<i>By <a href=http://twitter.com/sizzlerkistler>Alan Kistler, Newsarama Contributor</a></i> <p>He appeared in the last issue of a canceled magazine called <i>Amazing Fantasy</i>. He broke lots of rules about superheroes. He wasn't rich, didn't have a lair, tried to use his powers to earn money first, was motivated by guilt rather than altruism or revenge, was often hunted by the same people he helped, and he had the gall to be a teenager who was his own hero rather than a sidekick or mascot with the word "boy" or "kid" in his alias. And today, it almost seems strange to think of a comic book universe that existed before him. <p>Created in 1962 by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee, Peter Parker was a teenager with an incredible talent for science. Although he was funny and handsome, his interests in studies rather than sports made him a "nerd" in high school. One day, Peter attended a demonstration in radiation and particle accelerators and wound up bitten by a spider that had apparently been mutated by the experiments. The spider's radically altered venom coursed through his bloodstream, altering his biology. Within hours, Peter was powerful. He could leap 30 feet straight up into the air, cling to any surface by simple force of will, bench press several tons, and detect oncoming danger. His reflexes actually let him dodge bullets (with enough distance) and he was now agile enough to even balance on a single finger without difficulty. He had gained the "proportionate speed, strength and agility of a spider." <p>Initially, Peter tried to earn money off of his new powers by becoming the amazing Spider-Man, a costumed stunt performer. But when he arrogantly decided NOT to stop a robbery happening in front of him, karma came calling. Days later, the same criminal killed Peter's Uncle Ben during a botched burglary attempt. Realizing that his own apathy had caused this and that his great power came with great responsibility, Peter changed the direction of his life and began a career as a vigilante. While the Fantastic Four protected Earth from cosmic menaces and the Avengers fought gods and time traveling terrorists, Spider-Man fought these kinds of villains but also made a point to patrol the streets every day, hunting down thieves, gangsters, killers, rapists and anyone else that tried to escape the law. He's feared by the criminals of New York and loved by the fans of Marvel Comics and now he has a new title coming out, <b>The Avenging Spider-Man</b>. <p>So if you're picking up the first issue of this new series but aren't too familiar with Spidey outside of video games and movies, here are some things you may want to know about the wall-crawler and his history. <p><i>Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's <a href=http://www.facebook.com/Newsarama><b>FACEBOOK</b></a> and <a href=http://twitter.com/newsarama><b>TWITTER</b></a>!</i> <p>
When he first got his powers, Peter decided to test them out (and earn some cash) by entering a contest to take on a professional wrestler named Crusher Hogan. He threw on a webbed-netting mask and some old clothes and shocked everyone by easily taking down the larger wrestler and lifting him like a paper doll. As he counted his winnings, a TV agent named Max approached Peter with the idea of taking his powers on the road. People would love to see someone doing seemingly impossible things and the secret identity angle would be great for publicity he just needed a flashier look for TV audiences. <p>And so Peter put together his flashy costume, called himself Spider-Man, and began doing stunts on late night TV talk shows and specials. He'd lift a car in front of a live audience or display fantastic dexterity and agility, or climb walls and ceilings without any aid. People weren't sure if he had powers or was a clever illusionist and Spidey spent a few months living it up until the night he was leaving the studio and let a thief get past him. He was a star now, not a security guard. <p>Too bad the same thief turned up again days later, killing Spidey's uncle in a botched robbery...
OK, Spider-Man doesn't get message from spirits or see images of the future. But he's definitely got a sixth sense. When Spidey gave up the TV career and began the dangerous life of a crime-fighter, he realized that he had some kind of extra sense that warned him of threats coming his way. This "danger-sense" or "Spider-Sense" would begin with a tingle in the back of his head, nudging him to know what direction the threat was coming from and how severe the threat was. If an attack was immediately coming towards him, the tingle would be a much harsher buzzing in Spidey's brain and his superhuman reflexes would force him to duck, jump or move in whatever way was necessary to avoid the danger. <P>As said before, this isn't exactly what folks often think of as psychic. If Peter passes by a man with a concealed, loaded gun, he will feel a buzzing in his brain indicating this person is dangerous but he will have no idea why the person is a danger. Likewise, if he has a sensation that he needs to duck or else get clobbered, he can do that but he won't necessarily know if doing so will force him to become a target for another enemy who hasn't made a move yet. If Spidey needs to, he can force himself to ignore his Spider-Sense and take the hit. <p>All in all, it's been a pretty handy power to have over the years. Combined with his incredible agility, it's allowed Spidey to avoid many lethal attacks and has gained him the reputation of being "nearly untouchable" and practically impossible to stalk and follow.
