Did you know that Stan Lee’s publisher originally thought that the character of Spider-Man was a terrible idea? It seems as though the incredible wall-crawler has had quite the history. Sure, we know that Stan Lee and Steve Ditko created the fan-favorite Marvel hero, but he was not always the popular icon he is today. Many secrets lay hidden in this character’s contested origin.
With the recent series reboot Spider-Man: Homecoming, which hit theaters on July 7, we thought that it would be fun to look back on friendly neighborhood superhero’s development – both on the page and off. When did the character first appear in the comics? What was Stan Lee thinking when he dreamed up this character, and which action hero did director James Cameron think would make a good Doctor Octopus?
All of these questions and more are answered in our overview of the hero, which starts from the beginning, of course, moves on to to the present, and even covers a bit into the future.
Here is The Complete History of Spider-Man.
Stan Lee wanted to depict a superhero that dealt with issues in real life as much as he did with supervillains and street thugs. Additionally, Lee designed this hero to be a teenager – a teenager bitten by a radioactive spider, of all things.
His publisher, Martin Goodman, however, was not a fan of the concept, calling it the “worst idea” that he had ever heard. However, with the surge in teenage demand for comic books, Spider-Man went on to become a best-selling series, resulting in the webhead's meteoric rise to fame.
In numerous interviews, Stan Lee has claimed that his inspiration for the character came from seeing a fly climb up a wall. Although, he jokes in his autobiography that, after telling the story so many times, he is unsure himself if it is actually true.
The name “Spider-Man” was chosen over something like “Spider-Boy”, because Lee wanted the character to age in the comics. Additionally, he wanted the character to be taken seriously, and not be seen as inferior or less than the other adult superheroes, which was why the name “Spider-Man” was ultimately chosen.
As a friend and longtime collaborator of Stan Lee’s, legendary comic book artist Jack Kirby was first approached to design the Spider-Man character. However, as Lee puts it, Kirby was used to drawing more heroic figures, such as Captain America, and Lee always thought that the character of Spider-Man should look much more similar to an ordinary guy.
After some unsatisfactory sketches were constructed (according to Stand Lee), another artist working for the publication, Steve Ditko, was approached to design the character. This seemed to be a much better fit, as Ditko’s design was the one used moving forward, which has since become iconic.
While the friendly neighborhood wall-crawler has seen his share of alternate costumes, he generally sports red and blue spandex with a spider logo on the chest. That being said, the hero has had many different looks over the course of his historic-- and ongoing-- comic book run, but few veer too far from Ditko's original design.
Spidey made his comic book debut at the tail-end of a canceled comic in 1962. This story almost did not make it to print, given Martin Goodman’s stance on the entire “Spider-Man concept.” However, Stan Lee managed to convince his publisher to run the story in the last issue of Amazing Fantasy, and, as history would have it, the character went on to become an amazing success.
According to Lee, the final issue of Amazing Fantasy was the perfect time to feature Spider-Man because no one cared about the final installation of a canceled series. He later found out that the issue had become a bestseller, and was asked to write an entire run featuring the friendly neighborhood wall-crawling crime fighter, which was, of course, titled The Amazing Spider-Man.
At this point, the Spider-Man origin story is as well known (if not more so) in pop culture than that of any other superhero. Bug bites boy, boy turns into a bug, and bug boy fights crime. It is not just the spider that transforms Peter into a hero, however, as he is also changed mentally and emotionally by the choices he makes. His choice to ignore a fleeing thief inadvertently leads to the death of his beloved Uncle Ben, which helps Peter to discover that “with great power, comes great responsibility.”
As a science wiz, Peter also develops his own wrist-mounted web shooters and gains the ability to (essentially) fly around town, swinging from skyscrapers. However, despite these incredible powers, Parker struggles with everyday life: finding a date for prom, constant bullying from the likes of Flash Thompson, being belittled by his boss J. Jonah Jameson, and helping his aunt make ends meet.
