Episode 39 – Spider-Man

“Spins a web, any size. Catches thieves, just like flies.”

This month, we’re web-slinging through New York with the Fire and Water Network‘s Ryan Daly and Tobiah Panshin of the House of Jack and Stan podcast. We’re climbing the wall over Marvel’s revolutionary and relatable comic book hero: the Amazing Spider-Man!

From his beginnings in a cancelled anthology comic by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko in 1962, Spidey has exploded into multimedia superstardom, and changed the superhero genre forever. He’s headlined literally thousands of comic book issues, seven feature films, and countless animated shows. He’s been a company mascot, a parade balloon, a breakfast cereal, a cartoon pig, and even the star of his own failed Broadway musical.

We dig into all things pertaining to the web-head, try to figure out if the Daily Bugle is a reputable news source, and try to answer that question: is Spider-Man hero, or menace?

“Main Titles/Costume Montage” from Spider-Man (2002) by Danny Elfman

8 thoughts on “Episode 39 – Spider-Man

  1. There is a problem that I agree has hung over spider-man for longer then it should for A looooong time now, that He started out being the relatable teenager, but unless you’re a comic STRIP character you will eventually get a point where they have to grow. If you keep them in the same spot forever it will become boring to the readers. Peter was relatable when he started out but that time is over now, it made sense that he was stuck at the Bugle when he started out, but when he started to grow it went from being a case of “well, it’s a living” into feeling more like it turned into an abusive relationship. Everything stood still, and that is one of the worst ways to make a story. To quote a more experienced Critic: “He never learns from his mistakes, never takes into consideration how his life as Spider-Man affects everybody else. Now, some would say that’s the core concept of the character, the constant struggle between the mask and the man. But he never actually gives any consideration to the man, preferring to make excuses about it. He disappoints people around him all the time because “something more important was happening as Spider-Man”. But instead of trying to find ways to balance his two lives properly, he will go out of his way to make excuses for it and be sad that being Spider-Man hurt his personal life. If he places more importance on being Spider-Man, then he should distance himself from relationships that would hurt that. If he places more emphasis on being Peter Parker, he needs to sacrifice his time as Spider-Man. Now that’s not always going to be the case for everyone in the real world. But Peter never actually changes as a result of his actions. He just makes the same mistakes over and over. During a storyline called “The Other” when Peter was dying from an untraceable condition, he admits that he doesn’t even have life insurance. Peter has never made a plan about what would happen to his family if he were killed by a super-villain. He’s never thought about the repercussions of his life if he should be maimed or killed while wearing the costume, to his wife or to his constantly dying aunt. Now admittedly, he was just a young, dumb teenager when he started out and didn’t think of those things. But Peter is and has been an adult for decades now! Forget about whether you like Spidey being married or not, the character himself still seems to operate like he’s in high school, never growing up, never seems to recognize adult relationships, and never actually taking responsibility for his life and the choices he’s made. This is one of the reasons I decided to finally review One More Day. The deal with Mephisto is symptomatic of a bigger problem for the character and the people who write him: the unwillingness for the character to become an adult. He’s supposed to be roughly 25 years old at the time of this story – may be closer to 30. And yet he repeatedly approaches his problems like a 16-year-old would and is never actually prepared to act like a mature adult.” If they wanted to keep Spider-man in the “purest” form that they had then they should have just gone with the original idea from the clone saga: Let him and MJ get a happy ending and make Ben Riley into Spider-man instead. Superior Spider-man demonstrated this the best when it showed that Doc-ock made Peter Parker’s life better because at some point it wasn’t About Peter Parker anymore, it was just Spider-man. So as harsh as it sounds There is technically no Need for a Peter Parker anymore. so why makes HIM the only one who could carry the mantle? If they wanted to keep the Everyman idea then they should just make Spider-man a legacy character and swap out every now and again. I apologize for being a bit wordy in my commentary, but I suppose it has become a bit of an annoyance to me as well that when people say how much they love “change,” they really aren’t interested in it and I will be the first to admit that I like things “static” too, but, if you must let things move on at some point, after all, isn’t that what makes Hollywood movies so “predictable” these days? That they are too Static and not “Original” enough?

  2. Great, great episode, everyone. I’ve been waiting for the RvsM treatment of Spider-man since, like, forever (think I even suggested it a few times myself in the comments here or on FB) – and you didn’t disappoint.
    I’m glad Mike put so much emphasis on JJJ as a great character. In fact, personally I’d put him up in the dual category of one of the top members of the rogues gallery, right up there with Doc Ock, and possibly the best supporting character.
    By the way, someone mentioned MJ (who, to me is the Lois to Peter’s Clark) and how the version in the Raimi movies, i.e., the down-and-out actress was more suited to Peter. The thing is, when I first started reading Spidey back in the ’70s (and continuing into the first half of the ’80s), it always seemed to me that MJ was just that: an aspiring but mostly unsuccessful Broadway actress and occasional model (who mainly appeared in dept. store catalogs) who just BS-ed about how successful she was. That stuff with her being a supermodel came later, and I thought it was misplaced.
    Otherwise, I have to defend Silver Age Spidey. Unlike a lot of stuff from the 60s and before, I’ve never found any of that era’s Spider-man a chore to read.

    • I’m a big fan of Silver Age Spidey, too. I think that the old Ditko issues are still incredibly readable and at least half a decade ahead of their time when you compare them to the other superhero books coming out at the time. They’ve aged remarkably well. Of all of the Marvel properties, Spider-Man is the one that is the most fully formed and recognizable, right at the beginning. So many of the others took a few years to gradually and organically change into the characters we know.

      The odd thing — and I didn’t get a chance to say this on the episode — is that Silver Age Peter Parker had TWO Lois Lanes, and they were inversions of the classic Clark/Lois/Superman triangle.

      The first is Betty Brant, and the twist is that it’s *Peter Parker* she likes, and Spider-Man that she can’t stand.

      But the big one is Flash Thompson. He was Peter’s bully in his civilian guise, but was Spider-Man’s biggest fan and supporter. Even when the Bugle had turned the entire city against him, Flash would be the one person who would stick up for Spidey, all the while continuing to pick on Peter.

      • Good points about both the early Betty and Flash.
        Another, somewhat more conventional love triangle that ran through a part of the Ditko years was Peter/Betty/Liz, i.e., after Liz changed her mind about Peter, she started aggressively flirting with him, much to his befuddlement and Betty’s chagrin. It was kind of similar to, and – I think – actually predated the Superman/Lois/Lana triangle.

        • I can’t take credit for this — I think Andrew Leyland pointed this out on his podcast — but it’s sort of hilarious that Peter’s first two love interests were both named Elizabeth. At the same time.

  3. Another thing I found interesting is that everyone on the panel had no idea when they first encountered Spidey, as he was already so ubiquitous in pop culture when you were kids.
    It was a bit different for me in the early ’70s. The Spider-man cartoon was no longer being shown on Saturday mornings, so he really didn’t have as big a presence, and I clearly remember first encountering him in a comic book (Marvel Tales #59) at the age of 6, and became an instant fan of both Spider-man and comic books.
    Otherwise, I was familiar with Superman and Batman before that, thanks to cartoons and the ’66 TV show, but only starting picking up their comics after becoming a Spider-man fan.

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