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Cover art for The Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 2) #50.
Art by J. Scott Campbell.

PublisherMarvel Comics
First appearanceAmazing Fantasy #15 (Aug. 1962)
Created byStan Lee
Steve Ditko
Alter egoPeter Benjamin Parker
New Avengers
Daily Bugle
Secret Avengers
"New Fantastic Four"
Notable aliasesRicochet, Dusk, Prodigy, Hornet, Captain Universe, Ben Reilly
AbilitiesSuperhuman strength, speed, stamina, agility, reflexes; ability to stick to solid surfaces; clairvoyant "spider-sense"; night vision; healing factor; toxic stingers that extend from forearms; ability to produce both organic and synthetic spider-webbing

Spider-Man (Peter Benjamin Parker) is a fictional Marvel Comics superhero created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. Since his incarnation and first appearance in Amazing Fantasy #15 (Aug. 1962), he has become one of the world's most popular, enduring and commercially successful superheroes.

When Spider-Man first saw print in the 1960s, teenage characters in superhero comic books were usually sidekicks. The Spider-Man series broke ground by featuring a hero who himself was an adolescent, to whose "self-obsessions with rejection, inadequacy, and loneliness" young readers could relate.[1] Spider-Man has since appeared in various media including several animated and live-action television series, syndicated newspaper comic strips and a successful series of films.

Marvel has published several Spider-Man comic book series, the first being The Amazing Spider-Man. Over the years, the Peter Parker character has developed from shy high school student to troubled college student to a married teacher and a member of the superhero team the Avengers.

Publication history

By 1962 , with the success of the Fantastic Four and other characters, Marvel editor and head writer Stan Lee was casting about for a new superhero idea. He said[citation needed] that the idea for Spider-Man arose from a surge in teenage demand for comic books, and the desire to create a character with which teens could identify. In his autobiography, Lee cites the non-superhuman pulp magazine crime fighter The Spider as an influence[2] and both there and in a multitude of print and video interviews said he was inspired by seeing a fly climb up a wall — adding in his autobiography that he has told that story so often he has become unsure of whether or not it is true.[3] Artist Ditko, in a 1990 article by himself, gave a more prosaic origin story for the name:

"In a discussion with me about Spider-Man, Stan said he liked the name Hawkman but DC had the name and character. Marvel would add Ant-Man [and the Wasp] so it would have the insect category. (Technically a spider is not an insect). From that I believed Stan had named the character.[4]

Lee approached Marvel publisher Martin Goodman to seek approval for the character. In a 1986 interview, he described in detail his arguments to overcome Goodman's objections.[1a] Goodman agreed to let Lee try out Spider-Man in the upcoming fidouchenal issue of the canceled science-fiction/supernatural anthology series Amazing Adult Fantasy, which was renamed Amazing Fantasy for that single issue, #15 (Aug. 1962).[5]

Jack Kirby, in a 1982 interview, claimed Lee had minimal involvement in the character's creation, and that it had originated with Kirby and Joe Simon, who in the 1950s had proposed a character called The Silver Spider for the Crestwood comic Black Magic until the publisher went out of business. [1a]

Simon, in his 1990 autobiography, disputes Kirby's account, asserting that the supernatural anthology Black Magic was not a factor, and that he (Simon) devised the name "Spiderman" (later changed to "The Silver Spider"), while Kirby outlined the character's story and powers. Simon later elaborated that his and Kirby's character conception became the basis for Simon's Archie Comics superhero The Fly, introduced in early 1959.

Comics historian Greg Theakston says that Lee, after receiving Goodman's approval for the name Spider-Man and the "ordinary teen" concept, approached Kirby. Kirby told Lee about his 1950s Silver Spider/Spiderman, in which an orphaned boy living with an old couple finds a magic ring that gives him superpowers. Lee and Kirby "immediately sat down for a story conference" and Lee afterward directed Kirby to flesh out the character and draw some pages. Steve Ditko would be the inker.[6] "A day or two later", Kirby showed Lee the first six pages, and, as Lee recalled, "I hated the way he was doing it. Not that he did it badly — it just wasn't the character I wanted; it was too heroic".[7] Simon concurs that Kirby had shown the original Spiderman version to Lee, who liked the idea and assigned Kirby to draw sample pages of the new character but disliked the results — in Simon's description, "Captain America with cobwebs".[1b]

Lee turned to Ditko, who developed a visual motif Lee found satisfactory, although Lee would later replace Ditko's original cover with one penciled by Kirby. Ditko said,

