The late and great Stan Lee and Steve Ditko were two of the most influential creative forces in comic history. In 1962, they gave the Marvel Universe its greatest hero: Peter Parker, better known to all as the Amazing Spider-Man! Spidey is not only the most famous hero in Marvel’s roster but also their most influential, as other comic publishers, and even other forms of media have used his mythos as a template when creating characters of their own. The fact that Spidey is the most profitable superhero character in the world, combined with his everyman nature, speaks to that,
Here are five characters who may not be Spider-Man, but still manage to embrace his spirit-whether it’s having similar origins, similar villains, or above all else, embracing the classic mantra of “With great power, there must also come great responsibility.”
Created by Derek Dingle, Michael T. Davis, Denys Cowan and the late Dwayne McDuffie for the Milestone line of comics, Virgil Hawkins was meant to be a contemporary version of the web-slinger. “I’d always been partial to Spider-Man as a child, particularly the teen version, and was disappointed with the adult, married to a fashion model Spider-Man who was running around in the comics at the time,” McDuffie said in an interview.
“I worked on it on and off for a while, developing Static as a Marvel Universe character but for various reasons, it didn’t work out. I sort of dusted him off for Milestone and threw him into the pot.” Much like Peter Parker, Virgil is a bonafide geek with a talent for science and often struggles to balance his school life and family matters with his superhero activities. This has helped endear him to a generation of fans and made him one of DC’s most beloved (if underused) characters.
Created by Robert Kirkman and Cory Walker for Image Comics, Mark is actually a hybrid of Superman and Spider-Man, but it is the latter that holds the strongest influence on his character development. Peter Parker has made some significant choices during his career as Spider-Man, from joining the Avengers to teaching at his old high school to even getting married to the love of his life before an ill-advised deal with the devil wiped it from existence. In his career as a superhero, Mark Grayson repelled several alien invasions, traveled to alternate dimensions, married the love of his life – no deals with the devil required – and even became the ruler of his people, the Viltrumites. Unlike Marvel and DC, who tend to cycle back to the status quo, Invincible’s life changes were permanent-and quite profound.
Terry McGinnis, Batman Beyond
The idea of a teenage Batman is laughable at best and cringe-worthy at worst. It is a ridiculous idea. It should not work. And yet Paul Dini, Bruce Timm, and Glen Murakami made it work in the animated series, Batman Beyond. They jumped forward to a future where Bruce Wayne had hung up his cape but Gotham was still infested by crime and lawlessness. Enter Terry McGinnis, a juvenile delinquent who, after his father is murdered, steals Wayne’s hi-tech Batsuit to pursue the culprits. With Wayne’s blessing, McGinnis continues to fight crime as the new Batman.
Terry, much like Peter Parker, is a teenage superhero trying to balance his social life and studies with a greater duty-but the Spidey influences also extend to his supporting cast and villains. High school bully Nelson Nash is a near carbon copy of Parker’s bully/later friend, Flash Thompson. Terry also is dating a girl who seems way out of his league, Dana Tan, which should sound familiar to Spider-Man fans. Even his villains resemble Spidey’s with Inque being the femme fatale version of Venom, the Stalker is Kraven the Hunter in all but name, and Ten from the Royal Flush Gang might as well be named Felicia Hardy.
Created by Dan Hartmant, creator of Nickelodeon’s Fairly OddParents, 14-year-old Danny Fenton’s life is changed forever when he stumbles upon a machine his ghost hunting parents built in order to view the underworld. A malfunction radically alters Danny’s DNA, granting him the ability to turn intangible, fly, possess others, and a “ghost sense” that warns him of supernatural threats. Much like Terry McGinnis, Danny borrows liberally from the Spidey mythos-he is as quick to throw a quip as he is a punch, and he also deals with having to juggle high school and his heroic duties. Danny remains one of Nickelodeon’s most popular characters, and Hartman has even drawn designs showing what the “Ghost Boy” would look like in modern times.
Izuku “Deku” Midoriya
Izuku Midoriya, the main character of the My Hero Academia anime/manga created by Kōhei Horikoshi, lives in a world where the majority of the population has developed superhuman abilities- or “Quirks” -as they are known. Midoriya was powerless, both literally and figuratively as he suffered abuse at the hands of his classmate Katsuki Bakugo, who labeled him “Deku” (translated: “one who cannot achieve anything.”)
However, after risking his life to save Bakugo, Midoriya is approached by the world’s greatest hero, All Might. All Might passes on his quirk, known as “One For All”, to Midoriya, who then applies to the prestigious U.A. High School, where he trains with the next generation of heroes. I’ve often described My Hero Academia to my friends and newcomers as “Superman training Spider-Man”, and I stand by that. Deku embraces the most important thing about Spider-Man: his sense of responsibility. He will not hesitate to do the right thing, even if the odds are against him.
It is a testament to Peter Parker’s popularity and influence that other characters have mimicked him over the years, whether subtly or overtly. And I have a feeling that this trend will continue as new characters and stories are introduced.
Collier “CJ” Jennings is a freelance reporter and film critic living in Seattle. He uses his love of comics and film/TV to craft reviews and essays on genre projects. He is also a host on Into the Spider-Cast.