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Image copyright: see contents page of each issue. All other material © Visual Imagination 1998 - 2002
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Feature: Spider-Man's history

Oh, what a tangled web he weaves

Spider-Man in action from Sam Raimi's spectacular film

With Spider-Man hitting the big screen in May, Steve Lyons scurries through some moments from the wallcrawler's 40-year history

Spider-Man debuts in the eleven-page lead feature of Marvel Comics' Amazing Fantasy #15, written by Stan Lee and drawn by Steve Ditko. The life of timid high school student Peter Parker is changed forever when he is bitten by a radioactive spider at a science demonstration. Later, he passes up a chance to stop a burglar who goes on to kill his Uncle Ben. Thus, the fledgling superhero learns that "With great power comes great responsibility."

Reaction to Spider-Man's dèbut is so enthusiastic that, only seven months later, he appears in his own comic book. Amazing Spider-Man is characterised by teenage angst: a unique and daring approach, which proves to be popular. Trying to scrape a living, Peter Parker becomes a freelance photographer for the Daily Bugle paper.

The Green Goblin, previously a minor villain, becomes Spider-Man's most dangerous enemy when he learns the web-spinner's secret identity – and he in turn is unmasked as the father of Peter's best friend, Harry…

A newspaper strip begins (and continues to this day, still written by Stan Lee), and a telemovie starring Nicholas Hammond proves popular enough for a series to be commissioned. Also, Spidey's first full-length prose outing is announced: Mayhem in Manhattan, by comic book writers Wein and Wolfman...

The first Spider-Man video game hits the shops. Manufactured (appropriately enough) by Parker Brothers for the Atari VCR console, Spider-Man allows game enthusiasts to guide a pixellated, square-headed version of the superhero up the sides of brightly-coloured buildings and past the Green Goblin to defuse a super-bomb.

For comic books, this is the decade of pumped-up psycho killers with big claws, big guns and big armour plating. Stories and characterisation take a back seat to foil-stamped covers, bagged-in trading cards and pointless crossovers. For Spider-Man, this means a full 14 issues of the mindless blood-fest ‘Maximum Carnage'...

Universal Studios opens its Islands of Adventure theme park in Florida, and the centrepiece is its Spider-Man ride. Making use of motion simulators, pyrotechnics and 3-D images, the ride takes its passengers on a stunning tour of New York City during an attack by the Sinister Syndicate.

With his first movie due for release on 3 May, his sixth animated series to follow and a starring role in
six monthly comic books, Spider-Man looks in pretty good shape for a 40 year-old.

by Steve Lyons

Read the full year-by-year 8-page photo-feature, packed with images from the new film, plus thoughts from Sam Raimi and his stars in:
Starburst #285

Image © Columbia Pictures/Marvel Entertainment
Feature © Visual Imagination 2002. Not for reproduction

Taken from
Starburst #285, see below for ordering options
Starburst #285
May 2002
ships from Apr 4 2002
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UK £3.40 / US $5.99

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