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Reed’s Corner

Amazing, Marketable.

Posted by Reed Strong on

People really like Spider-Man.  We do, he's right up there in the corner.

Yes, every time there’s a new reboot with some more movies, there’s dissension. An increasing amount each time and not without good reason, but it keeps happening. In another 5, maybe less, years, it’s going to happen again, don’t doubt it. Why?

People *really* like Spider-Man.

From the Golden Age to the Silver Age spanning a solid 20 years, there were essentially two characters, Superman and the Shadow. There were those two archetypes, and everything after that took strong notes; just look at the pre-Robin issues of Batman, and everything that made the original Captain Marvel a huge hit. You had these sets of traits and tropes for characters that lasted for years and last even to this day, and throughout the Golden Age you saw countless books go through and sell hundreds of thousands of issues, all while rather often recycling the same old ideas again and again. There were exceptions, take someone like Jack Cole. Jack Cole was a cartoonist truly ahead of his time, writing the kind of comedic comics and using storytelling that seemed set well in the Silver Age of the 60’s rather than the 40’s. But by a long mile, you had either a hero with one or two main abilities fighting thugs, corrupt commoners and the occasional mad scientist, or a dude with a gun killing bad people.

When we get to 1962, we get the third archetype. Spider-Man, if you ask a comic reader and historian like myself, is really good. He’s *really* good. And it all comes down to collaboration, and just the right elements coming together. Stan Lee and Steve Ditko had the desire to write a truly different and truly teen character, ‘nuff said. Initially, Lee had opposed Jack Kirby about working on the character, but, “…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.” What made Spider-Man different and what makes him such a hit to this day is just that, in the end, he’s a teen. Even as he gets married, gets older, goes to make a deal with the devil to annul his marriage in order to save his dying aunt, he’s young at heart. That sounds old and hokey, but if we lived in a world where we had Jack Kirby’s Spider-Man, he would have just been another superhero. Say what you want about the relationship between Stan and Jack (of which there are many things to say), but Stan had a touch.

From then on and again until this day, we now had the young, rather awkward in his place in the world teen hero, plucked out of the world of the norm at an unprepared age and now having to make a new name for himself. Even today with characters like Kamala Khan and the Jaime Reyes Blue Beetle, the idea works. Same way we have the Punisher being the evolution of the Shadow, here where ‘evolution’ means ‘similar but mostly has way more guns’, and the same way that Superman still inspires people every day. Superman’s archetype mostly folded to the grit of the 90’s, and with DC specifically the grit of a mullet and electric blue or red tights.

The fun thing was, you could be Spider-Man! If you’re a teen in New York, at least. He’s awkward, he’s a little full of himself, but he has a charm, he’s the underdog everyone sees themselves to be. Spidey began an era of writers and artists letting comics morph into one of their most common motifs, simple wish fulfillment. While the world may mock Peter Parker, the timid teenage, it will soon marvel at the awesome might of Spider-Man. He *was* the audience that was reading those books, when publishers actually wanted and expected kids to buy comics, he wasn’t someone to look up to, he was someone to be.

So really, it’s no surprise to see another movie. And we’ll see more, we’re already going to see what Sony has in store for theaters with their animated Miles Morales movie in the coming years, and the MCU Spidey much like the MCU itself can’t last forever. It’ll have a very fair run, but with Spider-Man, there’re always new webs to sling.