On August 1, 1962, Marvel Comics’ Amazing Fantasy #15 by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee debuted, and with it, Spider-Man.
The Marvel hero was a notable introduction back then, just on the simple basis of him being a teenager who wasn’t the sidekick of an already established hero. While that sounds like a small change in the grand scheme of things, it meant that unlike fellow contemporaries Dick Grayson or Bucky Barnes, Peter Parker had to learn the ropes of heroism without an older man to look towards to. Learning the hard way that great power must also come great responsibility, and the feelings of loneliness and inadequacy that come with being a teenage superhero, has made him one of the publisher’s most relatable characters for young readers. And that connection with a younger audience has allowed him, and those who’ve used his title or hung around in his orbit, to thrive and secure their own fanbases.
Across the 60 years of his existence, Spider-Man has been through so much, both in and out of comics, and had multiple incarnations for fans to get attached to. This was primarily through TV: Spidey’s had multiple cartoons since 1967, all of them distinct in their own ways. For a lot of us, our first intro to Spider-Man was possibly through Fox Kids’ 1994 series, with a catchy version of the character’s iconic theme song and a lovable amount of melodrama. It’s been a few years since he’s had a proper cartoon of his own for kids of today to grow attached to, but that’ll soon be changing with Freshman Year in 2024.
If someone somehow hadn’t experienced Spider-Man through TV, they certainly did via film. The character’s been a box office hit, particularly as it pertains to the Marvel Cinematic Universe version currently played by Tom Holland across four solo films and three crossovers. But it and the two-film Amazing duology starring Andrew Garfield wouldn’t be here without Sam Raimi. The 2000s trilogy starring Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst is often hailed as one of the best superhero franchises of all time, and has had no shortage of love since it wrapped up in 2007, and got an epilogue via Spider-Man: No Way Home in 2021. But what’s most exciting about Spider-Man’s cinematic future is what it means for non-Peter Parker characters: both the animated Spider-Verse films and Tom Hardy’s Venom franchise have shown that the wallcrawler has plenty of gas left in the tank, if his handlers get out of their own way.
And then there’s video games. Though video games that bare his name have hit or miss across the decades, Spider-Man’s always been fun to play in games. Whether it’s fighting games, action-RPGs, or sandboxes, it’s just fun to do whatever a spider can to swing around and beat the tar out of bad guys while dispensing terrible quips. Certainly the high point of Spider-Man as a game property comes from Insomniac Games, and whose third installment has an interesting challenge ahead of it by bringing in not one, but two experienced Spider-Men to save New York.
Happy birthday, Spider-Man. Let us know what your favorite version of the character—across comics, games, film, and musicals—has been in the comments below.
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