Superhero From Queens
The trailers have been
teasing television watchers and buses around the borough are featuring the
web-slinging super hero, and when “Spider-Man” opens officially next
week, what movie goers will learn is the tale of a true Queens legend.
He lived in Forest
Hills, numerous scenes for his debut feature film were shot here, his
editor-in-chief still hails from Jackson Heights and a Hollis artist offered
the Tribune the behind-the-scenes story of the movie everyone will be
talking about this week.
In the “Spider-Man”
movie, our hero battles bad guys on the Queensboro Bridge and finds himself
in Forest Hills. But 40 years before being a movie star, Spider-Man
was merely an idea that belonged to comic book writer Stan Lee.
In 1962, Lee introduced
the character that revolutionized the comic book genre by taking it to new
levels in plotting and character development.
The comic tells the
story of how an everyday teenager from Queens was orphaned and teased by his
peers for being a “bookworm.”
In the comic, Parker
gets bitten by a radioactive spider while on a field trip with his high
school class and as a result is given superhuman powers – incredible
agility, the ability to climb on walls, the proportionate strength of a
spider and a “spider-sense,” which alerted him at all times to possible
The character of Parker
is raised by his Aunt May and Uncle Ben in Forest Hills.
In the comics, Peter
Parker’s first intention was to use his powers for fame and fortune but
after appearing on a television show in a mask, he stood and watched as a
burglar ran right by him. When yelled at by a police officer chasing the
criminal, Parker said simply, “not my problem.”
When he returned home
later that day he was horrified to find his Uncle Ben had been shot and
killed by a burglar ...
the very same criminal he let run right by him earlier.
And thus Parker learned
that, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
life-changing moment the character dedicated himself to fighting crime and
became ... the Spider-Man.
The first issue was a
hit and in the years to follow came Spider-Man’s own comic book series, a
daily comic strip in newspapers, five different television series and now a
full-length feature film.
Landing in theaters on
May 3, the “Spider-Man” movie has been more than a decade in the making
– the first script for the movie was written back in the 1980s.
Directed by Sam Raimi,
the movie features Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man, William DaFoe as his arch
nemesis the “Green Goblin” and Kirsten Dunst as Spidey’s girlfriend
Mary Jane Watson, with some of the film’s most pivotal scenes taking place
get a real feel for the borough, the film’s producers shot footage in
Queens last year on Metropolitan Avenue and Sybilla Street in Forest Hills
and in the area around the Queensboro Bridge, where the film’s climactic
end takes place.
According to Columbia
Pictures, a rooftop in Queens was the location used in the film as the
launching pad for Parker’s first attempts at using his newfound powers.
But our borough’s
movie stint doesn’t end there. Many of the scenes show footage of Queens
locations with computer-generated images of “Spider-Man” added in
post-production, according to a local artist who played a role in brining
the comic book hero to life on screen.
Hollis’ James George
Parris, worked behind the scenes of the movie on storyboards and some of the
animation sequences that will drive the film. He told the Tribune
that computer-generated effects played a major part in the making of the
“It’s like in ‘Jurassic Park,’” Parris said. “The scene where you see [the actors] running away from the dinosaurs ... they really are running away from nothing. The dinosaurs were actually animated and inserted after the scenes were filmed. It’s the same concept here.
He’s in the comics and
in the movies, but last year the Tribune stumbled across a case of
art imitating life.
Or was it something
In an issue of
“Spider-Man” from 1989, editors revealed that the character of Peter
Parker lived at 20 Ingram Street in Forest Hills Gardens.
The address is real, but
the coincidences don’t end there.
The name of the family
living in the quaint tudor style home is also Parker.
“We don’t know how
it happened,” said Suzanne Parker, a digital artist who has lived there
for almost 20 years with her husband Andrew.
Parker said she didn’t
know about the similarities until the Tribune contacted her last
August to find out who lives in the real version of Spidey’s fictional
According to Parker, the
revelation helped explain why a number of bizarre occurrences have occurred
there over the years, including a Discover card registered in the name of
none other than Peter Parker being sent to the home.
Is all this just a
Well, we’re not so
Next to the Parkers at
19 Ingram Street live the Osborns – and Harry Osborn is the name of
Spidey’s nemesis in the movie, the Green Goblin.
neighbors “get along just fine,” said Suzanne Parker.
Queens is not only
Spider-Man’s home borough, but it is also home to the man in charge of the
comic book’s creative team as well.
Joe Quesada, Marvel
Comics’ current editor-in-chief, said that growing up in Jackson Heights,
“Spider-Man’s roots were never lost on me as a kid.”
Spidey’s geography was
one of the factors that made him a big fan, he said.
“Spider-Man has actual
roots. He grew up not far from me, not in an imaginary place like
‘Metropolis’ or ‘Gotham City,’” Quesada said referring to the
cities where superheroes “Superman” and “Batman” battle crime. “I
think that’s some of what makes the character so appealing.”
Quesada said he often
explains to artists and writers of the comic who are out of the Queens loop
that his native borough has “lovely areas ... the ethnicity is mixed with
a wide variety of likable people.”
isn’t the only creator to share a zip code with the character he
Other notable creators
from Queens include influential artist John Romita, whose artistic version
of Spider-Man set a standard for future interpretations.
John Romita, Jr. has
also worked on Spider-Man continuing a tradition his father started.
In the history of the
Spider-Man comics, Queens has been portrayed realistically with a
healthy dose of fantasy as maniacal super-villains run amok throughout the
In the July 1989 issue
of “The Amazing Spider-Man” [#317], Spidey’s arch nemesis “Venom”
discovers Peter Parker’s secret identity, and visits his Forest Hills
The issue was the first
to divulge Spidey’s exact address.
But it’s not just
Forest Hills that has been immortalized in the comic book series.
In the 40 years of the
book, action has taken place all over Queens with criminals using “the
warehouse district along Jamaica Bay” as a criminal hideout and Shea
Stadium as a place where Spidey checks out a Mets game.
Parker attends “Midtown High School,” and the comic book high school is
a large building with a grassy area in front and fencing on both sides –
bearing a similarity to Forest Hills High School.
That might explain why
real life Forest Hills High School attendees – members of the punk rock
band the Ramones – recorded their own version of the Spider-Man theme as
one of their final recordings as a band.
It’s not just the
movie makers that are counting on cashing in on “Spider-Man,” according
to comic book store owner Sing Kao, who manages the popular “Hurricane
Comics and Collectibles” in Spidey’s home neighborhood of Forest Hills.
“I’m hoping to catch
‘Spider-Man’ fever,” Kao said. “I’m ordering much larger
quantities of Spider-Man books than I would have otherwise. We’re very
excited about it.”
So are the fans –
especially a group of students from Russell Sage Junior High School spotted
hanging out at Kao’s store after school one recent afternoon.
them the Spider-Man movie was a dominant topic of conversation.
“I’m really hyped
about it,” said 13-year-old John Angle of Forest Hills.
who considers himself a big Spider-Man fan, said he plans to see the movie
the day it opens at the Midway Theater on Queens Boulevard.
student and comic book collector Adam Nater said he thinks he may be
disappointed by the movie. “The books are always better than the movie,”
he said adding, “I hope it’s not whack.”
die-hard fans may have their concerns about the film, Marvel Comics editor
Quesada, who has already seen “Spider-Man,” said he is confident in the
quality of this movie – “It remains very reverent to the source
material,” he reassured. “It definitely should not disappoint.”
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