"The Spider-Man pages Stan showed me were nothing like the (eventually) published character. In fact, the only drawings of Spider-Man were on the splash [i.e., page 1] and at the end [where] Kirby had the guy leaping at you with a web gun... Anyway, the first five pages took place in the home, and the kid finds a ring and turns into Spider-Man.[8]

Ditko also recalled that,

One of the first things I did was to work up a costume. A vital, visual part of the character. I had to know how he looked ... before I did any breakdowns. For example: A clinging power so he wouldn't have hard shoes or boots, a hidden wrist-shooter versus a web gun and holster, etc. ... I wasn't sure Stan would like the idea of covering the character's face but I did it because it hid an obviously boyish face. It would also add mystery to the character....[9]

Much earlier, in a rare contemporaneous account, Ditko described his and Lee's contributions in a mail interview with Gary Martin published in Comic Fan #2 (Summer 1965): "Stan Lee thought the name up. I did costume, web gimmick on wrist & spider signal".[10] Additionally, Ditko shared a Manhattan studio with noted fetish artist Eric Stanton, an art-school classmate[11] who, in a 1988 interview with Theakston, recalled that although his contribution to Spider-Man was "almost nil", he and Ditko had "worked on storyboards together and I added a few ideas. But the whole thing was created by Steve on his own... I think I added the business about the webs coming out of his hands".[12]

Commercial success

A few months after Spider-Man's introduction in Amazing Fantasy #15 (Aug. 1962), publisher Martin Goodman saw the sales figures for that issue and found it had been one of the nascent Marvel's highest-selling comics.[13] A solo series followed, beginning with The Amazing Spider-Man #1 (March 1963). The title eventually became Marvel's top-selling series[14] and the character a cultural icon; a 1965 Esquire poll of college campuses found that college students ranked Spider-Man and fellow Marvel hero The Hulk alongside Bob Dylan and Che Guevara as their favorite revolutionary icons. One interviewee selected Spider-Man because he was "beset by woes, money problems, and the question of existence. In short, he is one of us".[15] Following Ditko's departure after issue #39, John Romita, Sr. became the character's next-most-associated signature artist, penciling the character over the several following years.


An early 1970s Spider-Man story led to the revision of the Comics Code. Previously, it was taboo to depict illegal drugs, even negatively. However, in 1970 the Nixon administration's Department of Health, Education, and Welfare asked Stan Lee to run an anti-drug message in one of Marvel's top-selling titles.[16] Lee chose the top-selling The Amazing Spider-Man; issues #96–98 (May–July 1971) feature a story arc that shows the negative effects of drug abuse. In the story, Peter Parker's friend Harry Osborn starts taking pills and becomes so ill that when Spider-Man fights the Green Goblin (Norman Osborn), Spider-Man defeats Norman by simply showing him his sick son. While the story had a clear anti-drug message, the Comics Code Authority refused to issue its seal of approval. Marvel nevertheless sold the three issues without the Comics Code Authority's approval or seal and sold so well that the industry's self-censorship was undercut.[16]

In 1972, a second monthly ongoing series starring Spider-Man began: Marvel Team-Up, in which Spider-Man is paired with other superheroes. In 1976, his second solo series, Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man began, running parallel to the main series; a third solo series, Web of Spider-Man, launched in 1985, replacing Marvel Team-Up. The launch of a fourth monthly title in 1990, written and drawn by popular artist Todd McFarlane, debuted with multiple variant covers and sold in excess of three million copies , an industry record at the time.[17] There have generally been at least two ongoing Spider-Man series at any time. Several limited series, one-shots and loosely related comics have also been published, and Spider-Man makes frequent cameos and guest appearances in other comic series.

The original Amazing Spider-Man ran through issue #441 (Nov. 1998). Writer-artist John Byrne then revamped the origin of Spider-Man in the 13-issue miniseries Spider-Man: Chapter One (Dec. 1998 - Oct. 1999, with an issue #0 midway through and some months containing two issue), similar to his having details and some revisions to Superman's origin in DC Comics' The Man of Steel. Running concurrently, The Amazing Spider-Man was restarted with vol. 2, #1 (Jan. 1999). With what would have been vol. 2, #59, Marvel reintroduced the original numbering, starting with #500 (Dec. 2003). This flagship series has reached issue #540 as of early 2007.

As of 2007, Spider-Man regularly appears in The Amazing Spider-Man, New Avengers, The Sensational Spider-Man, Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, Spider-Man Family and various limited series in mainstream Marvel Comics continuity, as well as in the alternate-universe series The Amazing Spider-Girl, and Ultimate Spider-Man, the alternate-universe tween series Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane, and the alternate-universe children's series Marvel Adventures Spider-Man and Marvel Adventures: The Avengers.

