'with great power comes great responsibility'
In 1962 Stan Lee, ably assisted by Steve Ditko created the Amazing Spider-man; the comics industry would never be the same. In the world of the superhero capes, mysticism, aliens and fantasy held sway up to that point, with the creation of Spider-man the avid reader was introduced to an identifiable hero. Peter Parker was an average Joe; in fact he was a proto-nerd who was bullied and never got the girl. Upon being bitten by a radioactive spider all that changed.
If Batman (that other benchmark in comics) is a hard nosed vigilante who abides by the law, in the mould of Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry, Spider-man is the Woody Allen of Superheroes; a neurotic who uses humour to cope with the world.
Over the years he has been the glue that holds the Marvel (the company that publishes his exploits) Universe together. What Spider-man represents is the every man, the reader. A character who is always trying to do the right thing but needs to pay the bills, look after his Aunt and deal with the fact that he is to blame for his Uncle's death. Teen angst, guilt, anxiety and insecurity are all part of Spider-man's day to day experience, and it is these traits that make him identifiable to the reader.
He frequently misses paying his rent, loses the girl and ends up making bad decisions but despite all this he is heroic. What underpins that heroism is his need to make amends for the errors he made when he first gained his powers.
The Spider-man origin story is one of gain,loss and redemption and as such is as pertinent now as it was in 1962.
The fact remains that Spider-man is a mythical character that has much to say about power and responsibility. Spider-man also is a reminder that power in itself does not necessarily equate to contentment. In this respect Spider-man is far more the archetypal superhero than Superman. He is us; that's his appeal.