Spider-Man is a fictional superhero appearing in comic books published by Marvel Comics. The character was created by writer Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko and first appeared in the Amazing Fantasy comic book anthology in 1962. He is characterized by his super strength and agility; and his ability to cling to most surfaces, shoot spider-webs using his own wrist-mounted devices, and react to danger quickly.
Spider-Man is one of the most popular and commercially successful superheroes and has become Marvel's flagship character and mascot. He has appeared in various TV series, a newspaper comic strip, and a live-action film series.
History with the Macy's Parade
Spider-Man made his Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade debut in 1987, and was one of the most detailed balloons at the time, with the character's buffed-up muscles and humanoid form. Much of the first Spider-Man balloon's inception is detailed by former Editor-In-Chief for Marvel, Jim Shooter. Shooter reminisced on his time with the Macy's Parade Studio in a 2011 blog post.
Shooter became involved when Marvel’s VP of Business Affairs Joe Calamari called him just a month after he was fired from Marvel. Calmamari told Shooter that Macy’s was set to debut a Spider-Man balloon for that year’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, but production kept stalling in the designing stages. Knowing that Shooter understood “3-D things, toys and such,” Calamari asked the former Chief if he would consult on balloon’s production.
In the blog post, Shooter recollected that “Marvel had provided reference to the Macy’s balloonatics, but Joe didn’t like what they’d come up with. He’d brought John Romita, Sr. in to advise them, but, he said that hadn’t helped. His assessment was that John (and comic book artists in general) were okay when it came to two-dimensional drawings, but just couldn’t deal with 3-D things, like balloons.”
Calamari and Shooter drove out to Macy’s balloon studio. When they arrived, Calamari warned Shooter that the Spider-Man balloon sculptor carried a massive ego, and was difficult to work with. After seeing the Spider-Man balloon, which had the proportions of a chubby baby, according to Shooter, Shooter told the sculptor that he needed to reconfigure the entire balloon. Through much bickering and disagreement, the duo settled on a pose that featured Spider-Man crawling through the streets of New York City, complete with a "web" which would extend from his left hand and double as handling lines.
Constructed with several dozen yards of urethane-coated nylon fabric and painted with gallons of paint, the finished Spider-Man balloon was 78 feet long, 36 feet wide, weighted 345 pounds deflated, and required 9,520 cubic feet of helium to help him reach fine-flying form.
Upon making its debut on Thanksgiving Day 1987, the Spider-Man balloon was met with appraisal from children and adults alike, signifying Spidey as a fan-favorite balloon. This balloon also utilized a special "Spidey-Cam", which presented viewers of the NBC telecast a bird's eye view of the procession. This feature was used from 1988-1992 (though this wasn't shown in the latter year). The real Spider-Man also appeared on a Marvel Comics-branded float from 1987 until 1989.
The balloon continued to appear throughout the late 1980s and into the 1990s and was soon named the "official superhero" of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. The balloon also made several appearances outside of the Parade, such as at the 1989 edition of Macy's-Egleston Christmas Parade, a special Macy's-sponsored Parade held at the Mall of America in 1992 and the 1995 and 1996 Macy's Balloon-A-Thon events.
The Spider-Man balloon encountered its first accident in 1993 when high winds caused the balloon's head to be punctured by trees, leaving it to slowly leak helium en route to 34th Street. Another accident in 1997 caused Spider-Man's left hand and much of his body to collide with trees and other obstacles.
1998 was scheduled to be the superhero's final appearance in the Parade. During the overnight preparations, the balloon's stomach started leaking helium due to the retrofitting of the utility tractors. By the time dusk turned to dawn, the balloon was unable to fly and was subsequently removed from the line of march. After this appearance, the Spider-Man balloon would sit dormant in the Macy's Parade Studio for years after. The balloon's existence was last confirmed in 2009 when the balloon's fabric had begun to fall apart.
Over a decade after the previous balloon's retirement, a brand-new Spider-Man balloon was announced to appear in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade 2009. Upon making the announcement of the character's return in August of that year, Robin Hall stated “Spider-Man’s return to the Macy’s Balloon line-up this year is an event of seismic magnitude,”. “Marvel’s iconic character, which flew for over a decade in the ‘80s and ‘90s was one of the most memorable balloons in Macy’s long Parade history.”
The modern Spider-Man was designed by freelance artist Joel Naprstek and combines the classic pose of the previous balloon (his arms outstretched in front of him and his legs bent behind in full crawling mode) coupled with a more modern look.
In 2011, the infamous Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark served as one of the pre-parade acts. That same year, the real-life Spider-Man escorted his balloon-ified self down the Parade route.
In 2013, the balloon's left wrist was punctured by a tree along Central Park West, leaving the hand to dangle below the balloon. The balloon was retired after the 2014 procession had ended and currently sits dormant at the Float Warehouse. Since then, the Parade has been without a Spider-Man balloon.
Listed below are the music tracks that played during the balloon's appearance on the NBC telecast.
- "Spider-Man Theme Song Instrumental", composed by Milton DeLugg (1987-1998, 2009-2014)
- The Spider-Man balloon can be seen in the 1993 animated film We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story, alongside Snoopy, Woody Woodpecker, an off-model Quik Bunny, and Clifford the Big Red Dog.
- The original Spider-Man balloon was the longest balloon to remain in the lineup after the 1997 size restrictions, at 78 feet long. This record would only be broken by the second Kermit the Frog balloon, the third Ronald McDonald balloon, and later Spider-Man's second iteration.