We tend to think of Spider-Man as a hero who never kills under any circumstances, and with good reason. After all, in Dan Slott and Marcos Martin’s Spider-Man “Big Time” story arc (starting with Amazing Spider-Man #655), Peter Parker is a character bold enough to declare “No one dies!” and mean it, despite the charming naivety and impracticality such a promise represents. Sure, the Punisher debuts in an issue of Amazing Spider-Man, but those early Frank Castle appearances mainly contrast how highly Spider-Man values life compared to a vigilante like Punisher.
So while we rightly think of Spider-Man as an inspirational force for doing the right thing, J. Jonah Jameson (Jr.) would be thrilled to know that Spider-Man is also guilty of killing, death, and outright murder. More often than not deaths that happen around Spider-Man are the product of unavoidable accidents or villainous plotting, but on occasion Spider-Man himself is just straight up guilty. Keep in mind, very little of these instances truly tarnish Peter Parker’s reputation, and several instances of Spider-Man “killing” can be attributed to alternate realities or different identities. Nonetheless, these egregiously violent instances require some serious reflection and accountability on behalf of the wall-crawler!
*MAJOR SPOILERS For Civil War 2 Follow*
16. NORMAN OSBORN (GREEN GOBLIN, ULTIMATE)
It’s hard to blame Ultimate Peter Parker for murdering Norman Osborn in an attack that also led to his own death, but that’s exactly what happens in “Death of Spider-Man,” aka Ultimate Spider-Man #160. Osborn (the Green Goblin) and his Sinister Six stage a war against Spider-Man before finally confronting him outside his home. In the end, Peter is completely worn down, but still finds the strength and courage to fight off the likes of Electro, Kraven, Sandman and the Vulture before finally ending the Green Goblin.
After Mary Jane drives a truck into the Goblin, Peter saves her and then smashes said truck on the Green Goblin over and over until he’s incapacitated. The resulting explosion ultimately leads to Peter’s own death, but let’s not overlook the fact that it also kills Norman Osborn. Sure, stormin’ Norman had it coming, but that’s Spidey basically killing someone.
15. PROWLER (ULTIMATE)
Following “The Death of Spider-Man” in the Ultimate Comics Universe, teenage Miles Morales is inspired to use his similar spider powers for good as the all-new Spider-Man. His early appearances are inextricably tied to his uncle, Aaron Davis, who Miles discovers spends his nights as the thief known as the Prowler. In fact, it’s one of the Prowler’s stolen items — a radioactive spider — that turns Miles into the new Spider-Man in the first place.
Miles has an understandably difficult time reconciling his uncle’s lawbreaking nights, and when Prowler recruits Miles to join him as an unbeatable duo, the two wind up fighting on the rooftops. It’s a tragic beginning for Miles, as a blow damaging his Uncle’s gauntlets ultimately leads to the explosion that kills him. The unfortunate turn of events even leads to “New Spider-Man: Murderer?” headlines across television news networks.
14. MARY JANE
Marvel’s efforts to deliver a Dark Knight Returns for Spider-Man led to one of the absolute worst moments in Spidey comics history, with Spider-Man accidentally killing Mary Jane. You may be wondering how Spider-Man accidentally killed his wife Mary Jane Watson-Parker, but unless your answer includes radioactive sperm, there’s simply no no-prize for you.
If it seems like any plot that includes the term “radioactive sperm” is surely a joke, make no mistake that Spider-Man: Reign takes itself very, very seriously. In our book, the less said about “It was my love that killed her,” the better. Nonetheless, you can’t talk about Spider-Man getting away with murder without talking about the time he wound up killing Mary Jane. Maybe they’ll lock this plot point up along with him when the trial arrives!
13. THE FINISHER
You could argue that Spider-Man’s kill here is a definite case of self-defense, but nonetheless, Spider-Man absolutely blows a baddie to kingdom come in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #5. When Spider-Man ventures to Europe to get to the bottom of his parent’s reputation as American spy traitors, the Red Skull learns of his presence, and sends his top assassin, the Finisher, after Spidey to ensure Spider-Man never confirms the Skull’s to blame for Peter’s parent’s “treason.”
The Finisher launches missiles from a tank at Spidey, who flings the first missile easily into the water. For some reason, Spider-Man determines the only place to launch a second missile is back at the occupied tank, blowing up the Finisher. Spider-Man still has time to pull the Finisher out and interrogate him, giving the illusion that the bad guy will make it after all. He doesn’t, and the Finisher dies and Spidey is unfazed!
You haven’t heard of Whisper and Pulse? We’re not surprised. The Z-list super villains were a part of the Foreigner’s Death Squad and an attempt to assassinate Betty Brandt in Web of Spider-Man #91. As so often happens when Spider-Man’s loved ones are threatened, Whisper and Pulse get an enraged Spider hot on their trail. What makes the duo stand out is how Spider-Man decides to deal with them.
Spider-Man grabs Whisper and whips him around in front of himself as a human shield. Pulse is unable to stop his killing blast in time and the shot intended for Spider-Man hits Whisper in the back, killing him instantly. For any ordinary bystander we would certainly chalk this up to self-defense, but the expectations are higher for Spider-Man, who isn’t exactly in the habit of using villains as a meat shield.
There are a number of defining traits that made Otto Octavius the superior Spider-Man, but one of the most understandable is his decision to murder the serial killer Massacre in cold blood. In Superior Spider-Man #5, Otto finally puts an end to another reign of terror from Massacre and must confront the choice to either end this threat once and for all or put him back in prison.
