The Marvel Misfit: Spiderman

In the 1960s a new creation of superhero was designed. An artist called Stan Lee had come up with a hero that the genre could relate too. He caught a cold, had flu, ached after he fought and missed vital appointments. A hero that forgot to pay his rent and can’t afford new shoes. He was a hero that the genre could imagine being. This Marvel character was different from many of the current heroes.

Stan lee quotes, “in 1960s the popular superheroes all had the same formula. They were glamorous adults, good looking with successful jobs and lifestyles. They were admired and role models, with strong beliefs for truth and justice”1.1.

Spiderman was the opposite and a fantastic creation by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, these two men had designed a brand new hero for the people. At the time the only teenagers in comics were sidekicks. Stan Lee wanted to create something that would over step the line and give the genre something new. He once said “I can’t describe the agony, the sleepless nights, the metal torture – fear of making the wrong choice” 1.2

He created a character that teens could relate too, he was called Peter Parker. He was a teenager that had grown up in the care of his Aunt May and Uncle Ben, as his parents were killed when he was a baby. Peter is an exceptional teenager that was more interested in his science college work than having a social life. He was a shy, timid and a weak character

with thick rimmed glasses and short trousers 06. peter-parkerHe was the perfect geek and was bullied and tormented for it 07. This adolescent was constantly questioning himself and his self-obsessions with inadequacy, loneliness and rejection reflect many teenagers in modern society.

peter-parker2Peter was not born a hero it was his fate that determined his future.As the story tells us, he attended a science exhibition and was bitten by a spider, which turned out to be a radioactive species. From this reaction he develops special powers and abilities that are spider-like. He developed the ability to climb walls and fire web from his wrists. His body changes too, becoming slightly muscular and his super human powers enable him to be stronger, reflexes sharpened and super agile.

A superhero like Spiderman held liberal solutions to current social problems. Depression and self-confidence was a huge issue for teenagers, Marvel picked up on this and used Spiderman to be a role model. He became an offbeat superhero, peter parker is teased by the same people who idolise Spiderman so this shows how people judge a character. This results in self-loathing and punishing himself for being trapped in his double identity, growing to hate his scrawny outcast self.

Spiderman made his first appearance in ‘Amazing Fantasy #15’ in August 1962 08. He was the most distinct and creative concept of a superhero since Superman. spiderman1He is driven by the death of his Uncle Ben, which he could have prevented if he had used his powers. This makes peter realise that his powers are a gift but also a burden, but are a huge responsibility. His driving force is not anger or revenge but guilt over what happened. He makes no pledge to save humanity as he carries the thought of his other self peter parker, as what has humanity ever done for him. He doesn’t know whether he wants the responsibility of being a superhero as he is unsure of himself anyway. He lacks the confidence of the traditional superheroes which shows how he queries his inability to change fate, but he punishes himself about what he wants to be. He is a profoundly sceptical and neurotic character, constantly fighting with himself other than fighting crime. The morality of Spiderman is hard to understand. He doest believe in killing which makes him equal to the traditional superhero. But Spiderman is harassed by the paboratsie and police, they constantly refer to him as a menace. The law is suspisous of him, as nobody understands him the instantly class him as a criminal. He is valued as a vigilante, being compared to bandits and thieves. This is because Spiderman wears a mask to hide his other identity. His hidden identity shows that he doesn’t trust any body. Superman has trust in the law and confidence that people will not recognise his other identity.

Spiderman does not hold this trust and wears a mask that covers his entire face. Superheroes differ from villains as they gain social acceptance. This does not apply to Spiderman as he does not enjoy socialising where as superman loves to be in the spotlight. It is important for all heroes to conceal their identity as to protect their loved ones. The villains seem to target Spiderman’s family even though his identity hidden. His powers enable him to help and do well but they seriously affect his private life as through having the powers he loses his Aunt and Uncle and sees the powers as being responsible. This fills him with pain and torment of controlling and balancing these two lives. Unlike other superhero comics Spiderman takes pain and gives it a realistic portrayal of how the world reacts to a different human being. Even when Spiderman does the right thing he still is treated as suspicious by the people as he is different. He is his own help, his own sidekick. He has no one to talk to about his powers or emotions. This means he bottles things up and talks to himself where as traditional heroes tend to have a sidekick to share and discuss these troubles with.

In the early 1970’s Spiderman became Marvels front man, there most recognised character. He was the image that the represented the company. His success was touching as his hard to grasp lifestyle was the number one desire for thousands of comic fans.

spiderman2Spiderman’s physic like superman has also changed with the times. Spiderman is different as his dual identity is hard to keep the same. Peter parker is very thin but Spiderman has some muscles 09. This image shows he’s not huge like superman, I think this is to symbolise his non hero streak. I think that Spiderman has his feet on the ground, he is not over the top which means the genre can look up to him as he is one of them, becoming an act to follow. His mask does not reveal any of his face, explaining the point that he does not want people to know who he really is. It is evident that Peter Parker is the real conscience and that Spiderman is somewhat of an infection in Peter’s life. His costume is similar colours to Superman, yet again the use of bright colours and bold lines is used to get the genres attention. Spiderman’s costume is skin tight also like Superman, this is to show his physical strength symbolising the masculine side of Peter Parker. I don’t think that the evidence that peter would give up Spiderman as I think he enables him to show off this masculine body to which peter cannot get. Peter parker also taunts his enemies, he uses witty sentences and is sarcastic towards them when they are in mid-battle. He may feel satisfaction from this making him forget the torments that peter receives. The feel of body building is also visible in this image of Spiderman. I think that it is sending a different message than Superman as I feel that Spiderman is more self-conscious and is not worried about how he looks as he is not completely comfortable with who he has become. Spiderman has transformed peter into a conscience battling, emotionally wounded, but most importantly a man. This new hero has given peter parker the masculinity that he had never had. It has given him his alter ego that he did not process before, a sense of manhood.


– Post Written By Sarah-Leigh Wills 2014 – Taken from my Dissertation: ‘Is the ‘Marvel Misfit’ a better role model than the traditional superhero?’ Written February 2007.


1.1 Quote by Stan Lee, sourced from Spiderman the ultimate guide. By Tom Delfalco. Published by Dorling Kindersley LTD 2001.

1.2 Quote by Stan Lee, sourced from Fantastic Four, the ultimate guide. By Tom Defalco. Published by Dorling Kindersley LTD 2005. page7, paragraph 1.

Image References

06+07 ‘Peter Parker’ images sourced from Spiderman the ultimate guide. By Tom Delfalco. Published by Dorling Kindersley LTD 2001. page10.

08 ‘Amazing Fantasy’ feat Spiderman’s debut appearance. Image sourced from Five Fabulous decades of the world’s greatest comics, MARVEL. By Les Daniels. Published by Marvel Entertainment group, Inc 1991. Page 94.

09 ‘Spiderman’ imaged sourced from the cover of Spiderman the ultimate guide. By Tom Delfalco. Published by Dorling Kindersley LTD 2001.

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