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The Implied Spider-Man: Transcreating Religious Imagery and Meaning in Spider-Man India

By Dr. Rex (Dejai) Barnes, English and History Faculty

The Implied Spider-Man: Transcreating Religious Imagery and Meaning in Spider-Man India

Editor’s Note: This essay was written for and previously published in The Assimilation of Yogic Religions Through Pop Culture, Edited by Paul G. Hackett.

When Stan Lee and Steve Ditko created the Amazing Spider-Man in the August 1962 issue of Amazing Fantasy #15, they conceived a young, reticent hero from Queens whose superhuman powers were the result of a scientific accident: the bite of a radioactive spider. Peter Parker’s transformation thereafter is well known. Having assimilated the proportional strength and agility of the spider, he can now climb walls and has gained a (sixth) spider-sense of alarm to imminent danger. Upon discovery of these newly acquired faculties, however, Peter initially seeks fame and celebrity, not crime-fighting. Only after the murder of his Uncle Ben does he embody the famous axiom: “With great power must also come great responsibility.” This is an important point often overlooked by avid and causal fans alike: it is the ongoing ethical engagement with Uncle Ben’s death, rather than the extraordinary arachnid encounter, which provides Peter the impetus to don the Spidey costume and enact his sense of inspired duty. [1] 

That American comic book superheroes are often equated with and interpreted through their powers is understandable. Animistic designations often govern the namesake of many characters (e.g., Spider-Man, Ant-man, Hawkman), whereas a superlative or descriptive quality may emphasize another hero’s abilities and identity (e.g., Superman, Storm, the Human Torch). These are of course not hard and fast rules. Neither Wolverine nor the Batman derive their skills from the wolverine or bat. Their titles exemplify the respective traits of ferociousness and fear evoked by the symbolism of their animal avatars. No doubt myriad variations exist for how a hero’s name might dovetail with their capacity to astonish audiences in contemporary popular culture. In other words, the ways in which our superheroes are diversely portrayed and culturally perceived depends on more than simply a hero’s name. Social and political contexts, narrative setting, intended audience, and the publishers own creative intentions, among others, contribute to the numerous dynamic readings attributed to comic book characters.

Fan/artist depiction of Spider-Man India, printed in article’s original text and reproduced here with artist’s permission.
Marco Carillo ©2013

Rebel with a Cause: Delving into Comic Books

By Jenny Shan, VI Form

Rebel with a Cause: Delving into Comic Books

Crammed into the tiny pocket of space behind the painting hanging in my study lies one of my greatest secrets: a magazine of weekly comics. As a child, I would purchase a new one from the local newsstand every week after school. On the twenty-minute bus ride from home, I would quickly consume the updated stories featuring young detectives investigating unsolved murder cases, or sentient toys mediating domestic disputes for maltreated children. My favorites were the grand adventures, in particular about the cursed pirate families searching for a place to bury their treasure.

Unlike those pirates, the treasure I would be burying was a bit more personal than gold. Every time I brought home a magazine, my immediate response was to conceal it: in the drawers, on top of the bookshelf. But these would all inevitably be found. When I noticed a secret crevice between the painting and the wall, it was as if the most perfect coastline had finally revealed itself from the mist. I could not let another one of my treasures fall into the hands of other marauders and hijackers, the most notorious of whom was my forbidding mother. (more…)