Fifty years ago this month, Marvel Comics published Amazing Fantasy #15, featuring a Stan Lee/Steve Ditko story about mild mannered teen Peter Parker. Parker was just an ordinary teenager juggling ordinary teenager problems, except he also had to juggle being a superhero: Spider-Man. After an ongoing argument with Lee, during which publisher Martin Goodman allegedly said “People hate spiders, you can’t call a hero Spider-Man! And a hero can’t be a teenager! Teenagers are sidekicks!”, Goodman finally caved and allowed Lee to move forward but only as a one-off story to be printed in the final issue of the failed title Amazing Adult Fantasy, then renamed Amazing Fantasy.
Amazing Fantasy #15 went on to become one of Marvel’s best selling issues to date and nearly a year after its printing The Amazing Spider-Man #1 was launched and Peter Parker was well on his way to becoming a cultural icon.
Spider-Man has survived a 1970s live-action television show, countless animated versions, four feature length theatrical films, and his closest call of all: The Clone Saga.
Fuck you, man.
We now live in a time when being called a “geek” or “nerd” is no longer an insult or something said before you’re treated to an involuntary lunch consisting of a knuckle sandwich. Geek and Nerd are badges of honor now, as comic books and science fiction are the “in” thing. When this moment in history passes, as it almost certainly will, Spider-Man will be one of the comic book heroes whose street cred won’t falter.
Fifty years in and Spider-Man is listed in the pantheon of superhero gods, with Batman and Superman and the rest, as he is not only a teenager in tights stopping crime by way of sticky webs and funny quips, but a part of our popular culture forever.
All I can say is thank you to Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, and Jack Kirby for the genesis of this memorable character and to Martin Goodman for giving in.
Happy Anniversary, Peter Parker.