SIOUX CITY | Justin Knecht may not have superhuman strength or the ability to cling to walls or the agility needed to dodge bullets at point blank speed but the Sioux Cityan always identified with Peter Parker and his alter ego Spider-Man.
"Superman acted as if he was sort of a Boy Scout while Batman was some rich, brooding guy with a fancy car," Knecht explained. "On the other hand, Spider-Man seemed like this normal guy with abnormal abilities. He got to be the good guy but he was also allowed to crack jokes while he was saving the day."
In other words, "Spidey" was an "everyman," who just happened to be able to shoot spider webs out of his wrist.
That was what Knecht thought when he started reading Marvel comic books at age 12. He continues to feel the same way at age 40.
"Some people outgrow their love for superhero comics," he said with a shrug. "Me? I've never outgrew my love for Spider-Man."
The former video game store manager even dedicated a room inside his Morningside home to the fictional web-weaver.
From vintage comics to large-scale figurines to, believe it or not, a bust of creator Stan Lee, Knecht has developed a sixth sense ("spider-sense?") for both Spider-Man as well as other members of the Marvel cast of costumed characters.
THE SECRET LIFE OF A COMIC BOOK GEEK
Knecht said he's well aware of the stereotype associated with comic book fans.
"We're supposed to be a little nerdy and not very athletic," he reasoned. "Guess I fit the bill."
However, Knecht also managed to get the girl. While wife Regina doesn't necessarily share his obsession, she puts up with it.
"Regina allowed me to get this," Knecht said, pointing to the slightly faded, 20-year-old tattoo on his bicep. "Oh, wait. She may have been out of town that weekend."
Luckily for him that Regina doesn't mind her husband's regular pilgrimages to Comic-Con, an international comic book convention attracts attracts millions to San Diego every year.
SUPER MARKET FOR SUPERHERO MERCHANDISE
"San Diego's Comic-Con and Comic-Cons held across the country are no longer simply for comic book fans," Knecht said. "Comic-Cons are also for video gamers, cos players and anyone interested in what's happening in pop culture."
Comic-Cons are also where he has picked up plenty of superhero swag.
From Spider-Man figures of various sizes and vintages to a replica of Marty McFly's skateboard from the "Back to the Future" movies, Knecht has a knack for one-of-a-kind finds.
Among Knecht's favorite Comic-Con purchases are illustrations for his favorite as well as a posed portrait with, of course, the ubiquitous Lee.
"I always wanted to have my photo taken with Stan Lee and it finally happened," Knecht said, glancing at a framed photograph. "Stan was even willing to do the Spider-Man web shooter pose with me and that was very cool."
DEFINITELY NOT KID'S STUFF
Showing off some of his most recent acquisitions, Knecht pointed to villianess Harley Quinn's first appearance in a Batman comic as well as the origin story of Marvel's The Silver Surfer.
"There's a huge market for collectible comics," he said.
But one gets the impression that Knecht isn't in the market to sell any of his memorabilia.
After all, each item takes him back to when he was a kid debating the merits of Superman versus Spider-Man.
"Will I ever be too old to appreciate a good superhero comic book?" Knecht asked himself. "I hope not."