click here to jump to start of article
  • Torah Reading: Naso
Join Our Newsletter

Get latest articles and videos with Jewish inspiration and insights​

Is Spider-Man Jewish?

Is Spider-Man Jewish?

Goldman, Lipman and Spider-Man: All Jewish names.


My Spidey sense is tingling, 48 years after the Spider-man was first concocted by Jewish artist Stan Lee; Jewish actor Andrew Garfield will don the spandex for the forthcoming fourth film in the Spider-man franchise, replacing Tobey Maguire in the role. Garfield noted in an interview, that he grew up in a middle-class Jewish home and attended private school. While born in Los Angeles, Garfield moved across the pond to live in England with his British mother and American father when he was 3.

Garfield being Jewish is no small matter to the Spider-man universe. In August 1962, Stan Lee was basking in the success of the Fantastic Four and the Hulk, created a new kind of superhero: “A teenager, with all the problems, hang-ups, and angst of any teenager. He’d be an orphan who lived with his aunt and uncle, a bit of a nerd, a loser in the romantic department, and who constantly worried.”

Spider-Man has a number of classically Jewish qualities.

Angst-ridden teenager Peter Parker is introduced in the first panel as “that bookworm [who] wouldn’t know a cha-cha from a waltz!” He’s drawn as a nebbish – a dark-haired, spectacled, neurotic worrier. When he’s bitten by a radioactive spider while visiting a science museum, Parker ends up with an array of superhuman, spider like powers: speed, strength, and agility; a tingling "spider-sense" that warns him of impending danger; the ability to quickly recover from injuries and poisons; and a proficiency for sticking to walls. Originally near sighted, Parker now has perfect vision.

The death of a loved one is a commonplace motive for crime fighting in comics. Just think of Batman. But Spider-Man is driven by guilt rather than revenge. Michael Chabon notes, “I don’t think there’s another comic-book superhero that’s as completely driven by trying to pay some debt, a debt that can’t be paid, as Spider-Man is.” Amazingly, Garfield recently noted, “I have a really big guilt complex and that if I’m not doing any kind of good then there’s no real reason for being.”

Sam Raimi, director of the previous hugely successful Spider-Man movies, agrees with Chabon: "Spider-Man is a character that spends his life trying to pay down his guilt, the only difference is that it’s caused by his uncle, not his mother. That’s a real classically Jewish quality — to be very aware of your sins in this life and try and make amends for them in this life."

Michael Chabon’s fictional account of the early days of the comic book industry, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay depicts how badly the comic creators themselves needed heroes.

The theme of guilt leads to talk of Spider-Man being Jewish. So does Spider-Man’s dry sense of humor, “He’s a very funny guy, almost Seinfeld with webbing,” observes Marvel writer Danny Fingeroth. Chabon comments, “For years people have speculated that Peter was sort of crypto-Jewish. You know, living with his uncle Ben and aunt May in Queens.”

Many people consider spiders pests and are fearful of them, but in fact these creatures perform a vital natural function by keeping the insect population under control. In the same way, the Jewish people have received their share of bad press over the years. Israel is a special target of misrepresentation in media “spin.” Like the Jewish people, Spider-Man tries to do the right thing but is viewed with suspicion by authority figures.

Spider-Man’s famous costume covers his entire body from head to toe. Even his eyes hide behind unblinking white triangles. Spider-Man seems to be trying particularly hard to conceal himself; not many other comic book characters are so thoroughly disguised.

Spider-Man, unlike other superheroes, is more Woody Allen nebbish than all-powerful, suffering from stereotypical Jewish neuroses. When he was in his Clark Kent guise, Superman was only pretending to be a nerd. Peter Parker really was one.

The director of the forthcoming movie Marc Webb noted, “Mark my words, you will love Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker.” With a guy named Webb helming a Spider-man movie starring a guilt-ridden Jewish actor, who am I to disagree!

July 17, 2010

Give Tzedakah! Help create inspiring
articles, videos and blogs featuring timeless Jewish wisdom.
The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 10

(10) Anonymous, July 28, 2015 9:26 PM

Some are not living, but:

Sam Waterstone (?Wasserstein) , Ben Affleck,, Elaine Dreyfus, (Anne Meara's son),

(9) Bee, February 9, 2015 7:35 PM

Jewish actors

For future reference:
Actors of fully Jewish background: -Logan Lerman, Natalie Portman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Mila Kunis, Bar Refaeli, James Wolk, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Julian Morris, Adam Brody, Esti Ginzburg, Kat Dennings, Gabriel Macht, Erin Heatherton, Odeya Rush, Anton Yelchin, Paul Rudd, Scott Mechlowicz, Lisa Kudrow, Lizzy Caplan, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Gal Gadot, Debra Messing, Robert Kazinsky, Melanie Laurent, Shiri Appleby, Justin Bartha, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Margarita Levieva, Elizabeth Berkley, Halston Sage, Seth Gabel, Skylar Astin, Mia Kirshner, Alden Ehrenreich, Eric Balfour, Jason Isaacs, Jon Bernthal.

Andrew Garfield is Jewish, too (though I don't know if both of his parents are).

Actors with Jewish mothers and non-Jewish fathers -Jake Gyllenhaal, Dave Franco, James Franco, Scarlett Johansson, Daniel Day-Lewis, Daniel Radcliffe, Alison Brie, Eva Green, Emmy Rossum, Rashida Jones, Jennifer Connelly, Nora Arnezeder, Goldie Hawn, Ginnifer Goodwin, Amanda Peet, Eric Dane, Jeremy Jordan, Joel Kinnaman, Ben Barnes, Patricia Arquette, Kyra Sedgwick, Dave Annable.

Actors with Jewish fathers and non-Jewish mothers, who themselves were either raised as Jews and/or identify as Jews: -Ezra Miller, Gwyneth Paltrow, Alexa Davalos, Nat Wolff, Nicola Peltz, James Maslow, Josh Bowman, Winona Ryder, Michael Douglas, Ben Foster, Jamie Lee Curtis, Nikki Reed, Zac Efron, Jonathan Keltz, Paul Newman.

Oh, and Ansel Elgort’s father is Jewish, though I don’t know how Ansel was raised.

Actors with one Jewish-born parent and one parent who converted to Judaism -Dianna Agron, Sara Paxton (whose father converted, not her mother), Alicia Silverstone, Jamie-Lynn Sigler.

(8) Robert, May 14, 2012 2:20 AM

The name "PETER PARKER" is not Jewish name sake. I doubt Stan Lee intended for Spidey to be Jewish. Don't Belive it!

(7) karl, November 11, 2011 7:13 AM

steve ditko not jewish

Hey just letting you guys know that Steve Ditko was not Jewish. He was of Czech descent. Which means he was either Catholic or Lutheran but futhermore in his own beliefs he was a devout Objectivist. Shalom :)

(6) Rosie, July 4, 2011 10:10 AM

Spider-man Jewish...who knew?

Spider-man Jewish...who knew?

See All Comments

Submit Your Comment:

  • Display my name?

  • Your email address is kept private. Our editor needs it in case we have a question about your comment.

  • * required field 2000
Submit Comment