If you go through at least one analysis of Google search data from the past year, that hero is Spider-Man. According to online entertainment retailer Zavvi, the web slinger is the most popular superhero in the world with more than 5 million average searches per month.
Speaking to CNN, writer-performer and comic book fan Reece Connolly describes Spider-Man – his favorite superhero – as “a hero in his simplest form of just using what he was given to helping people”.
“He’s normal. He’s a young man whose stupidity and clumsiness make him one of the most famous superheroes out there. He’s nothing special, he’s just normal.”
Connolly says that unlike Batman, his second favorite superhero, Spider-Man doesn’t have “billions of dollars in the bank. He’s just easier to figure out than a billionaire living alone in a mansion.”
He notes that Spider-Man’s life – full of problems at school and with his family – presents scenarios that many fans have experienced in their own lives.
Dr Ilham Sebah, a psychologist at Royal Holloway, University of London, says the idea of ’bouncing back’ is synonymous with resilience – ‘the ability to adapt and cope with the stresses and adversities’ experienced in life.
“I like to think of it as a ‘twist,'” Sebah told CNN, noting that Spider-Man’s adversities have equipped him with the skills and strategies to better deal with future difficulties.
Louise Phull, a fan of the Spider-Man movies, thinks the superhero’s “vulnerability” and “character development” make him more human and likeable, especially when he sacrifices so much for the “greater good”.
“He’s constantly vulnerable, but manages to pull through and never hit rock bottom,” and that’s admirable, especially for kids who see him as a role model, Phull told CNN, adding that the ” strong moral compass” of the character also plays an important role in his appeal.
“It’s a very powerful life lesson for everyone, because whatever you’ve been given in life, it’s your responsibility to literally use it to help improve the world around you,” Connolly says.
Connolly says his superpowers aren’t the only “special” thing about Spider-Man because Parker and the superhero are known for their intelligence and wits.
“Even when he’s in the middle of a battle with the rhino or the lizard, he’s still cracking jokes — bad jokes most of the time, but they’re often the best.”
In the “Ultimate Spider-Man #1” comic, when the Green Goblin attacks his high school, Spider-Man jokes, “You wouldn’t be the new home electrical teacher, would you?”
Sebah, who specializes in the study of resilience, notes that humor is a common and effective coping mechanism, especially when someone is experiencing grief.
During a pandemic that has wreaked havoc on lives around the world, it may be especially important for fans to see such resilience in an affable and beloved character on the big screen.
“You find hope in these characters,” Connolly says.
“When they’re so well written and directed, they almost feel real. And they’ve been around for a lot of us for a long time, whether it’s through comics, movies, games,” he says. “And in dark times, it’s good to come back to them and consider their lessons and be inspired by them.”