Remembering Peter Parker: The Importance of the Amazing Spider-Man

Peter Parker is dead! Long live Peter Parker -- for now, at least. In the aftermath of the iconic character's passing, Marvel Comics is banking on a "Superior" version to rise from the ashes of fan ire.

Although current "Superior Spider-Man" writer Dan Slott's status quo-shift is the most current continuity-shaking development in the web-slinger's life, Peter Parker and his readers have undergone a number of similar paradigm shifts in the past 50 years -- including clone sagas, identity crises and deals with the devil.

But no matter what has been done to or with the character, the foundation of Spidey is so strong, he endures. Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's Peter Parker was embraced by readers in a way no other comics character had been before. Sure, you could admire a Bruce Wayne or a Clark Kent, or see shades of yourself in a member of the Fantastic Four, but for sheer relatability and empathy, Peter struck a chord with millions. The level of distress generated by his apparent demise is one illustration of how important he is to lifelong fans, but today, we look at his importance from another perspective.

For me, "Spectacular Spider-Man" #200, which detailed the death of Harry Osborn, was a huge comic in my youth. I used to carry it around as I went on trips, the closest thing I had to an inseparable and cherished childhood memento. The dense psychological nuances that would become a hallmark of J.M. DeMatteis, the issue's writer, were lost on me at the time, but I thrilled to the action beats, the colorful, garish tragedy of it all, and a deep abiding love was born.

Below, CBR News presents memories of some of the hundreds of individuals who have worked with Spider-Man over the last sixty-plus years, as Howard Mackie, Ty Templeton, Mike Zeck, Darick Robertson and more recall some of their time spent with the character, both professionally and as fans.

Mike Zeck

Artist - "Kraven's Last Hunt"

I was a comics fan and collector 50 years ago, and was an immediate fan of the "Amazing Spider-Man" comics and very much influenced by Steve Ditko's art. My dreams of someday working at Marvel started then and were fulfilled some 15 years later. Even in my wildest dreams, though, I didn't foresee being handed a plot for one of the greatest Spidey stories of all time. Reading the DeMatteis plot for "Kraven's Last Hunt," I recognized what was surely one of the greatest Spidey stories ever conceived. Given the long life of the Kraven saga, it's evident that many other readers felt the same way. Very gratifying to see fans still discovering that classic tale via the collected editions which are still available to this day.

Todd Dezago

Writer - "The Sensational Spider-Man"

My favorite Spider-Man memory was, of course, the times I got to meet Stan.

I met Stan twice -- in story meetings with the other Spider-Man writers -- Tom DeFalco, Howard Mackie, and J.M. Dematteis -- at the time.

Back in the mid/late-'90s when we were working on "The Clone Saga," Stan just happened to be in the offices and asked if he could sit in. We were honored and delighted to have him, of course. Earlier, when told that I would be getting a chance to meet "The Man," I admit to a being star struck. My pal and fellow Spidey-writer Tom DeFalco warned me that, though he could remember the name and origin of every single character he created in the Marvel Universe, Stan was bad with people's names. "In the seven and a half years that I was Editor-in-Chief, he always called me Tony. He'd correct himself immediately, 'Tom! I'm sorry, Tom,' he'd say, but it was always Tony."

When we were in the meeting, trying to figure out what to do with Peter and Ben and the whole clone mess, Stan told us, confidentially, that the Spider-Man books were the only ones he still kept up with -- he couldn't possibly read all of the books Marvel was putting out at the time, couldn't keep it all straight -- but he always had a warm place in his heart for Spidey. When Marc DeMatteis asked him, half-jokingly, which book he liked best, Stan said that he really liked the fun and energy in the one where Spidey had just gone to the Savage Land with Ka-Zar and Stegron. I was speechless -- I wrote that!! The other guys kinda glared at me as our editor, Ralph Macchio, told Stan, "That was Todd's book, 'Sensational Spider-Man.' That was a good story!" Stan turned to me -- he was sitting right next to me -- patted me on the back and said, "Good job, Tony!"

