Peter Parker: Forever Young
It’s both weird and delightful to realize that everyone’s favorite wall crawler has been dazzling the world with its adventures for more than half a decade now. If you’re wondering, it has been about 55 years that Marvel’s Spider-Man has been in publication. Even more curious is when you think about how good ol’ Peter Parker has more or less remained the same age since his first appearance. That is, give or take a few years added to the character depending on the kind of story being told or the current status quo of the Marvel universe at large. But hey, such is the world of mainstream superhero comics. Love it or hate it, Spidey will forever be the boy next door that saves the citizens of New York. Regarding Peter Parker’s popularity, on the other hand, it is no question that it’s not just a “famous comic book character”. A better description for the web head would be by calling it a “titanic franchise, period.” Throughout the decades that have come and gone, the hero from Queens has spawned a whole lot of animated TV shows, five blockbuster movies, and even a Japanese rendition on the small screen, too. That last one, though, is something that Marvel’s been trying to bury for so long now. It won’t work, though: what’s done is done, and I suggest you go check it out on Youtube or perform a quick Google search of it so you could bear the burden of knowing it exists, too.
Truly, artist extraordinaire Steve Ditko and legendary scripter Stan Lee did Marvel a huge favor when they decided to create the character; they’d have considerably fewer readers and followers, and less profit if it were otherwise. In fact, I’ll even give in to my own biases and say that Spider-Man has more appeal than Superman (yeah, I said it).
I guess the question that I’m trying to ask here is simple: yes, Spider-Man’s character will perpetually be young, but the stories are a whole different matter, so what makes the character still appealing after being around for so long? Being created in a whole different era, and belonging to the superhero genre no less, makes Peter Parker just all the more susceptible to the tiresome tropes and gimmicks used by companies like Marvel. In spite of this, however, Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man has endured and is still one of its publisher’s most golden of its golden geese (or most fertile cash cow, whichever proverbial animal you prefer).
Well, to answer that, what makes Spidey such an endearing presence in the world of popular media in general – not just comic books, mind you – is the way that the character knows better than to take itself too seriously. Plus, of course, there’s the element of wish fulfillment that just speaks to the sort of everyman in its fans. The thing is, when the timid Peter Parker dons the spider costume, he instantly becomes one of the most entertaining superheroes out there.
And then there’s his love interests, too. But I’ll get to that next time.