Stan Lee on What Made Spider-Man So Special
A collection of quotes from Smilin' Stan himself about the famous web-slinger.
As Spider-Man, the science genius Peter Parker swings from building to building as the champion of the innocent. For the Marvel Chairman Emeritus Stan Lee, Spider-Man was one of his favorite co-creations.
In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Lee said he liked Spider-Man “because he's become the most famous. He's the one who's most like me - nothing ever turns out 100 percent OK; he's got a lot of problems, and he does things wrong, and I can relate to that.”
Lee discussed Spider-Man’s origins with Larry King in 2000 and what makes him different from his other characters. While having worked on the Hulk and Fantastic Four, Lee was onto his next character, so he searched for a unique super power for this new creation. “I saw a fly crawling on the wall, and I said, ‘Wow, suppose a person has the power to stick to a wall like an insect.’ So I was often running and I thought, ‘What do I call him?’ I tried Mosquito Man, but that didn’t have any glamor. Insect Man, that was even worse. I went down the line and I got to Spider-Man. It sounded mysterious and dramatic, and lo a legend was born.”
On Spider-Man’s design, Lee talked about how Steve Ditko designed everything about the character’s costume, and how he gave him personality. “Steve was just perfect for it, he got that feeling of the average guy who turned into a hero and still had problems."
The full body costume was also inherently relatable. “What I like about the costume is that anybody reading Spider-Man in any part of the world can imagine that they themselves are under the costume. And that’s a good thing” said Lee to Newsarama in 2015.
While Spider-Man is a Super Hero of fiction, he is the most relatable since he’s a character that, at times, faces real world problems and makes mistakes along the way.
In a 1998 interview with Beth Accomando of NPR, Lee addressed how he created characters that would respond to fantastical things in the way that any of us might:
"Before Marvel started, any Super Hero might be walking down the street and see a 12-foot-tall monster coming toward him with purple skin and eight arms breathing fire, and the character would have said something like, 'Oh! There's a monster from another world! I better catch him before he destroys the city.' Now, if one of our Marvel characters saw the same monster, I'd like to think Spider-Man would say, 'Who's the nut in the Halloween get-up? I wonder what he's advertising?'"
For so many reasons, the characters that Lee co-created have endured for decades -- mainly because their experiences could be considered timeless. In an interview with fans for AMC's "Comic Book Men" back in 2012, Lee was asked about whether his characters would be the same if they were created today versus in the '60s. His response: "The Spider-Man was bitten by a radioactive spider. That could happen today as well as years ago."
Another fan asked about how it makes him feel when people neglect the hyphen in Spider-Man: "Oh, that gets me angry! It’s gotta have a hyphen, because that’s the way I stated it. And also, it makes it look very different from Superman, which doesn’t have a hyphen. It should be a capital 'S' and a capital 'M.' If I don’t see it done that way, it arouses my ire. So if you don’t want my ire to be aroused, you’d better write it correctly."
Stan Lee was always happy to answer fan questions, as he did in 1999 for AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #700 when he returned to the letters section to provide "Stan-swers" to readers queries. One fan mentioned the idea that comic books were a modern form of mythology: "Why not?" Lee replied. "If they remain as popular in years to come as they are today, even if future men don’t think of them as Gods they’ll be sure to think of them as legends—like Robin Hood. After all, every age has its myths and legends. So who knows? Some day Spidey may be as long-lived as Jack the Giant Killer!"
Lee also revealed that if he'd known Spidey would become so popular, writing for him would have been intimidating: "It’s so indescribably thrilling to realize that so many people really care about a character I dreamed up and wrote so many years ago. Although it’s probably lucky I didn’t know how big Spidey would become in later years—because, if I suspected that, I’d have been too nervous to write the stories, worrying if they’re good enough for posterity to judge!"
Not only did Spider-Man's evolve into an entire Spider-Verse, AMAZING SPIDER-MAN returned to hit #800. Not only did Spider-Man endure in comics -- his story inspired several movies, TV shows, hit video games, and more. You could say his journey continues ever upward.