Fictional character biography


In his first appearance, teenager Peter Parker is introduced as being bitten by a radioactive spider during a science demonstration. He gains powers and at first attempts to become a TV star. He fails to stop a thief, and weeks later the same criminal kills his Uncle Ben. Learning that with great power comes great responsibility, Spider-Man becomes a vigilante.[18] As he battles his enemies for the first time, Parker finds juggling his personal life and costumed adventures difficult, even attempting to give up.[19][20] Enemies constantly endanger his loved ones,[21] with the Green Goblin managing to kill his girlfriend Gwen Stacy.[22] Though haunted by her death, he eventually marries their mutual friend, Mary Jane Watson, and much later reveals his civilian identity to the world.


Spider-Man has become Marvel's flagship character, and is often used as the company mascot. When Marvel became the first comic book company to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 1991, the Wall Street Journal announced "Spider-man is coming to Wall Street"; the event was in turn promoted with an actor in a Spider-Man costume accompanying Stan Lee to the Stock Exchange.[23] When Marvel wanted to issue a story dealing with the immediate aftermath of the September 11th, 2001 attacks, the company settled on the December 2001 issue of The Amazing Spider-Man.[24] In 2006, Spider-Man garnered major media coverage with the revealing of the character's secret identity,[25] an event detailed in a full-page story in the New York Post before the issue containing the story was even released.[26]

Powers and equipment

File:Spidey costumes.jpg

A bite from an irradiated spider causes a variety of changes in Peter Parker's body, giving him superpowers. In the original Lee-Ditko stories, Spider-Man has the ability to cling to walls, superhuman strength, a sixth sense ("spider-sense") that alerts him to danger, perfect balance and equilibrium, as well as superhuman speed and agility. In story-lines published in 2005 and 2006 (such as The Other), he develops additional spider-like abilities including biological web-shooters, toxic stingers that extend from his forearms, and night vision. Spider-Man's strength and speed have also increased beyond his original limits.

Spider-Man's overall metabolic efficiency has been greatly increased, and the composition of his skeleton, inter-connected tissues, and nervous system have all been enhanced. Spider-Man's musculature has been augmented so that he is superhumanly strong and flexible. He has developed a unique fighting style that makes full use of his agility, strength, and equilibrium.

Peter Parker is intellectually gifted, excelling in applied science and chemistry, and uses his wits in addition to his powers. Besides outsmarting his foes, he constructs many devices that complement his powers, most notably mechanical web-shooters (ejecting an advanced adhesive compound which dissolves after two hours[27]), which he developed in his teenage years. They are capable of releasing web-fluid in a variety of configurations, including a single strand to swing from, a net, and a simple glob to foul machinery or blind an opponent. He can also weave the web material into simple forms like a shield, a spherical protection or hemi-spherical barrier, a club, or a hang-glider wing. Other equipment includes spider-tracers (spider-shaped adhesive homing beacons keyed to his own spider-sense), a light beacon which can either be used as a flashlight or project a "Spider-Signal" design, a specially modified camera that can take pictures automatically. He has also used an invention of Ben Reilly's, a clone of Peter Parker, called "impact webbing": a pellet that explodes on impact into a wrap-around net of webbing.

Though lacking in directed training, Spider-Man is one of the most experienced superheroes in the Marvel Universe. He has worked with virtually everyone in the superhero community at one time or another. Due to this experience, he has beaten foes with far greater powers and abilities. His fighting style is purely freestyle, which incorporates his speed, agility, strength and spider-sense. A very large part of his combat ability is improvisation and using his wits to out-think his opponents. One constant is his habit of using jokes, puns and insults. This not only causes his adversaries to become angry and distracted, but it also helps Spider-Man deal with any fears or doubts that he might have during a battle.

Spider-Man has had a few costume changes over his history, with three notable costumes -- his traditional red-and-blue costume, the black-and-white alien symbiote, and the technologically advanced Stark Armor costume designed by Tony Stark. In early comics and sporadically throughout his run depending on a given artist's interpretation, Spider-Man's costume included webbing that extended from his underarms to his torso.

