Half-way there and today I’m talking about my favourite male character. This is an easy one, and while Odysseus is close, and there are also many superheroes that I love, I can’t look past The Amazing Spider-Man.
In the comic book pantheon I think he’s only really rivaled by Batman and Superman, but I think Spider-Man is a more interesting and tragic character than either of them. At his origin he’s only a teenager who is suddenly thrust into this world, and he has to balance the different aspects of his life. He’s totally filled with angst which I know turns some people off, but as far as I’m concerned the more angst the better.
Part of the reason I love superheroes is because of the exploration of duality, and how their masked identities can reveal truths about their underlying personas. Even though Peter Parker’s life is filled with stress he always puts on that costume and goes out to fight crime, even though it may cause him to miss class or skip out on a date with the love of his life. The burdens he places on himself are incredible and yet he takes them all on and his fortitude is such that no matter how tough the odds are he comes through and survives.
His life is marred with tragedy most notably expressed through the deaths of Uncle Ben and Gwen Stacy, both of which he feels responsible for and carries the guilt for even though they were killed by a random mugger and the Green Goblin respectively. Yet he still goes out and fights crime. He still goes out every night even though the Daily Bugle has a crusade against him and are trying to turn him into a pariah. He still goes and fights crime because it’s the right thing to do. And that’s what I love about Spider-Man the most. He does the right thing because it is the right thing. There’s no epic destiny at play, and it’s existentialist at heart. He’s struggling day by day after being accidentally given his powers, and he makes himself into a hero. It doesn’t come naturally to him, and he could just as easily exploit his powers for wealth and fame (which, in fact, he does seek to do prior to the killing of Uncle Ben). But instead he fashions himself into a crusader and he tries to use the tools he’s been given to the best of his ability.
Spider-Man isn’t a hero simply because he has powers, but because he’s compelled to do the right thing, and most of the time he has to do it alone. He forms himself into a crusader of justice out of the raw materials he was given, yet no matter how successful he is or how many bad guys he puts away the tragedy that drives him will always remain and that’s the core beauty of the character. The origin of Spider-Man wasn’t when he got his powers, it was when Uncle Ben died.
There’s so much that could be written about Spider-Man and there’s not enough space in this blog to fill it all in, I mean I haven’t even touched on his relationship with Aunt May or his rogue’s gallery, or even the moments of doubt like when he gives up the suit, or when he discovers the black suit. There’s a lot of complexity and depth to Spider-Man but it’s the core essence of the character that appeals to me, the way he breaks through his existential angst and commits himself to a purpose.