We're all Spiderman
Updated: May 15, 2019
We’re all Spiderman.
That’s what happens when you crack open the Multiverse. Given infinite universes, everything must happen. Murphy’s Law (or Sod’s Law in Britain, or the butter-side-down rule) states that all that can go wrong must go wrong. When we start to speculate about infinity, though, we get a less pessimistic stance. If there are infinite universes, then everything that can happen must happen.
Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse, by kicking open the door to infinite possibilities, invites us all to imagine that we might be Spiderman.
I’ve asked before why Superman has to be so burly. Why is he a gorgeous, 6’4” white man with blue eyes? Why all those muscles? Thing is, no amount of muscle can account for the ability to fly, or lift continents, or zoom around the planet so fast it spins time in reverse. Moreover, Superman breaks every law of physics. Most relevant: when he pushes against a train or catches a falling plane, what is he pushing against? The air? How?
His physical strength cannot account for his feats of force.
Because of this, his musculature is absurd. We build muscle through resistance. We lift more than we’re capable of lifting, and get stronger. Because Superman is infinitely strong, he can never encounter any resistance. Therefore, he cannot build muscle.
Spidey started as fairly ordinary (as did Superman) gaining in power through the years until he could punch Hulk in the face so hard Hulk ends up trapped in orbit. But Spiderman, Peter Parker, was a gangly kid. It’s the tiniest bit more explicit that his strength doesn’t come strictly from his musculature. The initial explanation-proportion strength-doesn’t hold up under any sort of scrutiny. His power is, ultimately, supernatural, like Superman’s.
I loved Into the Spiderverse. It’s a tender-hearted story and very inclusive. Great animation and lovely story-telling, even in a medium I don’t tend to enjoy (comics) because of persistently disagreeable tropes (A hero can save us). Spiderverse did more than tell a lovely story, though. In opening up the ‘verse, it showed us that we’re all Spiderman. Somewhere in the cosmos, given infinity, each of us was bitten by the radioactive spider and each of us faced the struggle of Peter Parker: Assume responsibility, or fail to act.
I could relate to thirty-something Peter Parker, failing at relationships, a little depressed, eating pizza in bed. He’s got a belly now and can’t squeeze into the uniform, so he wears the top but zooms around the city with his legs clad in gray sweat-pants, the ultimate symbol of a man who’s given up at some level.
I never could see myself in a Super character before. I don’t have the physicality. But here’s a guy who as Parker always did, has normal guy problems.
They didn’t write in every possible identity. There’s a way it could have been done, sure. It could have been more explicit. But they did imply it, that out there in the swirling multiverse, everyone could be Spidey.
Miles Morales is a multiracial kid whose intellectual gifts alienate him from his peers. Gwen Stacey is a white girl who watched Peter Parker die. Spider-Ham, Peni Parker and Spiderman Noir are just plain weird. Given infinite possibility, though, they’re all necessary, and they drive home a deeper point: ANYthing is possible.
So, I’m a middle-aged pacifist with, objectively, a weight problem. Autism-induced sensitivity. I would be a weird candidate for Spider powers. But not weirder than Peni Parker, the Asian girl from the future who befriends a sentient spider and builds it a mech suit. What’s limiting you from seeing yourself in Spiderman? A disability? A body issue (or merely a body-image issue)? Race? Sexual orientation? Are you too tall or too small?
Spiderverse calls bullshit on all of that. You’ll never be weirder than Spiderman Noir, so get over it, kid.
Wait – Spidey himself is weird and violates the laws of physics? Sit down, Derek. Given an infinite universe, there must be combinations of factors that allow Spiderman, that necessitate Spiderman. In fact, as any slice of infinity IS infinity, there are infinite such universes, and in some of them (an infinite number of them) it’s you.
Just accept it. You are Spiderman. So am I.
Like the Stranger in The Big Lebowski, I take a small measure of comfort in that.