For nearly a year, the familiar hero stood watch over the people of Busan, the second most-populated city in South Korea. His shadow loomed large there, and he was celebrated by the children in the playground he overlooked. Yet, when the sun was just right, his shadow bore an unexpected shape, causing people to reexamine the hero, and to discover that his Spider-sense wasn’t the only thing tingling.
While intended for humor, the sculpture — dubbed “Good Morning Spidey,” in honor of Spidey’s prominent erection — invited more controversy than anything else. It started with a few complaints to the owners of the shopping center where it was hung (sorry), but before long, it became international news. Yet, despite his worldwide appeal, you can be sure that this Spider-Man won’t end up in any of the Spider-Verse-hopping movies on the horizon.
Boner Spider-Man’s origin story doesn’t begin with a radioactive spider. He was sculpted by artist Eunsuk Yoo as his piece for college graduation from Pusan National University in 2013. Yoo admits that the sculpture was intended to be funny, but he also claims that there was another message he was trying to convey. “It was intended to describe the natural physiology of the morning, and to express that the hero is also human,” he says.
After its completion, “Good Morning Spidey” was shown at a gallery in the Lotte shopping mall in Busan, where it caught the attention of the mall’s manager. The manager asked for Spidey to be displayed on the edge of the building, and Yoo agreed. Within a few days, Boner Spider-Man was placed near the building’s roof, above the children’s play area of the shopping center (whether this was intentional or not is unclear).
It went up in August 2013, and for nearly a year, nothing happened. Yoo knows of no issues or complaints during this time, which means that either no one noticed the boner on Spider-Man — which is possible, given how high up the sculpture was — or no one cared. But in June 2014, Spidey’s hard-on suddenly began receiving international attention.
Why exactly the statue began going viral 10 months after it first sported morning wood is unclear, but it may have something to do with the release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which opened in Korea about a month earlier. In early June, pictures of Boner Spidey began gaining steam in Korea, and then, on June 6th, Kotaku ran a story on it here in the U.S., followed by BuzzFeed and countless others.
The next day, the statue was taken down. The mall manager asked Yoo to “ease certain parts of the statue,” but he didn’t want to compromise his artistic vision. Instead, Yoo put Boner Spider-Man into storage, hoping that Spidey’s erection might someday rise again.
Surprisingly, just a month later, Yoo was contacted by a medical clinic in Buan, about 10 hours from Busan. They wanted to buy “Good Morning Spidey” and hang it on the side of their building. By mid-July, Spidey was back on patrol, overlooking a new city with his manhood intact.
Ever since, Boner Spider-Man has remained on the side of that clinic in Buan, free of the controversy that haunted him in Busan. Perhaps the shock of Spidey’s dick wore off after it captured international attention, but I’d like to think that there’s something deeper at play. While placing a statue of Spider-Man with an erect penis may have been offensive over a children’s playground, a hospital might be the exact right setting for it. After all, where else could Spidey’s spry display of good health — and blood flow — be so inspirational?