I had kinship with Peter Parker. I don’t mean the animated, stiff, always-wearing-the-same-clothing version I first discovered on Fox Kids. Nor do I mean the married-to-a-super-model adult who happened to have a few clones in the ’90s comics. I mean the Peter Parker Stan Lee and Steve Ditko originally envisioned.
I first truly met the guy, a down-on-his-luck teenager who resembled the “adult” Fenton Crackshell, around the eighth grade. I read about his exploits in the blandness of black and white reprints that didn’t do justice to Spider-Man’s four-color world. Still, the format had its charms and, more importantly, its affordability.
I’d stay up all night devouring a 400 to 600 page volume after discovering a new one at Borders. Lee and Ditko’s Peter was someone I understood. Although not quite in high school, I understood the 15-year-old protagonist’s struggle to fit in with a crowd. I dreamt about having the wit and confidence Parker gained whenever he put on his red, white, and black mask. Slowly I tried to be such a person, minus the mask. I don’t think the latter would’ve helped me too much in high school. The results still weren’t always perfect, but I did loosen up eventually.
Now I don’t need a masked vigilante to provide life lessons, but I can revisit the stories in glorious color. An omnibus of Lee and Ditko’s work lies in my future. Right after the original TMNT. And Bone. And…