When You Gotta Go

Dr. Mike Robinson, UofL Communication Studies Professor~


Many years ago, my wife and I attended a costume party at an academic conference on superheroes in Australia.  We dressed as Spider-Man and the Black Cat. We had a blast dancing with our friends, and we were even interviewed for a television show.  Recently, we were laughing about one of the major challenges of that particular evening.

My Spidey costume was a full body suit that zipped up the back.  Since I was not bitten by a radioactive spider and therefore lacked the proportionate agility of that arachnid, I simply could not reach around to unzip my costume.  Thus, whenever nature called, I had to find my wife, get her to meet me at the door of the men’s room, and have her start the zipper for me.

That got us thinking, what does Spider-Man do?

Most versions of Spidey’s costume in the comics are not a single piece outfit.  So presumably, Spider-Man does not have to escape his costume when he needs to hit the facilities.  But, this also got us thinking. What does Spider-Man actually do?

Superheroic work is active work.  A typical night might involve long bouts of patrolling the city looking for trouble, punctuated by moments of dealing with actual trouble.  Other superheroes have certain advantages when it comes to visiting the water closet while on duty. Aliens like Superman and demi-gods like Wonder Woman probably just don’t go or completely control the need to go through some fantastic side effect of their extra-human natures.  Iron-willed vigilantes like Batman or the Punisher probably have few problems staving off urges either. Without being too descriptive, let’s just assume that a genius like Tony Stark has solved this problem for his Iron Man armor. And Aquaman… well, y’know.

One of the central thematic tenets of Spider-Man though is that despite his superpowers, he is pretty much an everyman character.  He faces the same sorts of struggles that we all do. So it’s safe to assume that just as the need to go hits us during work or leisure then at some moment while Spidey is swinging through the city, the Webhead is going to have to make a pit stop.

Now, at this point I want to say that only a complete cad would suggest that Spider-Man could just duck off into a secluded alleyway.  This young man was raised by the kindest surrogate mother an orphaned superhero could ever hope to have. There is simply no way that Aunt May’s nephew would do something like that.  Anyone who thinks otherwise has read too many of J Jonah Jameson’s editorials.

Emergency responders and law enforcement personnel come closest to sharing the powder room predicament our hero faces.  Unlike firefighters and police officers though, Spidey does not have a barracks to dash back to if he has to.

Assuming once again that Spider-Man is like all of us and a public restroom in a major city is a last resort (because ewwww, yuck!) then the Wallcrawler’s only option is to use some business’ restroom.  I suspect that all around New York City there are shop owners and restaurateurs who Spidey saved in the past and who are thus willing to let him hit the john there.

If so, this creates a unique vulnerability for our hero. If some supervillain uncovers that network, that baddie could strike when Spider-Man is most vulnerable.

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