Today, most people would write out “Spiderman” as all one word, and they would be wrong. Seeing “Spider-Man” might seem old-fashioned, but the hyphen was very important to Stan Lee. Back in the early ’60s, when Spidey was still being developed, Stan the Man decided his hero, with a red and blue costume needed a hyphen to make him stand out from that other red and blue clad, “S” wearing, “-man” suffix hero from DC Comics. Spider-Man is still Marvel’s official way of stylizing the friendly neighborhood hero’s name, whether it’s in a title or dialog box. So remember, it’s Spider-Man Day, not Spiderman Day.
Spider-Man Was Almost A Horror Movie
As weird as it sounds, back in 1985 Marty McFly was fixing the past while the present almost turned into a nightmare. Shortly after Superman III was released, Marvel started planning a live-action Spider-Man film. And while few superhero movies before Tim Burton’s Batman were very good, this one threatened to be especially bad. The studio executives in charge of making the film thought of Spidey as a monster. After contracting a script from the creator of The Outer Limits in which Peter Parker turns into a giant tarantula, the executives hoped to nab Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Poltergeist director Tobe Hooper. Stan Lee eventually nixed the idea, and mercifully the whole thing fell into development hell. There are echoes of this in the comic books, during the Avengers: Disassembled storyline, when The Queen kisses Peter, infecting him with a toxin that turns him into less -Man, more Spider (read: all spider). He eventually turns back, but with some lingering effects.
Organic Or Manufactured Web Shooters?
Spider-Man’s main mode of extended transportation is also one of the most inconsistent parts of his lore. So did Peter Parker develop organic web glands, or did he manufacture them to fit his spider-sona? Well, both. In the original comics, Peter develops the web shooters on his own, a detail retained in Tom Holland’s MCU Spider-Man appearances. But 58 years is a long time, and there have been tweaks to our favorite web-slinger’s web shooters. After the take-your-hero-name-literally kiss from The Queen in Disassembled, Peter eventually “gets better” from being an actual spider. But in the wake of that, he finds out he needs to carry two fewer accessories. The mutation leaves him with organic web shooters in his wrists, a plot point shown just a few years earlier (sans-transformation) in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man. Of course, nothing good ever lasts, and today Spidey is hopping around New York City with his manufactured web shooters, the wrist-generated webbing a thing of the past.
Spidey The Revolutionary
Spider-Man became very popular very fast. Shortly after publication of Spider-Man’s adventures began surging out of Marvel Comics headquarters, Spidey climbed to the top of the charts in terms of sales. And with great market saturation comes great cultural relevance. A 1965 Esquire survey of college students found that Spider-Man was one of the top three most important revolutionary figures, the other two were Bob Dylan and Che Guevara. The friendly neighborhood revolutionary was lauded for his ordinary problems, money issues, and existential crises. Sounds like college.
Cracking the Comics Code
While it bears little power now, back in the ’70s, the Comics Code Authority reigned supreme. For decades, it dictated what could — and could not — be shown in comic books. Look at past covers and you’ll see a CCA stamp (of varying prominence through the years) on the cover. One of the things forbidden from being depicted during that time were drugs. It didn’t matter if illegal substances were shown in a negative light, any depiction of their existence was a no-no. Until, of course, the Nixon administration needed help pushing its War on Drugs. Officials came to Stan Lee, hoping to get an anti-drug message in one of Marvel’s high selling comic books. Stan chose to have Harry Osborn develop a pill addiction, knowledge of which Spidey uses to defeat Harry’s father Norman, the Green Goblin. The CCA refused to give its then-coveted stamp to the books, and all three issues of the story ran without it. The issues ended up selling so well, that the chastened CCA revised its code, but that would mark the beginning of the end. Marvel abandoned the Code altogether 2001, and by 2011 the last major publishers still using the CCA stamp, DC and Archie, decided to leave essentially ending the 50-plus year old system.