Everyone’s favorite friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is set to hit theaters in the next couple weeks. Spidey is one of the all time most popular superheroes with comic book titles, television shows and a couple of high-grossing movie franchises under his belt.
Spider-Man has a long and storied history, filled with loves lost, alliances forged and enemies made. Created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, the original character was introduced over 50 years ago in comic book form. A character that’s been around for such a long time is going to occupy stories filled with a lot of twist and turns along the way. Fans have known him as a high school nerd, as a college student, even as a family man. As with any superhero comic book legacy, though, his story isn’t linear and the character of Peter Parker has even died, been taken over by another soul, been replaced by a mixed-race Spider-Man… And most recently, it’s been revealed that he’s set to come back to life, Phew! With such a colourful past, it’s no surprise Spidey has encountered a few Here’s a list of 10 of the most controversial stories and moments in the history of Spider-Man.
10: The Death of Gwen Stacy
As is his signature “Parker luck”, Spider-Man has been put through the ringer time and time, again. The guy is great at catching villains with his web shooters, but it seems he’s not able to catch break: He’s been killed, cloned and fired on more than one occasion. Probably the worst thing to happen to Spidey, though, was the death of his first true love, Gwen Stacy (41-year-old spoiler alert?). In The Night Gwen Stacey Died, she was captured and then thrown off of the George Washington Bridge by Spider-Man’s greatest nemesis, the Green Goblin. Spidey shot a web down at the falling Gwen, and actually managed to catch her in mid-air. After a moment of elation, Peter reunites with Gwen only to realize that she’s dead. And to really add insult to injury, it’s understood that when Spidey’s web caught his girlfriend, the bungee effect was so great that it snapped her neck.
9: Gwen Stacy and Norman Osborn
So, what’s worse than having your greatest enemy discover your secret identity and murder the one you love? Well, how about said greatest enemy sleeping with said girlfriend and fathering secret twins that later show up and try to murder you, too? That’s right. Evil, sanity-challenged Norman Osborne had sex with sweet, innocent Gwen Stacey before her fated fall. This (unfortunate) revelation came to light in the “Sins Past” arc of Amazing Spider-Man #509-514. In this story, two mysterious siblings appear on scene to take down our hero. And, oh, they look a lot like Peter’s dead girlfriend. Especially the girl twin, who looks exactly like Gwen Stacey. Why’s that? Well, because these twins have their mother’s blonde good looks. That’s right. Gwen was survived by two children, who apparently have it in for Spider-Man, because they blame him for their mom’s death.
But if these two are really the children of Stacey and Osborne, then shouldn't they be like five-years-old? Chronologically? Yes. But, apparently, when Norman slept with Gwen, he transmitted some sort of Goblin magic that gave his kids some sort of reverse Benjamin Button disease. Norman gets his Goblin power from the Goblin formula, which is radioactive. It’s in his bloodstream. So, this was somehow passed on to the villainous twins, whose bodies were growing at an exponential rate. Hence, they look like adults by the time they throw down with Spidey. Perhaps the least popular aspect of this story does is that it tarnished the innocent image of Gwen Stacey.
8: The Clone Saga
The Clone Saga may well be Spider-Man’s most epic story- at least in terms of length. And when the word “clone” is uttered around any Spidey fan, it’s likely to elicit some sort of guttural reaction- most likely a negative one. The Clone Saga mainly took place in the nineties, but its foundations were laid down back in the seventies. We've already mentioned that Norman Osborn and Gwen spent a night together, but the Goblin wasn't the only older man who was attracted to Parker’s girlfriend. Peter and Gwen’s professor Miles Warren was in love with his college student, and after her death, he blamed Spider-Man. So, being a genetic genius, he cloned Gwen.
Warren, also known as the Jackal, knew Spider-Man’s real identity and cloned him as well. Battle ensued, explosions happened. Everyone thought the clone dead. Fast-forward to the nineties (or fives years in story time), and it turns out that the clone not only survived, but has been living under the name Ben Riley. The Clone Saga featured a much darker and more angry Peter Parker absent of his patented wisecracks. It didn't help him any when the Jackal returned to wreck havoc on his life with more Peter and Gwen clones. And it really didn't help Parker to discover that he was actually the clone and Ben Riley was the real deal Peter Parker. This led to Riley becoming Spider-Man. Eventually, of course, it turned out that Peter was indeed the real thing and he returned to don the webs. The Saga spanned over fifty issues, and story aside many fans think it went on just a bit too long. With recent references to the Clone Saga made before the release of Amazing Spider-Man 2, many fans are curious and / or worried about how clones will fit into Spidey’s cinematic universe.
7: The Superior Spiderman
Think it really sucks to die? How about having your mind dumped into your enemy’s old, dying body, and then having to watch that enemy stroll around in your likeness? Oh, and then you die. That’s what happened to the unfortunate Peter Parker last year. Doctor Octopus, frail and dying, managed to do the one thing no other villain could lay claim to: kill Spider-Man. In a desperate move to preserve his own life, Doc Ock switched bodies with Peter. In Amazing Spider-Man #700, Peter makes a last-ditch effort to get his body back, but Ock has finally outsmarted his long time foe. Peter dies, and Otto, armed (or cursed) with Peter’s memories, vows to do right by the whole “with great power” spiel. Of course, comic book characters die all the time, and are then promptly brought back. But Peter’s death also brought an end to the Amazing Spider-Man title.
Now that the bad doctor had donned the webs, the new ‘Superior Spider-Man’ took his place. Smarter. Richer and more ruthless in both fighting style and attitude, Otta sought to be the Peter Parker and the Spider-Man that Peter never was. A serious game changer, the Superior book has garnered great reviews and success since its debut.
