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The body of research from scholarly sources on the history of comic books contends that Stan Lee’s original run of The Amazing Spider-Man influenced American culture in a generic sense, but little has been written on the specific ways the comic influenced popular culture. This paper details four specific ways that Stan Lee’s Spider-Man influenced American popular culture during the tumultuous decade of the 1960’s. The comic redefined the modern American hero by making a flawed character, with a tenuous grasp on the moral high ground, the protagonist. It also affirmed the newly established teenage identity in American society by depicting a teenager as a full-fledged superhero, not a sidekick. Stan Lee’s Spider-Man also pioneered the use of the comic book medium as a platform to discuss contentious national issues during the 1960’s, including civil rights, drug abuse, and the Vietnam War. Finally, the title undermined censorship in the comic book industry by daring to defy the Comics Code Authority’s prohibition on depictions of drug use. Through these four groundbreaking efforts Stan Lee and Spider-Man earned their place in the pantheon of American popular culture icons and shaped the course of American culture for decades to come.


This article won first place in the category of History at the 2015 Big South Undergraduate Research Symposium held at Campbell University in Buies Creek, North Carolina.