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  1. #1
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    Default What made Spider-Man so popular?

    I'm currently going back and reading the MU from the beginning using a chronological reading list. One thing I've noticed is that while I like reading characters like Thor, Cap, Hulk, Iron Man, the Avengers, etc. right off the bat Spider-Man just became really readable. I always look forward to reading the next issue because the quality is that good. He didn't stumble like some characters did in the beginning. He had good villains and good stories from the get go. But it also could have gone horribly wrong. My question is, what was that X-factor? The reliability? I mean Ditko and Lee, sure. But once you get past them how does the momentum keep going? And I'm curious, how was Spider-Man doing during Chris Claremont's 17 year run on X-Men?

  2. #2
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    I mean, he's just a great character and he has a whole cast around him who are amazing too.

  3. #3
    Astonishing Member Revolutionary_Jack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CTTT View Post
    My question is, what was that X-factor?
    If anyone knew there would be many Spider-Man like successes. The truth is you can't predict or know entirely why Spider-Man succeeded as it did. It captured the zeitgeist.

    I mean Ditko and Lee, sure. But once you get past them how does the momentum keep going?
    The Lee-Romita era in fact sold more than the Lee-Ditko did, and it was in that time that ASM outsold the FF and became the biggest Marvel title.

    And I'm curious, how was Spider-Man doing during Chris Claremont's 17 year run on X-Men?
    According to Michelinie they were mostly second place except for a few issues where they were #1 but overall in terms of sales, the 80s, and 90s are Spider-Man's best selling years.

    Spider-Man's always been Marvel's most consistent title.

  4. #4
    Loony Scott Taylor's Avatar
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    Well, I think you may be overestimating Spider-Man's popularity during the 1960s and 1970s. During that time, the Fantastic Four was the Marvel flagship comic. Not to say Spider-Man was unpopular, but the FF was where it was at. It had a young hero for the college age folks, it had pathos, it had the best writing (seriously go read the early Kirby and Lee run, it is stupendous).

    Part of that is because the FF embodied the Silver Age, maintaining a more family friendly tone which made it safer while still adopting the Marvel ways. Spider-Man was a lot more edgy and almost fringe in those earliest days. During the 1970s things changed over the course of the decade to where American culture started to catch up to Spider-Man and the FF started to become seen as more of a thing of the past.

    It was really during the 1980s when he soared as a character and the FF finally officially fell down to the #2 slot, losing its flagship status. In spite of a short lived Byrne run that was kind of like a last hurrah for them.
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    Astonishing Member Revolutionary_Jack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Taylor View Post
    Well, I think you may be overestimating Spider-Man's popularity during the 1960s and 1970s. During that time, the Fantastic Four was the Marvel flagship comic.
    Until Kirby left, it was. And even then the Lee-Romita run outsold FF and became #1. The 1967 Cartoon likewise made Spider-Man a hit.

    It was really during the 1980s when he soared as a character and the FF finally officially fell down to the #2 slot, losing its flagship status. In spite of a short lived Byrne run that was kind of like a last hurrah for them.
    The FF fell in the 70s after Kirby left and Spider-Man was #1, and then the X-Men became the top team of Marvel, much to John Byrne's anger, since it didn't sit well with him that Claremont's X-Men became THE X-men.

  6. #6
    Astonishing Member Restingvoice's Avatar
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    I enjoy his video games. Even in 16-bit, it's a nice feeling to be able to swing around.
    The enemies are colorful and interesting.
    He has a nice costume design
    His wife's sexy and he has a good marriage life

    Oh... the original comics? Since I read it way after I know him... I notice something I don't like more than what I like.
    What I don't like was the melodrama. When Peter cried when he thought he couldn't do any good while at the same time in a different place, the people he helped were being very appreciative.
    Other than that, it holds about the same appeal as the cartoon and games, with these later ones having the benefit of better graphics and in case of games, interactivity.

    But if I have to pick one reason why I enjoy him it's the swinging, and it's not surprising for a kid to like the swinging aspect.

