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Is He Strong? Listen, bud...

When I was 8 years old, Spider-man was my hero.

These days, when I’m depressed or something annoying has happened, I post a picture of Spider-man, usually John Romita’s Spider-man, on social media to get a laugh.

Well, this whole year has been annoying. This last 4 years have been annoying. So the other day, I started to post a Spider-man picture and started thinking “What would a Trump-era Spider-man look like?” First of all, it annoyed me that I couldn’t even post a pic of Spidey without Trump invading my brain like a horrific car accident I had seen and had to relive every time I closed my eyes.

Rather than drag Spidey into another one of my online anti-Trump rants, which tend to get long and vitriolic, I just posted this picture with a jokey comment about it being a crappy day.

But I still couldn’t get the concept of a Trump-era Spider-man out of my head.

The basic premise of Spider-man is the purest form of a hero. In many ways, he’s even more heroic than Superman because Superman is born with his powers and chooses to create a mortal identity to mix with humanity, but Spidey acquires his powers after a life of all-too-mortal obscurity and even bullying by bigger, more popular kids. Yet, rather than using those powers for his own benefit, Peter decides to help others, even those who despised and marginalized him. Sure, in his Peter Parker thought balloons, he mopes and gripes about his life, but he never stops helping. He never gives up. He never refuses to try to make the world better for someone else, even at his own expense.

In the minds of Trump and his supporters, Spider-man is a sucker. He's a waste of potential. After all, he didn't kill Uncle Ben. Why should he feel obligated? It's all about Pete. With great power comes great opportunity.

But gratefully, that’s not what Spidey is about. The recent movie Into the Spider-verse is probably the best Spider-man movie of all time, not because it’s the most faithful to the Peter Parker/radioactive spider/Uncle Ben/with-great-responsibility storyline, but because it assumes that storyline, and it shows how the idea of Spider-man is more important than the person. It demonstrates the concepts of responsibility to others and personal sacrifice for a greater good. Even more important is the idea of giving a part of yourself, sacrificing to build a community among very different people. These are goals that are all possible and desirable and worth fighting for.

Now, back to that picture I posted on Facebook with poor Spidey in the rain holding his injured arm and moaning about the pain. The fact is, I cropped that panel because I needed it to reflect my self-pity for the joke to work. The real panel ends like this --

These final word balloons are ideas you can learn when you’re 8 years old. And hopefully remember it for when you need it later in life.

And I realized, I am 60-years-old and Spider-man can still be my hero.


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