6: The Death of Ultimate Spiderman
If you’re unfamiliar with Marvel’s Ultimate line of books, here’s the gist: It’s an alternate universe where everyone’s favorite Marvel characters exist, but aren’t subject to the company’s continuity. So, what’s so fun about this? Well, you can do whatever the heck you want to them. Spider-Man has faced many life-threatening situations, but he’s always pulled through. You can’t have the main character of your book die, right? Well, for anyone who’s ever been curious about what it would be like to have Peter Parker die, the ultimate universe is for you. In 2011, Peter died while battling it out for the last time with the Green Goblin. And in the Ultimate line of books, dead actually means dead. This was an all out fight right in front of Peter’s home that saw Spidey’s identity revealed to the world. This ultimate version of Spider-Man was also a teenager, so an adult Peter Parker never even got the chance to grace this parallel universe. So, we got to see Peter save the dead once more, but pay the ultimate price- a shocking moment even if this wasn’t the “main” reality
5: Miles Morales
So, Ultimate Peter Parker was gone, and it was going to stay that way. Spider-Man didn’t have to stay dead, though. His superhero spot was taken over by the spider-powered mixed-race Miles Morales, who was even younger than Peter. Handing an iconic superhero identity to someone new often causes much debate, and that debate often escalates when the new guy is so obviously different. Back in 2010, the Internet seemed to explode when Donald Glover said he would love the chance to play Spidey in the role that Andrew Garfield now holds, and the Ultimate Spider-Man made this dream a possibility: Morales has proven to be a great Spider-Man, but sales for the Ultimate books aren’t very strong, especially since the cinematic world has made Marvel’s main universe more accessible and universally popular. It still remains to be seen what the fate of the Ultimate universe is, but there are plenty who hope to see Miles continue to grow as Spider-Man.
4: Spiderman's Identity Revealed in Civil War
What’s the number one rule of being Spider-Man? Don’t talk about Spider-Man- well the secret identity part, anyway. Spider-Man has traditionally held to the masked-hero belief that identities need to be protected, because if the bad guys discover who you really are, they could come at you through your family and friends. Spidey has often learned this the hard way: Norman Osborn discovered his real identity, and in turn, killed his girlfriend and repeatedly went after Parker’s loved ones. And there’s no one Peter cares more about than those closest to him.
Which is why it was an utter shock that Spider-Man would take off his mask in front of the entire world. The 2006 Marvel Civil War event saw Iron Man and Captain America take opposing sides on the issue of superhero registration with the U.S. government. Spidey, who was essentially working for Iron Man at the time, came down on the pro-government side, and to prove his position and loyalty, he unmasked. This decision ultimately led to the thing that Peter feared most – someone he loved was hurt directly because of his superhero alter ego. His aunt May was shot and almost killed. And Peter even eventually denounced his previous stance, and joined the fight against the government. This was possibly one of the worse decisions that Spidey has ever made.
3: Kraven's Last Hunt
Considered one of the greatest Spidey arcs of all time, Kraven’s Last Hunt sees our arachnid hero lose in every sense. Kraven, a rather low-level villain at the time, becomes obsessed with defeating the ultimate prey; Spider-Man. When the Hunter shows up, he’s nothing short of a raving mad man. He appears drugged out, and unfortunately for Peter, he’s also very, very focused. A battle ensues, and Kraven finally defeats the spider. He injects the hero with a drug that essentially brings Peter to as close to death as possible and then buries him alive. After that, Kraven then assumes the Spider-Man identity for two full weeks before Peter finally digs himself out of his own grave. The two confront each other, again, but having already defeated his greatest enemy, Kraven commits suicide. This marked a very dark and intense story unlike any that had been told before this.
2: Aunt May is really alive
So, there are very few dead comic book characters that actually stay dead. Uncle Ben is one of them. His wife? Not so much. Considered one of the most touching moments in Spidey history, May’s death takes place in Amazing Spider-Man #400. Peter’s elderly aunt has awoken from a coma, and they go out to spend a day together. They take a trip to the Empire State Building, and it’s here where May reveals to her nephew that she has known about his superhero alter ego for years, and that she’s proud of him. It’s a touching scene, and what follows is May’s death in Peter’s arms.
It was as a sincere scene as any, and there was nothing that could tarnish it- well, except for the reveal in The Final Chapter arc in 1998 that revealed that the woman who had died was not in fact Aunt May at all. She was an actress, who was genetically modified to resemble Aunt May. This was all a plan by one Norman Osborn, who had kidnapped Aunt May and had been holding her captive for years. A rather anticlimactic and bizarre reveal contrasted against such a strong character exit.
1: One More Day
Peter made the poor decision to out himself as Spider-Man during Marvel’s Civil War and this eventually led to his Aunt May being shot. In a desperate attempt to save his aunt’s life, Peter sought to make a deal with the demon Mephisto (essentially Marvel’s version of Satan). Mephisto agreed, but at a price, of course. He would save May’s life, and wipe away the world’s knowledge about Spidey’s real identity, but only if Peter and Mary Jane give him permission to make it so that their marriage never existed. They made the deal, and Spider-Man became a single guy, again. This was a drastic relationship status change for two characters, who were married in The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21 in 1987. This was seen as a way to revitalise Peter’s character by unlatching him from his ladylove. Unfortunately, many fans felt it forced and unnecessary, using the old magic trope to muddya generally well-loved coupling and overturn Spidey’s history.
So what do you think? Do you have any other story lines? Let me know in the comments below.