Tuesday, March 31, 2009

What I owe Spider-Man

In 1966, I was eleven years old, and a great deal of bad shit was going on in my life. I didn't think I could handle it all.

My biggest and often only source of escape was reading. I read everything, including comic books, which I still love. In particular, I read superhero comics--Marvel, DC, and every other publisher I could find.

Along came issue 33 of The Amazing Spider-Man. You can find it in some Marvel collections, and you can also preview a few pages of it online here. Spidey is trapped under a collapsed building, and though he is incredibly strong, he's not strong enough to lift all the weight off him. He begins to fall into despair.

He doesn't, though, give up. Of course he doesn't; he's Spider-Man. I knew he wouldn't stop. Stan Lee's purple prose, though, convinced the young me that Spidey wasn't sure he could do it, that our favorite webslinger had to talk himself into going on, as he does in this passage (in which the em-dashes indicate pauses as Spidey struggles for breath):

Anyone can win a fight--when the odds--are easy! It's when the going's tough--when there seems to be no chance--that's when--it counts!
Reading it now, staring at the pages, I know the scene and writing are juvenile, purple, and actually rushed, but back then, it worked for me. My memory of reading it is still vivid. So is my reaction: If Spidey could lift a building, I could find a way out of my troubles (as I did), even if it took years (as it did).

This comic wasn't the only thing that kept me going; far from it. But this issue mattered to me. It still does.

So, I owe Spider-Man, and Stan Lee and Steve Ditko and Artie Simak, and I hope never to forget the debt--or the lesson.


John Lambshead said...

I read your short story based on your childhood. A very dark place.

Mark said...

As Dave put in an afterword to that story, it is so much lighter in most ways than the real thing.

Seriously, though, I made it out, and that's what matters most.

Michelle said...

Sometimes the journey out is just as hard as the reality. It takes a lot of strength. Good for you.

Mark said...

I don't believe congratulations are in order, but thanks.


Blog Archive