's son ends when it is revealed the child's father is Harry, who leaves town to raise him. One of Doctor Octopus' Octobots swaps his and Spider Man's personality, causing Peter to become trapped in the Doctor's dying body, while he in turn claimed Peter's life for himself. Though Peter failed to reverse the change, he manages to establish a weak link with the Doctor's mind, forcing him to relive all of his memories; Otto understands Peter's ideals of power and responsibility and swears to carry on with Peter's life with dignity as a "Superior" Spider-Man.
A portion of Peter survived in his original body in the form of a subconsciousness. Later, realizing that he failed in his role as the "Superior" Spider-Man, Otto willingly allows Peter to reclaim his body in order to defeat Osborn and save Anna Maria Marconi, Otto's love. In the aftermath of these events, Peter began to amend the relationships damaged by Otto's arrogance and negligence, both as Peter Parker and Spider-Man. He additionally took up the reins of Parker Industries, a small company founded by Otto after leaving Horizon Labs.
Peter soon learns a second person had been bitten by the radioactive spider, Cindy Moon. Spider-Man tracks her down and frees her from a bunker owned by the late Ezekiel Simms. Not long after rescuing Cindy, who went on to adopt her own heroine identity as Silk, Spider-Man encounters a contingent of spider-people from all over the Multiverse that banded together to fight the Inheritors, a group of psychic vampires who had begun to hunt down the spider-totems of other realities. During a mission to gather more recruits in 2099, the Spider-Army stumbled upon another party of spider-people led by an alternate version of Otto Octavius. Together, they neutralize the Inheritors.
Peter then stops a nefarious plan put forward by the Jackal. After the events of "Go Down Swinging", Peter's life was plagued with problems on both sides. As Spider-Man, Mayor Fisk publicly supports him, condemning all other vigilantes in order to isolate him from his superhero peers. As Peter Parker, his academic credentials were revoked after accusations of plagiarizing his doctoral dissertation from Octavius, resulting in Peter being fired from the Daily Bugle. Subsequently, Peter became romantically involved with Mary Jane. Briefly, Peter Parker and Spider-Man split into separate beings due to an accident involving the reverse-engineered Isotope Genome Accelerator. Peter eventually manages to reverse the process, and merges his two halves back together before the side-effects worsen and result in their death.
Kindred uses the resurrected Sin-Eater's sins to possess Miles Morales, Spider-Gwen, Spider-Woman, Anya Corazon, and Julia Carpenter. Doctor Strange, who manages to restrain a possessed Silk, agrees to help Spider-Man. However, Peter dies when fighting Kindred. While dead, Peter's consciousness remembers the fateful day of the start of One More Day; Kindred is willing to resurrect Peter.
Sally Kempton for the Village Voice opined in 1965 that "Spider-Man has a terrible identity problem, a marked inferiority complex, and a fear of women. He is antisocial, castration-ridden, racked with Oedipal guilt, and accident-prone ... [a] functioning neurotic". Agonizing over his choices, always attempting to do right, he is nonetheless viewed with suspicion by the authorities, who seem unsure as to whether he is a helpful vigilante or a clever criminal.
Cultural historian Bradford W. Wright notes:
Spider-Man's plight was to be misunderstood and persecuted by the very public that he swore to protect. In the first issue of The Amazing Spider-Man, J. Jonah Jameson, publisher of the Daily Bugle, launches an editorial campaign against the "Spider-Man menace". The resulting negative publicity exacerbates popular suspicions about the mysterious Spider-Man and makes it impossible for him to earn any more money by performing. Eventually, the bad press leads the authorities to brand him an outlaw. Ironically, Peter finally lands a job as a photographer for Jameson's Daily Bugle.: 212
The mid-1960s stories reflect the political tensions of the time; early 1960s Marvel stories often deal with the Cold War and communism.: 220–223 Wright writes:
From his high-school beginnings to his entry into college life, Spider-Man remained the superhero most relevant to the world of young people. Fittingly, then, his comic book also contained some of the earliest references to the politics of young people. In 1968, in the wake of actual militant student demonstrations at Columbia University, Peter Parker finds himself in the midst of similar unrest at his Empire State University.... Peter has to reconcile his natural sympathy for the students with his assumed obligation to combat lawlessness as Spider-Man. As a law-upholding liberal, he finds himself caught between militant leftism and angry conservatives.: 234–235
Peter Parker has superhuman spider-powers and abilities derived from mutations resulting from the bite of a radioactive spider. Since the original Lee-Ditko stories, Spider-Man has had the ability to cling to walls. This has been speculated to be based on a distance-dependent interaction between his body and surfaces, known as the van der Waals force, though in the 2002 Spider-Man film, his hands and feet are lined with tiny clinging cilia in the manner of a real spider's feet. Spider-Man's other powers include superhuman strength, agility and balance, and a precognitive sixth sense referred to as his "Spider-Sense," which alerts him to danger.
