Spider-Man’s classic costume is a key component of the character’s appeal, regardless of race, gender and nationality: almost anyone can imagine themselves behind the mask.
NEW YORK — A passion for Spider-Man is in Tyler Scott Hoover’s blood — but not because he was bitten by an irradiated arachnid. His father collected Marvel comic books from the 1970s that featured the character.
“He sent me a ton of comics,” says Hoover, 32, of Glen Burnie, Maryland. “It kind of makes it almost like a religion. It would have been hard for me not to be a Spider-Man fan.
There are legions of fans of Spider-Man, who this month marks 60 years in the vast, fictional world of comic books, movies and merchandise. Among those fans are devotees like Hoover, a professional Spider-Man cosplayer and model who bears no resemblance to the longstanding “canon” presentation of the character. However, in the cinematic and comic universes, A Black Spider-Man Now it’s reality.
Hoover is biracial — of black and white descent — and stands at 6 feet 2 inches. And his likability story illustrates an important point about New York City’s favorite superpowered wall crawler: The character’s appeal long ago extended beyond his original iteration as a white, uncouth, orphaned teenager.
The Spider-Man character’s classic costume, complete with wide-eyed and web-patterned mask, is an important component of the character’s appeal across race, gender, and nationality. Almost anyone can imagine themselves as the everyman behind it—an understated smartypants who becomes a force for good after a quick transformation into head-to-toe spandex.
“As I got older, slowly but surely, I saw how relatable the character was,” Hoover says. “They had to work through their struggles while still maintaining a secret identity and doing good for people. That kind of moral compass is powerful, especially for an impressionable mind.
More importantly, Hoover says, Spider-Man’s struggle to protect his hometown is what makes the character more believable than superheroes whose origin stories involve wealth and influence. No coincidence, of course, that he refers to himself as “your friendly neighbor Spider-Man”.
Created by the late Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, Spider-Man appeared in comics as early as June 1962, although his first appearance in Marvel’s Amazing Fantasy #15 is dated August 10, 1962. Peter Parker, a high school student bitten by a spider in a science experiment develops superhuman strength, the ability to cling to solid surfaces and rapid reflexes with the ability to sense and anticipate danger. What did
But on his journey to become a superhero, Parker fails to stop a thief who kills his uncle, leaving his adoptive aunt a widow. The character then tries to honor the words written at the end of that first issue, later attributed to his uncle: “With great power, must come great responsibility.”
Ethnically and culturally diverse superheroes, generally absent from the mainstream comics scene during its first decades, began to emerge in the years following Spider-Man’s debut, particularly at Marvel.
In 1966, Black Panther, also known as Prince T’Challa of the African nation of Wakanda, became the first black Marvel comic superhero. Debuting in the 1970s were characters such as Storm, the mutant goddess best known as a member of Marvel’s X-Men. Luke Cage, Marvel’s first imprisoned Black Harlemite with superhuman strength and nearly impenetrable skin; Shang Chi, a master martial artist who is one of the first Asian Marvel superheroes. and Red Wolf, expert archer and first Native American Marvel superhero.
“Sometimes when we think of superheroes, we think of billionaires in suits, brilliant scientists or Norse gods,” says Angelique Roche, host of the podcast “Marvel’s Voices” and co-author of the upcoming book. are “My superhero is black.”
She says that Spider-Man turned the idea of most privileged humans using their wealth and power to turn heroes on its head. Repetitions of Spider-Man, in comics and films, have appeared in multiple universes, or so-called “Spiderverses”. Miles Morales, a teenage, Afro Latino Spider-Man, has become wildly popular and starred in his own animated feature film. Korean-American Cindy Moon, known as Silk, was bitten by a Peter Parker-like spider.
“Because Spider-Man means so much to us, we must always be open to possibilities,” says Roche. “We must always hope and believe that there will never be a shortage of people who want to fight for what is right.”
In July, Spider-Man was inducted into the Comic-Con Hall of Fame during the annual convention in San Diego. Fans filled the convention hall in costumes that spanned various iterations of the character.
Because of the mask, Spider-Man has been a safe choice for cosplayers hoping to avoid die-hard purists, or for those who criticize others for deviating from traditional representations of superheroes. But cosplay doesn’t have to be canon, says Andrew Liptak, a historian and book author. “Cosplay, a History: The Builders, Fans, and Makers Who Bring Your Favorite Stories to Life.”
“Ultimately, it’s about your connection to the character,” he says. “You’re literally wearing your choice on your sleeve.”
Liptech also says it’s unfair to expect fans of color to only dress up as superheroes whose appearance or skin tone matches their own.
In the recent film “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” the villain Electro, played by Academy Award-winning actor Jamie Foxx, mocks Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man for being surprised that Spider-Man isn’t black. Whether or not this opens the door to a live-action Black Spider-Man in future films, Hoover says Spider-Man should never be just a look.
“You’re going to get people who argue, if you make Spider-Man black, you can make T’Challa white,” Hoover says. “Spider-Man was never defined by his race, but more so by his social status and the struggles he went through. It was even more accessible to people of color and different races. Jealousy, because life involves a lot of struggle through which you have to persevere.”