‘Amazing Spider-Man’: Swing into KC’s Union Station for entertaining comics exhibit

Spider-Man swings into Kansas City for a special exhibit which runs through Oct. 1.

Discarding the uniform, bundled in a pile of red and blue, Peter Parker walked away from his responsibilities as Spider-Man. He blamed himself for the murder of his uncle, Ben.

This is just one of hundreds of factoids visitors to Kansas City’s Union Station learn as part of the “Spider-Man: Beyond Amazing – The Exhibition.” Running until Oct. 1, displays, some interactive, document the saga of the web-slinger from his inception to current movie series.

Tennis shoes
Disclaimer: Thank you to Visit KC and Union Station for the complimentary admission. However, all opinions and views – as always – are ours.

Originally appearing in the 15th and final issue of the comic series “Amazing Stories,” Spider-Man was slated as a one-and-done deal between creator Stan Lee and the publisher. Lee, however, planned to continue the comic series despite the publisher’s plans. Sales results showed that Spider-Man was a hit with the public, so the character was relaunched six months later in his own series, “The Amazing Spider-Man.”

Originating in 1962, “The Amazing Spider-Man” featured a tortured teenager as the star, a shift from having them as a sidekick to adult superheroes. The radioactive spider that bit Peter Parker was actually the second such arachnoid created by Lee and his partner, Steve Ditko.

Spider-Man was the second hit series for Lee and company following the near-collapse of Marvel forerunner Atlas Comics. During the 1950s, some people believed comics were corrupting America’s youth and should be banned. There were actual comic book burnings around the country.

Lee and his team also wrote mystery stories, as well as teen romances, among a variety of projects to remain viable. But, having decided to call it quits, Lee’s wife suggested he create one more comic story before ending his career.

Spider-Man first appearance with Amazing Fantasy issue
Spider-Man’s first appearance came in the final issue of “Amazing Fantasy.”

Suprise hit

“Fantastic Four,” a 1961 story of four friends who encounter a cosmic storm while in space and mutate with superpowers, became a surprise hit and saved Marvel. Imagine how empty our lives would be without Marvel comics, movies or TV series.

As a kid, I was a fan of Marvel, following the antics of Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, and Thor, as well as DC stars Batman and Superman. This exhibition was nirvana for me.

Green Goblin outfit and helmet
Green Goblin costume and helmet from the movie series.

“Amazing Spider-Man” includes some of the major villains Spidey encountered – Green Goblin, Sandman, Kingpin and Dr. Och. After nearly getting beaten to a pulp, Spider-Man always found a way to win against evil.

As Parker matured into an adult, taking a job as a photographer with the Daily Bugle, the exhibit also notes the hatred that editor J. Jonah Jameson had for Spider-Man.

Daily Bugle front pages - Who is Spider-Man and Threat or Menace
Daily Bugle coverage was biased against Spider-Man.

Meeting his first love, Gwen Stacy, while in college, it seemed destined for the couple to marry. But, then came Mary Jane Watson, his soul mate.

Torn over his feelings, Parker always tried to do the right thing. But, his feelings for Gwen overpowered him when the Green Goblin killed Stacy, tossing her from the rooftop of a skyscraper. It was one of the first comic deaths of a major character and was emotionally felt by fans. His hatred of his enemy drove him to seek revenge.

Spidey history

Moving through the colorful exhibit, fans relive the stories of their youth, while younger people may learn new things about the superhero. It brought back tons of memories for me, buying comics at the drug store in Oakland, Nebraska, and rushing home to read about the antics of my favorite characters.

Merchandise from Spider-Man history
Spider-Man comics, books and toys have found their way into the homes of millions of fans.

The Spider-Man exhibit offers several photo opportunities with 3D characters, as well as wall-sized animations. A children’s art room features lessons on how to draw Spider-Man.

“Spider-Man: Beyond Amazing” takes fans from the drawing board to the big screen, which has seen three actors portray Spidey. Personally, I think Tom Holland has been best in the role, easily passing for a geeky high school student. Props offer a look at the history of the movies, which also included Tobey McGuire and Andrew Garfield in the title role.

Drawings and mask from Spider-Man movies.
Props from some of the Spider-Man movies.

“Spider-Man” movies eventually transitioned to animation, with the “Spider-Verse” bringing along several versions of the web-slinger, from Miles Morales to Spider-Ham (a pig superhero). The new movie series began with 2018’s “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” and followed with 2023’s “Across the Spider-Verse.”

Miles Morales as Spider-Man looks out over the city from a rooftop
Miles Morales takes over as Spider-Man as part of the “Spider-Verse.”

Welcoming Spider women

The “Spider-Man” series also crossed gender lines, introducing fans to Spider-Woman and Spider-Girl. Spider-Woman, whose true identity was Jessica Drew, debuted in 1977. Her character starred in a 50-issue series.

Spider-Girl debuted as the daughter of Spider-Man and Mary Jane.
Spider-Girl’s story ran for 100 issues before low sales canceled it.

Spider-Girl grew up in the same home as Spider-Man. May “Mayday” Parker was the daughter of Peter and Mary Jane. The couple’s wedding is also featured as part of the Union Station exhibit. Marvel introduced Spider-Girl in a 1998 “What If” issue. She went on to star in 100 issues. While the series started strong, low sales ultimately resulted in the series’ cancelation.

While Gwen Stacy died in an earlier story, she reappears as Spider-Ghost as part of the ‘Spider-Verse.” The fun thing about the “Spider-Verse” is that several versions of the masked hero exist.

Photo of Spider-Man and the offshoots as part of the Spider-Verse
The Spider-Verse offshoots from the original web-slinger.

Whether you’re a Boomer or have a youngin’, “Spider-Man: Beyond Amazing – The Exhibition” is a must-visit. As we reached the end of the attraction, which took almost two hours – because there’s so much to read and absorb – Lisa made the classic comic mistake of asking if I was ready to leave or if there was something I wanted to look at again. We went back to the beginning and did another walk-thru, posing for some photos along the way.

While your comic book fan may not be as geeky – who are we kidding? We’re all comic book geeks – plan to spend up to two hours during your visit.