Spider-Man has a healing factor that allows him to recover from injuries sustained during battle. In the aftermath of the 1989 "Acts of Vengeance" storyline, Spider-Man was said to have "superhuman recuperative abilities" that sped up his recovery from the exhaustion he suffered in defeating the Tri-Sentinel.
The character was originally conceived by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko as intellectually gifted, and later writers have depicted his intellect at genius level. After years of fighting, Peter honed his skill into an equivalent of martial arts that is unique to his powers. Academically brilliant, Peter has expertise in the fields of applied science, chemistry, physics, biology, engineering, mathematics, and mechanics.
With his talents, he sews his own costume to conceal his identity, and he constructs many devices that complement his powers, most notably mechanical web-shooters that allow him to shoot webs, swing at high speeds throughout the city, and navigate and trap his enemies with his webs, additionally with a spider-signal as a flashlight and a warning beacon to criminals. Thomas Fireheart's scientists, world-renowned, are unable to replicate the fluid Parker created while in high school.
Spider-Man has had a large range of supporting characters introduced in the comics that are essential in the issues and storylines that star him. After his parents died, Peter Parker was raised by his loving aunt, May Parker, and his uncle and father figure, Ben Parker. After Uncle Ben is murdered by a burglar, Aunt May is virtually Peter's only family, and she and Peter are very close.
J. Jonah Jameson is the publisher of the Daily Bugle and Peter Parker's boss. A harsh critic of Spider-Man, he constantly features negative articles about the superhero in his newspaper. Despite his role as Jameson's editor and confidant, Robbie Robertson is always depicted as a supporter of both Spider-Man and his alter ego Peter Parker.
Eugene "Flash" Thompson is commonly depicted as Peter Parker's high school tormentor and bully, who idolizes Spider-Man, but is unaware that Spider-Man is Peter Parker. Later, he becomes a friend of Peter and adopts his own superhero identity, Agent Venom, after merging with the Venom symbiote. Meanwhile, Harry Osborn, son of Norman Osborn, is most commonly recognized as Peter's best friend, although some versions depicted him as his rival.
Writers and artists over the years have established a rogues gallery of supervillains to face Spider-Man, in comics and in other media. As with Spider-Man, the majority of the villains' powers originate with scientific accidents or the misuse of scientific technology, and many have animal-themed costumes or powers. The most notable Spider-Man villains are listed down below in the ordering of their original chronological appearance:
Indicates a group.
Unlike most superheroes, Spider-Man does not have a single villain with whom he has come into conflict the most. Instead, he is often regarded as having three archenemies:
Peter Parker's romantic interests range between his first crush, fellow high-school student Liz Allan, to having his first date with Betty Brant, secretary to the Daily Bugle newspaper publisher J. Jonah Jameson. After his breakup with Betty Brant, Peter eventually falls in love with his college girlfriend Gwen Stacy, daughter of New York City Police Department detective Captain George Stacy, both of whom are later killed by supervillain enemies of Spider-Man. Mary Jane Watson became Peter's best friend and eventually his wife. Felicia Hardy, the Black Cat, is a reformed cat burglar who had been Spider-Man's sole superhuman girlfriend and partner at one point.
Over the course of the comics, Peter Parker had several biological children across different continuities, usually with Mary Jane Watson, including Spider-Girl (Mayday Parker) and Benjy Parker from the MC2 universe, and Spiderling (Annie Parker) from Earth-18119.
