The Peter Parker


I know. It sounds like a impolite euphamism, doesn’t it?

This weekend, bittercon is going on, and as part of my general desire to procrastinate on Man Bites World I’m going to write about a topic I’ve wanted to cover for quite a while.

It’s a type of protagonist I think of as a “Peter Parker,” the secret identity of Spider-man. For those who don’t read a lot of comics and have never bothered with the movies, let me make a brief list of qualities a Peter Parker would have:

* – always tries to do the right thing, usually at great personal cost.
* – does not receive just rewards for the good they do.
* – often have tremendous personal troubles unrelated to their do-gooding activities
* – while skilled or powerful, they aren’t the *most* skilled or powerful, usually getting by on cleverness or grit

Harry Dresden, to take one example, started off as a Peter Parker hero. He never backed away from doing the right thing, even when everyone else around him thought of him as a villain.

Peter Parkers stand in opposition to other hero types. There are the Clark Kents, who are quite powerful in their own right, extremely idealistic and concerned with living by fair and just rules, and who receive the accolades they deserve for the good they do. If they have personal problems, they stand in stark contrast to their near-invincibility in their realm of conflict. Captain America is a Clark Kent (in fact, I was tempted to call this type the Steve Rogers, but I figured Clark was more well known). Quite a few TV cops fall into the Clark Kent mold, too, including Swoozie Kurtz’s character in THE CLOSER.

Another type is the Bruce Wayne–a hero who is extremely skilled/ powerful and tremendously efficient in the realm of conflict. Whether they receive accolades or not is beside the point for this type, because they are an authority figure apart from other types of authority. The Bruce Wayne characters are less about admiring a character for doing the right thing no matter the personal cost as they are (often brutal) power fantasies about extreme competence in the face of terrible danger. James Bond is a Bruce Wayne type, for instance.

For them what wonder, I chose comic book character names for the label because they are long-lasting, well-known and relatively static.

What do you think? Any other heros you’d like to categorize or any other categories you’d like to create? Personally, I’ve been trying to decide where Indiana Jones would fit in, or whether he deserves his own category.