My journey with Spider-man through the 80s and 90s

How i grew up with Spider-man during the eighties and nineties
December 24, 2019
During the late 80s when I was growing up, I loved the Spider-man cartoon. It was the 1981 version and I watched it all the time on TV and taped it in my VHS player as well. The first time I saw it, I was hooked. He had everything a kid could want in a superhero – He has cool powers, a sense of humour and cool villains and supporting cast. And I loved the background music. I can still hear it in my memory. And honestly, I still don’t why this Spider-man cartoon isn’t as acclaimed as the 1960s version or the Spider-man the Animated Series nineties version. I really feel this version is really underrated. My family was living abroad at the time and this is how I was introduced to Spider-Man. We are from India but moved to many places due to my Dad’s job.
Anyway, in this cartoon, his staple girlfriend and damsel in distress was Betty Brant. Honestly, I was shipping these two before the term shipping actually got popular. I had no idea at the time, she was just a minor girlfriend in Spidey’s life. I later saw Spider-man and his Amazing Friends and it had the same art style and music and the older one. There was a love interest here as well, Firestar this time, a new one created for this series. Along with Iceman, it made for a nice love triangle, but never got more than this because it was a kids show. This show was great as well, because this time, Spider-man has friends who like him for who he is and he doesn’t have to face stuff alone.
If anyone ever told me then that once I read the comic book, I would like it more than the cartoons, I would have dismissed it as dumb. However, this is what actually happened. By some strange quirk, just like it happens with superheroes, the first Spider-man comic I read was amazing Spider-man no. 193, which looking back is the perfect issue to get started with his comics. The villain here is the Fly. Looking back, this is the perfect issue to start reading Spider-man. It had everything a Spider-man comic is known for; great action scenes, cool villain (fly to the spider) no less, Spidey’s trademark angst, turmoil in his personal and professional life and Spider-man failing on the job and feeling bad about it. It had all the soap operatic elements one expects in a Spider-man book. And it ends in a cliff hanger, making me anxious to know what happens next. The burglar that shot Spidey’s uncle Ben is back and he is after aunt May this time. It was so exciting for my pre-teen self, that I had to know what happened next. Let me clarify here that this issue was published in the late seventies, and I was born in 1981. I completely forgot the cartoon when I read this comic. All the characters that matter to Spidey appear here. And they interact with him the way readers come to expect. Both Jonah and Robbie are angry at Peter Parker at the Daily Bugle office, for missing an important assignment. Peter Parker can’t even tell the truth, that he was attached to Jonah as Spidey by the villain Smythe. Then we immediately get a cool action scene. Spidey goes to the museum to get this photo job he missed. The fly comes there to steal and a fight starts and I was enjoying every minute of it. The fly even gets away, making it even more exciting. The police initially think Spider-man is the culprit like they usually do. The fly bashes Spidey while claiming he is as strong as Spidey is. A bruised Peter Parker returns home and Mary Jane screams at him over the phone for missing a date. If this wasn’t enough, the married Betty Leeds arrives, and is soon followed by her angry husband, the reporter Ned Leeds who punches Peter. We all discussed this punch as Peter Parker just takes it and falls all the time having the power to give it back. At the time, I didn’t know why she wasn’t with Peter but this new guy Ned I never heard of before. I didn’t even know they broke up in the 60s and Gwen Stacy was his next important girlfriend, who dies and Mary Jane his friend before then becomes his girlfriend.
In 2002, the movie came out, finally. I was so hyped about it, I was going on and on about the movie for almost a year to my family and friends that I sounded like a broken record. And it didn’t disappoint. And to Sam Raimi’s credit, he stuck close to the essence of the comic book, without giving important stuff his own spin, like Tim Burton did with Batman. I didn’t even care that the webbing came from his body, and that Mary Jane was always his neighbour. My favourite Betty appears in just one scene, and Peter tries to be friendly, but she couldn’t be bothered. But I digress.
The sequels followed and naturally I saw each and every one of them when they came out. The second was even better than the first, and resembled the angsty comic better than the first. The third was ok but didn’t thrill me that much in spite of the cool special effects. The Andrew Garfield movies that followed in 2012 and 2014 weren’t really my thing. I could see they were going in a new direction but I couldn’t be bothered even though I saw them because Spidey was in it. These movies seem like an afterthought to me. I could never enjoy them like I enjoyed Raimi’s stuff.