Ty Templeton

Writer/Artist - "Spider-Man/Human Torch: I'm With Stupid," "Ultimate Spider-Man"

Spider-Man and I have grown up together. He and I were born in the same month, back in 1962, and he's been part of the fabric of my world since I could walk, talk and read. I love that there's been a version of Spider-Man on TV, the movies and in comics that entire time, and that he's grown up with me. The idea that I get to contribute to the Spider-Man legacy and be a part of this character for the next generation of fans is quite an honor.

Bob McLeod

Artist on various Spider-Man titles

Spider-Man was the first hero I pencilled for Marvel (for "Marvel Team-Up" #86), and he was always my favorite superhero to draw. Some of my favorite Marvel jobs were Spider-Man jobs, both pencilling and inking. I discovered him late, however; I don't think I saw a Spider-Man comic until I entered the business in 1974.

Jeff Parker

Writer - "Spider-Man 1602"
I was pretty big into Spidey as a kid. One of my favorite birthday cakes was a Spider-Man web design. I guess my mom took a comic book to the baker and asked that they do their best. And of course I got a lot of Spider-Man jokes thrown at me because of my last name, so I was always glad I shared a name with a hero I liked. I've heard more people yell my name J. Jonah Jameson style than you can imagine.

Nowadays you can expect your favorite superheroes to turn up everywhere, and in actual good movies, even, but when I was a kid, it wasn't the case. I always got really excited when they'd do one of the Spider-Man skits on "The Electric Company" (a children's show that came on PBS starring young Morgan Freeman)!

Fabian Nicieza

Writer of various Spider-Man comics, including "Spider-Man: The Final Adventure"

Ironically enough, I'm working on a non-comic Spider-Man related project now that has rekindled everything I always loved about the character -- and I've also had the privilege of having written him several times! But to this day, the single most reassured memory I have of Spider-Man is when I was about 7 years old, home sick from school with a nasty flu, and my mom brought home "Amazing Spider-Man" #71 featuring Quicksilver. I devoured that comic, read it a dozen times while I was sick, and to this day, that memory reminds me of why comics can cure all ills!

Marc Guggenheim

Writer - "Amazing Spider-Man"

My first exposure to Spider-Man was through his appearances on a children's TV show called "The Electric Company." It was a live action version of the character and he totally terrified me. I was completely weirded out by Spidey as a kid.

Glenn Greenberg

Writer Various Spider-Man titles, including "Spider-Man: The Osborn Journal"

As a kid, I loved reading Spider-Man stories written by Stan Lee, Roger Stern, Tom DeFalco and J.M. DeMatteis. Back then, I never would have dreamed in a million years that just a decade or so later, I would be working with each of these gentlemen on Spider-Man, in one capacity or another. But the memory that probably stands out above all others is co-writing the three-part "Goblins at the Gate" storyline with Roger Stern for "The Spectacular Spider-Man" # 259-261.

It was Roger's run on "Amazing" in the early '80s that got me reading Spider-Man on a regular basis, and I loved coming back month after month to see what he and John Romita Jr. would do next. It was therefore a privilege and an honor -- as well as a pleasure -- to get to collaborate with Roger on a storyline featuring one of his most significant contributions to the Spider-Man canon, namely the Hobgoblin. Working with Roger made me a better writer. That story was probably the best work I ever did on Spider-Man. It was certainly the most fun I had with the character. The fact that it was so well received -- and was even repackaged in trade paperback not long ago -- is the icing on the cake.

Matthew K. Manning

Writer of Spider-Man: The Ultimate Guide

Over the years, I've had the good fortune to write a few Spider-Man comics, as well as several books on the life of the wall-crawler. One thing that I've always noticed when working on a Spidey project is an emphasis on including a certain level of fun into the storytelling, normally above all else. Spending too much time in the head of Batman, for instance, can be borderline depressing for a writer due to all the doom and gloom he faces on a daily basis. But Spider-Man, who's faced the same amount of tragedy, still finds a way to truly enjoy his life. It's certainly a trait that appealed to me as a child playing with action figures, and now as a comic book writer, it's more than a little refreshing.

