Spider-Man is one of the most iconic superheroes in the US, a teenager who is bitten by a radioactive spider and is gifted with amazing agility and preternatural senses, using his new-found powers to fight crime. His masked, spandex-suited appearance is immediately recognizable, so it’s no surprise that the Spider-Man comic book character has been adapted for the screen. What’s weird about this is how frequently movie-makers get crucial aspects of Spider-Man wrong. Canon Films, at one point, was developing a Spider-Man movie in which a mad scientist named Dr. Zork creates an actual eight-legged mutant Spider-Man who has to fight other mutants.
Crossing international waters created even weirder Spider-Mans. In Japan, Spider-Man gets his powers from an alien and pilots a giant robot named Leopardon, Italian Spider-Man has the powers to summon penguins to his defense, but he’s also created by an Australian comedy troupe, so I’m not sure he counts. But for my money, the best Spider-Man is Turkish Spider-Man.
Star of “3 Dev Adam,” the three mighty men, Turkish Spider-Man is an ultra-sadistic super-villain who is smuggling antiquities out of Turkey and producing counterfeit currency to unsettle the country’s economy and must be stopped by Turkish Captain America and Turkish El Santo. I have a whole theory about how this movie is really a metaphor for NATO, but I'll save that for another post. I’ve composed a video that outlines my case for why Turkish Spider-Man is the best possible version of Spider-Man. I've made a video that outlines my argument:
I’ll confess, I have thought quite a lot about why Turkish Spider-Man is evil. I researched traditions surrounding spiders in Turkey to see if they’re held with particular suspicion. This would explain why, upon seeing a spider-clad character, a Turkish screenwriter might automatically cast him as a villain. But there is no culturally-ingrained, special fear of spiders.
What IS a tradition in Turkey, though, is the character of the masked supercriminal. That character goes as far back as 1911, with the publication of the blockbuster crime novel Fantomas, the titular character of which spawned over forty books and whose dastardly deeds were filmed multiple times in Europe. In the 60s, Italian crime comics for adults, known as fumetti neri (or “black comics”) exploded onto the scene with characters like Diabolik, Kriminal, Infernal and Killing. The books were extremely controversial due to their over-the-top violent, sexual content. Interestingly, there are no corresponding superheroes in these books—they’re all about reveling in criminality, sadism, and frequent reasons to show naked female flesh. Here's a terrific overview of fumetti neri by Paul Gravett if you'd like to further explore the topic.
But the connection goes further! The Killing character, also known as Sadistik, was earlier adapted to the Turkish screen in the Kilink film series (watch Kilink: Strip and Kill here; thank me later). So, while there’s no Turkish tradition of web-slinging teenagers in full body spandex suits, there’s absolutely a strong cultural precedent for savage criminal torturers in full body spandex suits. In fact, Kilink even fights Turkish Superman. So there you have it—Turkish Spider-Man may not have been nipped by a radioactive spider, but instead was born from a super-evil, bloodthirsty series of masked supervillains, and once again European adult comics artists have inadvertently managed to mess up Spider-Man related content.
Adapted from a presentation originally featured in Kevin Geeks Out: New York Comic Con 2014 Edition