When Spider-Man first appeared in Amazing Fantasy #15, no one, outside of perhaps Spiderman creators’ Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby and Stan Lee; would have imagined that this character would become so popular that it would become the face of Marvel. Since his iteration in the 1960’s, Spider-Man’s popularity has barely waned.
Throughout the years Spider-man has gone through many iterations and his iconic stature has only grown. As Spider-man has grown over the year his costumes have likewise. Running the gamete from his classic red and blue suit to futuristic designs, Spider-Man has always captured the imaginations of fans worldwide. Today we will share with you our top five favorite Spider-Man costumes of all time, the reasons we love them, and their deeper symbolic meanings.
The Classic Spider Suit
First Appearance: Amazing Fantasy #15, August 1962
Story Behind the Suit: This was Peter Parker’s first suit. According to the comics, he sewed it himself. Drawn by Steve Ditko (with some credit going to Jack Kirby for a now lost original design), this suit, among other things, introduced the “street level hero.”
Why We Like It: There is no reason for this outfit to work. It is red and blue with webs on it. Rather than looking out of place, it feels at home swinging through the skyscrapers of Manhattan. So much so that one half expects to see that red and blue suit swinging overhead as they walk down the real-life streets of the city.
Another aspect of the suit that is worth loving and noting is the full-face mask. Due to the fact that every inch of Spider-Man’s body is covered, anyone, regardless of race, can see themselves as Spider-Man.
Symbolic Interpretation: To think about this suit symbolically, one needs to understand something about Peter Parker, the teen. Peter viewed himself as an invisible intellectual in a sea of high school students. This suit is flashy. It stands out. In many ways, the suit represents the side of Peter Parker that he wishes he could show. The side of him that is bold, out there, strong, and willing to take a risk.
Spider-Man 2099 suit
First Appearance: Preview: The Amazing Spider-Man #365 (August 1992)
Full: Spider-Man 2099 #1 (November 1992)
Story Behind the Suit: This outfit was designed by artist Rick Leonardi as part of the 2099 run set a little over 100 years in the future. On the origin of Spider-man 2099, “When setting up the origin for Spider-man 2099, [Peter] David [the writer of the series] tried his best to make him different from the original. ‘Basically, I inverted the modern-day Spider-Man wherever I could,’ David said. ‘Current Spidey is chatty in costume, and reserved as Peter Parker. So, I had Spider-man 2099 be fairly mute in costume and a wiseacre as Miguel. Peter’s web-spinners were mechanical; Miguel’s biological. Peter’s wall-crawling abilities were never really explained; he just kind of stuck to the wall. Miguel had talons. Peter’s ‘spider-sense’ was nearly mystical in nature. Miguel had accelerated vision that enabled him to see things from great distances and practically 360 degrees around him.”
What we love about this suit: This suit is stylish, futuristic, and menacing. It has amazing bold colors and inverts the classic blue and red of the classic Spider-man suit. The black eyes also add a mystery to this Spider-man. Lastly his arm talons add a level of danger that his predecessor did not possess.
Symbolic Interpretation: Just as the future is unclear, dark, and hard to see, this outfit represents all of that. A costume that combines mystery, fear, and the unknown, it perfectly embodies the concrete expression of the fears we have about the future.
Iron Spider suit
First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man (Volume 1) #529
Story Behind the Suit: Leading up to the first Marvel Civil War, Peter Parker has become Tony Stark’s protégé. One of the perks of working for Tony Stark is that apparently you get a new company-issued suit. While Peter only had cloth to work with, Tony had a lot more tools at his disposal. As a result of this Tony Stark created the Iron Spidey suit. Stark added the ability to glide, heat-resistant Kevlar, built in emergency scanner, GPS and a range of other neat little gadgets.
What we love about this suit: Just look at it! What’s not to love? The sleek design and multiple color options make this visually appealing suit, with the Spidey emblem emblazoned on it, make this the suit to slay all other suits.
Symbolic interpretation: The cooler the suit, the more problems it represents. One doesn’t wear or need armor in a time of peace only for coming trouble, battle and war. Not only does this suit come to protect Peter in battle, but it also symbolizes another necessity of war: cutting oneself off emotionally. An Iron suit is cold, sleek, and unable to feel the outside world. This is what Peter has to do in order to eventually reveal his identity to the world and fight his friends (read the whole Civil War plot-line to find out what happens).
Scarlet Spider suit
First Appearance: Web of Spider-Man Vol 1 118
Story behind the suit: This is the suit of Ben Riley, Peter Parker’s clone. On a trip to New York City to check on Aunt May in the hospital, Ben begins to feel the pull of the city. From criminals that need catching, to old possible loves that never were, Ben finally embrace’s his heroic side and becomes the Scarlet Spider when Venom threatens the city having escaped from the Ravencroft institute.
What we love about this suit: The hoody with the torn off sleeves and long shirt underneath is quintessential 90’s fashion. At the same time the red is bold and sleek and has a certain power and menace other Spidey suits do not. Lastly there is the crooked spider on the front, marking that this is a new Spider-man that has all the powers we love but is going to be slightly different.
Symbolic interpretation: One of the main aspects of the human condition that clone stories allow us to explore is the idea of what makes me, me. This is the suit of a clone who embraces who and what he is in this world. The hoody, with the slightly eschewed spider, shows us that this is Peter Parker, but it is also not. The flea market red suit, while cool, reminds us of a child pretending to be his favorite superhero (at least in the beginning of the Scarlet Spiders career). The hood though perhaps represents that which comes to define us most as individuals: our morals in action. Ben hides his face not to protect his identity but Peter’s. With this act he proves he is his own person with his own moral code and compass.
First Appearance: Spider-Man: Noir #1 (February 2009)
Story behind the suit: Spider-Man Noir was a part of the Marvel Noir line of comics in 2009. This line put some of our favorite heroes in the dark and gritty landscape of 1930s depression-era America.
What we like about it: Black costumes provide a unique challenge to comic book artists. Because the artist is limited by color choices, they need to focus on other aspects of character design that would otherwise not be as needed. This suit is a Masterclass in shading, texture, shadows, and lighting. Designed by artist Marko Djurdjevic, it is a great illustration of what one can do when they limit their toolbox to create something truly visually stunning.
Symbolic interpretation: The world can be a dangerous place, and even our own powers are often not enough. One needs to rely on skills, street smarts, and wit. The weapon here is a show of power and a sign to those who might underestimate us, that we are not one to be trifled with. It is not there for attack but for defense, to keep others at bay.