Happy Birthday! Spider-Man Turns 50

Peter Parker is looking spry for a baby boomer. Buzzfeed interviews Marvel editor Stephen Wacker about what's in store for the Spider-Man as he heads towards his 700th issue. Plus: Exclusive alternate covers celebrating 50 years of Spider-Man.

Spider-Man made his first appearance in the August 1962 issue of Amazing Fantasy #15 -- his popularity was instant, and less than a year later he was given his own series. The fascination with the wise-cracking web-slinger has never abated; on August 22nd, The Amazing Spider-Man will mark 50 years with Issue #692.

Buzzfeed talked with Marvel Senior Editor Stephen Wacker to talk about Peter Parker, his place in pop culture and what to expect going into 2013 and beyond.

BuzzFeed: Movie Spider-Man: Tobey McGuire or Andrew Garfield?

Stephen Wacker: I’m a Nicolas Hammond man myself.

I’ll tell you though, I thought Garfield was terrific in the new movie, but right now when I read Spidey lately, I’ve been hearing Drake Bell, the guy that does the voice on the animated series. I love his high school Spidey.

Exclusive Image: Spider-Man Through The Decades: 2000s Variant for 50th Anniversary Issue

BF: Being continuously published for 50 years is a huge accomplishment. What draws generation after generation of people to Spider-Man?

Wacker: What Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, and later John Romita did 50 years ago was the same thing the Beatles did 50 years ago: They elevated their medium through the tastes of young people. For the most part there simply weren’t young super heroes in comics to any great degree. The ones you did see were usually sidekicks, and as friendly and harmless looking (and let’s face it: white bread) a group that you could find.

As a culture, the early 1960s were still the beginning of the time where teens were recognized as a separate demographic. Teen-agers run popular culture now, but it wasn’t always so. The Spidey creators dared to make Peter Parker more-or-less resemble a kid you’d find in the real world, struggling with adolescence, responsibility and identity.

I also think you can’t overstate the power of the decision to cover Spidey’s face entirely. That was practically unheard of in comics. Even a character as mysterious as Batman showed half his face. You knew Batman was a white adult (with great skin!). Spider-Man, however, could be just about anyone under that mask. To me that’s where the real power of the character’s ability to draw in new generations resides.

I see Spidey as the character that brings people in, the gateway drug so to speak. Peter Parker’s struggles have become internalized into American culture so handily that just about anyone can associate with some aspect of the character’s life. I’m not sure that’s true of any other super hero…at least not to the degree that it is with Spidey.

BF: With such a long history, how do you keep track of all the various characters and relationships floating around? I imagine lots of Post-It Notes connected by yarn.

Wacker: Exactly. Also lots of notes scribbled on my hands…and other assorted body parts.

In the case of the current run, our writer Dan Slott is about as big of a Spidey fan as you can find. I’ve also had two great assistants on the book in Ellie Pyle and Tom Brennan, who at the very least know where to find answers we might need.

And look, I’ll be honest, the fan sites help a ton. Great resources like the folks at spiderfan.org help keep straight all things Spidey.

Mistakes do happen though — they have since the book began — but that’s just part of working on any long running character. For the most part I think we have a pretty good batting average. I’m sure there several fans who think differently!

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