During the 1960s, the dynamic duo of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko teamed up to create the now iconic web-slinging hero. As 2017 marks the 55th anniversary of this long-enduring character, what better time to reminisce over his lasting impact.
Spider-Man, a/k/a Peter Parker made his debut appearance in Amazing Fantasy #15 in 1962. Before Spider-Man, most teenage superheroes of that time were usually relegated to the role of sidekick. Although Spider-Man had all the makings of a sidekick, unlike previous teen heroes, he had no superhero mentor and thus had to learn things for himself. After losing both of his parents, the science wiz orphan was taken in and raised by his Uncle Ben and Aunt May. While visiting a science exhibit, Parker is bitten by a radioactive spider and “acquires the agility and proportionate strength of an arachnid.” Along with superhuman strength, speed, and agility, he gains the ability to adhere to most surfaces as well as a precognitive Spider-sense. Using hid genius-level intellect, Parker develops a gadget that lets him fire adhesive webbing through small, wrist-mounted barrels.
Initially, Parker seeks to capitalize on his newfound powers by donning a costume and becoming a novelty television star. However, after ignoring the chance to stop a thief, his indifference catches up to him when the same criminal kills his Uncle Ben. After tracking down ad subduing the killer, Parker learns that “with great power there must also come great responsibility.” Despite his many abilities, Parker is still just a high school student who faces many struggles, such as helping his widowed aunt to pay rent, while being regularly taunted by quarterback Flash Thompson. As Spider-Man, he evokes the editorial wrath of newspaper publisher J. Jonah Jameson. Eventually, Parker enrolls at Empire State University, where he meets his best friend Harry Osborn and girlfriend Gwen Stacy. At that time, his aunt also introduces him to Mary Jane Watson.
Later on, Harry’s father is revealed to be Spider-Man's nemesis Green Goblin. This shocking revelation causes Parker to give up his costumed identity for a time. Of course, he eventually returns to heroics as villains continue to wreak havoc on the city.
In a heartbreaking twist, while battling the Green Goblin, Gwen Stacy is killed during Spider-Man’s rescue attempt. While working through his grief, Parker eventually develops feelings toward Watson, and the two begin a romantic relationship. Parker later proposes to Watson, and the pair are married in The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21. This marriage was promoted with a real life mock wedding using models, including Tara Shannon as Watson, with Stan Lee officiating the event on June 5, 1987.
Over the years, Spider-Man’s popularity has led to different variations, reimagined stories, and many other multiversed spinoffs. They include Ultimate Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2099, Spider-Verse, Spectacular Spider-Man Adventures, Spider-Ham, Spider-Man Unlimited, and countless others. The character has also been adapted into several animated series such as Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, Spider-Man Unlimited, The Spectacular Spider-Man, and more recently Ultimate Spider-Man. Tobey Maguire starred as the titular superhero in three Spider-Man films, before Andrew Garfield took up the mantle in two films.
Currently, Tom Holland holds the title of Spider-Man, following his debut in Captain America: Civil War. Holland will reprise his role in Spider-Man: Homecoming, in theaters on July 7, 2017, as well as Avengers: Infinity War, scheduled for release on May 4, 2018.
Clearly, 55 years is only the beginning for this remarkable hero.