This is something I wrote for a group post that ended up not going up anywhere, so I figured I’d share it here. The theme is “Favorite Spider-Man Moments,” in honor of the character’s 50th anniversary. I’m not sure how old I was when I first read this. It would’ve been ’89 or ’90, I think, which means I was six or seven. It made a real impression. I still like when heroes lose or freak out. It feels more honest than unshakable courage in the face of horrendous danger.
Anyway, Spider-Man was created by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee. Thank you, fellas.
One of my favorite Spider-Man moments comes from the first comic I ever owned, David Michelinie and Todd McFarlane’s Amazing Spider-Man 316. I didn’t know it at the time, but the comic was the big return of then-new Spider-Man villain Venom. It’s a pretty wild ride for a first comic. My moment comes toward the end of the issue, when Spider-Man goes off to confront Venom. He locates him in a slaughterhouse, they fight, and Venom manhandles Spider-Man. At one point, Venom dumps a vat of offal and blood onto Spider-Man, and Spidey panics. He flips out, crushes Venom under a few machines, and bugs out, accidentally leaving his address behind.
This is so great because it sets up Spider-Man as something other than a super-man. He loses, and on top of that, he panics. He loses control. He gets freaked out. The man beneath the mask was revealed, just for a moment, and he rejected the horrors of superheroic life on an instinctual level. This scene is extremely humanizing, and just good entertainment besides.
I like this scene so much because it feels so true to Spider-Man. When the people in charge of his stories bring their A-game, Spider-Man is Peter Parker first and a superhero third or fourth. He’s not an everyman, not at all in thinking about it, but he is a regular man. He’s meant to be someone we can recognize slivers of ourselves in, and that makes it easier to buy the hijinks he gets into. This scene is just one of several great examples of how Peter Parker is the best superhero ever.