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The Passion of Peter Parker

Spider-Man is the alter ego of a very human—and fallible—teen who may not be messianic, but sure understands that there's power in weakness.

"Things are going pretty well for Peter."

So says Tobey Maguire in an interview, describing the character he plays—Peter Parker and his wall-crawling alter ego Spider-Man—on the big screen. Maguire's third swing as the comic book hero hits theaters this week in Spider-Man 3.

Maguire continues: "He's got his girl, he's got his job and school. He's kind of just managing his whole life.  Generally, Peter's in a good state. Of course, it doesn't stay that way."

It doesn't stay that way.

When describing the appeal of Marvel Comics' flagship character, I can't think of five words more aptly webbed together. Creator Stan Lee once billed Spider-Man as "The hero that could be you!" As we consider the ups and downs of our own lives—the balloons popped and dreams quashed, our fears, worries, and battles—we find in the oft-wounded web slinger a kindred spirit. His life never seems to work out right either.

Surely, it's this superhero's relative frailty, his being less super and more human that explains his ongoing popularity. And for believers, this mixture of power and weakness also illustrates some important biblical truths. We'll get to those later. First, let's take a brief look at Spidey's origins and history.

Teen hero, personal problems

As with many comic book characters, Spider-Man's creation was more the effort of collaboration. Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and Stan Lee all lay claim to portions of the early mythology, but Lee seems to have come up with the basics: a teen-aged superhero with arachnid-like powers and personal problems to boot.

In Origins of Marvel Comics, Lee tells how Martin Goodman, publisher of then-Timely Comics (and Lee's brother-in-law) balked at the concept: "He patiently informed me that people ...

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