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Yesterday my wife and kids visited me at lunch because I wasn’t feeling well. There was a lull in the conversation, so my wife did what she does best, she asked me and open-ended question. She actually has this neat little app that I should probably plug here, but I don’t remember what it is called and she only has it on her phone. Anyway the question was about childhood heroes. This feels a little silly to admit here, but when I am asked to name my childhood hero, the person who comes to the top of that list is Spider-Man. Spider-Man has an awesome suit, cool villains, a compelling story full of morals and danger for our hero, but all of that is secondary to the real reason Spider-Man is my childhood hero. Spider-Man, Peter Parker was always just a guy trying to do the right thing. He had real life struggles. Not only was he picked on in high school and a little bit unpopular in his college days, but he had to worry about rent and his sick aunt and all sorts of other things that conflicted with him doing his hero work.
Setting aside the message about responsibility and power, the stories about Spider-Man always made him relatable. I didn’t deal with super villains or even bullies that much in school, but I took strength from knowing that Peter Parker, Spider-Man was someone who would always try to do the right thing even at great cost to himself. The beautiful thing about the spider man comics that I read in the 2000s and the Spider-Man cartoon I watched in the 1990s, is that they always let the audience see what price Peter had to pay to be a good person. When he was selfish and short sighted, it offered him fleeting and momentary pleasure or relief, but those mistakes always had a decent chance of coming back to haunt him. He was flawed and he had to learn to live with his mistakes. With or without super powers, he didn’t lead an easy life and that was ok. The people he loved made his life worthwhile even when he was down in the dumps.
I know that Stan Lee is not solely responsible for Spider-Man being the symbol he is, but I also know that he was a big part of it and for that I will always be thankful to him. I don’t think I would be the same person without Spider-Man, without Stan Lee having touched my life through red blue and webs.