Spider-man is a fictional comic book hero created in 1962 by the talented and unparalleled Stan Lee. As his legend dictates, Spider-man was first introduced to us as Peter Parker a very intelligent high school geek who one day on a science trip was bitten by a radioactive spider. This miraculous bite forever altered Peter’s DNA and gave him super powers. He was gifted with a spider sense to warn him of impending danger, the proportional strength and speed of a spider, and the ability to cling to and climb up walls like a spider can.
I discovered Spider-man as a teenager. From the moment I began reading my first Spidey comic I was as equally enthralled by the character of Peter Parker as I was by the amazingness of Spider-man. Peter Parker was handsome and witty, quick with a joke and yet intelligent enough to always outsmart his foes. But even more intriguing to me, he was flawed. He made mistakes in every issue. He battled with who he wanted to be and who he felt he had to be. He let people down, he stressed over money and love. But he always picked himself up, dusted himself off and kept going. His internal conflicts and personal flaws took as much of a center stage as his battles with evil super villains.
Growing up I was as flawed as Peter Parker. At 32 years old, I still am. In his own way, he helped me to realize that being flawed is okay. And no amount of truly amazing superpowers would make me any less flawed. Peter Parker had to work every day to succeed at his life. Every day he tried to not only be better, but to forgive himself for not being perfect. He used his gifts, his superpowers, to navigate the world in his own unique way.
Now, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to pick up on the symbolic correlations one could make between superheroes and homosexuals: the secret identities, the leading two lives, the constant struggle of feeling different, and the ever present turmoil of being an outsider simply because of special traits that were thrust upon them without their consent. But for me personally, when I first met Peter Parker, I did not understand that I was gay. So I was not noticing these connections. I just knew that I was young, prone to mistakes, and nowhere near perfect. And so was Peter Parker. And having him around made me feel less alone.
Marvel is constantly reinventing Spider-man. There are new versions of Peter Parker every few years in the comic books. The Amazing Spider-man comic alone has begun back at issue #1 three times throughout its history. Each time attempting to update who Peter is, along with the problems and issues he faces, so that he can be most relatable to the ever changing fans and the most relevant to the times in which he exists. After all, a lot has changed since 1962.
Who knows, maybe one day some reinvention of Peter Parker will make him gay. Now there’s a relatable superpower for today’s new generation of comic book fans. I for one would welcome him into the family with open arms, flaws and all. And that, Gentle Reader, would be truly super.