This past week, Spider-Man’s flagship book, “The Amazing Spider-Man,” hit issue 600. Now this is quite the feat in the world of comic books. 100 issues are usually unheard of for most books to reach, so 600 is a milestone. It also cements Spider-Man’s place as Marvel Comics’ most prominent character. Even though “Amazing” is the fourth Marvel book to reach 600 this year (“Thor,” “Captain America,” and “The Incredible Hulk” reached this landmark as well), Spider-Man has established himself as the premiere hero. Over the years, he has starred in several books simultaneously, many of which have reached past the 100 or 200 mark themselves and the only reason there aren’t anymore Spider-Man titles out right now is that “Amazing” ships out three to four times a month as opposed to the normal comic book that ships monthly. None of the other three 600 Club members have had such success.
For me personally, Spidey (as he is informally called) is my personal favorite hero. For some reason I have yet to quantify, I connect with him in so many ways. I don’t know if it is his character, the awesome costume or my undying belief that I could be Tobey Maguire’s brother (thus making me look like Peter Parker), but for some reason, I will follow Spider-Man to the depths of hell. I have dressed up as Spider-Man for Halloween twice. I own a Mexican luchador mask that is illegally made in Spider-Man’s image. The reason I didn’t letter in track in high school freshman year was I had tickets to the first Spider-Man movie and didn’t want to be late. I was really involved in the Christian club on campus during high school and the first time I spoke at it, I borrowed heavily from Aunt May’s short speech in “Spider-Man 2.” My only op-ed piece for Sonoma State’s newspaper was a mock attack piece on Spider-Man (while praising the “heroes” in the school administration). I own the wood Spidey cut-out from the old comic book store, Comic Castle that I worked at back home, which has since closed. And while I, a US history major, couldn’t tell you what comes after “Four score and seven years ago…” in the Gettysburg Address, I wouldn’t be surprised if I got “With great power comes great responsibility” tattooed on me someday. But mostly, I love Spider-Man because he was the one to get me reading comic books the way I am now.
I remember the story fairly well. It was at the local grocery store, Murphy’s, and I wanted a comic book. At this time, I had only read the comic book adventures of video game character, Sonic the Hedgehog. Now, I could count the amount of Spider-Man comic I had read up to this point (about 2 if memory serves), but something about it struck me. It was “Amazing Spider-Man” number 24. It is actually a more recent issue than you would think. There was a whole series re-numbering/re-launching thing going on at Marvel in the late 90s that they have since reversed, so this was a new comic book at the time. The story was nothing special. It was in the middle of a multi-title crossover that would hurt my brain trying to explain here. It was nothing real special, but it was enough to get me come back next month for issue 25. Now there was something special. It was a dark story just about the Peter Parker/Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe’s character in the films) relationship and its “inevitable” end with one of them having to die. It was great but had something unexpected. “To Be Continued in Peter Parker: Spider-Man #25.” Beg pardon? Whozit: Whatchamacallit #25? We didn’t have that at Murphy’s so I had to go to a local book store J.J. Perry’s to get the issue. My eyes were opened as they had more comic books than I had ever seen at this point in my life. I bought the issue and became a regular customer. But as fate would have it, J.J. Perry’s closed soon after I discovered it. The great thing about it was the huge sale they had as a result. We’re talking 50-75% off sale and my collection began to take off. Anytime I got five bucks, I would make the half hour/forty-five minute bike ride to the store to pick up new/old books. When they finally closed, I was forced to find a new place to feed my new addiction and thus, my relationship with Comic Castle, which would offer me 14 months of employment many years later. The rest is history and the reason I even have this blog.
But I am not the only one who claims Spider-Man/Peter Parker as their favorite character. There are millions who care about the web-slinger. I think that is because of the core of the character. At his base components, Peter Parker is us. Before (and even after) he got his powers, he was the school punching bag. He struggles with getting his homework done while still fighting crime. Peter Parker deals with unemployment, he worries about getting rent in on time. He misses dates, juggles with love, feels pain/guilt/anxiety. We don’t see that with Bruce Wayne, who is a billionaire and dates gorgeous models. Even after fighting Lex Luthor as Superman, Clark Kent was still hitting his deadlines at the Daily Planet. When Spider-Man debuted in the 1962, he was the first teenager to be the hero of the book. At this point, the kids and teenagers were the sidekicks to the adult superheroes. Peter Parker is us at his core. That’s why people come back month-to-month. Why all three of the movies set so many box-office records when they were released. Why there have been so many TV shows. Why Uncle Ben’s final advice “With great power comes great responsibility” rings so true to so many people. Peter Parker is the best of us in the worst of situations. 600 issues down and 600 more to come.