“We have to be greater than what we suffer.”
Growing up, I never fully connected to Spider-Man. As a kid, his fantastical adventures felt connected to extravagant, adult problems that I couldn’t quite relate to. But when he finally swung his way onto the PS4 last September and then again into theaters with Into The SpiderVerse, he clicked. It was like a blossoming explosion in my mind – I had finally understood the appeal of the character who I had known my whole life. It took the culmination of years of adult experience and even worse, a death in the family, for me to really see Spider-Man for what he truly is: a totem of the human experience, and a supportive guide for our journeys through hardship.
When Insomniac’s Spider-Man came out, my father was a week away from entering the hospital for what would eventually become palliative care. At first, I felt guilty that I was enjoying my time playing a video game to escape the sounds and smells of an ICU, but in his last days, my father explained something to me: as a child, he would buy me games like Spider-Man because he loved watching my imagination grow. If I took joy in a game, comic, book, or movie, that was enough for him to know my mind was blossoming and expanding. While he would rest at the hospital, I dove into Spider-Man PS4 and was absorbed back into the world of Peter Parker and Miles Morales. I took respite swinging through the New York City skyline, webbing crooks, collecting backpacks, and being a friendly neighborhood hero. I fell hard for Spider-Man.
While he would rest at the hospital, I dove into Spider-Man PS4 and was absorbed back into the world of Peter Parker and Miles Morales.
Yuri’s Lowenthal’s performance as Peter Parker resonated with me, more than any version of the character I’d seen before. He was older, with bills, relationship woes, and his own trials of deep family love and baggage. He was dealing with all the normal “life stuff” that I was – sure, he’s a superhero, but his humanity made him so relatable. I wanted to be there with him on every step of his journey.
Eventually, my father began his journey to his final days and I stepped away from Peter’s story to spend all of my time with him. I told him I loved him, I listened to his life stories and advice he shared with me and my family, cried with him as he told me he was proud of me, and that he loved me, sat with him and held him as he passed away.
As you might imagine, life was little more than a blur for a while. I struggled, as anyone does, through mourning and grief – but soon, I returned to Spider-Man. Often times we use video games as a form of escapism, a way to avoid the harsher realities of life (even if for just a while). But for me, Spider-Man pulled me back to “reality”. Towards “normalcy.” Each task I completed, every memory I would uncover, would sharpen my senses, burning away some of that haze that had consumed my recent days. Peter’s triumphs, my “progress”, became touchstones that helped propel me forward almost therapeutically.
Finally rolled credits on #SpiderManPS4 tonight and I have to say, it affected me more deeply and emotionally than I thought it would for a few reasons. Most prominently, it paralleled the journey I’ve had with being with my father in his last month of life. Here’s a thread: pic.twitter.com/MK3FlVBig1
— Calamity Brandon (@mediavandal) October 21, 2018
Fast-forward to December of last year: a final DLC drop, and the release of Into the Spider-Verse. One chapter ended while another began and, naturally, this shift in mediums resonated with me more than most. Spider-Verse’s take on the world of Peter Parker fully sparked my drive and passion in a way movies rarely do. From Chris Pine’s grizzled Spider-Man to Noire and his Rubix Cube, we saw different voices and separate tales all woven together by Spidey’s web. When the death of one Spider-Man occurred, hundreds of voices shouted out “I am Spider-Man” and donned the mask, coming together to save the day and each other. Seeing all of these characters together as the embodiment of ‘Spider-Man, driven by their courage and determination, reminded me that I’d overcome similar struggles myself.
I have yet to find a character in popular fiction that manages to be so adaptable, versatile, strong, and pure while being so relatable to so many. One who not only shows his full self to the world but who enables others with the strength they need to better themselves or even just get through the day. I’m embarrassed to admit how long it took me to understand the importance of that kind of strength, but I’m also grateful that it was a character that I have known my entire life who was able to prop me up and bring me back, during my worst times. I will be there to listen, play, read, watch, and otherwise gluttonously consume his stories.
Our Friendly, Neighborhood Spider-Man is truly here for us all and for that, I am eternally indebted.
Brandon Hunt is a Branded Social Producer for IGN’s Social Team. You can follow him on Twitter @mediavandal where he talks about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles way more than any other human could possibly do.