July 5, 2012

“With great power comes great responsibility.”


THE EVOLUTION OF THE PITHY PROVERB:

“With great power comes great responsibility.”
       Catchphrase popularized by Spider-Man comics and movies
       This now well-known line was first used in Marvel comic books featuring Spider-Man, the web-slingin’ superhero created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko in 1962. It was more widely popularized by director Sam Raimi’s hugely-popular 2002 Spider-Man film, which made it familiar to millions of people who never read a Spider-Man comic.
       The line evolved from narrative text written by Stan Lee for the original Spider-Man origin story published in August 1962 in Vol. 1, #15 of the Marvel comic Amazing Fantasy.
       In that story, after student Peter Parker accidentally gets his Spider-Man superpowers from the bite of a radioactive spider, he initially uses them to make money by performing in local wrestling matches and other public shows. One night, as he’s leaving a show, he sees a cop chasing a burglar. The cop wants him to help stop the criminal, but Peter refuses. Shortly thereafter, his beloved Uncle Ben Parker is murdered and Peter finds out the killer was the burglar he had refused to capture.
       The final panel in the story shows a small figure of Peter in his Spider-Man costume, dejectedly walking down a city street in the dark. Lee’s text in that panel provided the inspiration for the saying that would become famous. It says:
       “AND A LEAN. SILENT FIGURE SLOWLY FADES INTO THE GATHERING DARKNESS, AWARE AT LAST THAT IN THIS WORLD, WITH GREAT POWER THERE MUST ALSO COME --  GREAT RESPONSIBILITY.” 
       Spider-Man fan sites like Spiderfan.org say the quote “With great power comes great responsibility” was first used in a comic book in 1987, in Spider-Man vs. Wolverine #1. It’s mentioned as a saying of Uncle Ben’s in that issue, though not spoken by him. The first time Ben said it in a comic was in February 2002, in Amazing Spider-Man, Vol. 2, #38.
       A few months later, in May 2002, Raimi’s Spider-Man film was released. The line was used twice in the movie and launched it into pop culture meme status. It’s first spoken by actor Cliff Robertson, as Uncle Ben, and repeated at the end by Tobey Maguire, who plays Peter Parker/Spider-Man.  
       There are similar quotes linking power and responsibility that predate the Spider-Man catchphrase.
       For example, as noted by veteran comic and television writer Mark Evanier on his great NewsFromMe.com site, Theodore Roosevelt wrote in a 1908 letter that “responsibility should go with power.” And, in 1945, Teddy's relative Franklin D. Roosevelt said “great power involves great responsibility.”
       There’s also a famous historical quip about irresponsible power-wielders: “Power without responsibility — the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages.” That zinger was used in 1931 by UK politician Stanley Baldwin, in a speech attacking the media barons who owned British newspapers (the forerunners of Rupert Murdoch).


A PITHY REVIEW OF THE NEW SPIDER-MAN MOVIE:

“With great power comes great responzzzzzzzZzzzzzzzzzz…”
       Marty Beckerman
       Author, journalist and self-described “nice, semi-demented Jewish boy” from Alaska
       In his review of the recently-released Amazing Spider-Man movie on Salon.com, July 3, 2012, which ponders the question: “Is there an original idea left in Hollywood?”


THE U CAN HAS FREE CHEEZBURGER VERSION:

“We know that with great burgers comes great responsibility. So, we are doing our part to celebrate America’s birthday, Spider-Man’s birthday and the release of The Amazing Spider-Man film by giving anyone dressed as Spider-Man a free Amazing Grilled Cheese Bacon Burger on the Fourth of July.”
       Brad Haley 
       Chief marketing officer for CKE Restaurants, parent company of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s
       In a press release issued on June 25, 2012


DR. HOUSE’S OBSERVATION:

“With great power comes great micromanaging.” 
       Hugh Laurie, as the character Dr. Gregory House 
       In the “Better Half” episode of the TV show House M.D. (Season 8, Ep. 9 , first aired Jan. 23, 2012).


THE KICK-ASS VARIATION:

“With no power, comes no responsibility.” 
       Aaron Johnson, playing the unconventional superhero named Kick-Ass 
       In the movie Kick-Ass (2010)

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