If you go by at least one analysis of the past year’s Google search data, that hero is Spider-Man. According to online entertainment retailer Zavvi, the web slinger is the world’s most popular superhero with more than 5 million average searches per month.
Talking to CNN, writer-performer and comic fan Reece Connolly describes Spider-Man — his favorite superhero — as “a hero in its simplest form of just using what he has been given to help people.”
“He’s normal. He’s a young guy whose silliness and awkwardness make him one of the most relatable superheroes to exist. He isn’t anything 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 more relatable than a billionaire who lives in a mansion on his own.”
He notes that Spider-Man’s life — full of issues at school and with his family — features 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 ‘bouncing forward,'” Sebah tells CNN, noting that Spider-Man’s adversities have equipped him with the skills and strategies to cope better in future predicaments.
Louise Phull, a fan of the Spider-Man movies, believes the superhero’s “vulnerability” and “character development” make him more human and likable, especially when he sacrifices so much for the “greater good.”
“He’s constantly vulnerable, but manages to pull through it and never hit rock bottom” and that’s admirable especially for children who see him as a role model, Phull tells CNN, adding that the character’s “strong moral compass” also plays a large role in his appeal.
“It’s a very potent life lesson for everyone because whatever you’ve been given in life, it’s your responsibility to literally use it to help better the world around you,” Connolly says.
Connolly says his superpowers aren’t the only thing “special” about Spider-Man because both Parker and the superhero are known for smarts and wit.
“Even when he’s in the middle of a battle with the Rhino or the Lizard, he’s still cracking jokes — bad jokes a lot of the time, but they’re often the best kind.”
In the “Ultimate Spider-Man #1” comic book, when the Green Goblin attacks his high school, Spider-Man quips: “You wouldn’t happen to be the new home ec teacher, would you?”
Sebah, who specializes in studying resilience, notes that humor is a common — and effective — coping mechanism, particularly when someone is experiencing grief.
During a pandemic that has wreaked havoc on lives across the world, it may be especially important for fans to see such resilience in an affable, well-loved character on the big screen.
“You find hope in these characters,” Connolly says.
“When they are so well written and realized, they almost feel real. And they’ve been there for a lot of us for a long time, be it through comic books, movies, games,” he says. “And in dark times, it’s good to go back to them and take heed of their lessons and take inspiration from them.”