On May 3, 2002, shortly after my fifth birthday, a new movie hit theaters that changed my life forever. That movie was Spider-Man, the first movie in Sam Raimi's action-packed trilogy. Before that film, I had little interest in superhero movies in general. X-Men had come out a few years prior, but I was too young to really understand anything in the movie. However, when Tobey Maguire donned the classic red and blue suit, I was fascinated.
After watching Spider-Man save Mary Jane and take down the evil Green Goblin, I became obsessed with the superhero persona. I acquired my own Spidey suit and web-launcher (it was actually a Spider-Man brand wrist-mounted silly-string shooter, but you know, same thing) and ran around the house, fighting crime wherever I could find it. And with the imagination of a small child, there were criminals everywhere for me to fight.
This continued for several years, with Halloweens full of Spidey masks and adamantium claws (yes, I went as Wolverine one year). Even when I wasn't suited up, I had my head stuffed in Spider-Man coloring books, or my hands carefully assembling Spider-Man Lego sets. Even when the Eric Bana Hulk movie came out and I was introduced to a new kind of hero, I stayed loyal to the wall-crawler.
To me, Spider-Man represented the perfect hero. He started out as the odd, nerdy teenager with a crush on a pretty girl. Instead of a scientific genius or a genetically-superior mutant, Peter Parker was just a normal high-school kid. His biggest worry consisted of surviving the local bully long enough to return home to his aunt and uncle.
After getting his powers, he did what we would all do with web-slinging abilities. He climbed up to a roof and started making a fool of himself.
However, the most memorable moment of the film wasn't that hilarious rooftop scene, nor was it even the final battle with the Green Goblin. It was that one incredible quote that changed the way thousands of fans looked at superheroes.
That was the best possible message to give to children, that being a superhero doesn't mean that you can just prance around without a care in the world. It was that moment where I realized that Spider-Man had a duty to the community to use his skills for a purpose.
From then on, I had a new respect for Spider-Man. Every purse-snatcher he strung up, every bank robber he chased down, it was all to do what was right. He didn't care about recognition. In fact, most of the recognition he got at the start was negative, thanks to J. Jonah Jameson and the folks at the Daily Bugle. He simply did the right thing because it was his responsibility to do so.
That's what makes a hero a hero. Responsibility.
I certainly wasn't the only one who idolized Spider-Man throughout my childhood. Sam Raimi's trilogy spawned a massive amount of fans, as was apparent through day-to-day life. Every trip to the store was another kid wearing a Spidey hoodie. Every video game with my friends always ended in shenanigans with Spider-Man 2 for the Nintendo Gamecube. Every Halloween brought out legions of masked web-slingers. Every second of every day was another moment for another Spidey fan to make themselves known.
After the 2004 Spider-Man 2 and the 2007 Spider-Man 3, Spidey was everywhere. From video games and cartoons to Nerf footballs and backpacks, you could see his trademark mask and logo plastered on basically every consumer product the mind could think of. I think I still even have my old Spider-Man bed-sheets from my childhood stashed somewhere.
Even after Raimi's trilogy, more and more kids fell in love with Spider-Man, thanks to the Andrew Garfield-led reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man. After the bad taste that fans got from Spider-Man 3, we were introduced to a brand new interpretation of the character. Peter Parker came off as nerdier and more awkward than Tobey Maguire's Peter, and it was like being introduced to the character all over again.
Along with a new Spider-Man movie came a new wave of Spider-Man merchandise, but this time with a more modern twist. Mobile games, Pop! Funko figures, and even Spider-Man edition Beats by Dr. Dre headphones flooded the market, and you can bet that the demand met the supply. A whole new wave of youngsters sporting red and blue ushered in a new era of our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, and you can bet with Tom Holland's new Spidey joining the Avengers, we can expect all of this to happen yet again.
Nowadays, I watch superhero movies religiously. The second a new Avengers, X-Men, or Batman movie comes out, I make plans to see the earliest possible screenings. But with every Dark Knight, Guardians of the Galaxy, or Thor, I think back to my childhood, to the days when Spider-Man started it all.