Did A Fifties Halloween Costume Inspire Spider-Man Costume Design?

by Lan Pitts

 

Spider-Man was created in 1962, but could his costume have been inspired by a child's Halloween costume from the 50's? It's a curious case indeed. 

The NY Post examines the situation with collector and dealer BenCimino who discovers while flipping through an assortment of collectibles he recently bought, a familiar-looking costume simply called Spider Man (sans hyphen). Thinking it was an actual Marvel Spider-Man costume,Cimino paid no mind. 

“I didn’t think twice about it,” Cimino tells The Post. He tossed it in his basement.

But on closer examination, he discovered something different entirely. Instead of Spider-Man's trademark red and blue webbed costume, this was yellow and black with webs everywhere is no particular pattern. 

 

The costume in question is a yellow "Spider Man" costume was made by Ben Cooper Inc., and first advertised in 1954. Now defunct, Ben Cooper Inc. was a prominent producer of Halloween costumes from the 1930s to the 1980's. You probably had a He-Man or Batman costume from them if you're an 80's kid like myself. The Spider Man design went through several patterns and variations over the years as well. Cimino states that he thinks Lee and Ditko could have been inspired by the costume for their new wall-crawling hero. 

“Ben Cooper was 10 miles from Marvel’s offices,” Cimino told NY Post. “Ben Cooper ruled Halloween in New York City, so Ditko had to have seen this costume. When he got the assignment for Spider-Man, maybe something came back when he was designing it. It’s so much like the Ben Cooper.”

Now originally, Jack Kirby was set to design the costume, but Lee didn't think it fit well with the world he was creating and let Ditko give it a shot. Kirby's Spider-Man was more of a pulp hero, with goggles and a web gun. Not exactly what we think of today when Spider-Man comes to mind. 

 

Interestingly enough, Ben Cooper also produced the first Marvel licensed costume. Care to take a guess on what that was? Yup, the Amazing Spider-Man. 

Cimino actually tried to reach out to Steve Ditko asking about the costume, and the artist replied in the usual Ditko fashion. 

“The burden of proof is on the person who makes the assertion, claim, charge,” Ditko wrote. “Some clippings, etc., are not rational proof of anything but some clippings, etc.”

 

Marvel did not respond through a representative when NY Post contacted them about it. 

Ben Cooper Inc filed for bankruptcy in 1991 before being bought out by rival, Rubies Costume, a year later. You can buy the black and yellow ensemble on eBay right now for about $800, which is rumored to have been designed by Jack Kirby while at a brief stint at Ben Cooper. But that's just a rumor. 

Do you think it's just a web of coincidences strung together or do you think possibly Ditko saw this and just forgot about it?