The fun of the Spider-Man comics has always been that Peter Parker is intrinsically One of Us. We just may be too modest to admit it. We all feel the awkwardness of our teenage years, we all dream of greater power and responsibility, we all yearn for the courage and the conviction to swoop in and save the day. Swinging through the spires and the skyscrapers of New York City, Peter's world feels grounded in the everyday (well, as "everyday" as a kid in a red-and-blue leotard fighting crime, anyway), and his quips and his wisecracks give him the edge over his enemies, not only stronger and faster but smarter and wittier than they are too. With skills like that, who wouldn't want to be Spider-Man?
Despite his enormous popularity, however, the concept for Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's iconic creation almost didn't make it off the ground. When pitching his initial ideas for the character, Lee recalls that his publisher, Martin Goodman, asked, "Don't you understand what a hero is?" Goodman felt that the idea of a teen-aged superhero - especially a high school nerd who was unpopular with the ladies - wouldn't appeal to readers, since most teens in comic books (think "Bucky" Barnes or Dick Grayson) served only as sidekicks to more experienced crimefighters. Little did he realize that audiences were clamoring for a character they could call their own; unlike Superman, say, with his godlike powers and chiseled physique, or Batman, with his unlimited gadgets and millions of dollars at his disposal, Peter Parker struggled with more conventional problems, like passing his classes or trying to hold down a job. And comic book fans fell immediately in love with him. Spider-Man debuted in Amazing Fantasy #15 in June 1962 and sold in record numbers (in 2011, a near- mint edition of this issue sold for $1.1 million to a private collector). He has since become Marvel's flagship character and company mascot, appearing in multiple comic titles, cartoons, radio plays, movies, books, video games, even a Broadway musical (with music by U2's Bono and The Edge).