The Amazing Spider-Man - Where Did He Come From And Why Is He Popular?

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Answered by: stephen, An Expert in the All Things Comic Books Category
In 1962, Marvel Comics was not completely riding high. Although suddenly blessed with a dynamism it had lacked just two years earlier, it was still a minnow in the comic book ocean, operating from a tiny back office, with no more than three or four people on staff.

It was, however, on the right track.



In the preceding months, the company had already attracted attention, with the Fantastic Four and the Hulk - and now it was time to launch yet another hero.

But who to inflict upon Marvel’s growing readership?

To the company’s editor and chief writer Stan Lee, it seemed obvious. Its readers were in school, therefore Marvel’s next hero should be in school. But, whereas readers could only wish they had super-powers, this schoolboy would have actually have them - and his powers would be those of a spider.



Marvel’s publisher Martin Goodman thought otherwise, arguing that people hate the arachnids and wouldn’t want a hero who reminded them of one.

But Lee had faith.

And so it was that, in mid 1962, the amazing Spider-Man made his debut in the pages of Amazing Fantasy issue #15. The popular myth, mostly propagated by Lee, is that he made his start there because the book was already set for cancellation and, therefore, if he flopped, as Goodman had feared, no harm would have been done.

However, there was no indication in the comic itself that it was to be the last issue, and its editorial gave every reason to believe it was planned to continue, with Spider-Man as its star.

Whatever the truth, eight months after that publication, Spider-Man made his second appearance. This time, in the pages of his very own comic.

Clearly, the Amazing Fantasy try-out had been deemed a success. But it was nothing compared to what was to come. Despite major competition from its rapidly growing list of heroes, the arachnid adventurer quickly emerged as Marvel’s figurehead.

But why was he successful?

The costume played a part. With its profuse webbing, hidden face, and bug eyes, artist Steve Ditko’s design is surely one of the most striking and eerie in the history of super-heroism.

But a costume will only get readers to buy a comic once. It won’t make them buy it twice. What made the strip addictive was its human drama.

Peter Parker was no demi-god like Superman. He had all the failings of a normal human being. In fact, he had more. Severely lacking in social skills, he originally had no friends. He was permanently poor and his selfishness even caused the death of the uncle who’d raised him as his own. His relationships with girls were fraught with misunderstanding, his legal guardian was permanently on the brink of death and he never encountered an appointment he couldn’t miss.

This almost hyper-fallibility made him someone readers could identify with and turned his strip into as much a soap opera as a battle between good and evil. This was born out by the comic’s extraordinarily developed supporting cast, as a whole miniature world was created around him.

And thanks to all this, as the amazing Spider-Man enters his 56th year of existence, he shows no signs of becoming any less iconic than he’s ever been. Not bad for a character whose publisher had feared that no one would want to read about him.

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