It’s no normal day on Drexel University’s campus in the Spider-Verse.
There’s a light rain that’s been coming and going all day, and most faculty, staff and students are hurrying to their next class or appointment rather than lingering outside in the Korman Quad. From the north, crossing next to the Pearlstein Building, a suited figure appears. It’s Drexel Spidey, and he’s come to spread Spidey cheer across the University City Campus, though he usually does so when there’s better weather. He gets a few sidelong glances, but no one stops to give him a high-five or take pictures with him, which is out of the ordinary. Maybe it’s the weather, or maybe, since it’s only a few days before Halloween, they just think he’s in a “costume.”
But it’s no matter to Spidey. He’s in the same good spirits, strutting and dancing around like he always does when he visits campus.
“If I’m walking basic, then I’m not giving off that approachable personality I want to give,” Spidey said when asked about his strut. “If I look all jumpy, people feel more inclined to say ‘Hi’ to me. I’ve learned that just through experience. You’ve gotta look like a happy person, approachable. Body language is what says it all.”
Body language is key since the mask of his Spidey suit doesn’t allow him to give off any facial expressions to friends or passersby, nor does it allow him to see very well at all. It’s much different from when he walks around campus as a third-year student from the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design. Let’s call him Peter Parker, as Drexel Spidey did not want to be identified as part of this piece.
Some on campus may know Parker’s true identity, as he didn’t keep it too much of a secret when he first went viral on Instagram during his freshman year. But now, he goes as far as to sometimes mask his voice while in the suit to keep him from being recognized.
Despite this, Parker was not shy when opening up during this DrexelNow interview and photoshoot. Read on to understand the history and motivations behind this recognizable yet elusive campus legend.
Q: When and why did you become Drexel Spidey?
A: It was spring of 2018 during my freshman year at Drexel. I had purchased this suit from Comic Con, and I wore it around campus one day after work and some kid stopped me, and decided he wanted a dance off.
So, I didn’t hesitate and I started dancing with him. Little did I know that someone was recording me from inside the Korman Center. He sent it to the page Worldstar on Instagram, as well as Barstool [Sports] and Daquan. Next thing you know, I’m getting over 50 million views on so many platforms. This was before Drexel Spidey [on Instagram] was made. This was when I was just in the suit having a good time.
Q: So after that happened, you decided to just keep it going?
A: I didn’t want to let an icon die, especially because Drexel doesn’t get much recognition [like this]. I just thought this would be a cool thing that comes out of my college experience.
Q: Did you like Spider-Man as a kid?
A: Spider-Man has been my favorite superhero since as long as I can remember. I was always drawing him, coloring pages of him, playing the games. I look up to Spider-Man not only as a superhero, but as a person, too. He’s just the most relatable superhero out of all of them. Spider-Man is probably the one that’s closest to my age on top of that, too.
Q: What made you want to come to Drexel and study animation?
A: My mom is an alumna of Drexel, and so Drexel was one of the schools I considered just because she went there. … At the same time, I was also trying to transition from 2-D art to another form that wouldn’t make me a starving artist in this world. I’m good at 2-D drawing, and I do ceramic sculptures and graphic design work. But, I wanted to do something that would further my career — something competitive that I’d probably always be able to get a job in as long as I’m good at it. Then I came across animation. It merges my foundation art skills with computer technology and … is just a whole other world that I really wanted to dive into, also just because I loved the idea of making movies and creating stories with a message on screen that will impact people and get them to understand certain things that are going on around them that they don’t take much notice to. That’s honestly one of my biggest goals with my animations and my personal projects — I want them to be meaningful.
Q: How do you juggle your Spidey duties with classes and co-op and extracurriculars? It must be hard.
A: It definitely is hard because the Spider-Man gig is more of a social interaction and a community thing. So, it’s taking the time out of the day to hop in the suit, go around, say “Hi” to people and take pictures. [It is] kind of difficult now because of my current schedule where I have to go work, I have to go to class, I commute, I have to go to meetings for my senior project. It’s a lot to balance and I haven’t been able to hop in the suit as much as I’d like to this term. But hopefully my schedule lightens up and I’ll be able to hop back in the suit and bring more positive vibes to the community.
Q: What days do you usually decide to become Drexel Spidey? Do you bring the suit with you while commuting?
A: I carry the suit on me at all times. You never know when you’re going to need Spider-Man.