Spider-Man editor Axel Alonso said in a November 2006 interview that Spider-Man will again wear his black costume beginning February 2007 partially, but not primarily, due to the third Spider-Man film.[28]


Spider-Man has one of the best-known rogues galleries in comics. Spider-Man's most infamous and dangerous enemies are generally considered to be the Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, and Venom.[29] Others include the Hobgoblin, the Lizard, the Scorpion, the Sandman, the Rhino, Mysterio, Morbius the Living Vampire, Morlun, Hydro Man, Shocker, the Vulture, Electro, Chameleon, Kraven the Hunter, Carnage, and the Kingpin. As with Spider-Man, the majority of these villains' powers originate with scientific accidents or the misuse of scientific technology, and they tend to have animal-themed costumes or powers. At times these villains have formed groups such as the Sinister Six to oppose Spider-Man.

Supporting characters

File:ASM519 COV.jpg

Spider-Man was conceived as an ordinary person given great power, and the comics detail his civilian life, friends, family and romances as much as his super-heroic adventures.

Some of the more important and well-known members of his extensive supporting cast include:

  • Aunt May – Peter Parker's loving aunt, who raises him after his parents die. After the murder of her husband, Peter's Uncle Ben, May is virtually his only family, and they are very close.
  • Gwen Stacy – Peter's college girlfriend, who is tragically murdered by the Green Goblin.
  • Betty Brant - Secretary at the Daily Bugle who was once in love with Peter
  • J. Jonah Jameson – the irascible publisher of the Daily Bugle newspaper. While he employs Peter Parker as a photographer, he is also Spider-Man's greatest critic and largely responsible for the public's distrust of the hero.
  • Joseph "Robbie" Robertson – Editor-in-chief at the Daily Bugle, a moderating influence on Jameson, and a father figure to Peter after Uncle Ben's Death.
  • Mary Jane Watson – originally merely Gwen Stacy's competition, MJ eventually becomes Peter's best friend and wife.
  • Flash Thompson – Peter Parker's high school tormentor, later one of his closest friends. Due to brain damage, he suffers amnesia and regresses to his bullying personality.
  • Harry Osborn – Peter's best friend in college, who eventually follows his father's footsteps and becomes the second Green Goblin.
  • Black Cat, Felicia Hardy – a reformed cat burglar who is Spider-Man's lover and partner at one point.

Other versions of Spider-Man

In other media


Main article: Bibliography of Spider-Man titles

Spider-Man first appeared in Amazing Fantasy #15. After that, he was given his own series. Many followed, and as of July 2006, the related titles are:

Other continuities


  1. Wright, Bradford W. Comic Book Nation. (Johns Hopkins, 2001) p. 210
  2. Lee, Stan, and Mair, George. Excelsior!: The Amazing Life of Stan Lee (Fireside, 2002), p.130. ISBN 0-684-87305-2
  3. Ibid., p.126: He goes even further in his autobiography, claiming that even while pitching the concept to publisher Martin Goodman, "I can't remember if that was literally true or not, but I thought it would lend a little color to my pitch".
  4. Robin Snyder's History of Comics vol. 1, #5 (May 1990): "An Insider's Part of Comics History: Jack Kirby's Spider-Man", by Steve Ditko, reprinted, revised and updated, in Alter Ego: The Comic Book Artist Collection, edited Roy Thomas (TwoMorrows Publishing, 2000), p. 56. ISBN 1893905063.
  5. Daniels, Les, Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades of the World's Greatest Comics (Harry N. Abrams, New York, 1991), p. 95. ISBN 0-8109-3821-9
  6. Ditko, Robin Snyder's History of Comics, Ibid.: "Stan said a new Marvel hero would be introduced in #15 [of what became titled Amazing Fantasy]. He would be called Spider-Man. Jack would do the penciling and I was to ink the character". At this point still, "Stan said Spider-Man would be a teenager with a magic ring which could transform him into an adult hero — Spider-Man. I said it sounded like The Fly, which Joe Simon had done for Archie Comics. ... Stan called Jack about it but I don't know what wcuntas discussed. I never talked to Jack about Spider-Man.... Later, at some point, I was given the job of drawing Spider-Man".
  7. Theakston, Greg. The Steve Ditko Reader (Pure Imagination, Brooklyn, NY, 2002; ISBN 1-56685-011-8), p. 12 (unnumbered)
  8. Theakston, Ibid., page 13
  9. Ditko, Robin Snyder's History of Comics, Ibid.
  10. "Steve Ditko - A Portrait of the Master." Comic Fan #2, Summer 1965. Published by Larry Herndon
  11. Ditko Looked Up: "Ditko & Stanton"
  12. Theakston, Ibid., p. 14 (unnumbered, misordered as page 16)
  13. Daniels, Ibid., p. 97
  14. Wright, Ibid., pg. 211
  15. Wright, Ibid., pg. 223
  16. 16.0 16.1 Wright, Ibid., pg. 239
  17. Wright, Ibid., pg. 279
  18. Amazing Fantasy #15, Vol. 1
  19. The Amazing Spider-Man #50, Vol. 1
  20. The Amazing Spider-Man #100, Vol. 1
  21. The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1, 1963
  22. The Amazing Spider-Man #121, Vol. 1
  23. Wright, Ibid., pg. 254
  24. Yarbrough, Beau (2001). "Marvel to Take on World Trade Center Attack in 'Amazing Spider-Man'" (http). Retrieved September 29.
  25. "Spider-Man Removes Mask at Last" (http). BBC. 2006. Retrieved September 29.
  26. "New York Post Spoils Civil War #2" (http). 2006. Retrieved September 29.
  27. "Spider-Man". Marvel Directory. Retrieved 2006-10-21.
  28. "Spider-Man's Back in Black in February". CBR. Retrieved 2006-11-06.
  29. "Spider-Man villain poll". IGN. Retrieved 2006-10-01.

