New York Daily News



Contrary to 50 years’ worth of comic-book lore, Spider-Man’s origin doesn’t begin with the bite of a radioactiv­e arachnid. Rather, one of the most recognizab­le fictional characters ever created owes his existence to a common fly that breezed into Marvel Comics’ offices sometime in 1962.

The serendipit­ous insect encounter for writer Stan Lee came in the midst of an especially creative period with artist Jack Kirby. The duo had created now-indelible titles, including the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk and X-Men. This powered the success of Marvel, a company that evolved from Timely Publicatio­ns, founded in 1939.

Lee’s boss, Martin Goodman, wanted more. But what comes after a rockman hybrid, a human torch, a giant green giant and teenage mutants?

“I couldn’t think of any new super power,” Lee, 89, remembers.

“Then I saw a fly crawling on a wall. And I said, ‘Boy, it would be great if I could get a superhero who could stick to walls like an insect.’ ” Then came the sticky part. “The next thing you need after you have an idea is, you need a name,” Lee says. “So I started thinking of names like Insect Man, Fly Man, Stick-to-Wall Man, Mosquito Man ... none of them sounded good enough.

“Then it hit me. I thought of SpiderMan, and that sounded scary and dramatic — and as we often say, the rest is history.”

That history now includes one of this summer’s major movies, “The Amazing Spider-Man,” opening July 3. Andrew Garfield stars as Peter Parker, the nerdy Queens boy whose run-in with a geneticall­y altered spider grants him super powers. The film reboots a franchise that netted close to $2.5 billion worldwide.

But the character was almost squashed like a bug before anyone ever got a chance to see the hero in print or on the big screen.

After artist Steve Ditko came up with Spider-man’s now-iconic costume — Kirby’s first take was too heroic-looking, says Lee — they presented their idea for an awkward teenage hero to Goodman. (Comic historians have notoriousl­y feuded over the past five decades as to who among Lee, Kirby or Ditko is most responsibl­e for the character.) The publisher hated it. “Martin said to me, ‘That’s the worst idea I’ve ever heard,’ ” Lee recalls. “He said, ‘First of all, you can’t call a hero “Spider-man.” People hate spiders. Next, you can’t make him a teenager — teenagers can only be sidekicks. And you say you want him to have problems? Stan, he’s a superhero. Superheroe­s don’t have problems.’ ”

So Lee and Ditko snuck the character onto the cover of the 15th and final issue of an anthology series called “Amazing Fantasy” that was already doomed to cancellati­on.

It turned out that readers weren’t scared of spiders after all. That August 1962 issue of Amazing Fantasy sold well at newsstands. Fans wrote in, demanding more. Goodman, in turn, demanded Marvel’s newest hero get his own series. And the rest really is history. Current Marvel Comics chief creative officer Joe Quesada remembers the first comic his father bought him: “The Amazing Spider-Man #97,” a milestone issue from 1970 spotlighti­ng the scourge of illegal drugs.

“It must have worked, because I never became addicted to drugs,” Quesada says. “But I started a whole new addiction: collecting Spider-Man comic books.”

He wasn’t the only one bitten. The title became an instant must-buy for readers in that great pop-culture year of 1962. Part of the appeal is in Peter Parker’s everyman quality. He doesn’t get the girls, like Tony Stark’s Iron Man. He isn’t as strong as the Hulk. H He can’t boast the lone-wolf cool factor fa à la the X-Men’s Wolverine.

Yet he’s still the publisher’s most popular la character.

“He’s our Mickey Mouse, our company icon,” ic Quesada says.

Why? Probably because generation­s of teenagers te have empathized with a teenager ag who struggles more when he takes his mask m off than when he puts it on to battle villains.

“Peter has trouble making ends en meet. He has to crash on his h aunt’s couch several times a week,” w Marvel editor-in-chief Axel A Alonso says. “We relate to o Peter P Parker’s problems.”

Another plus: Ditko’s costume design still looks as cool l

 ??  ?? Spider-Man’s debut adventure in 1962; Stan Lee (l.) Spider-Man villain, the Lizard
Spider-Man’s debut adventure in 1962; Stan Lee (l.) Spider-Man villain, the Lizard

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