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Early Spider-Man (Marvel Comics Lee Ditko)

Spider-Man

(Peter Parker) (Year One profile)


Power Level:
Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game

Here is Spider-Man as you like him… Fighting ! Joking ! Daring ! Challenging the most dangerous foe of all, in this — the Marvel Age of comics !”


Context

This profile covers Amazing Fantasy #15 and the first 12 issues of Amazing Spider-Man vol. 1. No other material, later material, flashbacks, retcons , etc. were taken into account in this profile. This is “pure” period Year One Spidey.

In Amazing Fantasy #15 he’s usually “Spiderman”, but by the next story the spelling usually is Spider-Man. This profile uses the hyphen.

Our main Spider-Man profile is a separate, gisted entry. This one is more focused, since it is an emergent history profile.


Background

  • Real Name: Peter Parker.
  • Marital Status: Single.
  • Known Relatives: Uncle Ben (deceased), Aunt May.
  • Group Affiliation: None.
  • Base Of Operations: Queens, New York City.
  • Height: 5’7” Weight: 125 lbs.
  • Eyes: Brown Hair: Brown


Powers & Abilities

Proportional strength

Spider-Man can leap across at least half-a-dozen metres from a standing start, can crush steel tubing with one hand, and can easily lift and throw the Thing (Ben Grimm). He can stick to sheer surfaces and scale them as quickly as he can walk – even with his shoes on, though it’s easier without. He can move on tightropes quickly and safely.

Early Spider-Man (Peter Parker) recap panel, by Steve Ditko

At this stage of the Marvel Universe, Spider-Man is considered to be very strong. Though he clearly isn’t the Thing, his strength is sufficient to overcome most challenges. His strength also helps him resist electric shocks that would electrocute a normal person, and to recover from viral infection, sprained joints and other ailments much faster than most.

On the other hand, Spider-Man famously pulls his punches to make sure that he doesn’t permanently hurt anybody.

Proportional agility

Spider-Man is also a very fast, highly acrobatic combatant. He generally moves with great alacrity. The speed with which he dodges makes even experienced shoot wrestlers  look clumsy and impotent.

However, though he’s great at escaping thugs and — especially — gunmen, costumed adventurers and superhumans can hit him if they’re fast enough. In DC Heroes terms, Spidey usually Lays Back when fighting thugs.

Parker dutifully practices his agility. As this training combines with field experience he becomes able to reliably perform superhuman acrobatics. Near the end of this era, his acrobatics are beginning to be on the level associated with classic Spider-Man.

All this and brains too

Intellectually, Parker is an excellent student with a genuine gift for comic book-style science. This includes practical applications such as applied chemistry and electronics.

For instance he defeated the Vulture by correctly hypothesising that his flight was powered by a “magnetic harness”. Parker then built an “anti-magnetic inverter” overnight that, at very close range, could shut down the Vulture’s technology.

In the next issue, he mixes a chemical that can fuse Dr. Octopus’ arms together. Parker also devised a serum to return the Lizard to his human state, though that was based on Dr. Connors’ full notes.

At this point, Spider-Man is a controversial figure – but he isn’t hunted by the police. In fact, many NYPD officers support him and appreciate his help.

Spider-sense… tingling !

Parker has a “spider instinct” that warns him of danger in time to dodge. This paranormal sense can also be used to accurately track down the source of the danger. This ranges from locating the Invisible Girl to finding the nefarious pilot of an helicopter that just passed overhead.

At this stage, the spider-sense seems electromagnetic in nature. For instance, Parker can clearly hear messages and signals broadcast on specific radio frequencies that, err, have… something to do with spiders. He can also sense unusual electrical impulses, though what constitutes one is entirely plot-dependent.

Early Spider-Man (Peter Parker) shocked by a Daily Bugle article, by Steve Ditko

It also has a telepathic component. Spider-Man can pick “hostile intentions” with his spider-senses. Sometimes, he even senses that nearby people are up to no good, though that only ever happens to advance the plot.

Parker’s spider senses often allow him to compensate for lack of visibility. For instance he can still dodge attacks whilst blinded, though it doesn’t seem to be quite as effective when his spider sense thus replaces his sight.

However, the spider-sense isn’t entirely reliable. For instance the Vulture once moved swiftly and silently enough that Spidey’s spider sense missed the threat he posed. In tabletop RPG parlance, Spider-Man can still fail his Danger Sense rolls at this stage. This happens several times during this era.

The proportional web of a spider

Spider-Man’s distinctive blue and red costume (the colours traditionally associated with spiders, obviously) is so thin it can be worn under his normal clothing. The mask is secured to the collar. However the fabric can be torn and a very strong person can just rip the fastening.

The wrist projectors Parker built can shot web-like lines whose tip is coated in a strong liquid cement. He’s very accurate with those. These can deploy as a sort of sticky net to entangle persons, and are routinely used as swinglines.

Spider-Man soon demonstrates creative, powerful uses of his webbing. This includes giant slingshots between buildings to hurl himself across multiple city blocks, or parachutes made of webbing to glide. However, super-strong things such as Dr. Octopus’ arms or the Lizard can break the webbing.

