Spider-Man is a fictional character appearing in comic books published by Marvel Comics. The character first appeared in Amazing Fantasy #15 (Aug. 1962), and was created by scripter-editor Stan Lee and artist-plotter Steve Ditko. When Spider-Man first appeared in the early 1960s, teenagers in superhero comic books were usually relegated to the role of sidekick to the series' main character. The Spider-Man series broke ground by featuring Peter Parker, a teenage high school student to whose "self-obsessions with rejection, inadequacy, and loneliness" young readers could relate. Unlike previous teen heroes such as Bucky and Robin, Spider-Man did not benefit from adult mentors like Captain America and Batman and had to learn for himself that "with great power comes great responsibility". He has since gone on to become one of the most popular, enduring and commercially successful superheroes worldwide, and is Marvel's most famous character.
Marvel has featured Spider-Man in several comic book series, the first titled The Amazing Spider-Man. Over the years, the Peter Parker character has developed from shy high school student to troubled college student to a married teacher and a member of the superhero team the New Avengers. In the comics, Spider-Man is often referred to as "Spidey", "web-slinger", "wall-crawler" or "web-head".
Spider-Man has appeared in various media, including several animated and live-action television series, syndicated newspaper comic strips and a successful series of films starring actor Tobey Maguire as the character.
Looking back on the creation of Spider-Man, Tom DeFalco stated he did not believe that Spider-Man would have been given a chance in today's comics world, where new characters are vetted with test audiences and marketers. At the time, however, Lee only had to get the consent of Marvel publisher Martin Goodman for approval for the character. In a 1986 interview, Lee described in detail his arguments to overcome Goodman's objections. Goodman eventually agreed to let Lee try out Spider-Man in the upcoming final issue of the canceled science-fiction/supernatural anthology series Amazing Adult Fantasy, which was renamed Amazing Fantasy for that single issue, #15 (Aug. 1962).
Comics historian Greg Theakston says that Lee, after receiving Goodman's approval for the name Spider-Man and the "ordinary teen" concept, approached Kirby. Kirby told Lee about his 1950s Silver Spider/Spider-Man, in which an orphaned boy living with an old couple finds a magic ring that gives him superpowers. Lee and Kirby "immediately sat down for a story conference" 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".
Simon concurs 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 the first issues of Spider-Man. Likewise, Kirby's given reason that he was "too busy" to also draw Spider-Man in addition to his other duties seems false, as Kirby was, in Evanier's words, "always busy". Both Lee's and Kirby's explanations also do not explain 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.
For whichever of the above reasons, Lee turned to Ditko, who developed a visual 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....
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". Additionally, 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".
A few months after Spider-Man's introduction in Amazing Fantasy #15 (Aug. 1962), publisher Martin Goodman reviewed the sales figures for that issue, finding it to have been one of the nascent Marvel's highest-selling comics. A solo series followed, beginning with The Amazing Spider-Man #1 (March 1963). The title eventually became Marvel's top-selling series 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". Following Ditko's departure after issue #38 (July 1966), John Romita, Sr. replaced him as artist, and would pencil the character over the next several years.
An early 1970s Spider-Man story led to the revision of the Comics Code. 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. 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 the Green Goblin, 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. In 1972, a second monthly ongoing series starring Spider-Man began: Marvel Team-Up, in which Spider-Man was paired with other superheroes and villains. In 1976, his second solo series, The Spectacular Spider-Man began, running parallel to the main series. A third series featuring Spider-Man, Web of Spider-Man, launched in 1985, replacing Marvel Team-Up. The launch of a fourth monthly title in 1990, written and drawn by popular artist Todd McFarlane, debuted with several different covers, all with the same interior content. The various versions combined sold over 3 million copies, an industry record at the time. There have generally been at least two ongoing Spider-Man series at any time. Several limited series, one-shots and loosely related comics have also been published, and Spider-Man makes frequent cameos and guest appearances in other comic series.
The original Amazing Spider-Man ran through issue #441 (Nov. 1998). Writer-artist John Byrne then revamped the origin of Spider-Man in the 13-issue miniseries Spider-Man: Chapter One (Dec. 1998 - Oct. 1999, with an issue #0 midway through and some months containing two issues), similar to Byrne's adding details and some revisions to Superman's origin in DC Comics' The Man of Steel. Running concurrently, The Amazing Spider-Man was restarted with vol. 2, #1 (Jan, 1999). With what would have been vol. 2, #59, Marvel reintroduced the original numbering, starting with #500 (Dec. 2003).
By the end of 2007, Spider-Man regularly appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man, New Avengers, Spider-Man Family and various limited series in mainstream Marvel Comics continuity, as well as in the alternate-universe series The Amazing Spider-Girl, the Ultimate Universe title Ultimate Spider-Man, the alternate-universe tween series Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane, and the alternate-universe children's series Marvel Adventures Spider-Man and Marvel Adventures: The Avengers.
When primary series The Amazing Spider-Man reached issue #546 (Feb. 2008), Marvel dropped its spin-off ongoing series and instead began publishing The Amazing Spider-Man three times monthly, beginning with #547-549 (each March 2008).
