Spidey Just Wants to Have Fun
By: Marco Manalac
With very little fanfare surrounding it, The Amazing Spider-Man mini-series “Learning to Crawl” will not be remembered as a major event, nor will it be considered as a monumental game-changer years from now when our children, our grandchildren and our great grandchildren tell their children about the web-head. Although it has a series of beautiful covers executed by none other than the legendary Alex Ross, “Learning to Crawl” is not a story surrounded by controversy, there are no milestone deaths that occurred, and at least up to this point, the flashback tale has no real impact on the present-day storyline. But what “Learning to Crawl” did achieve was give us a deeper understanding of Peter Parker, and of his beloved Uncle Ben.
In the last issue of the mini-series, we catch up with a depressed and defeated Peter Parker, embarrassed and humiliated by his recent opponent, Clash. Clash became the public figure that Spider-Man always wanted to be. Clash had the fame, the popularity and the big win over our friendly neighborhood wall-crawler. Sure, his powers were a huge part of that embarrassing moral and physical beat-down. But it was really Spider-Man’s mental toughness that was being tested, as well as his pride. People were forgetting about Spider-Man, and Peter wanted to forget about Spider-Man, too. But as fate would have it, this low point in the teenager’s early crime-fighting career was just another opportunity to discover something new about himself and about his family.
We are all familiar with the life lesson that Uncle Ben taught the young Peter Parker, about how great power always comes with great responsibility. It’s a very meaningful lesson, and a very serious one. But it turns out that it was not the only life lesson that stuck with our young hero. It turns out that the reason Spider-Man is always throwing jokes, making quips, and unleashing a barrage of witty banter to his villains’ dismay is also because of Uncle Ben. In “Learning to Crawl,” Aunt May tells Peter that Uncle Ben believed that it was our responsibility to share our gifts with our fellow man. But Peter Parker, very much like us, never really thought about what Uncle Ben’s gifts were, what his “power” was, until now. So Aunt May enlightened her nephew.
Uncle Ben’s first gift was his heart. In the fifth issue, we see a collage of images showing Uncle Ben helping others, and assisting them in their times of need. Aunt May said he shared his heart with other people, and once a person shares their heart, it is something that you want to share with everyone else. Of course, we as longtime Spider-Man fans already knew about this power. We always knew that Uncle Ben was a nice, loving, caring guy.
But it’s his second gift that shows us a side that we apparently took for granted. According to Aunt May, as much as Uncle Ben believed in lofty ideals like great power and great responsibility, he believed in having fun. She told Peter that even though that Uncle Ben was gone, he would have wanted to hear Peter laugh, and that the boy’s laugh was his favorite sound in the whole world. We learn that Uncle Ben loved Peter’s fun side, more than anything, and that they would always joke around and play pranks on each other when he was still alive. Aunt May wanted Peter to remember that, and that was exactly what the teenage Spider-Man needed to hear. From that little talk with Aunt May, Peter realized that his superhero career went off to a rough start because he was doing it all wrong. He was trying to honor how Uncle Ben died, and not how he lived. And a few pages later, Aunt May’s pep talk took full effect as we see Spider-Man defeating Clash easily by distracting him with humor.
Like I said, “Learning to Crawl” was nothing earth-shattering. But it was a story that gave us a better feel for Peter Parker as a young individual. At the end of the fifth issue, we see an image of Amazing Spider-Man #7’s cover, as Spider-Man is swinging around the city with the new Ms. Marvel at his side. And instantly we know why Spider-Man is such a great, classic character. It is because he has learned so much in his countless years of crime-fighting, and he never stops to share his learnings and experiences with others. He was a young, troubled, and underdog hero when he started, and it makes sense that he would want to be there for the next generation, like Ms. Marvel, as much as possible.
One day, Spider-Man will be the hero to others, as Uncle Ben was a hero to him.
(When he’s not out on the streets saving the world from made-up villains, Marco Manalac is usually surfing the internet. Follow him on Twitter @marcomanalac. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org)