Nerd Lessons: Spider-Man: Bruised, Beaten, Still Fighting

We love our fandoms. For those on the outside looking in, it may be their impulse to discount our devotion as superficial or childish. That’s because they don’t understand or see how nerdom has effected us. At BNP, we know that comics and movies and anime and cosplay does so much more than entertain us, it shapes us; we learn what kind of people we want to be—and who exactly we are fighting against becoming. We sent out that bat signal, we sent out notice for an open call for submissions on what nerd lessons you learned and y’all answered the call.

The Author of This Piece and Teacher for This Nerd Lesson : Charles J Eskew: @CJEskew

The same Friday night that mom explained to us that Daddy was going on a little trip — he’d made a bad choice but wouldn’t be gone long — I’d just found out that it was actually the Chameleon who’d orchestrated the false return of the long dead Richard and Mary Parker as life-model decoys to torment Spider-Man.

It’d made for a long weekend.

As a child I couldn’t tell you which hit harder. Jail and its many splendors were successfully shielded from me, so I imagined landing on the right Community Chest box would advance my pops back to Go. Spider-Man’s parental figures being psychotic robots, and the knowledge of having to wait thirty days for sweet recompense, was the more palpable concern. I’d learned though, and kept learning month to month and writer to writer, that if anything *endurance* was Spidey’s real power, and one that I would need to hone myself, to make it from one issue to the next.

When Pops eventually got out after a few weeks, mom melted into his arms. She shook free the crusted husk of who she’d had to be, built from lies she had to tell us in order to keep a fatherless house a home. I’m sure she also had a fire for him, but like the others it was kept from us behind fire-proofed doors where things blistered and popped. Sometimes if you stood close, which my brother and I had done too often, you could still feel the resonating heat (well, that and second hand smoke).

If Spidey could deal with psychotic murder parents though, and mosey along to a new fresh hell, I could find a way to migrate my way around a few raised voices and a pawned Super Nintendo.

If Spidey could deal with psychotic murder parents though, and mosey along to a new fresh hell, I could find a way to migrate my way around a few raised voices and a pawned Super Nintendo. At least I had them I thought, and at least I had webs. Unlike me, my brother tragically found an affinity for X-Men. I still wonder how you escape to some of the most sadistic and depressing story arcs a preteen can come across, but I digress.

Say it with me now, With great power comes great responsibility. It’s the mantra that spread beyond Uncle Ben, beyond Peter and has been twisted and remixed a dozen and a half times over, and it’s great (or rather, amazing…aha ha) but the crux of it always relied on having power. Granted, we all have power, in some form or another, but as I’d not been consciously aware of it, Spidey’s endurance is the more universal lesson I connected to.
spiderman
This was highlighted in the two-part event, Nothing Can Stop The Juggernaut! (1976). If you haven’t read it, (which in itself is blasphemous to the house of Spider-Nerd) Madam Web’s life is put in danger by the Juggernaut, and Spidey has to stop him. He faces him head on, but nothing really works. He gets his ass handed to him over, and over, and over again without so much as mildly inconveniencing the Juggernaut. Eventually though, broken and beaten and other synonym for getting wrecked, he outsmarts the Juggernaut and encases him in cement. Now, the whole trapping your enemy in cement thing was nothing new, and even as a kid I felt it was kind of a cop-out, but that’s not what made it so astonishing to me. Spider-Man, who’d lost the entire battle, who’d been tossed, smashed through walls, and did more damage to himself in attacking this unstoppable force head on, had found a way to keep on going.

More than any other character in Marvel’s pantheon, he overcame. He slid on his costume, bruised, beaten, and with an only slightly enhanced rate of healing, webbed up his broken ribs, and swung out to fight the good fight.
[quote_left]He slid on his costume, bruised, beaten, and with an only slightly enhanced rate of healing, webbed up his broken ribs, and swung out to fight the good fight.[/quote_left]

When Tammy Fakename unfortunately shot down my advances (but not the seventeen-dollar-and-fifty-cent heart necklace I’d bought her), well, Spidey had literally made The Black Cat spiral into a panic attack from revealing his grotesquely mundane face to her. This of course pales in comparison to other romantic pitfalls in the Spider-Man history, but how many times can you hear about the most famous iteration of the woman-in-the-refrigerator trope?

I grew up in the dork age of comics; when most writing arcs centered around the melodramatic and soap opera. Still, it was a hell of a time to be a comics fan, between The Death of Superman, Maximum Carnage, Knightfall, Emerald Twilight and New Dawn, there were those stories that seared into your brain, that wrapped your attention two times over. Though I’m mostly name dropping so many legendary comic book arcs because I’m about to talk about the Clone Saga.unnamed
This was the stuff of pure fantasy: clones, inter-dimensional wizard dudes named Judas Traveler, Kane, like eighteen different Spider-Men, Mary Jane had a baby but didn’t, and people were melting all over the place. It was weird dude. This though was also coming out during my own mini-series Mom and Dad Say Nah, We Done (1994).

As bad as it was, as shitty as they acted towards one another, that comic book run was there, it’d meant something to me. Granted, Peter was pretty whiny during the run, but he fought for his identity in the midst of everyone telling him he wasn’t who he’d thought he’d been his entire life. He went to jail, he gave up his position as Spider-Man, he basically gave up everything he thought his entire life was built on, but he still made it through. The more ridiculous it got, the more mine and my brother’s life did as well. There were new dudes, new women, spin-off characters and strange subplots that we couldn’t begin to untangle, but didn’t really have much of a choice in. Eventually by the end of the arc it was Norman Osborn, because it’s always Norman Osborn, and about the same time we’d found a sense of balance, of normalcy.

The more ridiculous it got, the more mine and my brother’s life did as well.

Most recently, I can’t say I’ve had to reach out to the books for escape, to learn a lesson I spent 3-5 dollars monthly learning for who knows how many years, but it’s still there, it’s still a part of me. Arguably there are other characters that you’d find this from, but I’d argue most of the time the scales are tipped somewhere in their favor. They don’t have power but they have money, they don’t have money but they have the stone of blooblorp. Spidey just had the webs, and yes the powers, but usually not enough by half. He had heart enough to endure, and it’s a nerd lesson I try to keep with me in anything I face in life.

sean

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