WATSON -- With more than $276 million in the worldwide box office, a Golden Globe win for best animated film, and a 97-percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” was one of 2018’s best cinematic surprises.
The family-friendly film — a perfect marriage of computer animation and the visual appeal of comic books — provides Spider-Man lovers a fresh take on a superhero that’s already been featured in six live-action films since 2002.
Instead of having one version of Spider-Man, “Spider-Verse” has them all.
Okay, maybe not every Spider-Man, but there are certainly a lot of them in this two-hour adrenaline rush of web-slinging action.
- There’s the teenager Miles Morales, who wears a black suit with a red Spidey emblem in the center as opposed to the traditional blue-and-red suit.
- There’s the familiar Peter Parker, only this time he’s out of shape, out of luck and nearly out of patience with his protégé, Morales.
- There’s “Spider-Man Noir,” a colorblind, black-and-white version from the 1930s who can’t quite figure out a Rubik’s cube.
- There’s Peni Parker, also known as “SP//dr,” an anime version whose suit is a robot she physically sits in and controls as if in a miniature air traffic control center.
- There’s also Peter Porker, or better yet, “Spider-Ham,” a pig-shaped version of the iconic superhero.
Didn’t know there were that many different versions of Spider-Man? You’re not alone.
It takes some time to get them all in order, especially if your knowledge of the superhero is limited to the films that featured Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield (whoof), and most recently Tom Holland in the starring roles.
There is one person, however, who wasn’t confused for a second when he saw “Spider-Verse,” and he could go on for hours about the origins of each Spider-Man the film depicts.
In fact, when it comes to anything involving the famous wall-crawler, this man pretty much knows it all, having consumed all things Spider-Man — comic books, movies, cartoons, action figures, underoos — since he was a child. At all times, he’s ready to rattle off his Spidey knowledge, which he can recall as if reading it from a comic book.
Meet Shane Stewart, your friendly neighborhood Spider-Fan.
Stewart, 40, is a husband, a father, and a talented theatre teacher who lives off La. Hwy. 16 in Watson. Last year, he was named McKinley Middle Magnet School’s Teacher of the Year, and for years, he led a local acting troupe dedicated to Shakespeare, the Acorn Theatre.
He’s also the biggest Spider-Man fan you’ll ever meet.
“Yeah, I think it’s safe to say I love Spider-Man,” Stewart said in a recent interview, during which he wore a Spider-Man hoodie over a Spider-Man T-shirt, along with a pair of Spider-Man Vans and Spider-Man socks.
Stewart’s Spidey obsession can be traced back to Greensburg, Louisiana, a small rural community in St. Helena Parish that had a population of 718 people in the 2010 census.
Greensburg is where Stewart grew up, and it’s where his Spidey senses were first triggered.
“It’s very rural out there, which is probably why I liked comic books because I had to entertain myself some sort of way,” he said. “No one lived within 10 minutes of each other out there, so you had to find something to pass the time.
“I was probably in late elementary school when I first started collecting comic books, but I can remember being even younger than that when I had Spiderman bikes, costumes and underoos. I guess my parents were the reason I became a fan because they kept buying me Spider-Man stuff.”
But why was Spider-Man so appealing to you, given all the other superheroes there are?
“Because he was such a nerd,” Stewart responded in jest. “And that’s one of the reasons why I don’t like DC as much as Marvel: Everybody’s so perfect [in DC], and I’m like, ‘Give me somebody with some problems.’
“To me, that’s what Stan Lee and Marvel have always done, especially with Spider-Man. Yeah, Thor and Iron Man had problems, but Spider-Man was just a kid, and everyone could relate to him.”
Not buying Stewart’s obsession? Try following him on Facebook, where he shoots off one playful Spidey post after another.
One recent post depicted Spider-Man jolting out of bed, late for school. Another had him sipping his morning coffee from atop a skyscraper, dressed warmly with a hoodie over his suit. Another had him ready to fire off a string of web, with a speech balloon saying, “Let’s Boogie!”
But those posts don’t even scratch the surface — since January 2018, Stewart has posted more than 250 different photos featuring his favorite superhero, depicted in almost as many different forms and fashions.
“I love those posts,” he said with a laugh.
Still not buying Stewart’s fandom? Just step inside the storage room that’s connected to his garage, which he converted into his personal “toy room” a few years ago — a project that brought instant relief to his wife, Leah.
“That stuff was in my bedroom for the longest time — everywhere,” she said in mock annoyance as her husband took a sip of coffee from his Spider-Man mug. “I finally got him to move it outside.”
“I planned on doing it forever,” he said, giving his wife a sly smile. “I always wanted to have a big room full of toys.”
Apart from 100 or so comic books — Stewart said his collection is close to 500, but many are stored in his attic — the room also contains around 200 Funko POP! dolls, still in their original packaging.
Many of the big-headed figurines cover an entire wall in the small room, and inside each package is a different Marvel character: Captain America and Deadpool, Ant-Man and Iron Man, Carnage and Venom, and many, many more.
However, you won’t find many Spider-Man Funko POP! boxes on that wall, but that’s only because they have their own spot atop a wooden display case. The case is next to the room’s light switch, which fittingly has a plastic Spider-Man cover.
Proudly displayed above Stewart’s computer is a foot-long Spider-Man action figure, which is surrounded by more Funko POP! boxes and framed comic books. A few feet away over an old circuit breaker is perhaps his most treasured collectible — a magnetic Spider-Man that has “literally been everywhere” with Stewart since he was a child.
“He’s getting a little faded now and his joints are a little old, but I’ll never get rid of him,” he said.
Still need a little more convincing?
How about the Spider-Man tattoo he got four years ago, which covers his entire calf and has the superhero striking a Shakespearean pose (another of Stewart’s obsessions)? Or the quilt his mother made him using old superhero T-shirts (many of which were, you guessed it, Spider-Man)? Or the 900-plus comic books he’s read in his life?
Even the car he recently purchased was partly inspired by the superhero. Okay, maybe not entirely, but Stewart said he found it pretty hard to pass up once he caught a glimpse of the vehicle’s blue exterior and red interior — or Spider-Man’s colors.
“I was like, ‘This is made for me,’” he fondly recalled. “I had to get it.”
Still don’t believe this man is crazy about Spider-Man? Just ask anybody who knows him — relatives, friends, colleagues, even his students.
“Yeah my students know,” he said with a laugh. “When I get Christmas presents, it’s all Spider-Man stuff all the time.”
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