Lost In History, Vol. 28 

Spiders and Goblins and Unrelenting Sales Pitches, Oh My . . .

In case you’ve been living wrapped up in a web for the last few months, there’s been a bit of Spidermania going on around town, as we brace for the arrival of Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 3. Vinyl banners hung from lampposts declare this to be “Spider-Man Week” for New York City. A preposterous collection of retail shops are all clamoring for a chance to cash in on the endless cross-marketing blitz of Spider-Man Week. Any redheads out there? Stop by Supercuts to take advantage of their “special surprises” to the genetic sisters of Mary Jane Watson. Feel like exploring the gorgeous gardens of the Bronx at the New York Botanical? Learn how to pot a baby spider plant and what webs are built out of. At least they’ve got the right kind of equipment at the Chelsea Piers Rock Climbing Wall so one doesn’t have to depend upon homemade web slingers, which aren’t always that reliable. All this for a hometown hero that was an average kid, growing up in Queens . . .

Everyone knows the basic gist of the spider-saga. When we meet teenage geek Peter Parker, we know that his parents are mysteriously deceased and that Peter lives with his Aunt May and Uncle Ben in a quaint clapboard house in Forest Hills, Queens. One day while on a school trip, Pete gets bitten by a radioactive spider and the rest is web-slinging history.

One of the truly remarkable facts regarding Spider-Man is that, from his creation by Stan Lee, in August of 1962, Spidey was always intended to be a product of New York City. No other major comic book hero was grounded in such a geographical definitive. Superman’s Metropolis was intended as a New York City mixed in with Chicago and stuck in the Deco 1920s. Batman’s badass Gotham City was drawn the nadir of New York in the deep, dark 1970s, but amplified, exacerbated, overwhelmed with awfulness (or at least it was after Frank Miller and Tim Burton got their hands on it). But Peter Parker and his supporting cast live, work, breathe and fight crime right in our own city. So when Sam Raimi (of Evil Dead genius) started filming the Spider-Man trilogy, it only made perfect sense to shoot on location. In case you were wondering . . .

  •  The Daily Bugle is located in the world-famous Flatiron Building, Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street.
  • Harry Osborne, son of the Green Goblin (and future Goblin himself) lives in Beekman Towers, a magnificent Art Deco complex at First Avenue and 49th Street.
  •  While Peter and Harry are still students at NYU, they live in a preposterously magnificent loft on Broadway at Waverly Place, across the street from the Tisch school of the arts.
  • Uncle Ben gets shot right in front of the Main Branch of the New York City Public Library at 42nd Street.

Now, to attempt some basic intellectualizing for this week’s column, instead of just glossing over the basic filmed-in-New-York claptrap, we visited the American Museum of Natural History to see some real live spiders and inquire about Peter Parker’s superhuman abilities: for instance, do spiders have a real live Spidey-sense? Not in any capacity, no. But the Pinkfoot Birdeater Tarantulas from Venezuela were covered in tiny fibrous hairs that acted as ultra-sensory nodes to help the arachnid find its way around a darkened rainforest. Not unlike trying to make your way through a darkened movie theater without stepping on toes, really. Enjoy the opening weekend, everyone!

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