Shortly after the introduction of the Spider-Man character, Martin Goodman was surprised to see just how well the webhead was doing. Sales figures were off the charts, as the hero quickly became (and is now known today as) one of Marvel’s best-selling comic book characters.
As stated earlier, the commercial success of Spider-Man’s debut in the aforementioned final issue of Amazing Fantasy led to a change of heart from publisher Martin Goodman, who was originally stoutly against the character.
After the successful debut, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko were asked to continue the series and did so as a monthly comic book run entitled The Amazing Spider-Man – a comic book run that served as the character’s flagship series for fifty years.
From run-ins with his iconic villainous counterpart Venom to numerous crossovers with the X-Men, Spider-Man has more than a handful of notable story arcs, not the least of which is the death of Pete's beloved Uncle Ben.
Spidey's bouts with the nefarious group of baddies, the Sinister Six, are also remembered fondly in some of the character’s more major notable story arcs. Additionally, the character also announced his identity during the Civil War series and later died, giving rise to his newly popular successor Miles Morales.
Despite Spider-Man’s seemingly countless iconic villains, the hero has no one true archnemesis. As the leader of the aforementioned Sinister Six, Doctor Octopus is widely regarded as one of the character’s more noteworthy foes, but other baddies such as the Green Goblin and Venom have also been described as the webhead's main enemies.
From Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends to Spectacular Spider-Man, the wall-crawler has starred in his fair share of animated series, many of which were well-received critically and commercially.
The hero made his small screen debut on an ABC animated television show, simply titled Spider-Man, a program that is remembered mostly for its low budget. That said, the series ran for three years.
The wall-crawler then took a substantial break from animated television, but returned in the early ‘80s with a reboot before a subsequent team-up series called Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, which featured Iceman from the X-Men series, as well as a new character, Firestar.
Since then, Spider-Man starred in even more quality programming – notably the fan-favorite animated series in the mid-‘90s, the aforementioned critical darling Spectacular Spider-Man, and, most recently, the Drake Bell-led Ultimate Spider-Man.
The character even has a new series announced titled Marvel’s Spider-Man, which is said to feature the hero teaming up the likes of Miles Morales and even Spider-Gwen.
As one of Marvel’s most (if not the most) recognizable characters, his impact on pop culture and comics at large has been huge, to say the least. Stan Lee himself commented on Ditko’s decision to have Spider-Man’s costume covering him from head-to-toe, stating that this meant anyone could see themselves as the titular hero.
While his feats were amazing, his everyday struggles were relatable to fans and this type of hero had never before been seen in the comic world-- on this scale-- prior to the inception of Spider-Man.
Since the hero’s debut, Spider-Man has become one of the world’s most recognizable fictional characters and one of Marvel’s flagship characters. Spider-Man is also known as the world’s most profitable superhero, as global retail sales of licensed products have easily eclipsed over $1 billion.
Legendary director James Cameron was originally slated to direct the first big screen live-action adaptation of Spider-Man. The film helmed by Cameron never quite came to fruition, but elements of his leaked treatment ended up in the Sam Raimi-directed feature. Organic web shooters, Peter’s overnight transformation, and some of the details surrounding Uncle Ben’s death are just a few of the parallels between the two films.
The treatment did feature a few weirder notes that luckily did not transfer over to the Raimi movie, such as Peter peeping on an undressed Mary Jane and a more foul-mouthed Spider-Man. Also, rumor has it that Cameron wanted Arnold Schwarzenegger to portray iconic supervillain, Doctor Octopus – an interesting casting choice to say the least.
Other notable desirables were Edward Furlong as Peter Parker, Drew Barrymore as Gwen Stacey, and Leonardo DiCaprio for Harry Osborne.
Often considered to be the father of the modern superhero genre, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy (along with Brian Singer’s X-Men franchise) ushered in a new era of comic book films. Gone were the over-the-top cheese we had come to expect, and, with Tim Burton having left the Batman franchise nearly a decade earlier, it was a genre that no one was taking very seriously at the time.
