In 1986, during the song “You Can Call Me Al,” Paul Simon lamented, “Who will be my role model, now that my role model is gone, gone, gone?” His dilemma is our dilemma; not many figures stay the way they were when we looked up to them. There is a constant search for a role model that is relatable, morally sound, and reliable, as well as timeless and unchanging. Fortunately for us, a man was born on a cold Manhattan day in 1922 named Stanley Martin Lieber. No, Stanley Martin Lieber is not the role model we are searching for, but he did pioneer the industry that is the answer. More popularly known as Stan Lee, this remarkable man, using creative intuition and an old typewriter, created Spider-Man. People have looked to comic books for role models since the debut of Superman. But never had any superhero been so relatable, morally sound, and reliable, as well as timeless and unchanging. Spider-Man is the superhero role model for young adults.
This point is illustrated beautifully by an overview of The Amazing Spider-Man (1963) #248. This issue, entitled, “The Boy Who Collects Spider-Man,” starts off with a newspaper clipping describing a young boy. “Timothy Harrison is one of those special young men. He’s bright, likeable, and nine years old... going on thirty five.
“He collects Spider-Man.” It goes on to show Spider-Man visiting a little boy with a Star Wars poster on his wall. Spider-Man asks Tim to show him his collection, and he pulls out tons of newspaper clippings with Spider-Man as the focus. They talk for a long time, about how our favorite super hero started out, and bits and pieces of fights. Spider-Man tucks the boy into bed. Just before Spider-Man crawls out of the window, the boy timidly asks, “Spider-Man? Will you tell me who you really are?” Spidey freezes, and eases himself back into the room. He tells the boy that his identity is his greatest secret, and if anyone were to find out, then it would cause him a lot of trouble. But Spider-Man takes off his mask and reintroduces himself to the boy as Peter Parker. The boy is ecstatic, and expresses how it will be their secret forever. Spider-Man gives the boy a hug as tears course down his face. The newspaper man from the beginning continues.
“He looked me square in the eye and said, ‘Mr. Conover, I’d like to meet Spider-Man and talk to him... just for a few minutes.’ I hope Tim gets his wish. You see, Tim Harrison has leukemia, and the doctors only give him a few more weeks to live.”
Spider-Man inspires hope in people, and lives up to that hope.
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