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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, May 2, 2002

Spider-Man story has tangled history

By Anthony Breznican
Associated Press Entertainment Writer

LOS ANGELES — The new movie version of "Spider-Man" sticks to the original story threads of the friendly, neighborhood web-slinger.

Spider-Man has served as a symbol for many comic-book fans that anyone could be a hero — even shy, alienated, mildly neurotic teenage boys.

Columbia Pictures

The creation of Marvel Comics writer Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko, Spider-Man's first appearance in 1962 marked the advent of the teen-age superhero whose personal woes outnumbered his cosmic battles.

"Nothing ever goes right for Peter," Lee said. "He's a superhero, but he has his share of mistakes and his share of problems as he goes through life."

The film stars Tobey Maguire as the superhero and his alter ego, Peter Parker, in a plot that revisits the original story of the nerdy schoolboy who gains the power to climb on walls after being bitten by a peculiar spider.

There are some key differences, however. This time the spider is genetically engineered — not radioactive — and Spidey's famed web-shooters are an organic mutation in his arms — not mechanical devices he invented.

Like the original story, Parker dismisses heroism and decides to use his new strength to make money as a pro wrestler. But when a robber that Parker had earlier decided not to chase kills someone he loves, the boy decides to become a crime-fighter.

Kirsten Dunst plays the sweetheart, girl-next-door Mary Jane Watson, whose abusive father from the original comic series makes an appearance in the film.

Even the fate of the villainous Green Goblin (played by Willem Dafoe) is lifted straight from a later issue of the comic.

The fidelity of the movie contrasts the somewhat erratic story lines of the comic series over the years: Both Mary Jane and Aunt May have died and come back to life; an "alien symbiote" took over Spider-Man's body in the form of an organic black costume; Spider-man's also sprouted four extra arms and done battle with everyone from Dracula to drug dealers.

The Spider-Man story fragmented over the years into a number of different story lines, and reader interest waned.

"It was a mishmash, a bunch of errors," said Joe Quesada, Marvel's editor in chief. "We decided to fix some of the continuity errors and clean up the Spider-Man stories."

The result was "The Ultimate Spider-Man," a glossy new series that started the whole story from the beginning and, like the film that followed, set the tale in contemporary times.