With Tobey Maguire, Kristen Dunst, Willem Dafoe, and James Franco at the top of an excellent cast list, the comic book characters finally came to life in a way they never had before. Also, has there ever been a better comic book casting decision than J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson?
The first two films were incredibly well-received by both fans as well as critics, but, unfortunately, studio interference and some poor writing decisions on the part of Raimi led to an unsatisfactory conclusion. A fourth picture was in the works at one point, but, it was never completed.
Miles Morales first appeared in Marvel Comics’ Ultimate Fallout #4 in 2011. Drawing inspiration from former U.S. President Barack Obama and American actor Donald Glover, Miles replaced Peter Parker as the web-slinger following the character’s death.
Interestingly enough, Donald Glover actually voiced the character of Miles Morales in two episodes of the aforementioned animated series, Ultimate Spider-Man.
Miles is far from a one-off character, however, as he is said to be playing a role in the wall-crawler’s upcoming animated series, Marvel’s Spider-Man. Additionally, the character’s mere appearance at the tail-end of the E3 gameplay trailer for Insomniac’s Spider-Man title on the PlayStation 4 was enough to garner a major crowd reaction and even spawn some interesting fan theories about his possible involvement in the game’s narrative.
After a few years after Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy, Sony decided to give the franchise another go with a new director, Marc Webb, and some new leads – The Social Network’s Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker and Easy A’s Emma Stone as Gwen Stacey, respectively. Despite the new faces, the film series went by a familiar moniker: The Amazing Spider-Man.
All in all, the new franchise was praised largely for the chemistry between its main leads, but its two films were ultimately not all that different from the trilogy that had preceded it (especially the first entry).
However, after a lackluster sequel, Sony and Marvel were finally able to reach a deal that would change everything moving forward for the big screen hero.
After five solo adventures, Sony Pictures and Marvel arrived at an agreement that allowed for the characters from the two studios to appear in each others' movies. Tom Holland’s debut as the wall-crawler in Captain America: Civil War was a smashing success, and it appears as though his own feature film is going over just as smoothly with critics.
Tom Holland is already being referred to by many as the definitive big screen Peter Parker and, based on what we have seen so far, it is hard to make a counter argument. Spider-Man: Homecoming looks to be one of the summer’s biggest successes, and there are talks of a sequel already in the works.
By all accounts, it appears as though the Spider-Man we all know and love is back.
Currently in development by Insomniac Games, Spider-Man is a PlayStation 4 exclusive title slated for release sometime in 2018. Featuring a seasoned hero, this video game’s narrative looks to highlight a new look at Peter Parker, and even the teased Miles Morales.
The title was one of the most talked about games coming out of E3 2017 and is currently on top of several trade’s “Most Anticipated” lists. The game’s most recent trailer revealed major baddies such as Wilson Fisk, aka the Kingpin, as well as relative newcomer Mister Negative.
With Insomniac Games proven track record – Ratchet & Clank and Sunset Overdrive – along with the gameplay we have already seen, it is certainly hard not to be excited about this upcoming Spider-Man title.
One name: Miles Morales. Miles is likely the future of the character. That being said, the casting of the young Tom Holland is strategic, as it provides the actor with the ability to portray this character for years to come-- allowing him to grow up as Spider-Man.
With rumors that multiple films might be made featuring a young Spidey in high school, it could be quite some time before we see Tom Holland give up the mantle – and, with recent reviews being what they are for Spider-Man: Homecoming, there is certainly no reason to fix what isn’t broken.
Ultimately, with Sony’s seeming desire to create its own cinematic universe, fans should not be surprised to see Miles make an appearance at some point in the relatively near future.
What are your favorite pieces of trivia from the history of Spider-Man? *Where do you think the franchise is headed? Let us know in the comments section.