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.