SPIDER-MAN IS SUCH A LOSER…
And we love him for it.
As the current writer of Marvel's The Amazing Spider-Man, the guy behind the Spider-Verse, it's why I love him. It's why I've always loved him.
Heroes win. It’s what they do. By the end of the story the day’s been saved, the girl’s in their arms, the bad guy shouts "Curses!" as he’s carted off to jail, and everyone cheers! Roll credits.
We’ve all seen that ending a gazillion times. We expect it. At some point it’s our security blanket. But then you leave the theater, switch off the TV, or close your book. And real life is waiting for you. Your horrible, sucky, alarm-didn’t-go-off, just-missed-the-bus, tear-in-your-stockings, someone-took-the-prize-out-of-your-cereal-box life.
Where’s your cheering crowd? Why didn’t you get the girl? That jerk who cut in front of you at the checkout… why didn’t anyone stop him?! Why isn’t he the on shouting "curses" at you as he’s hauled away to the back of the supermarket? WHY ISN’T LIFE FAIR?!
THIS is why Spider-Man is YOUR hero, and mine. He’s not a billionaire playboy. He’s not a double-0 secret agent. He’s that guy you know from down the street. Maybe even that guy you see in the mirror. And just like all of us real people, he screws up. He makes horrible mistakes. Things don’t go his way. But...he keeps on going.
If you always win, then life must be pretty easy for you. That’s boring. And that doesn’t speak to us in the way that Spider-Man does. When Stan Lee & Steve Ditko created him, they broke the mold in so many ways. His powers were weird. He got them in a gross way. He was a kid who was THE hero of the story, NOT the sidekick. And he was such a nerd. He was US. He was ME.
When I first met Spidey, it was the ’67 cartoon version with the swinging "Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can" theme song. Like most kids, I met him as a "superhero" first—in a cool costume—and on our lunchboxes, t-shirt, and toys. Because of that, I just assumed that all of the heroic, always-gonna-win tropes came along with the package of Spider-Man.
And then I actually read my first Marvel comic. And...he kept LOSING! My first issue as a reader was a reprint of Stan Lee & John Romita Sr.’s AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #82. By the end of that story, Spidey got his butt handed to him by Electro—who got away, he was humiliated on national TV, he was out of cash, his costume needed fixing, and he was thinking of giving up the superhero business altogether.
My 8-year-old brain didn’t know how to process this. Batman or Superman would’ve won. What was going on here? But I was captivated by this. Here was a hero who could lose! It made me care about Spidey more than any other hero I’d met before. I anxiously had to read EVERY issue—because I had to know if Spidey COULD win this time. I was nervous for him with the flip of every single page. Anything could happen!
And as the serialized story continued, I watched as he dealt with all of life’s little frustrations and all of its big, heart-breaking tragedies. I was there with Spidey when he failed to save Captain Stacy, there when he lost his beloved Gwen, and there were real tears rolling down my pre-teen face every time.
Life didn’t always go my way—just like it doesn’t always go yours—or the person sitting next to you—or any of the 6 billion or so people on this planet. Or Spider-Man's way. But the next issue, Spider-Man gets back up on his feet—just like WE do. And there’s a heroism in THAT which we all love. Spidey isn’t the hero up on the pedestal. He’s down here with us. With the failed relationships, and hospital visits, and days when the bank account’s running low.
More than any other hero before—or to come—Spidey is US. He loses. He gets back up. He tries again. Sometimes, just like us, he DOES win. And when he does, because it's come after so much real struggle, it’s even more special.
And because of this, he's inspired others to be just like him.
I never thought when I was 8 and picking up my first issue of Spider-Man that I'd one day be the guy writing his story. But I'd like to think it's because of the little bit of Spidey I have in me, that we have in all of us.
Dan Slott is the man behind the Spider-Verse, the current writer of Marvel's 'The Amazing Spider-Man' series (April 2014), the first issue of which Diamond Comics Distributors named as the bestselling comic of the 21st century. His other notable works are 'Avengers: The Initiative', 'The Mighty Avengers', 'Ren & Stimpy', 'She-Hulk', 'The Superior Spider-Man', 'The Thing', and 'Silver Surfer'. He also wrote the story for 2010's 'Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions' video game and continues to pen Spidey's pages from where he resides in - where else? - New York.
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