Spider-Man: The Quintessential Millennial Super Hero

by James Ferguson

For as long as I can remember, Spider-Man has been my favorite super hero. I always figured it was because he was funny; the hero cracking jokes as he webbed up bad guys. It’s the same reason why I liked Raphael from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Looking at him now, I realize it’s because I identify with Peter Parker in ways I didn’t even realize growing up. He’s the quintessential Millennial super hero.

I realize that’s crazy as the character was created in 1962, twenty years before the first Millennials were even born, but let’s look into this. Spider-Man is the everyman hero. He’s the slightly-above-average kid from Queens who made good after he was bitten by a radioactive spider. He didn’t inherit millions from his parents like Tony Stark or Bruce Wayne. He’s not a god or an alien. He’s a regular guy that happens to have spider powers.

What always annoyed me about Spider-Man was that he couldn’t quite get his act together in his personal life. Why are people like Tony Stark running multi-billion dollar companies while Peter Parker can barely rub two pennies together, getting by as a photographer for the same newspaper that hates his guts? It’s because, as a Millennial, he’s not passionate about that stuff. His drive is the super heroics. That’s where he gets the most out of life. Not whatever pays the bills.

This was best explored in Dan Slott’s run on Amazing Spider-Man that immediately followed Superior Spider-Man. Doctor Octopus had taken over Peter Parker’s body and the wall-crawler just got it back. Doc Ock is the stereotypical Boomer, focusing entirely on building his own wealth and success, which led to the creation of Parker Industries. Once the real Spider-Man was back, Peter ran the company into the ground because that’s not where his heart lies. He brought everything back to basics and what he loved most in life.

There’s also a bit of the burned out gifted kid in the web-head. Here is a guy who invented web fluid that was strong enough to hold his weight, and tons of other stuff, and can dissolve in a few hours — not to mention the web-shooters to sling the stuff and he did it in high school. What has he really done since then in the science department? When you think of the smartest people in the Marvel Universe, who’s the first to come to mind? Probably Reed Richards, Hank Pym, or Tony Stark, right? Later generations might look at Amadeus Cho, Moon Girl, or Valeria Richards. Why not Spider-Man? Everyone knows the guy is smart, but he’s not in that same league as those other geniuses.

While he’s had different costumes over the years, some more high tech than others, Spider-Man always comes back to the classic red and blue pajamas. Most recently in the “King’s Ransom” arc, he got a new fancy suit from the online outlet Threats & Menaces which actually paid him for what he was doing. This should be perfect, right? He’s getting paid to do what he loves. It wasn’t on his terms though. By the end of the storyline, Spidey ditched the suit and donated all the money he made to charity. Meanwhile, he is living in a literal hole in the wall and doesn’t seem to have any other job.

Again, that’s not what matters to him. Peter Parker is passionate about superheroics. He wants to make an impact and he does that by swinging through the city and helping everyone he sees, whether they lost their bike or they’re about to be trampled by a guy in a rhino costume. His work has inspired so many. Look at the Spider-Verse event, where he’s the center of the Web of Life and Destiny with countless other versions branching out across the multiverse with everyone from Miles Morales and Gwen Stacy to Spider-UK and Spider-Punk looking to him for help and guidance.

While Peter Parker can’t seem to get his personal life together or achieve anything close to what earlier generations would call success, he’s doing all this on his own terms. That means leaping into battle to fight an ever-growing rogues gallery while wearing a colorful costume that does nothing else but cover his butt. Then, he goes home to a nondescript apartment and crash only to get up the next day and do it all over again. He’ll be doing this until he dies because he has no savings or wealth to his name, just like the rest of us Millennials. Spider-Man values experiences over things, even if those experiences involve dodging lightning bolts from Electro or the teeth of the Lizard.

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