Early Spider-Man (Peter Parker) explaining his gear

By #5, Spider-Man erects solid columns of webbing as a stationary shield, and hurls hard balls of webbing as blunt projectiles inspired by the Human Torch (Johnny Storm)’s fireballs. In #6 he spins a pair of swamp shoes (like tiny rafts for the feet) and a pole to cross a marsh.

In #10 he used some planks and webbing to make a dummy resembling a giant spider. Webbing also gets used to bandage a sprained ankle, and as a shield to ward off falling debris.

Spider-Man special belt holds spare web fluid cartridges for when he runs out. The buckle is built so that a miniature still camera can be mounted within. Though it looks vaguely like Batman’s utility belt, it is worn under the costume.

By Amazing Spider-Man #3, Parker has added a flat flashlight to the buckle. It has a filter that makes it project a logo based upon his mask. This is usually used to make ominous entrances at night. Back then he was fond of making entrance with the spider symbol.

In Amazing Spider-Man #11, Peter builds his first spider-tracer. It looks like a detailed model of a live spider, but with electronics hidden within. These send a coded signal to a small hand-held receiver. The spider is coated in a special adhesive, so it can be thrown to stick to, say, a speeding car. The receiver has a limited range, though.


History

Though shy, the unimposing Peter Parker was Midtown High’s top science student. He was expected to get a scholarship upon graduation. Even back in 1962, a scholarship was indispensable, as Peter’s loving and very supportive Aunt May and Uncle Ben had but modest means.

Whilst visiting a science hall exhibit, Peter was bitten by a spider. The minuscule arachnid, unnoticed by all, had gotten itself heavily irradiated by one of the demonstration atomic devices. The queasy youth soon discovered that he had gained the proportional strength, speed and agility of a spider.

Showman

To test his strength and earn $100 (about $750 in 2013 USD) he met the public challenge of wrestler Crusher Hogan. The nervous Peter fought with a mask on, in case he’d lose. But he easily and spectacularly overwhelmed Hogan.

A producer immediately approached him to become his agent. Flush with power and at the promise of fame and wealth, the overexcited Parker made himself a colourful, spider-themed performance costume. He also built an amazing device to shoot “webs”.

The first show with Spider-Man demonstrating his ability was sensational. Peter decided to just look out for number one and only care himself, his uncle and his aunt. In his youthful view, everybody else had always ignored him and treated him poorly, and could just go hang.

However, several days — and several spectactular TV appearances — later, Uncle Ben was shot dead by a robber. His shattered nephew realised that he could easily have stopped the murderer some days before, had he not behaved in an antisocial manner.

With great power…

With Ben Parker dead, the household had no income. Peter tried to perform again so the aged and fragile May could pay her bills. But he soon discovered that he couldn’t both cash checks and remain anonymous.

Furthermore, famous publisher J. Jonah Jameson virulently denounced media sensation Spider-Man. He called for outlawing him, turning the public against the bewebbed performer. In particular he unfavourably compared Spider-Man to his son, heroic astronaut John Jameson.

Early Spider-Man (Peter Parker) climbing a building, by Steve Ditko

A few days later, John Jameson’s space capsule went off-trajectory. Spider-Man saved the craft in his first outing as a super-hero. Determined never to repeat the mistake that had resulted in Ben’s death, he was now keenly aware that with great power comes great responsibility. Peter had decided to help everyone regardless of personal cost.

However, his incredible feats only infuriated the jealous J.J. Jameson further. The Chameleon (Dmitri Smerdyakov) used this brouhaha to impersonate Spider-Man and steal military plans, greatly worsening the situation.

Spider-Man attempted to join the Fantastic Four to earn a salary. However, he left in a fit of teenage pique when he learned that this was not possible. But overhearing a conversation about the crime wave of the Vulture (Adrian Toomes) gave him an idea. Using Uncle Ben’s old camera, he could take photos of the elusive criminal and sell them to newspapers to pay his aunt’s bills.

…comes great responsibility

Thus, by Amazing Spider-Man #2, many classic beats were already in place. After defeating the Vulture, Spider-Man clashed with an alien disguised as a radio repairman (the Tinkerer), then defeated Doctor Octopus (Otto Octavius), then captured the Sandman.

In #5 he even fought Dr. Doom (Victor von Doom), and was saved by the arrival of the Fantastic Four.

More classic enemies made their first appearance as the villain of the month – the Lizard (Curtis Connors), Electro (Max Dillon), and the Big Man (Frederick Foswell) and the Enforcers.


Description

Peter still wears large glasses, but his eyesight was fixed when he became Spider-Man. The specs get broken by Flash Thompson in Amazing Spider-Man #9, and he carries on without.


Personality

Parker seems to be about 17 by this point, and he’s not a particularly worldly guy. He’s still adjusting to his powers and responsibilities, so his mood tends to be a see-saw. When he’s winning he feels like a million bucks and is overconfident, when he’s thwarted he feels useless and prone to hands-wringing whining.

Unless he’s despairing over some minor setback, Peter wants to be a super-hero no matter what. This is a 180° turn from his previous, brief-lived “screw you I’ve got mine” attitude. This overcompensation stems from the trauma of losing his beloved uncle.