In his first appearance, Peter Parker is introduced as an orphaned science whiz teenager living with his aunt and uncle in the Forest Hills section of New York City. He is a brilliant student but the subject of mockery by his peers who regard him as a bookworm. One day he gets bitten by a radioactive spider during a science demonstration. He gains spider-like powers such as super-strength the ability to climb walls and a phenomenal jumping skill. Peter's own cleverness enables him to develop gadgets that fire webbing.
As Spider-Man, he becomes a successful TV star. One day at a studio he refuses to stop a thief, saying that it is the job of the police not that of a number one star. Weeks later his beloved guardian, Uncle Ben, is murdered and an angry Spider-Man sets off to capture the killer. When he does, he is horrified to find that the man is none other than the thief he refused to arrest. Learning that with great power comes great responsibility, Spider-Man becomes a vigilante.
After his uncle's death, Peter and his Aunt May become desperate for money, so he gets a job as a photographer at the Daily Bugle selling photos to J. Jonah Jameson, who vilifies Spider-Man in the paper. As he battles his enemies for the first time, Parker finds juggling his personal life and costumed adventures difficult, even attempting to give up. Fortunately, in the course of his adventures Spider-Man has made a wide variety of friends and contacts within the superhero community, who often come to his aid when he faces problems that he cannot solve on his own.
Enemies frequently endanger his loved ones, with the Green Goblin managing to kill his girlfriend Gwen Stacy. Though haunted by her death, he eventually marries Mary Jane Watson, and much later reveals his civilian identity to the world, furthering his already numerous problems. His marriage to Mary Jane and public unmasking are later erased due to a deal made with the demon Mephisto, resulting in several adjustments to the timeline, such as the resurrection of Harry Osborn and the return of Peter's mechanical web-shooters.
A bite from an irradiated spider causes a variety of changes in the body of Peter Parker, giving him superpowers. In the original Lee-Ditko stories, Spider-Man has the ability to cling to walls, superhuman strength, a sixth sense ("spider-sense") that alerts him to danger, perfect balance and equilibrium, as well as superhuman speed and agility. He is intellectually gifted, excelling in applied science, chemistry and physics. In fact, Peter's uncanny affinity for science is nothing short of genius. With his talents, he constructs many devices that complement his powers, most notably mechanical web-shooters. (This mechanism ejects an advanced adhesive, releasing web-fluid in a variety of configurations, including a single strand to swing from, a net to bind enemies, a single strand for yanking opponents into objects, strands for whipping foreign objects at enemies, and a simple glob to foul machinery or blind an opponent. He can also weave the web material into simple forms like a shield, a spherical protection or hemispherical barrier, a club, or a hang-glider wing.) Other equipment include spider-tracers (spider-shaped adhesive homing beacons keyed to his own spider-sense), a light beacon which can either be used as a flashlight or project a "Spider-Signal" design, and a specially modified camera that can take pictures automatically. He has also used an invention of Ben Reilly's (a clone of Peter Parker), called "impact webbing": a pellet that explodes on impact into a wrap-around net of webbing.
In stories published in 2005 and 2006 (such as "The Other"), he develops additional spider-like abilities including biological web-shooters, toxic stingers that extend from his forearms, the ability to stick individuals to his back, better control over Spider-sense for detection, and night vision. Spider-Man's strength and speed have also increased beyond his original limits.
After the events of "One More Day," Spider-Man loses all the above powers gained during the Insect Queen and "Other" storylines, marking the decrease of his strength, senses, and the removal of organic web-shooters and stingers gained as a result of the Other metamorphosis.
Spider-Man's overall metabolic efficiency has been greatly increased, and the composition of his skeleton, inter-connected tissues, and nervous system have all been enhanced. Spider-Man's musculature has been augmented so that he is superhumanly strong and flexible. Though lacking in directed training, Spider-Man is one of the most experienced superheroes in the Marvel Universe. He has worked with virtually everyone in the superhero community at one time or another. Due to this experience, he has beaten foes with far greater powers and abilities. His fighting style is purely freestyle, which incorporates his speed, agility, strength, equilibrium and spider-sense. A very large part of his combat ability is improvisation and using his wits to out-think his opponents. One constant is his habit of using jokes, puns and insults. This serves a dual purpose, in that it not only causes his adversaries to become angry and distracted, it also helps Spider-Man deal with any fears or doubts that he might have during a battle.
Spider-Man has had a few costume changes over his history, with three notable costumes; his traditional red-and-blue costume, the black-and-white alien symbiote (later developed into a regular costume for stealth) and the technologically advanced Iron Spider costume designed by Tony Stark. In early comics and sporadically throughout his run depending on any given artist's interpretation, Spider-Man's costume included webbing that extended from his underarms to his torso.
Spider-Man was conceived as an ordinary person given great power, and the comics detail his civilian life, friends, family and romances as much as his super-heroic adventures.
Some of the more important and well-known members of his extensive supporting cast include:
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 UN Peacekeeping Forces to highlight UN peacekeeping missions. A BusinessWeek article listed Spider-Man as one of the top ten most intelligent fictional characters in American comics.