Despite having an arachnophobia that extends as far as an aversion to touching the word “spider” in print, I have a certain fondness for Spider-Man. Not the comics, which I’ve never read, but the deeper essence of the Spider-Man character of which the comics are a mere instantiation. For me this is best displayed in the 1967 animated series.
Superheroes are like the heroes of Greek myth in that they appear in many different incarnations: each writer does his or her “take” on Spider-Man, Batman, etc., and this take is informed by some central idea of what the character’s about. But this central idea may not be incarnated anywhere—that is, there may be no quintessential version of Superman or Theseus (just as there is no quintessential version of any commonly played jazz standard) even though there is a concept of what is essential to those characters.
I don’t think that any recent Spider-Man adaptation really gets at the essential Spider-Man. However, I think that this latest cynical, soulless, and incompetent movie was actually closer than the previous three watchable ones. In no particular order, these are my ideas about what is absolutely important for Spider-Man as a character. Read the rest of this entry »