  7. #7
    Incredible Member Ozymandias's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CTTT View Post
    I'm currently going back and reading the MU from the beginning using a chronological reading list. One thing I've noticed is that while I like reading characters like Thor, Cap, Hulk, Iron Man, the Avengers, etc. right off the bat Spider-Man just became really readable. I always look forward to reading the next issue because the quality is that good. He didn't stumble like some characters did in the beginning. He had good villains and good stories from the get go. But it also could have gone horribly wrong. My question is, what was that X-factor? The reliability? I mean Ditko and Lee, sure. But once you get past them how does the momentum keep going? And I'm curious, how was Spider-Man doing during Chris Claremont's 17 year run on X-Men?
    I'm doing the exact same thing and I basically cross my fingers for the next comic to be a Ditko or a Kirby; whenever it's not it invariable turns out to be a drag. I'm guessing we use the same reading order, which means that you'll be used to their rating system, so just let me tell you that, so far, I haven't read anything from anyone else that merits more than one star at best.

    Spider-Man's case is even more noticeable. Whereas some of the early FF issues fall into the "bad" category (as well as many early Kirby works), Ditko fares better and ASM in particular never gets below two stars, from issue three onward. The reason IMO would be that Ditko did a better job, this can be seen particularly when looking at the time it took Kirby to polish his creations as opposed to Spider-Man, which was a finished product from day one. Everything surrounding the character was also equally cared for: supporting cast, villains, relationships, work, home... and there was a real integration into the MU, something which didn't happen in other titles.

  8. #8
    Extraordinary Member Celgress's Avatar
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    Relatability - Peter isn't a billionaire playboy, an alien from another world, or a legendary war hero, he is like us (genius-level intellect aside, which he grows into only over time). His problems are our problems (making ends meet, looking after a sick family member, juggling professional and personal responsibilities, fitting in). He stumbles into being a hero. He isn't a hero by intention rather he becomes one by several accidents of fate.
    Last edited by Celgress; 01-11-2020 at 07:34 PM.
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  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Celgress View Post
    Relatability - Peter isn't a billionaire playboy, an alien from another world, or a legendary war hero, he is like us (genius-level intellect aside, which he grows into only over time). His problems are our problems (making ends meet, looking after a sick family member, juggling professional and personal responsibilities, fitting in). He stumbles into being a hero. He isn't a hero by intention rather he becomes one by several accidents of fate.
    Exactly this. Word for word^

  10. #10
    Fantastic Member Lindsey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Celgress View Post
    Relatability - Peter isn't a billionaire playboy, an alien from another world, or a legendary war hero, he is like us (genius-level intellect aside, which he grows into only over time). His problems are our problems (making ends meet, looking after a sick family member, juggling professional and personal responsibilities, fitting in). He stumbles into being a hero. He isn't a hero by intention rather he becomes one by several accidents of fate.
    If there was a like button on CBR, I would be smashing it on this post.

  11. #11
    Incredible Member Ozymandias's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Celgress View Post
    Relatability - Peter isn't a billionaire playboy, an alien from another world, or a legendary war hero, he is like us (genius-level intellect aside, which he grows into only over time). His problems are our problems (making ends meet, looking after a sick family member, juggling professional and personal responsibilities, fitting in). He stumbles into being a hero. He isn't a hero by intention rather he becomes one by several accidents of fate.
    At this point, I think it'd be useful to make a distinction between the initial success and that of the Romita-Lee tandem.

    With Ditko, everything felt more real than average, for a Silver Age mag, and this was true to both Peter Parker as well as his alter ego. Spider-Man had a much better rogues gallery than anyone else and his power set, made for more interesting action sequences. Despite his replacement lowering the quality, the title rose in sales. Peter moved to a nondescript pad and his academic life lost weight, while Spider-Man inconsistently faced old enemies and a few new tier 2 menaces.

    How come people liked it better? It looks like him being more handsome, socializing after school hours and being in a love triangle, made up for the shortcomings.

  12. #12
    Astonishing Member Revolutionary_Jack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ozymandias View Post
    At this point, I think it'd be useful to make a distinction between the initial success and that of the Romita-Lee tandem.

    With Ditko, everything felt more real than average, for a Silver Age mag, and this was true to both Peter Parker as well as his alter ego. Spider-Man had a much better rogues gallery than anyone else and his power set, made for more interesting action sequences. Despite his replacement lowering the quality, the title rose in sales. Peter moved to a nondescript pad and his academic life lost weight, while Spider-Man inconsistently faced old enemies and a few new tier 2 menaces.

