Spider-Man might be one of Hollywood’s most spectacular summer blockbusters, but for director SAM RAIMI, it’s all about the comic, the characters and the kids. Words: Miles Fielder

here's a great in-joke in .S'pidc'r-Mzm. Peter Parker. the hard-

working high school nerd with the power to turn himself

into a wall—crawling web-slinger. has been burning the candle at both ends. His doting Aunt May gently scolds him. ‘You‘re not Superman. you know.’ she says. The line is not merely a sly dig at another. now defunct. superhero movie series. even if it had been adapted from DC Comics. rival publisher to Spider- Mun’s Marvel. No. the line pretty much encapsulates director Sam Raimi‘s whole approach to the filth and his reason for 'loving’ (his word) the comic strip.

That strip. created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko back in the early l‘)b()s. revolutionised the superhero comic book by introducing aspects of everyday life to the fantasy world of the

costumed heroes. Thus. having

been bitten by a radioactive spider. Peter Parker is endowed with super strength and agility as well as the ability to climb walls. spin webs and avoid danger with his ‘spider sense‘. But the boy‘s problems at school and home remain just as challenging as his rooftop battles with costumed supervillains. The comic remains Marvel‘s top seller. so it‘s no surprise Hollywood wanted to get its hands on the strip. And now that it has. Spider-

‘The creators of the comic book made it unique by coming up with a character that

Man has broken box office records. making SlZSm in its opening weekend Stateside.

‘l was always attracted to Peter Parker.' says Raimi who and please forgive me for saying this. Sam looks a little nerdish. dressed uncomfortably in a slightly oversized. expensive blue suit. ‘Stan Lee and Steve l)itko made it unique by coming up with a character who was one of us: a kid in high school who was unpopular. an introvert. Very intelligent and pleasant. but self- centred and a little selfish. He didn't quite have the guts to talk to

the girls and came from a broken home: his parents were either

dead or missing and he was raised by his uncle and his aunt. I could relate to him: I‘m assuming other kids could. too.‘ Raimi looks like he ought to be scampering about in grubby

was one of us’

jeans in dark woods. finding new ways to make his camera fiy at the blood-drenched zombies of the [it-i] Dead films he made his name with. This guy still looks like a kid.

‘So. when Peter Parker becomes a superhero. you really identify with him.‘ he continues. ‘L'nlike Superman from the planet Krypton. who was an icon. Peter Parker is a kid and he has real problems. After he gets back frotn a day of being Spider-Man. he still has to do his homework. And keep it secret from his aunt. So. he had all of our experiences and this was new to him. He was coming into this power. he wasn‘t born with it. So that was interesting.’

Something that comes as a great and pleasant surprise watching .S'pirlvr-Mrm is. while it certainly delivers spectacle you‘ll believe a blue and red spandex-clad kid can swing from a web among the skyscrapers of New York City much of the film focuses on Peter Parker‘s personal life and the many minor players in it: his aunt and uncle. sweetheart Mary Jane Watson. school bully Flash Thompson. best. rich and handsome pal Harry Osborne and first employer and tabloid paper publisher J. Jonah Jameson.

This soap opera quality gave Marvel the edge over DC back in the early 1960s when The Amazing Spider-Man first hit the newstands. Spidey‘s battles with an array of weirdo supervillains Dr ()ctopus. the Lizard. the Vulture. the Scorpion. the Sandman. Iilectro. Mysterio. the Green Goblin might have been pure escapist fantasy. but Peter Parker‘s equally challenging domestic problems gave the comic book an edge of low-key realism over Superman‘s .‘i('li()ll Comics and Batman‘s Detective (innit-s. by then more than two decades old.

It‘s also surprising that. given the big budget of this summer studio blockbuster. Spider-Mun is a very personal project for Raimi. The filmmaker looks like a kid more than ever when he recalls the awfully sweet tale of how he first came to read the comic book: ‘I was shown one by my older brother. I remember specifically. when l was in second grade. My brother. who was six years older than me his name is Sandor - never took a strong interest in me. One day he was very excited to show me something

18 THE LIST 21% May~£3 Juno 2002