I usually pick sunny days, good weather. Raining, snow, dark — it’s hard to be in the suit when the conditions are like that. But, sunny days are the best days just because I can see everything clearly through the mask, and also more people are out and about and I get to be a little bit more social. On days like today people are inside or in class or just rushing back to their dorms.
In the winter, I can still make it work, to be honest. It’s going to be funny because it’s cold outside, so I might be Drexel Spidey with a coat. I just do my best. I might have some snowball fights in the suit.
Q: Why do you like to represent Drexel?
A: I could do this off campus, but I feel like Drexel’s community is so much better than any other community that I’m currently involved in just because [of the students]. … Adults wouldn’t really be entertained by someone in a Spider-Man suit. They just think it’s some annoying kid who doesn’t know what he’s doing. But I seem to be more accepted around people my age, so whenever someone on campus sees me in the suit, they’ll entertain it, they’ll shout at me, but adults, unless they’re with their kids, won’t even say a thing. So, I like to be referred to as Drexel Spidey so people know I’m from Drexel, and that I do this at Drexel and nowhere else.
Q: Do you ever go around as Spidey off campus?
A: I go off campus sometimes. Like, I walk around my actual neighborhood in the costume just because I know there are a lot of kids in my neighborhood and they all want pictures. That’s the whole thing with being Drexel Spidey: You’ve got to be able to put on the suit, even when there’s not a special occasion going on. You’ve got to put it on for the random-est of days and not even have any expectations.
Q: Do you enjoy being the center of attention and taking photos with people?
A: I love performing. I love making people’s days. So, those go hand-in-hand to me. I don’t care how I’m seen by people as long as there’s good coming out of it and I’m not being represented in a bad way.
I dance. I love acting. … I learned a lot of my dance moves from a hip-hop dance class I recently took in the spring term. I learned a lot of cool moves from that class. It was a free elective for me because animation majors don’t have to take any dance classes unfortunately.
Q: What would you say is the goal of doing this?
A: I want to make people’s day. I love spreading good energy and making people laugh — it’s what I do. Whenever I’m in this suit, everybody’s face automatically lights up like, “Hey! Picture? Hi Spider-Man!” That’s all I ever want from people, is just to make sure they’re having a good time and getting a good laugh at someone dressed in a Spider-Man costume, since I’m not awesome enough to actually spin webs.
Q: Do you plan to take this further than a college thing?
A: I love acting and I do hope that one day I can be in an actual Spider-Man film. … That’s my goal right now. I also perform with my friend who raps. He will perform and I’m there by his side dancing in the Spider-Man suit. It’s a good gimmick, everybody loves it. I’m pretty much his hype man, so this suit just adds onto it.
In terms of animation, I am working on a personal project right now with visual effects, trying to integrate my actual person with my [computer-generated Spider-Man] character so I can animate doing stuff that I can’t do in real life.
Q: Do you ever plan on revealing your identity?
A: I don’t know when I want to unmask myself. There’s a good amount of people who already know who I am because everybody my freshman year was just going around and telling their friends that their friend is Spider-Man, the one dancing on campus. So, I doubt that any of the underclassmen know who I am. I just try to keep the circle small. But one day I do plan on just like going, “Hey, I’m the guy that’s been dancing around as Spider-Man.”
Q: Do you think or hope, or would you be appalled, if someone took over the Drexel Spidey namesake when you graduate?
A: I’ve thought about that very vaguely. I think I definitely will keep my own suit. But in terms of being Drexel Spidey, I think I’m going to have to pass the baton to another person who wants to hop in the suit and do more with the account. … Another underclassman who has the same mentality as I do is going to be hard to find, just because you have to take time to hop in the suit and be nice to people on campus and you have to like being the center of attention. Not a lot of people like doing that, or people just think it’s stupid. Finding a person to replace me will be difficult, but I definitely don’t mind handing it to the right person.
Q: Is there anything else you’d want people to know about you as a student or as Drexel Spidey?
A: I am here on a full scholarship. I worked my ass off in high school.
As a student, my background is not what most people would expect it to be. I come from, I guess, a struggling background. But I’m able to take those experiences from growing up to appreciate what I have now and cherish the good things I have in my life and where I come from, to know that I never want to be in that position again. It motivates me to work harder and do my best to keep a positive mentality and spread positive vibes as much as I can to the community, which is what inspires Drexel Spidey.