Darick Robertson

Artist on a range of stories, including "Spider-Man: The Final Adventure"; Writer "Spider-Man Super Special," "Spider-Man Team Up"

It's funny how early impressions of things can shape your perspectives as you grow. In my case, back in the '70s, I used to think that Spider-Man was a villain!

Now, you might wonder why I thought my friendly neighborhood Spider-Man was a bad guy, just like J. Jonah Jameson at the Daily Bugle proclaimed, but this was a time when my impressions and exposure to comic books were as random as billboards or snippets of TV commercials.

If I got a comic, it was wildly out of continuity for me; some random stack of issues in the middle of an ongoing story, that as a five year old reader, I had no hopes of understanding. My reading skills were limited and those pictures were there to tell me all I needed to know.

I also had my action figures to relate to, but in my Mego collection, I had an almost equal number of villains to heroes. In Batman's world, for example, on the package, the Joker, Riddler and Penguin were equally represented as Batman was. Right there, they were counted amongst the World's Greatest Super-Heroes! But I had the TV show with Adam West to explain who was good and who was bad. On the Mego card, they could easily have been the heroes, too.

So assuming Spidey was a villain wasn't that much of a stretch. That was the allure of the Marvel U, then -- you didn't know which way the heroes could go. The Hulk, for example, was a rampaging monster!

In the case of Spider-Man, it all came down to the first Spider-Man comic I recall trying to read ("Amazing Spider-Man" #130). Now, keep in mind, Spider-Man had no facial expressions, just his mask, so I couldn't understand if he was angry or happy, friendly or mean! I relied heavily on the artwork, to guide me through the story, and I read this incredibly well drawn sequence by Ross Andru.

What I saw then read to me as some guys, potentially good guys for all I knew, reacting in horror as Spider-Man appears! To no avail they do their best to protect themselves. Seeing that guy in the webs in panel five of the first page really scared me. I thought he was dead and that Spider-Man was some sort of monster character. I knew more about actual spiders than I did of Spider-Man at the time, and we all know what happens after a spider webs up his prey! Keep in mind, the other comics I was given at the time were things like "Tales of Suspense" and other such horror and monster comics. The Universal Monsters were very popular in the early '70s -- Wolfman (a name not all that unlike Spider-Man), Creature From the Black Lagoon, Dracula, Frankenstein -- so I had every reason to think this was another horror comic like the ones I'd already seen.

Then Spidey tackles the remaining goon, and again, thinking this was just an average guy going about his job, I see Spidey pin the guy, and proceed to burn the freaking eyes out of his skull and kill him! The poor guy is pleading for his life and Spider-Man just kills him (or so I thought...) I thought "Wow! This Spider-Man is a badass! I wouldn't want to mess with him." The snippets I recalled from the cartoons had J. Jonah Jameson holding up a newspaper and proclaiming him a menace, and I didn't think maybe J. Jonah Jameson was wrong. I mean, he ran the newspaper! Perry White didn't hate Superman, so I figured Spider-Man must be a bad guy!

It's funny how you can misjudge a character when you're reading things out of context. A few years later, I came to the realization, that like most of Manhattan in the Marvel Universe, I had misjudged ol' Webhead and I joined the ranks of the Merry Marvel Marching Society. I began putting my Mego Spider-Man over with the good guys, and soon he was helping Batman defeat the Joker. I also got one of those Spider-mobiles so Batman and Spidey could race! Comic book universe continuity be damned, I was having fun.

After all, wasn't that the point?

Terry Kavanagh

Writer - "Web of Spider-Man"
The best memories I have of working on "Web of Spider-Man" all involve my increasingly animated plot conversations with fellow Spider-Man scribe, Howard Mackie. In the course of our hours of telephone sessions, we'd get more and more excited about how great it would be to frame Peter or kill off Aunt May (as long as there was someone else in Peter's life to ground him), until we suddenly realized one day how this might sound to any government agencies that might be tapping our phones. Because, you know, we were comic book writers who had to consider that probability.

