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June 10, 2004

Spider-Man's Political Following

An email to Jonah Goldberg recalls another nugget from the Reagan Years that appealed to young'ns like myself:

Reagan once said that in reading the newspaper, he would read the comic page first, and the first strip he would read was Spiderman. The media, of course, implied that this was further proof that Reagan was a simpleton.

It could be a sign of the times, or it could indicate two standards of treatment, but Rhode Island's attorney general, Democrat Patrick Lynch, hasn't to my knowledge been called a simpleton for this:

Lynch, who took office last year, is now preparing to install a new plaque [on the outside of his building] that declares: "With great power comes great responsibility." The words are from Stan Lee, the 20th-century American comic book pioneer who created Spider-Man.

Lynch said he was inspired by his 6-year-old son, Graham -- an avid Spider-Man fan who tugged on his father's pants and said those words moments before Lynch's inauguration in January 2003.

The attorney general, by the way, has been using his own substantial influence to knead same-sex marriage into Rhode Island law. Perhaps the question of whether homage to Spider-Man is treated superciliously or appreciatively hinges on what responsibility the great power is purported to require.

Posted by Justin Katz at June 10, 2004 11:31 AM

Justin, I was always more of an X-Men guy myself. A bunch of discriminated-against, un-appreciated "mutants" who fought for the good of their fellow citizens who in turn, while they liked the results of being "saved," hated the fact that it was a bunch of "muties" who helped them. Hmm. Sounds like life as a Republican in Rhode Island.

Posted by: Marc Comtois at June 10, 2004 3:06 PM


Posted by: Nick at June 10, 2004 5:38 PM

James Lileks:

All I’m saying is this: when historians sift through the pop-culture of America looking for hints and clues, they will notice that a character born in Vietnam-era 1963 reached a mass appeal in 2002, shortly before the Second Iraq War, and they will pay particular attention to the recurring phrase:

With great power comes great responsibility.

Go ahead; argue this is a sign of Western self-delusion, or a statement of solemn principles - that’s not my point. I’m just saying that that simple homily means something about the culture from which it came. Not: with great power comes great opportunity for burying your foes beneath the spiked wheels of your juggernaut! or with great power comes booty like you would - not - believe! Of course, the next question is, responsibility to do what? And there the arguments start. The EUians would mean we have a responsibility to sign Kyoto and join the ICC; others would insist we have a responsibility to reduce global income inequality, or smash states that are on a crash course to develop weapons of mass destruction. You could say that Spider-Man’s credo is the central dilemma of a unipolar world. But that would be silly.

Accurate, but silly.

If people can get PhDs today on the diaries of 18th century plantation wives (Matriarchs and Mansions: privilege and sexual politics in a slave-based culture) then they certainly can get a doctoral degree in 2102 dissecting a culture’s approach to the relation between power and responsibility, and why that concept popped up in 2002. They’ll probably miss the point, because the point is simple: do good, because that’s what good people do.

Posted by: Mike at June 10, 2004 5:52 PM


I agree; in fact, I always preferred the loners among the outcasts. Wolverine. Longshot. Sort of mirrors the position I suspect I'll be in as I get more involved among RI Republicans.



Thanks for the correction. I knew I should have checked it, but I was in a hurry.

Posted by: Justin Katz at June 11, 2004 11:36 AM