by Matt Yockey
At the conclusion of Spider-Man, director Sam Raimi’s 2002 film adaptation featuring the popular Marvel Comics superhero, Peter Parker denies his love for Mary Jane Watson and accepts the responsibilities of being Spider-Man. Upon Peter’s voice-over declaration “Who am I? I’m Spider-Man,” Raimi cuts to a brief sequence of Spider-Man swooping across the Manhattan skyline that ends with him pausing on a flagpole before swinging toward the camera. This narratively superfluous and affectively excessive coda mirrors the often emotionally rich and visually spectacular moments captured by a superhero comic book splash page or cover, acting as an emphatic visual declaration that Peter Parker has, at least for the time being, resolved the identity crisis that has plagued him throughout the film. Following the iterative narrative structure of the comic books, this crisis reappears in Raimi’s 2004 sequel Spider-Man 2. At one point in the film, Peter Parker abandons his Spider-Man identity and tosses his costume into a garbage bin in an alley. Raimi cuts to a long shot of Peter, shoulders slumped, walking away from the bin with part of his Spider-Man costume hanging limply off its side. Raimi’s composition of this shot directly recalls a splash page in the story “Spider-Man No More!” that appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man no. 50 (July 1967). Raimi, a reader of Spider-Man comics in the 1960s, offers a cinematic quotation of an iconic image that many fellow Spider-Man comic book readers will immediately recognize. Thus the affect-saturated narrative moment of Peter Parker’s disavowal of his “great responsibility” is amplified by the feelings produced for those viewers who recognize Raimi’s quotation. The visual citation is reinforced by Peter’s assertion prior to the moment in the alley that he will be “Spider-Man no more.” Consequently, the subjectivities of the protagonist, director, and viewers synthesize in this highly charged affective moment produced by the intersection of the comic book and filmic texts.