A dark cloud recently descended and blocked out the sun. Shadows fell across the world and in the Spiderman universe there was a moment of darkness as everything turned black. True and utter sadness touched the hearts of everyone who loved the masked web-slinger himself. Steve Ditko, co-creator of the hero Peter Parker became, passed on. Ditko was a hero himself of that there can be no question. Heroes are not judged only by the lives they save but by the hope they give. They can be ordinary whilst extraordinary at the same time, normal people who are very special indeed.

Taking the celebrity masks off our favourite heroes can at times be a little harrowing. You become so wrapped up in the characters that you forget that they are just that, a character. They are created in the minds of special individuals such as Ditko and given to us to enjoy. That gift is entirely selfless, it is not done for the creator’s benefit, but for the benefit of all of us. Together we can share in adventure and excitement, with hope we can overcome fear and that gift is the essence of hope itself. Here then we look at the enduring charm of Spiderman, with a special nod to a very special individual indeed, Steve Ditko.

The Man

Not Spiderman, but the man who co-created him with Stan Lee. The name Stan Lee often takes the headlines, but Ditko’s role can never be underestimated. Ditko played a pivotal role in the creation of both Spiderman and Dr Strange amongst others. As an artist he displayed an amazing ability to remove the limitations of your mind and immerse your imagination within his own. His drawings took you away to another world, his world. It seemed real, it even felt real, even though you knew that it of course was far from it. This is a ludicrous thing to imagine, that through art you believed the unbelievable – but that is art, and he was a wonderful artist. He reached the grand age of 90, but for many they still believe that he was taken too soon. In the Spiderman universe, there is a rip that can no longer be held together no matter how much web you try and use.

What is it about Spiderman in particular that is so engrossing and captivating, what has been his enduring charm?


It is not the costume, the strength, or the ability to climb walls that makes Spiderman so popular. One theory is because behind the mask is a perfectly dysfunctional version of everyone. You can relate to Spiderman a lot more when he’s Peter Parker.

He doesn’t live in a mansion, nor is he rich and at times he even has real trouble paying his rent. He is not always surrounded by beautiful women, and doesn’t always get the girl. Spidey may be out saving the world, but Peter can barely save himself. People relate to the realism of the Peter Parker character. He has flaws that you can all relate to, and is essence he is one of you.

Superman was super even when he was in disguise, he just chose to wear glasses. Batman is a playboy of epic proportions that perhaps chooses to do good for a little karma. He has all the toys because of his wealth and though he has no special powers, he is so rich he can buy them!

Spiderman came along in 1962, when Batman and Superman were “the” heroes of choice. They were idolised, compared to supreme even god-like beings. Spiderman appeared as something else.

Firstly generally speaking spiders are loathed and feared by many. To name a superhero after an arachnid was at the time a strange choice – especially against “super”-man. He was also young, a teenager. It was feared that people wouldn’t believe that an adolescent could be a superhero. Both Batman and Superman were adults, “working” in the real world, not hanging around school corridors being awkward. He wasn’t even the sporty type, he was skinny, if not weedy. So how did that work?

Most people automatically related though. There are more average people than there are super people. Not everybody is sporty, and there is automatically a bond with anyone with whom you can relate. Spiderman worked because he was normal, not super. Suddenly, the possibility of being a hero was open to everyone, not just the wealthy or the alien. He found his niche by being a part of everyday society.

Personal tragedy befell Peter after he suffered the loss of his uncle to the very robber he refused to apprehend shortly after gaining his powers. That moment touches people, a wrong choice that has to be rectified, but one that has a cost so dear. It may be a comic, but such truism is hard hitting and developed a passionate loyal fan base for Spiderman. His story was relatable, you would do the same in his position.

In Peter Parker was a vulnerability and a sense of humanity that was lacking in other heroes. Maybe you would call Superman, but you are more likely to know or be friends with Peter Parker. His loss was so deep it was felt by all. You could always see a little of yourself in Spiderman at any given moment, that was the bond Ditko created. That Peter Parker could escape himself as Spiderman was what you would at times wish to do if only you could. Because you couldn’t and he could, you followed and believed in him.

Spiderman worked because he was flawed, as a person and as a human, just as all individuals have flaws. It is how he dealt with them, and how that inspired others to help themselves, that meant he remained relevant. Following his creation, Stan Lee saw that heroes no longer had to be perfect, they had to be vulnerable, otherwise they were unbelievable and cold. You may be in awe of the superpowers, but you are drawn to the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of the person or character. It is the faults not the strengths that make the character believable.

Spiderman even lived in the real world, as opposed to Gotham or Metropolis. Again this detail was something that drew the audience in and kept their attention. Performing superhero feats downtown somehow felt more relatable to the readers and viewing public.

The strength of a character often lies in their very weaknesses. To hide them away or mask them makes them almost less worthy. Spiderman may seem more heroic in his mask, but it is when he takes it off that people see the true hero, Peter Parker. This is the gift that Ditko gave, a superhero that wasn’t always super, that had faults, flaws, weaknesses and above all a heart and soul. It is impossible to love a hero that has no soul.

We should all be grateful to Spiderman for saving the world, but more so for saving each of us in turn. He allows us to see potential rather than limitations, to set our goals high, and even then to not beat ourselves up when we don’t achieve them. Steve Ditko gave us hope by giving us Spiderman.

Ditko had left Marvel by 1966 and of course there are many stories as to why this occurred – had he and Lee fallen out, or were there disagreements as to the direction that Spiderman was heading? Of course the truth is as much a mystery as some of Ditko’s greatest comic stories. One thing is certain though and that is we have Spiderman, Strange and others because of him, and for that reason you should all be eternally grateful.

Rest In Peace Steve Ditko and thank you.

Author's Bio: 

Author, Freelance writer