Spider-Man: A Webbed History

It's fitting that, as "Spider-Man" the movie is taking the world by storm, it comes 40 years after the wall-crawling superhero did the same thing in his primary world of comics.

Created by Stan Lee for Marvel Comics in 1962, Spider-Man was conceived as an antidote to the rival antics of Superman and Batman. Lee's innovative spin was that, while Spider-Man was blessed with extraordinary powers, he was also burdened with very human problems.

His first appearance, in Amazing Fantasy #15 in 1962, was an immediate hit, and Marvel quickly found Spidey on an iconic level-pegging with DC Comics' finest. The character's success quickly gave him the position of Marvel's signature character, with multiple comic book series to his name.

Like other major comic book characters, Spider-Man found the transition from page to other media quick - but not always easy.

Following the first animation series in 1967, Spider-Man's first trip into live-action was with a 1977 television series, starring Nicholas Hammond (one of the Von Trapp kids in "The Sound of Music") as the web-slinger. With dodgy production values, the series was quickly cancelled.

While various animated incarnations appeared throughout the 80s, what is considered the definitive animated Spidey adaptation came in 1994. Spider-Man: The Animated Series was a mammoth hit with fans due to its strong adherence to the comic universe, and was most notable for its impressive CG action sequences. One of the highest-rated cartoons in animation history, it ran for 65 episodes.

Sam Raimi's film is the end result of nearly 20 years of efforts to bring Spider-Man to the big screen - thanks in no small part to Marvel's labyrinthine legal woes over who actually had the film rights.

The legal tangle even forced potential director James "Titanic" Cameron to leave the movie, after spending a couple of years trying to bring the web slinger to life (biological web shooters are Cameron's only legacy to the final film).

The legal issues were clearly worth sorting out: "Spider-Man" became the fastest ever film to break $350 million in the US, while "Spider-Man 2" already has a release date - May 2004.