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Originally created in 1962 by writer Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko to fill out the final issue of a canceled comic series, Spider-Man quickly became one of the most popular characters at Marvel Comics and the industry as a whole. The mixture of off-beat powers and relatable teenage angst proved to be a winning combination in the resurgence of comics reading during the 1960s and the character's popularity has remained intact on to today. With the potent mix of a memorable rogues gallery including the likes of the Green Goblin and Doctor Octopus with equally memorable non-superpowered counterparts like Mary Jane Watson and J. Jonah Jameson, Spider-Man shows superheroes not as those who live on the fringes of society but as a person who experiences the same melodrama that "normal people" and readers know.
Since his initial introduction over forty-five years ago, Spider-Man has been at odds with both super-villains and the struggles of being a young man living in New York City. Orphaned at an early age and raised by his Aunt May and Uncle Ben, Peter Parker grew up in the boroughs of New York City as an outsider amongst the cliques and clans of school life. Receiving his powers from an accidental spider bite, his first impulse for the use of these newly bestowed powers is for self-indulgence. Those urges fade quickly with the untimely death of his Uncle Ben, setting the nascent hero on a more benevolent path of fighting for the wronged. This path is summed up in the line penned by writer Stan Lee, as spoken by Uncle Ben to Peter; "With great power comes great responsibility."
In subsequent stories, the dual nature of Spider-Man's superhero career and his attempts at a normal life have carved out a unique niche for the character in the world. Besides the superheroic struggles against animalized villains like the Vulture, the Rhino and others, Spidey struggles as Peter Parker against a domineering boss in J. Jonah Jameson, the girl troubles with Mary Jane and Gwen Stacy, while also his relationship with the doting foster mother Aunt May have given this superhero one of those most un-super and super-normal lives out there. Throughout numerous appearances in cartoons, television series and the big screen, Spider-Man's character both in costume and as high school student Peter Parker have given readers an approachable icon they can relate to. Prior to Spider-Man, the idea of a teenage superhero was relegated to that as sidekick and comic relief to more adult character.
Possessing the ability to stick to walls and an innate sixth sense to be forewarned of danger, Spider-Man supplements his powers with web-shooters designed to simulate the web-spinning nature of his eight-legged inspiration. It's that same ingenuity that plays into Spider-Man's own unique adventures, foiling the capers of more powerful and wealthy opponents like the Green Goblin and Rhino, and making a living as a newspaper photographer and later as a teacher in the NYC school system.
After years of being the Marvel Universe's prototypical loner, Spider-Man joined the relaunched Avengers team in the wake of "Avengers: Dissassembled" several years ago and has been one of the key ingredients to the title's resurgence. Over the course of forty-plus years and almost six-hundred issues of his series "Amazing Spider-Man," the wallcrawler has become the flagship for Marvel Comics and in recent years the torch-bearer for modern comics superheroes as a whole thanks to a string of blockbuster movies.
It was with 2002's "Spider-Man" movie that director Sam Raimi and star Tobey Maguire made the character a global phenomenon, securing the film as that year's highest grossing movie – and turning the idea of comic book movies from a fad to a fact of life. Over the course of two sequels, movie audiences saw the Spider-Man's web only expand, with the last film, "Spider-Man 3," earning the second biggest opening weekend for a movie ever. - Chris Arrant
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