Superheroes visiting terminally ill children may be a reality in the 2010s—Spider-Man: Homecoming’s Tom Holland has even visited children in the hospital—but in 1984 when “The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man” was first published (The Amazing Spider-Man #248), the Make A Wish foundation was barely three years old.
The story had some exploit of Spider-Man’s, but no one remembers what battle Spidey fought. Readers latched onto a kid named Tim who suffers from leukemia and only has a short time left. All Tim wants is to meet his hero. Spider-Man gives him his wish.
Part of what makes “The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man” great is Tim’s wish fulfillment. It’s a short human-interest story that writer Roger Stern made Will Eisneresque, and that is a fantastic element of the story, it dwarfs any battle, but I what I liked most happened after Spider-Man sees all the memorabilia the kid has collected (kinescopes of Spidey’s early TV appearances, a whole album of The Daily Bugle’s retractions, and bullets from a crime foiled by Spider-Man), and the kid asks Spidey who he is as Spider-Man’s about to leave. This kid loves him.
Spidey hesitates but figures the kid won’t tell anyone his identity, so he takes off his mask and identifies himself as Peter Parker. What Spidey didn’t expect was that by doing this it would lead to him telling the kid how he became Spider-Man. Part of him wants the kid or someone to know his secret.
He imagines the kid will hate him after he tells him how his negligence led to his uncle’s death, but it doesn’t. The kid hugs him and a reassures him. It’s okay for a hero to make mistakes. For a moment, it’s okay for Spider-Man to be Pete.
During this holiday season, I hope you know that it’s okay to make mistakes so long as you learn from them. It’s also okay to take off any mask you may wear and be yourself. Take care and be nice to each other.