Spider-Man is the quintessential Marvel character. Despite being a superhero blessed by powers and abilities he is beset by the travails and problems of ordinary life as well. His power gives him the ability to do good but does not allow him to improve his lot in life.
Peter Parker was born to Richard Parker and his wife Mary Fitzpatrick-Parker, both of whom were agents of the CIA and later of S.H.I.E.L.D.[?] (a fictional secret agency playing an important role in the Marvel Universe). Their last assignment was the infiltration as double-agents of the organization of Albert Malik, who had taken on the name of Red Skull in the absence of the original. Albert found out about their plans and arranged a plane-crash that proved fatal for them.
After their death their infant son Peter was left in the care of his Uncle Ben and Aunt May (Richard's older brother Benjamin Parker and his wife May Reilly-Parker). Ben immediately took to the role of the boy's father but May was at first reluctant. She still remembered her parents blaming the birth of a child, her self, for the destruction of their marriage, and she was afraid that Peter may signal the end of her own marriage. But on time she warmed up to Peter and he only strengthened the couple's marriage instead of threatening it. Though Peter was always loved by the aging couple he was unpopular among people of his own age. Over time he grew to a rather lonely, timid teenager who showed more interest in his studies and science in general than dealing with his social life. He was often the target of jokes by more popular kids like Eugene "Flash" Thompson, the high-school's star athlete.
Peter's life took a strange turn when he was 16 years old. While attending a science exhibit he was bitten by a spider which had been imbued with a fantastic amount of radiation. The spider bite gave Parker an array of superpowers including the proportional speed, strength and agility of a spider, a spider-sense that warns him of impending danger, a fast healing ability that allows him to quickly recover from injuries and poisons, and the ability to stick to walls through what has been hypothesized to be a system of molecular adhesion. A lesser effect was an improvement on his eye-sight. Originally near-sighted and bespectacled he now has a keen vision.
In addition to his physical powers Parker used his knowledge of the sciences to build mechanical web shooters. These web shooters allow him to spin the webs Spider-Man uses in a variety of ways, most notably to travel through the cavernous chasms between the Manhattan high-rises by swinging about, to ensnare criminals, and to form protective shields or nets. Later, he also developed small electronic "spider-tracers" which allow him to follow subjects so he can attack when they are more vulnerable.
Initially, Parker designed himself a costume and adopted the identity of Spider-Man in order to become a wrestler and win money. His ego grew with his initial fame and when an opportunity to stop a thief presented itself, Parker chose not to act, feeling he no longer had to look after any but himself.
Later, upon learning that his beloved Uncle Ben had been killed by a burglar, Parker charged into action as Spider-Man. To his horror he learned that the burglar who had killed his Uncle Ben was the same thief he had allowed to escape. Thereafter he adopted the axiom "with great power comes great responsibility," earlier taught to him by his uncle, and devoted himself to fighting injustice. Though the death of a loved one is a commonplace motive for crime-fighting in comics, Spider-Man is driven by guilt rather than revenge.
Although Spider-Man eternally tries to do the right thing he is viewed with suspicion by a number of authority figures and is often considered little more than a criminal himself. Much of this negative publicity is the result of a campaign by J. Jonah Jameson, publisher of the daily newspaper the Daily Bugle. Ironically, Parker works as a freelance photographer for Jameson, selling photographs of himself as Spider-Man.
As originally conceived by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, Parker was something of an everyman character. However, as with many characters spanning a lengthy publishing history and handled by multiple creators, Spider-Man's history is somewhat convoluted. He continued working as a freelance photographer for the Daily Bugle and living with his elderly and somewhat fragile Aunt May until he graduated from high school. He enrolled in the fictional Empire State University where he befriended Harry Osborn, who was in fact the son of his arch-enemy the Green Goblin, and Gwen Stacy, with whom he would have a lengthy romance.
Stacy was eventually killed by the Green Goblin who, seemingly, died soon thereafter in battle with Spider-Man. Parker eventually wed long-time friend and occasional supermodel Mary Jane Watson[?]. His marriage did not overly affect his career as a crime-fighter and the stresses of his dual identity coupled with Mary Jane's tempestuous career as a model/actress and capricious editorial mandates led to the dissolution of their marriage. They are currently separated but not officially divorced.
Peter is currently, once again, single, employed as a science teacher in his old high school, living in a Manhattan apartment receiving the occasional visits from his Aunt May (who was at one point thought dead--but the elderly woman who died was merely an actress who impersonated her). She has finally learned about her nephew's secret life.
Green Goblin/Norman Osborn has also returned to Peter's life recently as it was revealed that his powers also include an extra-ordinary healing ability and he was living incognito in Europe in the years of his absence. He made his return after the death of his son Harold "Harry" Osborn who had served as Green Goblin II during most of his absence. He has resumed his activities as head of a business corporation. Though he still operates as the Goblin occasionally he prefers now to manipulate others rather than acting on his own. He also wants to ensure the "Goblin/Osborn" Legacy by preparing a heir for it. His grandson, Norman Osborn II ("Normie"), is still a very young child and so the elder Norman has attempted to prepare another person to act as his heir and adoptive son, Harry's replacement and Normie's future mentor and adoptive father. Surprisingly the person he has chosen is Peter himself. The Goblin's attempts to either force Peter to accept this role or to kill him have been unsuccessful but have taken their toll on Peter's life on more than one occasion. The relationship between the duo continues to play an important role in their lives.
Spider-Man has been adapted to television numerous times, through a short-lived live-action TV series and several animated cartoon series. The first was produced in 1967 by animator Ralph Bakshi, with Spider-Man voiced by, first Bernard Cowan[?], then Paul Soles[?]. The later episodes were stylized and featured dark ominous settings and pervasive background music. The series may be best remembered for its theme song.
In 1980, with the creation of the animation studio Marvel Productions Ltd.[?], Marvel endeavored to translate more of their comic characters to television. Towards this end the cartoon series Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends[?] was created featuring Spider-Man, Iceman[?] of the X-Men, and a new character, Firestar[?]. Actor Dan Gilvezan[?] gave voice to this incarnation of the wall-crawler. In the early 1990s, another successful series was made with a bigger budget and closer fidelity to the comics.
The biggest increase in Spider-Man's popularity came with the release of the movie Spider-Man in 2002. It was directed by Sam Raimi and starred actor Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker and featured a number of CGI effects to bring Spider-Man himself to life. Though the film adaptation took a number of liberties with the character for which it was criticized by the ardent fans of the comic, it was widely embraced by the viewing public. Earning over $430 million in domestic box office revenue alone, it was the highest-grossing movie of the year, outperforming George Lucas' Star Wars: Attack of the Clones (the first time a Star Wars movie was not the biggest box-office hit of the year). It landed a spot on many lists of all-time biggest box office smashes.