PETER PARKER was only a young boy when his parents died in a plane crash. He immediately moved in with his father's older brother and wife. Peter was raised lovingly by his Uncle Ben and Aunt May, an elderly couple with no children of their own. A brilliant but socially inept teen, the 15-year-old Parker was an honor student. Fascinated with science ever since Uncle Ben took him to his first monster movie, Peter Parker immersed himself in his studies and worked hard to win his aunt and uncle's approval. He displayed an uncanny affinity for science that was nothing short of genius. Peter often carried a backpack that contained all his school texts, plus books for his own reading pleasure — he spent hours reading Ben's extensive collection of old comic books and science-fiction magazines with heroes on his mind like Captain America. The other students, however, had little use for a know-it-all like puny Parker. The girls thought he was too quiet, and the boys considered him a wimp.
His fascination with science as a school kid may have made him an outcast, but now Spider-Man is one of the most recognized superheroes around. Parker's brilliance at physical science allowed him to create web-shooters for use when he became Spider-Man. He gained his superpowers when he was bitten by an irradiated spider during a nuclear experiment at a high school science fair.
Armed with super-strength, the ability to climb walls, a keen ESP-like spidey-sense, and his trusty web-shooters, Peter first used his powers to earn money as a professional wrestler. Worried more for his own welfare, he ignored a crime-in-progress only to learn that criminal that he could have stopped had shot and killed his Uncle Ben.
The grief forever changed Parker. During his time of turmoil, Peter remembered something Uncle Ben once told him: "With great power, comes great responsibility." He vowed to never again let innocents suffer. Donning his red suit, he became the amazing Spider-Man, a fast-talking superhero determined to protect the citizens of New York from the villains that would do them harm.
Spider-Man had to balance the awesome responsibilities of a hero with the uncertainties of an average teenager. Peter Parker graduated from Midtown High with the highest scholastic average in the school's history, but he almost missed the ceremony trading punches with a superhuman villain. Later, Peter was thrilled to discover that he won a full college scholarship for science to attend New York's Empire State University. The night before Peter started college, Aunt May went into the hospital. He was so worried about her he shut everything else out in chem lab. In college, Peter struggled to lead something of a normal life even as he juggled academics, worked for the Daily Bugle supporting himself by photography and established close relationships. In his spare time, he battled super-villains, relentless criminals and the misguided media.
Throughout his career as Spider-Man, Peter has always been torn between his sense of duty and the mixed feelings he has received from the public. This reception has varied from praise to outright condemnation, and it has left the teenager confused about his role. It has even driven him to the brink of despair, causing him to throw away his costume and renounce his alter ego. Nevertheless, his dedication to using his powers responsibly has always led Peter to don his mask again in the hope that some day the world will learn to appreciate Spider-Man.
After his lonely days in high school, Peter was more self-confident and came out of his shell in college, moving into a bachelor pad and even buying a motorcycle. He made friends and became quite popular. He started dating the beautiful Gwen Stacy and even formed genuine friendships with Midtown High bully Flash Thompson and Harry Osborn, son of multimillionaire industrialist Norman Osborn, who later became the super-criminal the Green Goblin. Eventually, Harry became Peter's best friend and they decided to share an off-campus apartment together. He also had an on-again off-again relationship with the love of his life, Mary Jane Watson.
Spider-Man ruined Peter's college graduation. Spidey was battling the Green Goblin and couldn't graduate with the rest of the class since he'd missed a required gym class. Peter finally got his degree from Empire State University, but he continued his studies as a graduate student and took a job as a teaching assistant. With all of these activities, as well as being Spider-Man, Peter's life got a little too hectic. He decided he needed a rest, and he withdrew from the graduate program. Later, taking Aunt May's advice, he returned to college and continued working toward his master's degree. As an adult, Parker could often be found in a lab experimenting with chemistry and physics.
The attempts at maintaining the secret of his spider-like abilities from his first love, Gwen Stacy, resulted in her death. It seemed as though no one understood the difficult balance between mortal and hero. Today, married to the beautiful Mary Jane Watson-Parker, things didn't promise to be any easier as he faced even greater challenges. Still, the lessons Spidey has learned over the years will keep him swinging in the fight against evil, no matter how great the odds he must face.
Marvel Encyclopedia Vol. 4: Spider-Man. New York: Marvel, 2003. ISBN: 0785113045 This volume contains an exhaustive look at the world of Spider-Man. (Marvel graphic novels and related publications: an annotated guide to comics ... By Robert G. Weiner)
Spider-Man: The Ultimate Guide. DK CHILDREN, 2007. ISBN: 0756626757 This is the definitive companion to the world of the super hero. Foreword by comic book legend Stan Lee, creator of Spider-Man and founder of Marvel Comics. Includes over 600 full-color images, some of which have been especially commissioned for this book.
The Smartest Superheroes, Peter Parker, Spider-Man. Pisani, Joseph. BusinessWeek, 2006. Being a superhero takes more than muscles. It also takes brains. Find out which ones are the smartest comic-book heroes ever.