The Amazing Popularity of Spider-Man

The list of characters was pared down to those who have had at least 20 direct co-features with him, resulting in 133 nodes/characters.

Their communities as detected by the same algorithm are colored below:Ceci n’est pas un diagramme circulaire.

(Tr: This is not a pie chart)We start to see that just like many of us, Spider-Man navigates several social groups reflecting the different roles (and literal identities) that he has in his life.

In bright green and orange are the tightly connected superhero teams.

An interesting observation here is how the Fantastic Four have been broken up, with Invisible Woman being with the Avengers and the three remaining members on the X-Men side.

The few blue nodes represent the community surrounding the “Defenders” of New York on a street level which include Daredevil, Luke Cage, the Punisher, and Kingpin.

The pink group mostly represents Spider-Man’s close friends and family that ground him as Peter Parker, most prominently his eventual wife Mary Jane Watson, Aunt May and boss J.

Jonah Jameson.

There are also major villains among this pink community such as Doctor Octopus, Green Goblin and Venom.

Finally, the little circles on the end of the red spokes represent isolated villains (e.


Electro, Mysterio, Rhino) or neutral characters that Spider-Man or Peter encouters on his own.


What makes Spider-Man so special?A Spider-Man-focused selection from the 1991 series of the Marvel Universe Trading Cards.

Next, I examined the “Power Ratings” that are given on the backs of the 1991 series of the Official Marvel Universe Trading Cards.

One may call these assigned ratings arbitrary, but aren’t most ratings exactly that?Data collected from my very own collection.

Here is a more reliable source.

Compared to a few of his peers, Spider-Man does not seem to be very remarkable.

Other than his strong Agility owing to that fatefull radioactive spider bite, his abilities stay within the medium range of 3 and 4.

This points to his Everyman quality and likely explains how the character remains the most popular Marvel character for so long, with the public having an equal if not stronger attachment to Peter Parker over the Spider-Man persona.

He is a relatable character who starts out as a teenager from Queens trying to balance his priorities between school and family who is then put into extraordinary circumstances and decides to take on the responsibilities that come with it.

On the right hand side, we observe that Spider-Man usually outmatches his villains.

Lucky for him, and New York City.


Spider-Man swings from one animated series to the next.

Spider-Man series through the decades.

Spider-Man leaped from the comic pages to television with the classically remembered animated series which ran from 1967 to 1970.

In the decades since, he has starred in a number of successful animated series and continues to do so today.

Their episodic IMDB ratings out of 10 stars are plotted below.

Data sourceFirst, it should be recognized that IMDB ratings did not begin until the mid-1990’s.

Therefore, ratings for the first four series are based on memory and/or retrospective viewing well after the original airdate through reruns or less traditional ways.

With one notable exception, the number of votes for these series are relatively low but their ratings are comparable to the later series.

Thus, it would be difficult to determine how much of an effect nostalgia may play on these ratings or the opposite effect of harsh judgement from modern eyes.

The first episode of the live-action The Amazing Spider-Man (1977–1979) is the most rated episode of all the series with 914 votes, which is 2.

5 times the amount of its nearest competitor.

This episode was presented as a made-for-television movie that was highly viewed in the US that year, then released to theaters for overseas markets and eventually on VHS.

Despite the high viewership, IMDB users do not look kindly on it by giving it an average rating of 5.

6, which is among the bottom 1 percentile of Spider-Man episodes.

The smaller pool of viewers (average 36.

8 votes per episode) who stuck with this live-action series rated the subsequent episodes the highest among the pre-IMDB series.

During its original run, CBS canceled the show after 13 highly viewed episodes for fear of becoming the “superhero” network, having a slate of live action series or TV-movies that included The Incredible Hulk, Wonder Woman, Doctor Strange, and Captain America.

Even in the late 70’s, Hollywood execs were worried about “superhero fatigue.

”Spider-Man (1994–1998) is well regarded with the highest number of votes, the second highest average rating, and the second longest run of episodes.

Here again, it may not be suitable to make strong conclusions by comparing the number of votes because they may have had more time to accumulate over the newer series.

