Commonwealth Journal

Columns

July 6, 2012

‘Amazing Spider-Man’ is for a new generation

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I owe a lot to Spider-Man.
I owe him countless hours of childhood joy, time spent reading comic books as a kid and marveling (so to speak) at the friendly neigh-borhood web-slinger’s daring exploits. I owe him for valuable life lessons he taught me: With great power comes great responsibility, and when you’re under pressure, it always helps to crack jokes. I owe him for an enduring apprec-iation of the redheaded female, courtesy of Spidey’s wife, Mary Jane.
In short, Spider-Man was the defining superhero of my youth. Superman was too square-jawed, an overgrown Boy Scout surrounded by idiots who couldn’t tell he was just Clark Kent sans spectacles. Batman was cool, yes, but ... cool. Cold. Detached. The X-Men were always compelling, but their stories were sometimes downright depressing.
But Spidey? He was bright and colorful, smart, witty, realized that a mask that covered his entire face might be helpful, and most of all, underneath the costume, he was just like me: A shy, nerdy kid who didn’t fit in, but gained all the confidence in the world when he pretended to become someone else.
That was the idea on which comic book legend Stan Lee created Spider-Man in 1962, for the common-for-the-era title “Amazing Fantasy.” It was part of the dawning of a new age of comics: Characters who were real people behind the masks, with real problems with which readers (particularly the youth audience that dominated the comics market at the time) could identify.
Now, 50 years after we first met Peter Parker on the page — and a scant 10 years after Tobey Maguire nailed the character to a T in Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man film —reflecting on the nature of the character makes me realize I’m getting old. Because the character himself has changed to reflect a new audience.

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