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March 14, 2012

Spider-Man at 50: Damon Lindelof on a hero defined by his guilt

Posted in: Comics

SPIDER-MAN AT 50: It’s the 50th anniversary of Marvel’s greatest icon, and all year Hero Complex will talk to notable names about the character’s success and singular appeal. Today: A few thoughts on the hero from Damon Lindelof, the co-creator of “Lost” and screenwriter of “Prometheus,” “Cowboys and Aliens” and the upcoming “Star Trek” sequel.

Joe Jusko's re-creation of John Romita's classic "Amazing Spider-Man" No. 50 cover (Marvel)

GB: It’s the 50th anniversary of Spider-Man, is he one of your favorite characters? If so, why?

DL: Seriously, who doesn’t like Spider-Man? Tell me who that person is so I can punch them. Why is he so special? There are so many reasons. First and foremost, his entire origin story is wrapped around the idea that he made a horrible error in judgment… that his own selfishness resulted in a terrible tragedy that he is personally responsible for. This would be the equivalent of Kal-El callously ignoring Krypton’s impending doom or young Bruce Wayne pushing his parents into a dark alley behind the theater and then slamming the door behind them. Peter’s guilt over his own complicity in Uncle Ben’s death is nothing short of revolutionary.

GB: The humor was also new or different, certainly, in its tone… 

DL: Much is said of how great it is that Spidey is a wise-ass … that he doesn’t take himself as seriously as his caped brethren. I never interpreted it this way as I’m fairly certain that Peter’s one-liners, while pithy, were actually a defense mechanism for being completely overwhelmed and scared while he was fighting bad guys. It is this fact — that Peter felt like a real teenager — that made him so revolutionary.

GB: What aspect of Spider-Man do you identify with most?

DL: I suppose it’s the idea that Peter Parker was a geek. A bespectacled science nerd who was relatively invisible to the more popular kids … and daringly chose to stay invisible by wearing a mask that completely covered his face (had any major hero disguised themselves that thoroughly prior to ’62? I don’t think so) even though being Spider-Man easily would have made him the coolest kid at school.

– Geoff Boucher


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