After a few attempts, Spider-Man would not have a successful series again until 2008 with The Spectacular Spider-Man (2008–2009) which enjoyed high ratings on IMDB and in viewership, but was cut short due to issues between Sony and Disney stemming from the latter’s acquisition of the Marvel properties at the time.

The Marvel-produced Ultimate Spider-Man (2012–2017) ultimately became the longest running series although its audience seemed to be halved for the last two seasons (avg.


5 votes per episode) compared to the first two (avg.


6 votes per episode).

The replacement series Marvel’s Spider-Man (2017-) premiered to coincide with the latest cinematic reboot.

Its rating is averaging 6.

5 out of 10 compared to 7.

6 for its predecessor and has half the number of votes per episode.

Judging by its history however, it seems the Spider-Man television franchise usually finds a way to bounce back.


Why did they rereboot the Spider-Man movies?Promotional posters for various Spider-Man movies.

Most famously in recent times, there have been the live action movie adaptations which have garnered great excitement that seems to fizzle out after a sequel or two, giving us our third interpretation of Peter Parker in less than two decades.

MovieLens has a large database of user movie ratings (out of 5 stars) for their service with timestamps for each rating.

The ratings for the Spider-Man movies were extracted for the following analysis.

Data sourceEvaluating the average rating of the movies gives us an idea of their popularity, but as you scroll to the right the moving averages paint a fuller story of how things have changed through the years.

Each line begins 10 days after the premiere date of the movie.

Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 both started with great hype and unsustainable ratings which stabilized down after a year.

Despite Spider-Man 2 beginning at a higher rating than its predescessor, its ratings have decreased to a lower overall average rating.

Spider-Man 3 started relatively low and never recovered.

Ratings for the first movie of the first reboot in 2012 started at a decent level without matching the excitement of the earlier movies.

While The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has higher ratings than Spider-Man 3, its release seemed to have had an amazing effect not achieved by the latter: it brought down the ratings of all the other movies in the franchise along, with decreases ranging from 0.

2 to 0.

3 ratings.

The premiere of Captain America: Civil War (marked by the dotted line in 2016) featured the debut of the third actor to take on the Spider-role.

Ratings for Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 seemed to have stopped their declines since then, although this may still be due to any number of factors other than some restored faith in the franchise.

On the other hand, The Amazing Spider-Man movies continue their downward trajectories and one wonders if their ratings might eventually reach Spider-Man 3’s level.

Finally, the newest reboot appears to have decent ratings that have not dropped steeply like the first movies and actually seem to be increasing, although this is based on only one year’s worth of ratings data.

Ratings for the tangential Into the Spiderverse movie were not yet available.

Spider-Man: Far From Home premieres July 5, 2019.


Spider-Man vs Batman: popularity in the modern ageThe relative search histories of “Spider-Man” and its misspelled alternate.

I used Google Trends to look at the relative internet search activity of Spider-Man in modern times using Batman, DC Comics’ leading superhero, for comparison.

Their relative popularities in the last 5 years were colour-coded on a world map, with brighter colours indicating a stronger imbalance in that country.

Data sourceNext, I considered their names in combination with other search terms to give different contexts to their popularity in the last 5 years.

Please note that as a search term, “spiderman” is more frequently used instead of “spider-man” and so the results for both were combined.

Please follow this link to use the drop-down menu for the worldwide comparisons.

A few caveats:the search terms likely hold less relevance for non-English speaking countriessome countries may be greyed out due to the lack of available data rather than a 50/50 splitexaggerated full values for Spider-Man (0.

000) or Batman (1.

000) may be due to low search activitySome interesting observations include:the Batman vs.

Spider-Man divide over the past 5 years mostly occurs around continent boundariesBatman is more popular for most search termsmore countries are searching for Spider-Man’s secret identity than Batman’slooking at last year, Batman’s popularity is on the “Wayne”Brazil enjoys a Batman-slapping-Robin memeIndia has a marked affinity for Spider-ManA still frame from the Spider-Man PlayStation4 game.

Altogether, I have shown a few ways to analyze and visualize the popularity of Spider-Man through the ages and across different media, with different insights gained from each one.

I hope you have enjoyed exploring the data as much as I did.

Unless indicated otherwise, all data was collected on the week of Feb 10, 2019.

Any extra unsourced info comes from general reading.

Link to original notebook.

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