TBT Our Spider-Man Turns 60 Exhibition

Published 21 July 2022 in Exhibition Blogs

Almost 4 months since our March exhibition, Spider-Man Turns 60!!!

Celebrating this, this week's post is a tbt (take back to... needing a reminder...) the exhibition and the opening day. So here is the introduction and opening speech that Cassandra Comins gave at the opening:

"The teenage legend and everyman superhero that is Spider-Man, was born in 1962, brought to life by writer Stan-Lee and illustrator Steve Ditko, into the multiverse of Marvel Comics.

While there are several origin stories, and variants of the superhero we all know, his original Stan-Lee-created origin story was that of a sickly teenage orphan, Peter Parker, bitten by a radioactive spider. He gains superhuman strength, speed, agility and the ability to cling to walls. As a science-genius, he invents his own web-fluid, -shooters, and the famous red-and-blue costume. However, he starts off as a television celebrity, but after refusing to stop a burglar, this burglar coincidently, also murders Peter’s uncle. His origin story ends with his realisation that, “with great power there must also come – great responsibility!”

As a part of the Marvel Comics, there are 161 universes, with variants and versions pf the heroes, Spider-Man is no different. There are 36 Spider-Man variants; ranging from Spider-Ham (Peter Porker) to Spider-Ma’am, -Woman, and even a Spider-Gwen – who, in her universe, her Peter Parker dies, and she becomes the hero. Recently, Miles Morales, the Black-Hispanic Spider-Man, has gained some ground.

However, the average person knows of the cinematic Spider-Man – which results in 5 universes. We know Toby Maguire’s, Andrew Garfield’s, and Tom Holland’s live actions; with the anti-hero spinoff, and the amazing animation of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

And turning 60, I searched and asked around what makes Spider-Man, and Peter Parker, so popular and a fan favourite. This is what I found out: he is relatable; the Every-Guy hero; and timeless – I mean, even nowadays, anyone could be bitten by a radioactive spider, it’s as possible now as it was 60 years ago!

Stan-Lee created a teenage hero, with some powers, but also needed to make his own equipment, giving him a sense of vulnerability. He made a hero anyone can imagine they are or pretend to be. Peter Parker if real – never 100% okay, he’s got problems, and he does things wrong – he is relatable. As Stan-Lee said: he is an average guy, turned into a hero, and still has problems.

Spider-Man shows that there is more to being man, or a hero, than physical strength. He is humble, witty, well-rounded, and not over-powering. He is known for his witty wisecracks during fights; and he is in-touch with ‘his people’, concerned with being your Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man.

And one can think of comics as being our mythology. Thor (taken from Norse mythology) is our Zeus, Captain America is our Hercules, and Spider-Man is our very own Anansi or Arachne – just more awkward.

And so, just as there are over a hundred universes, and multiple variants of Spider-Man, what he represents, signifies, means, or even inspires is as numerous. We have works focusing on the villains of our boy ‘Spidey’, or that of Spider-Gwen, or some completely removed. What he means, and what makes ‘Spider-Man’ special is the timelessness, the multiplicity in form, origin, journey, and inspiration, and the various creators bringing their interpretation to life – just as artists bring to the surface their interpretation of thought.

And if we wanted to get really deep, as Peter Parker realised, it is true for those who can put into imagery what cannot be put into words, or imagery to inspire words and change…is that with great power – and the gift of art – come great responsibility!"

So there you have it! An introduction to Spider-Man. This exhibition was a fun one to put together (curated by Sammy Muller) and to discuss and experience with the various artists who participated and the quests who visited the gallery.

The video of our opening, can be found on our Instagram page @the_viewingroom_gallery

- Cassandra Comins

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