In 2017, the next Spidey, Tom Holland was great but the movie was too superficial, without the serious elements Spidey is usually associated with. I really thought Tom Holland could have been Raimi’s Spider-man because he acts well and looks more like a teenager, though Tobey Maguire did satisfy me with his acting. In the Tom Holland stuff, I don’t like so much technology built in his suit, even though it mirrors the latest tech trends. I always saw Spider-man as this simple hero who didn’t rely on much else but his spider-powers and his determination.
During the 90s and 2000s, I caught up on all the Spider-man comics I missed, through reprints, back issues, Marvel Masterworks collections, Marvel Pocketbooks and other sources. I couldn’t get enough. There is so much good stuff out there. Spider-man is also close to other Marvel heroes like the Fantastic four and the Avengers, so he introduced me to these guys as well.
IN 2005, I got this cool super poseable Spider-man action figure based on the second movie from abroad. It is the most articulate action figure I have ever seen. It could even move the fingers. I liked it so much I hated using it. I stored it in a box and only took it out from time to time to admire it. It even had a cool Daily Bugle ‘Who is Spider-man?’ cover shot on a billboard which Spidey can hang from. I still have it in pristine condition in 2019.
The PS2 Spider-man 2 game from Treyarch that came in 2004 was the best I played up to that point. All the cartoony effects of the previous games were gone, and this is the first free roaming realistic Spider-man fame out there. The previous one based on the first movie was ok but this is the one where you really feel like Spider-man instead of just playing. The Spider-man games that came before around 2001, on different platforms and its sequel Enter Electro were great but this had a more cartoony effect for me.
I got this awesome Spider-man vs Doc Ock Marvel role playing card game in the early 2000s. It had all the characters in it, but honestly, I bothered only with the cards Spider-man appeared in.
I even played the Atari version of Spider-man which originally came in 1982 where you climb building with your webs and encounter the Green Goblin on his glider on top. Yeah, I know it was blocky but it is the first game there was so there was nothing else to compare it to at the time. Spider-man translates great in any media be it films, cartoons, video games, toys and other stuff. I can’t get enough of Spider-man related merchandise. I have to state here that I read other superheroes as well but Spidey is here it is at. The others couldn’t compare to it, Batman is cool but at times too intense for me, Superman is fun and cool but when compared to Spider-man, he lacks personality. And I must say Spider-man has a great personality and sense of humour to boot. He’s not a jerk with a motor mouth. He is a nice guy with a cool sense of humour. That’s how he solves the problems he faces. No one ever finds out the man behind the mask is a quiet, shy and studious man. They think he’s a showboat.
When I went to college to study English literature in the late nineties, Spidey seemed to complement the stuff I was studying. When I was studying irony in Shakespeare, I started noting the ironic bits the writers strewed in the comic books. For example, Aunt May dotes on Peter excessively, but keeps calling Spider-man that nasty old Spider-man with that garish mask. Flash Thompson make Peter’s life hard by bullying him, but he’s the biggest fan Spidey has. He started a fan club and refused to believe Spider-man is bad when all of New York city thought he was. The writers always wink at us, showing stuff the people within the panels don’t even know. Spider-man shares stuff to the reader he doesn’t really share to the people inhabiting the comic book with him.
I loved the cool Spidey poses. Todd McFarlane in the late 80s and early nineties is the best at drawing like an actual spider. Mark Bagley and Erik Larsen were great as well And who could forget the original Spidey artist who also came up with the concept, without whom Spidey couldn’t even exist, the great Steve Ditko.
I know cool stuff about Spidey only his hardcore comic book fans know. Like Jonah Jameson is based on Stan Lee, and Steve Ditko based Spider-man on some parts of his own life.
Now that I’m older, I have to admit I prefer the older Spider-man comics to the new ones on the market. The old ones were better in my opinion, and the new stuff take the characters in directions I’m not even interested in. I don’t like Superior Spider-man all that much. Nor do I like how Spidey becomes rich and owns a company. But I still read the new stuff, as it still is Spidey. As I grew older, my priorities changed, but I still have great memories of the time I loved to follow Spider-man whichever direction he went.
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