Reviews from a Lapsed Spider-Fan, #0: Origin Story

Reviews from a Lapsed Spider-Fan is my attempt to reconnect with the world of Spider-Man, by reading / watching / playing / whatever-ing various incarnations of the character, and writing about them. I’m doing this because: 1) Spider-Man comics were hugely important to me growing up, and were hugely influential in shaping my understanding of storytelling; but 2) I want to experience different takes on the character, not cling to my decades-old understanding of him.

As for point 1: I was literally consuming Spider-Man comics before I could read them (one of my earliest memories is of my dad reading fight-scene sound effects aloud to me, presumably while struggling to keep a straight face). I don’t say this to establish my fan credentials, only to emphasize how much my idea of what stories are has been shaped by this character and his stories. If it weren’t for Spider-Man and Star Trek (which I also write about, here), the way I approach storytelling  — both as a consumer and an aspiring creator of fiction — would probably be pretty different. Spider-Man comics became my gateway to the Marvel Universe, both by giving me my first glimpse into that wider world, but also, more importantly, by giving me a glimpse of the guiding philosophy behind it: that superheroes are still people, and that watching them get through their day-to-day lives — making rent, maintaining relationships, juggling conflicting obligations — can be just as interesting as watching them punch supervillains. My comic collecting tapered off in my late teens (which was in the late 90s, to date myself), but just as my interest in the Marvel Universe never really went away, that juxtaposition of the amazing and the everyday never stopped influencing my understanding of what stories could be. And plus, as an awkward, nerdy, dark-haired white kid with glasses named Peter, I had the dumb-luck privilege of seeing myself reflected in this character who, as much as he struggled, usually did the right thing and outsmarted Doctor freaking Octopus. Not that I was consciously thinking about that at the time, necessarily, but let’s be honest here — it couldn’t possibly have hurt.

Which brings me to point 2. The Spider-Man of my childhood is still important to me, yes, but he’s not necessarily what I’m looking for when I approach the character now. He still exists, of course, in many, many, many old comics, which I could seek out if I wanted. But to me, what’s legitimately fascinating about the Marvel Universe is the way it functions almost as an ecosystem, adapting to, and evolving with, the real world in which its writers and readers / viewers / whatever-ers live in. At this point in my life, that’s what I want: to see how this thing I care about has been interpreted by, presented to, and appreciated by other people, in the time since I’ve drifted away from it. I want to see how other folks find ways of seeing themselves in these characters.

That’s how I’m hoping to approach these reviews, with an eye toward what’s been added to Spider-Man by more recent stories, not what’s been lost. And whether you’re a long-time Spider-Fan or a brand new one, I hope you’ll enjoy reading them.

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