Today’s the day Marvel Comics released Spider-Man to an unsuspecting world! Drawn by Steve Ditka and co-written with Ditka by Stan Lee, Spider-man first appeared in Amazing Fantasy #15 in 1962. Lee had worked with Marvin Goodman, the publisher of Marvel at the time, and gotten his approval for the character to run as a continuing story in that title, but it went to its own eponymous title The Amazing Spider-Man after just one issue.
The precise creator’s credits of Spider-Man are a bit fuzzy, mostly due to the exact course of events not having been completely written down. Steve Ditko, the artist who set the look for Spider-Man as we know him today, doesn’t recall for certain whether it was Stan Lee or himself that first came up with the idea for the character; Stan Lee recalls that it was himself, but gives strong credit to Ditko for designing the character and giving it its direction. Stan Lee gave Spider-Man his name, and Ditko essentially took the ball of webbing and ran with it.
Believe it or not, Peter Parker’s powers didn’t originally come from the bite of a radio-active spider. It was from a story idea by Jack Kirby that a young orphaned Parker discovered an old ring and put it on. The ring turned out to be magic, and gave him all sorts of incredible powers. Ditko dispensed with the magic ring idea and made Spider-Man’s powers an integral part of himself, figuring out what the suit would look like, what powers Spider-Man would have, and what his limitations would be.
Jack Kirby claimed that Stan Lee actually had very little to do with the genesis of the wall crawling hero. He and Joe Simon had collaborated on a hero called Spider-Man for a Crestwood Publications title called Black Magic, but it was never used. The name was changed to “The Silver Spider”, and eventually ended up as a new character called “The Fly”. Kirby pointed out the similarities in design to the Fly to Stan Lee, who ordered a redesign from Ditko.
Spider-Man has since become one of the most popular figures in the pantheon of comic book heroes, spawning half a dozen movies, nine television series (most of them animated), five video games, a number of books, and of course hundreds upon hundreds of issues of comic books, and has recently become a fan favorite among cosplayers. There are even companies that will custom-print your favorite version of Spider-Man (or Spider-Gwen) on spandex so you can make your own Spidey-suit, or just order one and do the finish work yourself!
Spider-Man transformed the way we think of superheroes. Now, instead of wooden-headed muscular statue models, they’re real people with real problems that make them interesting – because they’re just like us. And if they’re just like us in that way, maybe we can be heroes too.
Happy birthday to our favorite web head – and may you have many, many more birthdays to come!
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