    How come people liked it better? It looks like him being more handsome, socializing after school hours and being in a love triangle, made up for the shortcomings.
    Yeah. Relatability, as well as relatable, are not even words. That's why there's red lines whenever you type it in the message boxes. It's marketing lingo that has unfortunately seeped into lexicon. And it's hard to impossible to quantify what makes a character someone everyone in the audience can identify with.

    With Spider-Man, he became a success and then people invented reasons for that success. I am not saying that he didn't deserve it or earn it, just there are plenty of great comics and stories with characters that are easier to relate to than Peter which don't get that success. If you interrogate the idea that the reason Spider-Man succeeded is that he was more grounded and personable than Batman and Superman at the time, and he was someone who appealed more readily to readers, I think it falls apart.
    -- Is Spider-Man easier to relate to than Ben Grimm, who is ugly, deformed, has low self-esteem. In terms of Spider-Man's powers giving him problems, I think he loses that misery poker to Ben Grimm, and for that matter Hulk, or even Cyclops of the X-Men (who was created at the time) and Daredevil.
    -- Spider-Man is a teenager and a young person's superhero but the Lee-Ditko era spent most of its time with Peter at the Bugle and very little at high school. That applies to college era Spider-Man as well. It wasn't until USM that Spider-Man had a kind of believable high school environment and even then Peter had a high school life that saw him date the three prettiest girls at school and somehow not be the BMOC that he would otherwise be.
    -- The X-Men have always had more of a sense of being at school than Spider-Man ever has. And the Uncanny X-Men was Marvel's biggest success in the years of its highest readership and people identified with the X-Men more than they did Spider-Man in the sense of being an outsider, being targeted and abused and so on.
    -- Even today, Spider-Man doesn't have things as bad as other Marvel heroes...Hank Pym, not Peter Parker is Marvel's biggest loser and always will be, Daredevil has buried umpteen dead girlfriends whereas Peter has just the one. The X-Men experience persecution on levels that make Peter's problems laughable. Jessica Jones ditto. Peter will never get so poor as to be chased out of New York so in terms of money woes, he's not got it too bad.


    Spider-Man represents a bunch of stuff. And there's a lot of reasons for why he succeeded. The primal and essential reason could be that he has a cool set of powers. I know a lot of people who bought and played Spider-Man PS4 and didn't touch the story and basically just played the sandbox to go web-swinging around NY. People discount or otherwise underrate that at heart Spider-Man is as much an escapist and pure power fantasy as Superman and Batman and that this informs the core of his appeal as a character Superman is about being the most powerful man behind specs of glasses, Batman is about having all the tools all the time and and all the money, Spider-Man is about having a cool costume, mask, and swinging across the city and crawling walls.

    Joe Quesada once said that Peter Parker would succeed even if he didn't have powers and costume he did. Coming from a guy who started out as an artist, that struck me as almost blasphemous and laughably inaccurate. I know first hand that my three year old nephew who's too young and small to read and understand the actual Spider-Man stories, plays with Spider-Man toys and action figures because he likes the costume and look. A lot of people like Spider-Man before they know he's Peter Parker, and to the extent people find Spider-Man fun it's not because they like seeing Peter whine and complain about his choice hot girlfriends, his rent, or his old aunt...it's because he's got a fun costume, he swings across the city in broad daylight so you can see the colors, and his acrobatic movements are delightful to watch and fun to daydream about.

  13. #13
    Incredible Member Ozymandias's Avatar
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    I've no idea which one of the two halves had a bigger influence on the audience, so I'll leave it at an even 50/50 split. That way, I won't be too far from the truth.

    On the marketing side of things, I'd go with the power-set, which was rich as devised by Ditko and dilapidated by following creative teams. Off the top of my head, I'd give an honorific mention to the Stern-Romita Jr. team. as perfect example of what should've been the rule, instead of the exception.

  14. #14
    Extraordinary Member Celgress's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HeavenlyDemonic View Post
    Exactly this. Word for word^
    I forget that (in my original post) Peter was also the first teenaged or young superhero (which I'm sure helped give him youth appeal during the Baby Boom generation).
    Last edited by Celgress; 01-12-2020 at 11:33 AM.
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  15. #15
    Incredible Member Ozymandias's Avatar
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    Johnny got his own mag first, but apparently sales didn't back him up.

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