From that moment on, when one of us found ourselves going down those paths, the other considered it his sacred responsibility to voice out loud, "In the fictional Spider-Man universe as a story point, of course; we would never really do such a thing in real life". (Because, you know, that's all it took to deflect suspicion before the days of Homeland Security's rise to power.)

Howard Mackie

Writer on various titles including Peter Parker: Spider-Man and Amazing Spider-Man
I have so many fond memories of the time I spent writing the adventures of Spider-Man. It was a dream job, and I got to work and collaborate with some of the most talented in the business. Back in the day, the Spider-Man writers worked very closely on coordinating the story lines we would pitch to the editors and the other creators. I remember when J.M. DeMatteis came up with the idea for "Amazing Spider-Man" #400, and the incredibly moving story that gave us the death of Aunt May. Marc had discussed the story with me, and I loved it. We knew that it was going to be hard to sell it to the editors, but we were convinced it was the right story to tell. So, when the time game to pitch the story to gathered editors and creators, we did the pitch together.

Well, it was Marc's story, so he narrated his marvelously crafted story. Me? I embellished. I provided special effects (the EKG machine), and whatever other little acting roles were needed -- including Aunt May on her death bed. I take great pride in the small role I played in that story, and still think I was robbed for not getting the Best Supporting Actor Oscar that year. Darn you Kevin Spacey! Or would I have been competing against Mira Sorvino?

Jeff Johnson

Artist - "Amazing Spider-Man"

Peter Parker always did the right thing, no matter how much trouble or pain it would cause him. He never wavered, and that, more than even his fighting super villains, made him a hero to me.

Dan Panosian

Prolific artist across various Spider-Man titles

When I was 14, I sent samples to Marvel. To my surprise, Len Kaminski -- the Submission Editor at the time -- sent me back all sorts of employment information. Pay scales, insurance stuff -- everything! I was so happy, I drew him a picture of Spider-Man saying thank you.

Years later, I was finally at the Marvel offices in New York for the first time and Len, now a series editor, found me in the halls. He brought me to his office and on one of his walls was the drawing I did for him as a kid. I'll never forget that.

Dave Bullock

Artist/Animator for Spider-Man (1994) and The Spectacular Spider-Man (2008)

My first job in TV animation was character designing and storyboarding on Fox's "Spider-Man" 'toon in the early '90s.I was incredibly fortunate to join Producer Bob Richardson's ("Dungeons & Dragons," "Muppet Babies") amazing team of talent as Marvel Films Animation set out to produce 65 episodes of the wall-crawler's exploits. I even got to meet the mighty Stan Lee!

It was a dream come true, living in sunny Venice beach and getting paid to draw Spidey. More than 10 years later, I was afforded the opportunity to direct several episodes of Sony Animation's "Spectacular Spider-Man."

As a youngster, I recall discovering my older brother's stash of Spidey comics. It didn't take long before I was hooked and began confiscating his collection. I loved that Pete dated cute girls, but the thing about Spidey that makes him a fave is his heart. It's in the right place, but that doesn't always result to his benefit. In fact, more often than not, it works against him, but he never stops trying.

Misunderstood, and relentless. I can still relate.

Danny Fingeroth

Group Editor of Marvel's Spider-Man line and writer of "The Deadly Foes of Spider-Man"

If stories have themes or lessons -- and, intentionally or not, they all do -- then many superhero stories involve the hero, directly or indirectly, teaching that lesson to another character and/or the reader. The heroes, Superman or Batman for example, are the experts, the arbiters of how things should be. Spider-Man, on the other hand, is often the character who's learning the lesson, starting with his realization in his origin, that "with great power, there must also come great responsibility." That's not to say Peter Parker is stupid or naïve, but that he retains a sense of wonder about the world, and a desire to understand things. That's a large part of his long-term appeal and what makes him so relatable to so many people.

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