When Peter Parker is bitten by a radioactive spider he gains the abilities and unique properties of a spider. He’s incredibly agile, he can climb walls and stick to ceilings. Spiders have a remarkable sense of balance – my klutzy self would be glad just to have that spider ability. Don’t get me wrong, walking up vertical surfaces would be fun but really? I’d just like to stop running into stationary objects like coffee tables. Peter also develops a handy sixth sense – his “spider-sense” – that lets him know when danger is in the air. It sort of operates like a police scanner inside his head, alerting him to wrongdoing and anything that’s just off.
Though he gains a lot from the spider-like abilities, he can do even more than an arachnid. The bite infused him with what I see as extra powers, and he had one extraordinary power before any superheroic changes.
I don’t devote a lot of time to thinking about spiders. Well, I guess most people don’t. They don’t scare me or cause me run around in a panic, but I sort of forget they exist until I see one running away from my cats. They can scurry in the opposite direction pretty fast, but I wouldn’t classify their speed as superhuman. Peter gets the superpower anyways.
He doesn’t use this power in quite the same way as the Flash or Superman, and even though they all have superhuman speed, I’m pretty sure Spider-Man would lose in a race. I feel like we see this power in a more indirect fashion. He combines it with his web-slinging and agility to travel across town in a unique and quick fashion. He doesn’t sprint down the street very often.
Spiders may be powerful for their size, but when I look at them, I don’t think of the word strong. It would never cross my mind. They spin webs, and they have to be balanced to walk on the tiny threads but not necessarily strong. Science could prove me entirely wrong on that point, but I think Peter’s strength is in the “above and beyond spider abilities” category. I think we see this one a little more obviously than his super speed. When Flash challenges him to a fight, Peter worries about not holding back enough and really hurting him.
Peter Parker didn’t need a spider bite for this ability: he’s one intelligent kid. He was a perfect student before becoming Spider-Man. Being a superhero doesn’t exactly follow a schedule; the late nights and ill-timed criminals make him miss class frequently. He still exercises his brain in impressive ways. He particularly excels at science, physics, and chemistry. He used his skills to develop a web fluid sturdy enough to support him and allow him to practically fly from building to building. I love the comments he makes about the cost of the web fluid when he has to use it for less than urgent reasons.
He also engineers mechanical web shooters to funnel the fluid. It seems like he has a few settings on the shooters so he can emit a strand he can swing from or use to grab away a weapon, a web netting to capture bad guys, or a glob of fluid to temporarily blind his opponent. He hides the shooter components within his costume. I mean, he’s a high school kid who can actually hold his own in a conversation with Reed Richards. It’s impressive.
Though Peter Parker certainly doesn’t have all the superhero powers, he definitely has a rounded set. And if all else fails? He has his brains. Not every hero can say that.