“Look out, he’s got a hyphen!”

Why does Spider-man have a hyphen in his name? You might not have noticed it before, perhaps because most superheroes don’t have hyphenated names, and you assume the same is true of Spider-man. Bat-man. Iron-man. The-Incredible-Hulk. Doesn’t really work, does it? And yet you’ve probably never noticed Spider-man’s hyphen. Until now. Now, you can’t help but notice it and the name looks weird now, doesn’t it (Spiderman, or Spider Man not being weird at all, of course)?

Apparently the reason for the hyphen is that Stan Lee, co-creator of the character, wanted to make sure that Spider-man was distinguishable from Superman. As the names would look so similar without the hyphen, and both wear red and blue, they could have been easily confused on comic-book store shelves. Which is understandable. Though some suggest that Lee was motivated to add the hyphen by the possibility of being sued by his rivals at DC Comics.

It makes you wonder about the nature of superhero names though, and how much we take them for granted. Batman, Power Girl, Superman (he’s a man, and he’s super!), Wonder Woman, Catwoman, Ant Man: most of them are just an animal’s name followed by the word man or woman, or sometimes boy or girl. Some, like Wolverine, don’t even bother going that far. They really should be ridiculous, but plenty of us take those names pretty seriously. It just goes to show how simply being exposed to something over time makes it normal. If I suggested going to see the new Catman and Pigeon film, for example, you probably wouldn’t be interested. The Marmoset, Badger Girl, Koala Boy: of course they’re ridiculous, but are they so simply because we haven’t seen their names and faces everywhere for the last 70 years or so?

An interesting experiment would be for a writer to deliberately choose a ridiculous character name, and then try to make it accepted as serious character in the comic-book world, culminating in a dark and gritty Hollywood blockbuster. Here’s hoping that by 2025, David Fincher’s Pomeranian Man will be breaking box-office records.

21 thoughts on ““Look out, he’s got a hyphen!”

  1. It reminds me of men who use their middle names. I’ve learned to stay away from them since their egos are all consuming . Spider-man I bet would also use his middle name, if he had one. I’ve always considered him distinguished next to his peers anyway. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Now I’m annoyed, lol. I loathe hyphens. I loathe when people add hyphens when the word in question clearly doesn’t need it. Take the word ‘bipolar’, for example. It’s uncommon, but some people like to add a hyphen to that word–bi-polar. Yuck! That makes my skin crawl.

    Also, people with two surnames don’t always need a hyphen. Hispanophones traditionally have a paternal followed by a maternal surname, two surnames, and they are very lovely as is. Here in Canada, people are always trying to to sneak in a hyphen to my Mexican’s double-barelled surname. I’ve lost so much breath explaining why there is no hyphen.

    I shall go sniff some fresh lavender leaves now, and I wish you a lovely Friday 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • They’re definitely overused. I think people like to use them to appear smart: like using more formal vocabulary even when it doesn’t really make sense. Of course, the problem is, as you point out, that it’s not always necessary, and oftentimes using one simply doesn’t make sense, or makes what you write mean something different.
      I like them when they clear up ambiguity, but they’re not to be thrown about willy-nilly :).

      Liked by 1 person

      • Lol re: willy-nilly. Have you already blogged about the use of “I” vs “Me”? As in, between you and me vs between you and I?
        I’m perfectly happy letting a preposition dangle at the end of sentence but listening to “Between you and I”, is like munching on a mountain of apple seeds – simply toxic.
        Beautiful Monday to you 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

          • I hear you. I often go for the more natural, every day language as opposed to following grammar rules. I suppose there’s a time and place for everything. I probably wouldn’t want to let my prepositions hang while in conversation with the Queen of England, but then again, I’ll likely NEVER have a heart-to-heart with her 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

  3. Wanted to tell you this. For an uncanny reason, I was on the set of the new Spider-man movie filming for a week in New York. Thought of you right away.

    I was told, the reason Spider–man is hyphenated is because his creator wanted to differentiate him from Superman. Maybe you already knew that.

    SB Action Hero Cub Reporter 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I did, and I was amazed when I heard as I’d never noticed it (and I’ve been noticing that a lot of people write his name without it). If you run into the man himself, let me know how he feels about it :).


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