What did you read as a kid? What TV show would you never miss? Who was your childhood hero?
This is a big day for me. May 2nd marks the U.S. premiere of The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Before I got out of bed this morning I was already reading the reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, hoping that the positive reviews would bring comfort, despite the consensus thus far being the film is only 57% “fresh” over “rotten”. But to be frank, I want this movie to win critic approval not because it affects how much I believe will love it, but because I want the critics to be equally thrilled and excited about this revamped (and vastly improved) version of my favorite comic book hero.
Having not yet seen the film, and knowing that I, a fan boy to my core, will never be in a place to impartially discuss the technical and artistic success or failure of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, I will not attempt to review this film for you. I would, however, like to discuss with you the fantastic process of choosing a childhood hero and reading about, watching, and figuring out how to be them.
Growing up I surrounded myself with imaginary heroes. Early in my life I watched Star Wars on VHS several times a week. I would venture through our neighborhood pretending to be He-Man, Superman, a Ninja Turtle, a Power Ranger, Robin Hood, or Darkwing Duck… to name only a few. In my late elementary school years, Fox began airing the Saturday morning animated series of Spider-Man. I was forever changed. Being 11 at the time, I was young enough to want every single action figure available to me, but old enough to start pouring myself into reading anything about Spider-Man I could get my hands on.
Over the past two decades, I’ve read several of the various Spider-Man series, from the original Stan Lee series Amazing Spider-Man (1963), which is conveniently compiled in Essential Amazing Spider-Man, Vol. 1, up to Ultimate Spider-Man (2007) by Mark Bagley, Brain Michael Bendis, and Art Thibert. What struck me as particularly compelling about Peter Parker/Spider-Man was the attention to consequence and expectation the series gave. I admired the time spent on establishing a character who was a relative outsider, who by circumstances out of his control was given the ability to do great good or great harm, and was forced to deal with the tension of being powerful when power so easily turns sour with corruption. It was encouraging to read about a hero who more often than not resorted to intellect, wit, and charm over brawn, intimidation, or weaponry. As a scrawny, nerdy, kid who lived in my head as much as I lived in the world, I felt immediately connected to the plight of Peter Parker.
Enough of me geeking out; let’s talk about you. What heroes (real or imaginary) did you find yourself idolizing or imitating as a kid? Has their appeal lasted? Did you have a favorite character or series that you read about as a kid?
If you would like to read more about Spider-Man, might I recommend the short story compilation The Ultimate Spider-Man (1996) (particularly the final short story “5 Minutes”) and Kraven’s Last Hunt. Also, feel free to share your opinion of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 with us. I promise to take your negative criticism as unpersonally as possible.