Within the Marvel Universe, there exists a multiverse with many variations of Spider-Man. An early character included in the 1980s is the fictional anthropomorphic animal parody of Spider-Man as a pig named Spider-Ham (Peter Porker). Many imprints of Spider-Men were created, like the futuristic version of Spider-Man in Marvel 2099 named Miguel O'Hara. In the Marvel Comics 2 imprint, Peter marries Mary Jane and has a daughter named Mayday Parker, who carries on Spider-Man's legacy, while Marvel Noir has a 1930s version of Peter Parker. Other themed versions exist within the early 2000s, such as a Marvel Mangaverse version and an Indian version from Spider-Man: India, Pavitr Prabhakar.
Ultimate Spider-Man was a popular modern retelling of Spider-Man, Peter Parker. The version of Peter Parker would later be depicted as being killed off and replaced by a Black Hispanic Spider-Man named Miles Morales.
The storyline "Spider-Verse" brought back many alternate takes on Spider-Man and introduced many new ones, such as an alternate world where Gwen Stacy gets bitten by a radioactive spider instead, along with a British-themed version named Spider-UK, who is Billy Braddock from the Captain Britain Corps.
In The Creation of Spider-Man, comic book writer-editor and historian Paul Kupperberg calls the character's superpowers "nothing too original"; what was original was that outside his secret identity, he was a "nerdy high school student".: 5 Going against typical superhero fare, Spider-Man included "heavy doses of soap-opera and elements of melodrama". Kupperberg feels that Lee and Ditko had created something new in the world of comics: "the flawed superhero with everyday problems". This idea spawned a comics revolution.: 6 The insecurity and anxieties in Marvel's early 1960s comic books, such as The Amazing Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, The Fantastic Four, and The X-Men ushered in a new type of superhero, very different from the certain and all-powerful superheroes before them, and changed the public's perception of them. After the comics depicted a real address in Forest Hills, Queens, New York, as May Parker's residence, its residents received many letters from children to the superhero.
Spider-Man has become one of the most recognizable fictional characters in the world, and has been used to sell toys, games, cereal, candy, soap, and many other products. He has been used as the company mascot. When Marvel became the first comic book company to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 1991, The Wall Street Journal announced "Spider-Man is coming to Wall Street"; the event was in turn promoted with an actor in a Spider-Man costume accompanying Stan Lee to the Stock Exchange.: 254 Since 1962, hundreds of millions of comics featuring the character have been sold around the world. Spider-Man is the world's most profitable superhero. In 2014, global retail sales of licensed products related to Spider-Man reached approximately $1.3 billion. Comparatively, this amount exceeds the global licensing revenue of Batman, Superman, and the Avengers combined.
Spider-Man joined the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade from 1987 to 1998 as one of the balloon floats, designed by John Romita Sr., one of the character's signature artists. A new, different Spider-Man balloon float also appeared from 2009 to 2014.
When Marvel wanted to issue a story dealing with the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks, the company chose the December 2001 issue of The Amazing Spider-Man. In 2006, Spider-Man garnered major media coverage with the revelation of the character's secret identity, an event detailed in a full-page story in the New York Post before the issue containing the story was even released.
In 2008, Marvel announced plans to release a series of educational comics the following year in partnership with the United Nations, depicting Spider-Man alongside the UN Peacekeeping Forces to highlight UN peacekeeping missions. A BusinessWeek article listed Spider-Man as one of the top 10 most intelligent fictional characters in American comics.
In 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States decided Kimble v. Marvel Entertainment, LLC, a case concerning royalties on a patent for an imitation web shooter. The opinion for the Court, by Justice Elena Kagan, included several Spider-Man references, concluding with the statement that "with great power, there must also come—great responsibility".
Spider-Man has become a subject of scientific inquiry. In 1987, researchers at Loyola University conducted a study into the utility of Spider-Man comics for informing children and parents about issues relating to child abuse.