Peter isn't just a guy with powers. He's freaking smart and builds stuff! As Spider-Man, he regularly uses his web-shooters, that are fueled by his own specially designed web fluid. He has also, since he was a teenager, used "spider-tracers," electronic homing devices that are set to give off a signal that his Spider-Sense can lock onto and follow, allowing him to track enemies. He's developed various chemical weapons and electronic equipment over the years which has allowed him to defeat enemies more powerful than himself. And his scientific know-how has also allowed him to perceive weak points in the weaponry his enemies use. <p>When fighting the electricity-controlling Electro, he made special non-conductive webbing and constructed a new rubber-armored suit. When stealth was an issue, he built a uniform that made him invisible and canceled out his sound. <p>This talent in chemistry and electronics has also helped him professionally. As a scientist currently working at Horizon Labs, Peter Parker has often devised new technologies with commercial applications, inspired by the weapons and devices he's had to use as Spider-Man. From the beginning, this is a hero who uses his head as much as his fists.
Forget what the Sam Raimi movies told you about Spidey's web-shooters being part of his superpowers. When Peter decided he was going to become a TV stunt performer, he built mechanical web-shooters to help enhance his act. These devices fit underneath his gloves and clamped around his wrists. A trigger hidden in the palm could be activated by Spider-Man's superhumanly nimble fingers, firing the web. The same spider-dexterity allowed Peter to adjust the nozzle instantly, altering the way the webbing would emerge. The three basic settings allowed Peter to fire out either a thin web-line, a wide net, or a paste that could be used to ensnare an opponent or quickly molded to form solid objects, such as web-bats, web-glider wings or web-shields. <p>Of course, there is a limited supply of web fluid each shooter can hold. A good chunk of Peter Parker's income is spent on the chemicals he needs to buy to make more web-fluid. Spidey also wears a belt of extra web-fluid cartridges that fits nicely underneath his shirt. <p>A couple of later stories said that he had actually designed this complex polymer as a younger man. He had hoped to make money off of this new super-glue that hardened almost instantly and could hold a few tons of weight, but gave up because the formula always dissolved into dust after about an hour or so. When he became Spider-Man later, he altered the polymer to look more like webbing and figure it was perfect. If he wound up webbing up someone or ensnaring an object, he wouldn't have to worry about freeing them later because the webs would turn into dust soon enough which is why there aren't web-lines hanging off of every building in New York City.
Until recently, Peter earned most of his income by being a freelance photographer. Many times, he'd set up a camera right before throwing himself into a fight against criminals and super-villains, photographing himself in action and then later selling the pics to The Daily Bugle. Because if (now former) Bugle publisher J. Jonah Jameson insists on making money by calling Spidey a freak and a menace, the wall-crawling hero may as well get a piece of that action. <p>But how exactly does Spidey ensure that these photos come out? Does he just web a camera to a wall and put it on "automatic"? Nope. Peter has thought this out a little more thoroughly. Our boy has built himself an electronic trigger sensor hidden in his belt and sewn into the back of his costume. Whenever this sensor passes in front of the camera lens, the signal is detected and the camera immediately takes a few shots. Of course, this doesn't mean that every photo is going to be golden. Some might have Spidey blocking the enemy he's fighting or the zoom might be off or there might be interference due to light reflecting off a nearby window. But this strategy definitely improves the odds of some great action shots that Peter can later sell, grinning as the guy who hates Spider-Man so much also gives him a paycheck.
Recently, Spidey temporarily lost his Spider-Sense. This left him pretty vulnerable, as he'd become seriously reliant on it during battles. When you know that your body and brain will force you to dodge just about any attack coming your way, you don't think you need to pay attention to things like peripheral vision or the sound of footsteps coming from behind you. <p>He still had superhuman strength, speed and agility, but so do a lot of supervillains. So to make sure he didn't wind up a smear on the pavement, Spidey recruited a little help form Shang-Chi, one of the best fighters on Earth. For the past few months, Shang-Chi has helped Spider-Man, training him to be effective without the use of his Spider-Sense. To make sure their training would be effective, Shang-Chi forced Peter to wear a "power inhibitor" collar that shut down his incredible strength and speed during their sparring sessions. Thanks to this, Spidey is now developing a new fighting style, one that combines his powers with ancient martial arts and makes him even more formidable against enemies who might have greater raw power.
