During a recent conversation about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I was asked a really interesting question. Who exactly was the world’s first bona fide superhero?
The immediate answer that springs to mind is the iconic Superman, who debuted just before the Second World War in 1938. However, this is a common misconception, as Superman was superseded by the obscure Mandrake the Magician four years previously in 1934. Mandrake was defined as a superhero thanks to his single special power, which was to “make people believe anything, simply by gesturing hypnotically”.
A slew of other superheroes have since emerged and cast Mandrake in the shadows, including the Marvel staple Spider-Man. But where did this character originate from, and what defined his journey to the latest hit “Spider-Man into the Spider-Verse”.
Spider-Man – A Brief History
Spider-Man was created by the famous writer-editor Stan Lee in collaboration with artist Steve Ditko.
He made his very first appearance August 1962, when he played a starring role in the anthology comic book “Amazing Fantasy Issue 15”. From here, he made the leap to the pages of Marvel Comics, while he has since become the focal point for a number of movies, television shows and video game adaptations that have reached a global audience.
The narrative is built around Spider-Man’s alias Peter Parker, who’s an orphan raised by his Aunt May and Uncle Ben in New York after his parents were killed in a plane crash.
Combining the struggles of adolescence with a number of fictional issues, the story also tells us that Parker’s life changes irrevocably after being bitten by a radioactive spider. This causes him to acquire spider-related abilities, including clinging to surfaces, firing spider-webs from wrist-mounted devices and detecting danger with a sixth sense.
It was from these origins that Spider-Man was born, as Marvel signed off on one its most popular and iconic superheroes.
How has Spider-Man Evolved, and What Does his Future Hold?
In many ways, Spider-Man helped to usher in a brand-new age of modern superheroes, while the character certainly blazed a trail in terms of silver screen adaptations.
There have been seven big screen appearances for the Superhero since 2002, for example, while Marvel have also introduced a number of related characters into the mix during this time.
In this respect, the most recent hit Spider-Man into the Spider-Verse represents the pinnacle of Marvel’s ambitions for the character, as it moves away from Peter Parker as the main focus and instead turns its attentions to Miles Morales.
This young Afro-Latino teenager became the new face of Spider-Man in the Marvel comics in 2011, and he’s firmly established as the hero in the latest vehicle.
Marvel have also continued a recent superhero trend by packing the hit with a host of associated characters, including Spider-Gwen, Spider-Ham, Spider-Man Noir and Peni Parker. These individuals are propelled into Morales’ world by the machinations of Kingpin and Doc Ock, creating some genuinely unique dialogues and numerous opportunities for humour.
Overall, this makes for a compelling narrative that does genuine justice to the iconic Spider-Man character. This also offers an insight into future Spider-Man tales, as we can expect the new characters to become increasingly prominent and crucial to the next generation of the story.