His other important goal is to support his elderly aunt. She seems to only have a very low pension as a revenue – not enough to keep their home running.

Early Spider-Man (Peter Parker) demonstrating his web-shooters, by Steve Ditko

Parker is a bit shy, especially around girls, but not unusually so for his age. His reputation as a “professional wallflower” is more caused by the fact that he prefers studying science over going out and mingling. For instance, he never hesitates to hurl jibes back at Flash Thompson when Flash is mocking his bookwormish ways.

As Spider-Man Peter quips a lot. But these quips are very much from the early 1960s and thus often come across as corny and weaksauce.

Spider-Man and the Human Torch develop a juvenile rivalry during this era. While Johnny is a hothead, Peter seems to be jealous of the Torch’s fame, popularity and success with girls.

Peter is also beginning to date Betty Brant, J. Jonah Jameson’s secretary.


Quotes

“What’s happening to me ? I feel — different ! As though my entire body is charged with some sort of fantastic energy !”

“It works ! I have the speed, the agility, the very *strength* of a gigantic spider !”

“There is only one person who can save John Jameson !”

“Now, if the Vulture is anywhere in the area, my spider-senses will detect him ! Ahh — I’m beginning to get a tingle now !”

Doctor Octopus (as Spidey bursts in through a window): “Spider-Man !”
Spider-Man: “Well, I sure ain’t Albert Schweitzer  !”

“What do I do now ? I’ve never been beaten before ! But this time, my spider powers were not enough ! Is this the end of Spider-Man ?”

“Can they be right ? Am I really some sort of crack-pot, wasting my time seeking fame and glory ?? Am I more interested in the adventure of being Spider-Man than I am in helping people ? Why do I do it ? Why don’t I give the whole thing up ? And yet, I can’t ! I must have been given this great power for a reason ! No matter how difficult it is, I must remain as Spider-Man ! And I pray that some day the world will understand !”

Vulture: “I warn you, Spider-Man ! Stay out of my way, while you still can !”
Spider-Man: “Mister, I thrive on warnings ! In fact some day I’m going to write an article for the Reader’s Digest titled: ’The most unforgettable warnings I’ve ever known’ !”


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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Spider-Man (Peter Parker, year one)

Dex: 07 Str: 08 Bod: 05 Motivation: Great Responsibility
Int: 05 Wil: 06 Min: 04 Occupation: Student, professional wallflower
Inf: 03 Aur: 03 Spi: 04 Resources {or Wealth}: 002
Init: 017 HP: 040

Powers:
Cling: 04, Danger sense: 05, Detect (Unusual electrical impulses): 04, Jumping: 03, Lightning immunity: 01, Radio communication: 03, Regeneration: 02

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Danger Sense is Discerning – it can be used to precisely locate the source of the threat if it is within Range.
  • Danger Sense can substitute for DEX when Spider-Man’s DEX has been lowered by various forms of the Flash Power, or low visibility (fog, darkness, etc.).
  • Danger Sense can sometimes pick up that a crime is in progress nearby, at the GM’s whim.
  • What constitutes an “unusual electrical impulse” is entirely determined by the GM.
  • Radio Communication is Receive Only, and is restricted to specific frequencies.
  • Regeneration only to hasten recovery from minor ailments like sickness, sprained joints, etc.

Skills:
Accuracy (Web-shooters): 08, Acrobatics (Athletics): 08, Artist (Photographer): 03, Evasion (Ranged only): 08, Gadgetry: 06, Military science (Tracking): 09, Scientist: 06, Thief (Stealth): 05

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Acrobatics (Athletics) is Contingent Upon STR.
  • Evasion is Contingent Upon Danger Sense.
  • Military Science (Tracking) is Contingent Upon Danger Sense.
  • Military Science (Tracking) can only pick up the trail of persons who recently activated Spider-Man’s Danger Sense.

Note:
Acrobatics rises to 09 in the final few months of this era.

Advantages
Conditional Soaking (Blunt/unarmed, Electricity), Lightning Reflexes.

Connections:
None.

Drawbacks:
Age (Young), Secret Identity.

Equipment:

  • WEB DEVICES [BODY 04, Force wall: 08, Gliding: 02, Jumping: 10, Projectile weapons: 04, Snare: 07, Bonus: Snare has the Swingline Bonus and the Scattershot Bonus, Limitation: Jumping is achieved through a giant web slingshot, R#04 (R# being met usually meaning that he runs out of web fluid)].
  • BELT [BODY 02, Flash (Steady illumination only): 02]. This belt holds spare web fluid cartridges – installing one takes a full Phase but usually fixes a failed R# roll.
  • Portable receiver [BODY 01, Detect (Spider-tracer): 05] and a single Spider-tracer.

Design Notes

The game stats are slightly arbitrary. There’s a chicken-and-egg issue since Spidey is a keystone benchmark character — ie, his stats define the stats of the characters whom he encounters, not the other way around. Still, this is our current best attempt at modelling what’s on the page.


By Sébastien Andrivet.

Writeup completed on the 2nd of October, 2013.

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