In 2005, Bravo's Ultimate Super Heroes, Vixens, and Villains TV series declared that Spider-Man was the number 1 superhero. Empire magazine ranked him the fifth-greatest comic book character of all time. Wizard magazine placed Spider-Man as the third-greatest comic book character on their website. In 2011, Spider-Man placed third on IGN's Top 100 Comic Book Heroes of All Time, behind DC Comics characters Superman and Batman, and sixth in their 2012 list of "The Top 50 Avengers". In 2014, IGN identified Spider-Man the greatest Marvel Comics character of all time. A 2015 poll at Comic Book Resources named Spider-Man the greatest Marvel character of all time. IGN described him as the common everyman that represents many normal people, but also noted his uniqueness compared to many superheroes with his depicted flaws as a superhero. IGN wrote that despite being one of the most tragic superheroes of all time, he is "one of the most fun and snarky superheroes in existence." Empire praised Spider-Man's always-present sense of humor and wisecracks in the face of the many tragedies he faces. The magazine website appraised the depiction of his "iconic" superhero poses, describing it as "a top artist's dream".
George Marston of Newsarama called Spider-Man's origin the greatest origin story of all time, opining that "Spider-Man's origin combines all of the most classic aspects of pathos, tragedy and scientific wonder into the perfect blend for a superhero origin."
Real-life people who have been compared to Spider-Man for their climbing feats include:
Spider-Man has appeared in comics, cartoons, films, video games, coloring books, novels, records, children's books, and theme park rides. On television, he first starred in the ABC animated series Spider-Man (1967–1970), Spidey Super Stories (1974–1977) on PBS, and the CBS live-action series The Amazing Spider-Man (1978–1979), starring Nicholas Hammond. Other animated series featuring the superhero include the syndicated Spider-Man (1981–1982), Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends (1981–1983), Fox Kids' Spider-Man (1994–1998), Spider-Man Unlimited (1999–2000), Spider-Man: The New Animated Series (2003), The Spectacular Spider-Man (2008–2009), Ultimate Spider-Man (2012–2017) Disney XD's Spider-Man (2017–2020), and Spidey and His Amazing Friends (2021–present).
A tokusatsu series featuring Spider-Man was produced by Toei and aired in Japan. It is commonly referred to by its Japanese pronunciation Supaidā-Man. Spider-Man also appeared in other print forms besides the comics, including novels, children's books, and the daily newspaper comic strip The Amazing Spider-Man, which debuted in January 1977, with the earliest installments written by Stan Lee and drawn by John Romita Sr. Spider-Man has been adapted to other media including games, toys, collectibles, and miscellaneous memorabilia, and has appeared as the main character in numerous computer and video games on over 15 gaming platforms.
Spider-Man was featured in a trilogy of live-action films directed by Sam Raimi and starring Tobey Maguire as the titular superhero. The first Spider-Man film of the trilogy was released on May 3, 2002, followed by Spider-Man 2 (2004) and Spider-Man 3 (2007). A third sequel was originally scheduled to be released in 2011; however, Sony later decided to reboot the franchise with a new director and cast. The reboot, titled The Amazing Spider-Man, was released on July 3, 2012, directed by Marc Webb, and starred Andrew Garfield as the new Spider-Man. It was followed by The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014). In 2015, Sony and Disney made a deal for Spider-Man to appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Tom Holland made his debut as Spider-Man in the MCU film Captain America: Civil War (2016), before later starring in his standalone film Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017), directed by Jon Watts. Holland reprised his role as Spider-Man in Avengers: Infinity War (2018), Avengers: Endgame (2019), Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019), and Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021); Maguire and Garfield reprise their roles in the latter film. Jake Johnson voiced an alternate universe version of Spider-Man in the animated film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and reprised the role in its sequel Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (2023). Chris Pine also voiced another version of Peter Parker in Into the Spider-Verse.
Following a brief contract dispute over financial terms, in 2019, Sony and Disney reached a deal to allow Spider-Man to return to the MCU, with the two studios jointly producing Spider-Man films.
A Broadway musical, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, began previews on November 14, 2010, at the Foxwoods Theatre on Broadway, with the official opening night on June 14, 2011. The music and lyrics were written by Bono and The Edge of the rock group U2, with a book by Julie Taymor, Glen Berger, and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. Turn Off the Dark is currently the most expensive musical in Broadway history, costing an estimated $70 million. In addition, the show's unusually high running costs are reported to have been about $1.2 million per week.
In the fine arts, since the Pop Art period of the 1960s, the character of Spider-Man has been "appropriated" by multiple visual artists and incorporated into contemporary artwork, including Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Mel Ramos, Dulce Pinzon, Mr. Brainwash, and F. Lennox Campello,.
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