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Meet the People Who Created Spider-Man

The men behind the mask.

When you think about superheroes, a certain few stand above all the rest in terms of popularity and impact on pop culture; one of those heroes is undoubtedly the wall-crawler himself, Spider-Man. Created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko in 1962, Spider-Man came about when Lee was trying to think of new ideas for superheroes following the success of another Marvel Comics franchise, the Fantastic Four. 

Ditko dedicated his life to illustrating and creating comics and did so right up until his death in 2018 at the age of 90. After a long and storied career in not just the comics industry but film and TV, Stan Lee passed away in 2018 at the age of 95. 

Though they have since passed away, Ditko and Lee’s legacy will continue to live on through Spider-Man as well as the dozens of other comic book characters they have helped create.

Spider-Man and Marvel
The Daily Beast/Marvel
Steve Ditko at work

The two men behind Spider-Man, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko began writing and illustrating for Atlas Comics (the precursor to Marvel Comics) in the 1950s, with Lee mainly writing for genres like Westerns and Science Fiction. Ditko would work closely with Lee throughout the decade, and despite achieving some success, it had become clear that Lee was not satisfied with the creative direction he was heading in. 

By the early 1960s, thanks to the efforts of companies like DC Comics, Marvel’s future rival, the superhero genre was becoming popular again after a fall off during the 1950s. Lee and fellow artist Jack Kirby teamed up to create the Fantastic Four, who became known as ‘Marvel’s First Family,’ comprised of Mr. Fantastic, The Invisible Woman, The Human Torch, and The Thing.

The Fantastic Four was a huge success, and from there, Lee began thinking about what his next character should be. There had been a recent surge in comic book sales by teenagers and young adults, so Lee had the idea of creating a superhero that not only resonated with that audience but was also a part of it as well. 

Thus the idea of Spider-Man was born.

Getty Images
Stan Lee

Taking influence from a pulp-fiction hero of the 1930s and 40s named The Spider, Lee began toying around with the idea of a superhero that had the powers of a spider. Peter Parker, an average teenager from Queens, New York, was bitten by a radioactive spider, imbuing him with all the powers of a wall-crawling arachnid such as super strength, a spider-sense, superhuman reflexes, and speed. He also created a special web fluid that he could shoot from his wrists to stick to surfaces.

While coming up with the ideas for potential stories, Lee had originally approached his previous collaborator Kirby for help on the project. Still, the two didn’t see eye to eye on things, with Lee once quoted as saying, “I hated the way he was doing it! Not that he did it badly—it just wasn’t the character I wanted; it was too heroic,” he said in The Steve Ditko Reader.

Lee turned to Ditko, and he would serve as the primary artist on Spider-Man, while Lee was the main editor and writer of the character.

Spider-Man was and continues to be a massive success for Marvel, with readers almost immediately falling in love with the character, with a lot of the success being owed to Lee’s idea of making the hero a teenager. Peter Parker not only fought off his Rogues Gallery of supervillains like the Green Goblin and Doctor Octopus, but he also dealt with problems that the reader did: He struggled to pay the bills, he grieved over the death of loved ones, and dealt with the fact that “with great power, comes great responsibility.” 

Who Owns The Rights to Spider-Man Now?
Sony Pictures

In 2018, we touched a little bit on this exact topic, at least when it comes to Spider-Man’s film rights. As of right now, Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios both have a piece of the Spidey pie, with Sony getting all revenue from Spider-Man solo projects, while Marvel maintains creative control over the character, ensuring he (and she, if potential Spider-Woman rumors are to be believed) fit into the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s overall narrative.

Despite some bumps in the road (Disney/Marvel actually lost the rights to Spider-Man in 2019 briefly, after a dispute with Sony), the deal has worked out great for both sides.

Marvel Comics still owns the rights to any Spider-Man comics and all publishing rights to the artwork, audiobooks, etc. Given that this is one of Marvel’s best and highest-selling properties, that is not likely to change any time soon. 

Until a few years ago, Activision held the exclusive rights to Spider-Man video games, but this became murkier when a few years ago, Insomniac Games announced a new Spider-Man video game. Given that Sony owns Insomniac, the game was an exclusive release for the Playstation 4. However, neither Sony nor Insomniac owns the character’s rights in video game form, which belongs to Marvel. So, in theory, Spider-Man can appear on all video game platforms, but as of now, he’s stuck with Sony.

How Much Is the Spider-Man Brand Worth?

According to a variety of sources, including The Licensing Letter, Box Office Mojo, and Comichron, when adding up the revenue earned from all the iterations of Spider-Man such as film, comic sales, video games, TV shows, etc., it has been estimated that the brand is worth around $30 billion. Yes, that’s billion with ‘B.’ 

The Spider-Man films alone have earned over $7 Billion at the box office, a truly astounding feat that is only surpassed by merchandise sales, which total over $15 Billion. 

In fact, Spider-Man is the most profitable superhero, besting The Dark Knight himself, Batman, by a billion dollars (estimated.)

Spider-Man is (thankfully) not going anywhere. The third movie in Tom Holland’s Spider-Man film trilogy has been swirling with rumors about a possible live-action Spider-Verse movie that would bring back Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield’s versions of the characters. With villains from those movies, including Jamie Foxx’s Electro and Alfred Molina’s Doctor Octopus, confirmed as joining the cast, the possibilities are truly endless. 

Now, if you’ll excuse us, we’re going to play a little more Spider-Man: Miles Morales.

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