You may know that Peter was raised by his relatives Ben and May Parker. But did you know that his parents Richard and Mary Parker were field agents for the CIA? No lie, folks! <p>When Peter was 6, his parents (who frequently traveled for work) left the boy with his aunt and uncle in Queens, New York. But this time, their plane went down and they died. Peter was told it was simply mechanical failure and it wasn't until he was in college that he learned more details. His parents had been spies and, in the wreckage of the plane crash, the police had found evidence that they had been selling state secrets to foreign powers. Unable to accept that his parents might have been traitors, Spidey went to Europe and investigated the last trip Richard and Mary Parker had made. He found out that the Parker had been double-agents for the CIA, only pretending to betray their country while actually gathering information on threats to the U.S. But the person they were gathering evidence on was the sinister Red Skull. When the Skull learned of this betrayal, he arranged for the Parkers to die in a plane crash and ensured that the police would find incriminating evidence, knowing that the CIA would not openly acknowledge the activities of its spies, leaving the family and friends of Richard and Mary to think the worst of them. <p>Since Spidey discovered this and proved to the public that his parents were actually really cool heroes, we've occasionally gotten glimpses at the past adventures of Richard and Mary Parker. It turns out that they worked for Nick Fury, the later director of S.H.I.E.L.D. who has been showing up in films such as <i>Iron Man</i>, <i>Thor</i> and <i>Captain America: The First Avenger</i>. And during one mission, Richard and Mary Parker saved the life of Canadian secret agent Logan better known as Wolverine by rescuing him from the terrorist cult known as Hydra.
I'm not going to go into major detail with this if you want more information, look up a story called "One More Day." The basics you should know in this matter are this: In the late 1980s, Marvel Comics married off Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson. In the comics, Peter and MJ met during college (right before Peter began dating his first serious love, Gwen Stacy). The two had a flirtatious relationship that evolved into one of best friends. A frequent romantic interest, Mary Jane even revealed to Peter that she had accidentally learned he was Spider-Man before they had actually met and so she became his close confidant. They were married for many years, though separated on a couple of occasions. <p>But a few years back, it was decided that Spidey worked better as a single guy struggling to find romance while balancing his personal life with his superhero activities. Whether you agree with that or not, it led to a story where reality was slightly adjusted. As far as history and Spider-Man himself are now concerned, he and Mary Jane lived together for many years but were never actually married and later she broke up with him, convinced that she simply had no future with a superhero. Since then, Spidey has tried dating again and now has a new girlfriend, Carlie Cooper, a forensic scientist for the NYPD. But with Mary Jane back in New York and hanging out with Peter again, are things really over between them?
For many years, Spider-Man was a solo hero. Yes, he frequently teamed-up with everyone from Thor to Daredevil to Captain America to Ghost Rider, but whenever team opportunities came up it never seemed to work out. Spidey turned down chances to join the X-Men and was rejected when he asked to join the Fantastic Four. At different times, he either asked to join the Avengers and was turned down or was asked and decided for different reasons that he wasn't really a team player. <p>But all of that is in the past. Today, Spidey not only has to balance his life between his job as a research scientist and being a superhero who regularly patrols New York City, but he's also been working with the Avengers for a few years now and is a part of the Future Foundation (a larger group started by the Fantastic Four). If Peter finds himself facing an enemy or situation that's just a little too hot to handle, he's not got several super-powered friends on speed dial.
Perhaps the biggest quality you should know about Spider-Man if you're not familiar with his comics is that he is funny. Heck, he's downright hilarious. Yes, he's suffered tragedy and loss. Yes, he's sometimes hunted and hounded and there are times when he gets frustrated and depressed with his life and how things never seem to fully work out for him. But after a day or two of being down, Peter always gets up again. Being Spidey began as a way of acknowledging his responsibility to the world but it also became something that our hero has admitted is very fun. Even when it's caused problems for his personal life, Spidey has shown that he loves the strange, impossible things he sees in life and that there's a freedom in his powers and in being able to let your true self shine through the power of a mask. <p>J. Jonah Jameson called him a criminal? Spidey's solution was to leave a web-puddle on the guy's chair, causing a serious pants tearing incident later. Dr. Octopus demanded that Spidey unmask in Times Square or else people would die? No problem. Spidey unmasked all right... but he had another mask underneath. D'oh! Loki, god of mischief, brother of Thor, asks Spider-Man to show him the delicacies and cuisines of New York City? Fine. Spider-Man takes him out for a hot dog. 'Cuz that's how he rolls. <p>So forget about Tobey Maguire's strange habit of crying in every Spider-Man film. The webhead is a guy who, when faced with a world conquering villain who claims to be omnipotent, will nod and then make fun of the criminal's clothes. And then hit him.