Saturday, April 3, 2010

"I'm out of Web Fluid!" and other reasons why he's the best super-hero

A few days ago I trapped a defenseless young damsel in the corner of a comic store and attacked her with a question of dire importance:

"Who's your favorite Super-Hero?"

She looked around the piles of nerdity as if the answer lay within the 500$ buck naked beast limited edition bust.

"Well...I...Um..." she said

"The answer is Spider-Man"

"Really?" she said disbelievingly.

I bet you're disagreeing with me right now.

For the sake of brevity, I'll tackle the wall crawler's two biggest contenders in the solo super biz. Forget the team based titles.

Superman is THE Super-Hero. He can do anything. He only has one weakness. He is a god. This leads to a lot of interesting meditations on the impossibility of helping everyone that needs it, but that's not enough to keep my interest. If you have everything, life becomes dull. He's the Super-Hero you would WANT to be, but not the one you want to watch. It's like playing a video game on GOD mode - fun for five minutes - and then tedious.

Batman is the super athletic, super rich, super smart, super everything BUT he doesn't have any super-powers. That's what makes him cool. He could be me or you!

Doesn't mean I want to hang out with him.

Batman is like that kids in school that has everything: Good at sports, scores tests well above everyone else, and is anti-social to boot. I appreciate the guy, but he's so goddamn dour I stopped inviting him to parties in the 11th grade. Yea, sure, he knows how to defeat Superman, bravo for him! How am I supposed to relate to the guy if we have nothing in common at all? He's a sociopath that's so bent on achieving his mission he's no damn fun.

"An that's why those two characters CAN'T be the best"

The girl raised an dangerously inquisitive eyebrow.

"So what makes everyone's favorite neighborhood web-head so hot?" she said.

Spider-Man is the everyman super-hero. He's smart, but he's never arrogant about it. He makes mistakes and is continually trying to juggle all his responsibility versus having to defeat Dock Ock at the Science fair. Batman has no pressing responsibility other than looking rich. Neither does Superman (Other than the "Being so powerful is hard!" routine).

Peter Parker was never the cool kid. He was the nerd who could talk back, but usually kept to himself. He has difficulty paying the bills (as a photographer) and he's constantly swearing that he's going to quit being Spider-Man.

But he can't.
He doesn't fight crime out of spite, even though his Uncle was killed by a robber, but out of the fact that if he can help, he must. "With great power with great responsibility" is repeated continually and it's moral quandry that Spidey deals with all the time.

Spider-Man has super-powers, but they're based within the preset limits of basic physics. If he's not careful he will get hurt. He's strong, but not super-strong, he can be cut. He's warned of danger, but it's not a foolproof system. He can figure something out, but it won't be arrogantly kept under wraps Sherlock Holmes style till the last possible second. Spider-Man's powers give him leeway that Batman does not have.

Most importantly: Spider-Man has a sense of humor about what he does. He talks NON-STOP when he fights. Some of it is funny, some of it is annoying, but it's what makes him easy to relate too. He's scared when he fights and the only thing that keeps him sane is by being a chatterbox. It drives the villains nuts, but makes him a super-hero that seems human.

Everyone gets something different out of the cape crowd. Some people just want to see impossible four color fights with zero depth. Others want to feel smart with a character that achieves so much through hard work and skill. I personally enjoy Super-Heroes that are human, but still have powers that affect their daily life. Spider-Man gives me the raw action I want coupled with enough humanity to keep me coming back.

I like Superman, I like Batman, but I love Spider-Man.

"I still don't buy it" the girl said "You bring up a lot of points, but what about Wolverine. HE IS, LIKE THE COOLEST GUY EVER! He has these wicked claws, and he's an ANTI-HERO and..."

I didn't know I could run so fast.

NOTE: For me, the definitive incarnation of Spider-Man's is original run by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee. Everything I've discussed above can be found in that collection of amazing fantasy. While I like elements of the film version of Spider-Man (especially the second one) I still have a lot of beefs: Tobey Maguire has zero charmisma as Peter Parker. Where did the humor and Spider wit go? Organic web-shooters is good for a gag, but cuts down the dramatic device of using his web. Cartoon wise, ditch the Ralph Bakshi one frame a second version and check out Fox Kids SPIDER-MAN and the brilliant THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER MAN cartoon.

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