With Spider-Man 3 in theatres now, this long-time Spider fan thought it appropriate to invite readers to put themselves in the hero’s shoes.
SPIDER-MAN, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can. These are the lyrics to the evergreen theme song from the 1960s cartoon show based on the adventures of everyone's favourite Wall-Crawler. Just as a spider inspired 14th-century Scottish king Robert the Bruce to try and try again, this superhero inspires too.
The iconic Spider-Man was at the forefront of a comic-book revolution started by Stan Lee and his artistic collaborators at Marvel Comics in the 60s.
Where writers were once content to let superheroes just bust heads and saunter through increasingly fantastic adventures bordering on the absurd, the new breed of hero was written just like us ordinary folk, with a host of everyday problems to tackle. In coping with his problems, some mundane and others seemingly too much for one to bear, Spider-Man/Peter Parker became an inspiration.
Lee's knack for bringing his characters' trials and tribulations down to an everyman level helped readers to really connect with them, the Web-slinger in particular.
And it's this connection that makes the Webhead's experiences seem like one of those “All I need to know about life, I learned from ...” posters for the rest of us. So let's try it then – let’s put ourselves in Spidey’s shoes and look at life through his eyes.
You can't quit now: Every fibre of your being hurts: from the pain of those broken ribs, to the strain of holding up that collapsing ceiling while flood waters swirl about your waist, rising with each second.
You want to just give in, submit to the blackness that’s hovering at the edge of your vision. But Aunt May will die, because she'll never receive the medicine that's in your belt if you give up. And so you resolve not to.
No odds are impossible: The Sinister Six, a collection of your worst enemies, have beaten you down and they're now set to carry out their diabolical plans. Thousands could die if they aren't stopped. You're the only hero present, so it's all up to you. Individually, they're tough to handle – let alone all at once.
So you put that genius intellect of yours to work. You prioritise your targets, you formulate a strategy, you determine which enemy's strength you can turn against him. And then you get to work.
If about to crack ... just crack wise: The enemy you face is implacable, and has every desire to do you harm. Reasoning with him hasn't helped, and you feel little tendrils of panic tickle the back of your brain. So ... you let loose a stream of banter and wisecracks, and it keeps your mind off the seriousness of the situation.
Your foe scoffs at first, but then the banter gets under his skin. He starts to get careless, while your resolve grows and you can sense that you've won. Levity over gravity, my man.
You think you've got problems: Sure, the rent is overdue, Aunt May's medical bills are piling up, and that tightwad boss of yours is threatening to cut your photo rates. But that family you saved from a fire last week has to live in a community hall for the next six months.
And that elderly guy you grabbed just before a bus hit him ? your keen senses picked up the rattle in his breathing that told you he was really sick. But he was genuinely happy to be alive.
Think you've got problems, hero? They don't add up to a hill of beans next to some other folks’ troubles. And if they can cope – then maybe you can, too.
Do the right thing: Even if it means admitting an earlier “thing” was wrong. You threw in your lot with the pro-establishment faction when the US Government called for the registration of all masked adventurers after a tragedy in Connecticut (caused by overzealous costumed vigilantes) left 600 civilians dead.
You even unmasked and told the world that Peter Parker is Spider-Man at the request of your friend and benefactor, Tony Stark/Iron Man, even if that meant that all your enemies would know to strike at your family members. It just seemed the right thing to do at the time.
But the pro-registration heroes didn't seem to care about one important thing: individual liberty.
Realising that you made a mistake, you risked your life to defy your “sponsors” and joined the opposing group of rebels led by, of all people, Captain America.
Even now, after his assassination, you fight on with the survivors to make things right. When “moral” and “legal” decided on one of their frequent trial separations, you chose the former, determined to correct your mistakes and honour the sacrifices of your comrades.
(Intrusive narrator: The preceding passage refers to the recent Civil War miniseries, which received considerable coverage in the mainstream media.)
With great power: And now we stand at your beginning. Something has changed inside you. Where you were once weak and reticent, you're suddenly brimming with vigour and confidence.
You're standing on a ledge, considering your future. It really isn't that far to the next rooftop, but it seems like a mile away. Just one step back and you'll be on familiar ground again, on firm footing, and life will go on as it always has.
One step forward, one leap of faith, and everything changes forever. Your life will never be the same, and neither will the lives of those dear to you. Yes, change can be disruptive, but it isn't necessarily a bad thing.
You hesitate because you are, after all, only human. You're standing on a ledge, considering your future.
And just like that, you go for it.
(Narrator: Sometimes, you just have to take that first big step into the unknown. ‘Nuff said.)
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