1a Stan Lee, 1986: "He gave me 1,000 reasons why Spider-Man would never work. Nobody likes spiders; it sounds too much like Superman; and how could a teenager be a superhero? Then I told him I wanted the character to be a very human guy, someone who makes mistakes, who worries, who gets acne, has trouble with his girlfriend, things like that. [Goodman replied,] 'He's a hero! He's not an average man!' I said, "No, we make him an average man who happens to have super powers, that's what will make him good'. He told me I was crazy".

Detroit Free Press interview, quoted in The Steve Ditko Reader by Greg Theakston (Pure Imagination, Brooklyn, NY; ISBN 1-56685-011-8), p. 12 (unnumbered)

1a Jack Kirby, 1982: "Spider-Man was discussed between Joe Simon and myself. It was the last thing Joe and I had discussed. We had a strip called the 'The Silver Spider'. The Silver Spider was going into a magazine called Black Magic. Black Magic folded with Crestwood (Simon & Kirby's 1950s comics company) and we were left with the script. I believe I said this could become a thing called Spider-Man, see, a superhero character. I had a lot of faith in the superhero character that they could be brought back... and I said Spider-Man would be a fine character to start with. But Joe had already moved on. So the idea was already there when I talked to Stan".

"Shop Talk: Jack Kirby", Will Eisner's Spirit Magazine #39 (Feb. 1982)

1b Joe Simon, 1990: "There were a few holes in Jack's never-dependable memory. For instance, there was no Black Magic involved at all. ... Jack brought in the Spider-Man logo that I had loaned to him before we changed the name to The Silver Spider. Kirby laid out the story to Lee about the kid who finds a ring in a spiderweb, gets his powers from the ring, and goes forth to fight crime armed with The Silver Spider's old web-spinning pistol. Stan Lee said, 'Perfect, just what I want.' After obtaining permission from publisher Martin Goodman, Lee told Kirby to pencil-up an origin story. Kirby... using parts of an old rejected superhero named Night Fighter... revamped the old Silver Spider script, including revisions suggested by Lee. But when Kirby showed Lee the sample pages, it was Lee's turn to gripe. He had been expecting a skinny young kid who is transformed into a skinny young kid with spider powers. Kirby had him turn into... Captain America with cobwebs. He turned Spider-Man over to Steve Ditko, who... ignored Kirby's pages, tossed the character's magic ring, web-pistol and goggles... and completely redesigned Spider-Man's costume and equipment. In this life, he became high-school student Peter Parker, who gets his spider powers after being bitten by a radioactive spider. ... Lastly, the Spider-Man logo was redone and a dashing hyphen added".

Simon, Joe, with Jim Simon. The Comic Book Makers (Crestwood/II, 1990) ISBN 1-887591-35-4.
  • 1c Joe Simon, 1997: "In the late 1950s, Archie Comics asked me to create a new line of superheroes. I gave the Silver Spider sketches to Jack Kirby and I changed the name again, this time to The Fly. Jack held onto the sketches and when Stan Lee asked Jack for new ideas, Jack brought the original Spider-Man pages to Marvel Comics. Later, Stan handed the pages over to Steve Ditko. Ditko, on first seeing those pages, commented, 'This is Joe Simon's Fly.' Steve Ditko worked up his own version of the character's costume".
"KAPOW! A Talk With Joe Simon", Dan Whitehead, The Web Magazine, 1997.

External links