Tag Archives: Steve Ditko
Guess what? It is the anniversary of one of the single most important comic book characters in the world. More than that, he is now one of the most important icons in the world. Spider-Man turns fifty this year, and I would like to discuss the ways Stan Lee and Steve Ditko used him to change what comic books could be.
Before Spider-Man, the most popular comic book characters had secret identities that were completely unattainable for their readers. Clark Kent is an alien. Bruce Wayne is a billionaire. Martian Manhunter is also an alien. Hal Jordan is a test pilot. Steve Rogers is a perfect leader and soldier. Diana Prince is a middle-aged fetish enthusiast. Even the more relatable ones had jobs that required years of dedication and practice, or terrible tragedy. Barry Allen is a CSI guy. Billy Batson is an orphaned, homeless little boy who works as a DJ at a radio station. Most of the rest are super genius scientists or doctors.
Peter Parker is, or at least was when he first appeared, a socially awkward nerd just like most of the young boys buying and reading comics. This was the first super-hero that I know of that was truly relatable to the stereotypical fanbase. He couldn’t talk to girls, he was bullied or ignored at school, and he was good at school work.
(Please don’t read too much into that. By the time I was reading Spider-Man he was married and had a steady job.)
The way the character was crafted by Lee and Ditko, he is probably one of the best characters for a writer. Every super-hero has some obstacles in front of them. Sometimes it’s something the character is weak against. Sometimes they’ve had someone in their life die. Sometimes they don’t have all the resources they need. Spider-Man has everything going against him. He’s a broke loser, who always needs to run home to protect his last living relative. Anyone who can’t find a way to make that interesting shouldn’t be allowed to write comics anymore.
As I mentioned above, Peter has aged and become a bit less relatable over the decades. But, Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley fixed that when they rebooted the character a decade ago. He was back in high school, back to being a nerd, and, you know, not married. This was a Spider-Man for a new generation. It was a nice, neat way to bring the character back to his roots.
One of the things that Stan Lee and others have credited Spidey’s popularity with is the full-body suit that covered all identifying features. That way, anyone can picture themselves under the mask. I don’t know how much I buy that since he spends a good portion of every issue out of costume as pale, string-bean Peter Parker. But, it’s definitely an interesting theory. Maybe it has more to do with the fact that when he changes from Peter to Spider-Man he goes from a completely average guy, to a wise-cracking, athletic, good guy who is always beating up bullies. I think that is his true charm.
On the other hand, maybe me, Stan Lee, and critics are missing the forest for the trees. At its most basic, Spider-Man is about a guy with spider powers fighting evil assholes. On top of that, he’s also got to keep his elderly aunt alive, make sure his lunatic boss doesn’t fire him and not miss his date with whatever hot woman he is courting at any given moment.
Graham Becksted just realized that he never mentioned Peter Porker. He is the author of Graham’s Grumbles the second blog by that name that is listed in Google results when you search for Graham’s Grumbles. If you would like to be his 66th follower (thank you, bots), he can be followed on Twitter @GrahamBecksted.