Considered by many to be the greatest hero on Earth, the Super-Spider has a more complex history than the average man on the street is aware of. First, the story as most people know it: SS is not a native of this planet. Instead, he originated on a distant world, most commonly translated as Krypton. The Kryptonians were an ancient and scientifically advanced race, who had used their technology to improve themselves to a peak of physical and mental perfection far above anything seen on Earth. Every Kryptonian is ageless, brilliant, and nearly impossible to kill, and as they age are able to develop an incredible variety of superhuman abilities. Humans are naturally most familiar with the particular abilities possessed by the Super-Spider – flight, incredible strength and speed, able to produce the nearly indestructible ‘webs’ that first gave Super-Spider his name, able to survive without food, water, or air nearly indefinitely, and more. Tragically, this world was destroyed centuries ago through the machinations of the Galactiac Entity. Before the destruction of their world, a Kryptonian scientist placed his infant son in a spacecraft of his own design, and launched it towards Earth, where the Super-Spider grew up and became the hero known today. Despite initial suspicion about this masked vigilante, Super-Spider went on to earn the planet’s trust, particularly after dramatically unmasking himself, revealing his real name (Kal-Par) and volunteering for service in WWII in early 1942. Since that time he has served as a steadfast protector and served a significant role in global politics, perhaps most prominently as the leader of the League of Avengers and his role in the end of the Luthor administration and in the Omega Red Crisis at the end of the Cold War.
Now we enter into the area of Super-Spider’s life that is not public knowledge. When he arrived on Earth in 1923 his spacecraft crashed outside the town of Smallville in upstate New York, on a farm owned by Ben and May Kent. The couple approached the smoking crater in their field and investigated what lay within. As they approached the ship’s hatch opened, and they looked inside to find an enormous egg, containing what looked at first glance to be a spider the size of a small dog. The enterprising Ben Kent reached out to touch the egg, and as soon as his hand made contact with it’s translucent outer shell the creature within began to change, within moments transforming from an alien monstrosity to a quite ordinary human being. With this transformation complete, the egg’s shell melted away, and the entire structure melted away, leaving a baby boy who fell to the hard floor of the ship and began to cry. The horrified couple looked on, and began a tense discussion of their options (which ranged from running for Ben’s shotgun, to calling the national guard). Before they could make up their minds, a voice emanated from the ship, identifying itself as a recording from Jor-Par of the planet Krypton, and begging them to be kind to his child, who he assured them would eventually come to benefit their world in ways they could scarcely imagine. After some continued discussion, the Kent’s opted to adopt the baby, who they named Peter.
Peter Kent’s early life in Smallville was fairly idyllic. As he aged he discovered he was able to change between his natural Kryptonian form and his human form at will, and that in both forms he possessed incredible powers. These allowed him to easily succeed in school, become the star player in his team’s every sporting event, and keep his adopted parent’s farm afloat through the worst of the great depression. At the age of 15 he decided to further make use of his power by competing against a wrestler traveling with a local circus. After easily defeating the wrestler, Peter was ripped off by the corrupt circus master, and subsequently allowed a gang of robbers to empty the circus’s safe rather than using his powers to quietly and easily subdue them as the good hearted young man would usually have done. After a brief period of sulking, the young man returned home to find that the robbers had fled town and holed up in his farmhouse during a confrontation with the police, which had ended with half the robbers dead, and half still on the run, Peter’s adopted father Ben dead, and the house and farm in ruins. Peter easily caught up with and apprehended the remaining robbers, but remained wracked with guilt at his decision to let them leave the circus in the first place. With the farm devastated and full of painful memories, Peter and May sold the place and moved to New York City (Queens to be precise).
Once in the city Peter resolved to create a new identity for himself, and use his powers not for his personal benefit as he had done in the past, but to benefit his fellow man (so to speak). He created a full body costume to hide his appearance, and began targeting criminals in depression wracked New York. To allay any suspicions he hid his physical talents, taking on the role of a clumsy, nearsighted, and anti-social boy from the country – though he could not bring himself to hide his still brilliant intellect. This role had the consequence of bringing Peter into contact with his similarly brilliant classmate Harry Luthor, as well as his wealthy father Norman Luthor. The ultimate result of the relationship between Peter Kent and the Luthor family is a story for another time.
Unable to use his physical gifts to make money for his family as he had on the farm, Peter began work as a photographer at the New York Bugle (known to modern readers as the Planet Bugle after it’s name change in an attempt to attract a more global audience in the 1970’s). His best shots were of course of the battle’s between his own alter-ego and the criminals and eventually super-villains he fought in the streets of New York. Peter would continue to work off and on at the Bugle for much of his life, transitioning from photography to full time reporting, and eventually marrying his fellow reporter Mary Lane.
As the 1930’s drew to a close and the 1940’s began Peter was increasingly worried about events overseas. He felt compelled to fight against Nazi Germany, but felt that his participation in a war as a private individual would only increase the fear and suspicion with which he was held in the city and around the world (particularly by his boss and mentor James Jonah White – or J.J.). While early in his career he had given an interview revealing his alien origins, if not his true appearance or identity, people continued to believe he must have something to hide so long as he wore a mask. Luckily, by late 1941 he had a solution. Peter’s powers had been gradually increasing over the course of his life. He had been felt his senses grow more powerful, and become gradually stronger, smarter, and faster throughout his life. In addition to these gradual improvement, he would occasionally find himself blessed with a new power altogether (most famously when he found himself able to fly in 1943). Always able to transform back and forth between his human and Kryptonian forms, in 1941 Peter discovered he was able to alter his appearance as a human as well. So in January of 1942 when the Super-Spider unmasked himself at a press conference, the world did not see Peter Kent, but a new man, several inches taller, hair color changed from brown to black, eyes from green to blue, altered bone structure, more muscular, and generally impossible to confuse with Peter’s secret identity.
Private Kal-Par was soon shipped out as America’s first super-soldier to fight the enemies of freedom, to be joined eventually by luminaries such as Roboboy, American Wonder, Iron-Bat, and Namor the Aquaman. At this point in his career Super-Spider was certainly powerful enough to make his presence felt in the war, but more in a tossing tanks around on the battlefield way than in the ‘show up at Berlin and end this war right now way’ he could have pulled off decades later. While effectively immune to small arms fire, being hit by a tank shell could be compared to being hit by a fastball, and a lucky shot from a Japanese battleship managed to put him out of commission for several days in 1943.
With the end of WWII Super-Spider returned to New York in essentially his modern form. Peter would return home pleased with a job well done, but sickened by the killing he had seen and participated in. Super-Spider would never participate in one of America’s wars again, and began to hold himself to the strict ‘no killing’ policy that eventually became the modus operandi for many of the world’s superheroes in their attempt to walk the line between ‘savior’ and ‘dangerous vigilante.’ Beloved by freedom loving people the world over, and an inspiration to future heroes, the most powerful man on Earth would continue to shoulder the burden of being Earth’s protector, in memory of the dead world he could not remember, and the dead father he couldn’t forget.