When faced with this decision, Peter Parker went well out of his way to also save Massacre from likely death, maintaining his credo that “no one dies.” Otto Octavius makes the opposite decision, though, and pulls the trigger to kill Massacre. Otto determines that a sociopath like Massacre can’t be allowed to carry on and that too many innocents will die if he’s allowed to live. Peter’s approach is certainly more admirable, but you can argue endlessly who was right.
One of Spider-Man’s most brutal beat downs comes at the hands of Morlun, the vampiric Spider-eater introduced in J. Michael Straczynski and John Romita Jr.’s run on Amazing Spider-Man. Physically, Spidey is no match for Morlun, and is savagely beaten to a pulp worse than just about anyone has ever done. It’s only Peter Parker’s brain and thinking on his feet that help Spider-Man escape with his life.
Given that, it would be understandable if the web-slinger held a bit of a murderous grudge against Morlun. In the words of the immortal Hawkeye, though, “Not like this. NOT LIKE THIS!!!!” In Spider-Man: The Other, a half-human, half-spider Peter bites into Morlun’s neck, putting an end to him (once again). There aren’t a whole of times Spider-Man got away with basically eating a bad guy, but hey, that’s Spider-Man: The Other for you.
9. VULTURE (SPIDER-MAN NOIR)
Of all the Spider-Man villains who make strong cases for capital punishment, Spider-Man Noir‘s Vulture is one of the most haunting. Unlike Earth-616 Adrian Toomes, Noir Vulture is more beast than man, a carnival outcast responsible for the murder of Uncle Ben. As Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions video game players know, this Vulture’s a vicious monster in need of some close up fisticuffs.
In Spider-Man Noir #4, Noir Spidey takes the resolution a step further, murdering the Vulture before he can harm Aunt May. It’s not even a little hard to blame him, given the Vulture’s statement to Aunt May that “Husssband had more meat on him. Wasss deliciousss.” The scene very much brings to mind Batman’s shooting in The Dark Knight Returns, and even though Noir Spidey takes heat from Aunt May for “shooting an unarmed man,” we get the sense he’d do it again in a heartbeat.
8. SPIDER-SLAYER (ALISTAIR SMYTHE)
Alistair Smythe, the son of the original Spider-Slayer creator and longtime Spidey foe, reaches new levels of villainy under Dan Slott’s time writing Spider-Man. Following a seemingly by-the-numbers bug invasion of Manhattan, Smythe strikes out at Marla Jameson, J. Jonah Jameson’s wife, killing her in the streets in full view of Spider-Man. This tragic death of Marla — who got Peter his job at Horizon Labs — is what leads Spider-Man to end his “No one dies” declaration.
By the time Superior Spider-Man rolls around, Smythe is still plotting, leading a prison revolt featuring a modified Scorpion and Vulture at his side. Smythe’s only miscalculation in his revenge on Jameson is not accounting for Otto Octavius occupying the body of Spider-Man. The Superior Spider-Man slays Smythe, and is immediately pardoned by Mayor Jameson, in one of the more questionable legal decisions of his mayoral reign.
As a Spider-Man villain, Kraven the Hunter leads to more life-or-death scenarios than Spidey’s average foe. Whereas someone like the Vulture simply wants to escape with his next big heist, Kraven seeks out worthy creatures to hunt and kill. Not that the Green Goblin’s exactly playing it safe, but this means Spidey has to really keep on his toes and play for keeps in any situation involving Kraven.
In the all-time excellent Kraven’s Last Hunt crossover by J.M. DeMatteis and Mike Zeck, Kraven takes this game of life and death to the next level, burying a near-dead Spider-Man six feet under (and eating a lot of actual spiders but that’s not really the point). Spider-Man miraculously escapes only to learn that Kraven has been impersonating him and killing small-time criminals on the streets of New York! Fortunately for Spider-Man the honorable (and suicidal) Kraven leaves evidence exonerating Spider-Man’s name.
6. DOCTOR OCTOPUS
It’s impossible to go too hard on Peter Parker for the “death” of Otto Octavius. For starters, good ol’ Doc Ock had already “killed” Peter by transferring his own superior intellect into the body of Spider-Man. Really, Peter was just taking back what was his. Plus, as Clone Conspiracy readers know, Dr. Octopus is about as easy to kill as Mr. Immortal, so there’s a serious lack of permanence to this life ending.
In Superior Spider-Man #30, Otto Octavius decides that the only way to save his beloved Anna Maria (and less imperatively, to stop the Green Goblin) is to give Spider-Man’s body back to Peter Parker’s consciousness (comics!). It’s more assisted suicide than murder, but it should be noted here that Peter doesn’t do anything to try and save Otto. Again, hard to blame him, but Spider-Man has set an impossible standard!
5. GREEN GOBLIN / GWEN STACY
Spider-Man fans have been arguing since 1973 whether Peter Parker’s webbing “SNAP” heard round the comics world actually killed Gwen Stacy (recent Clone Conspiracy issues suggest technically, yes, it did). Spider-Man even tells police that he’s responsible (in an abstract sense) before fighting off the police who then attempt to apprehend him for murder.
Following the most tragic moment of Spider-Man’s costumed career (not including Uncle Ben), Spider-Man tells the Green Goblin in Amazing Spider-Man #122 “Only one man’s going to die this day — and, mister, it won’t be me!” Peter Parker nearly goes through with that promise too, beating the Goblin senseless in his revenge-fueled rage, before finally realizing that killing the Goblin would make him a murderer just like Norman Osborn. Of course, the Goblin still dies in their battle, at the pointed end of his own goblin glider.
The extremely underrated Spider-Man vs. Wolverine original graphic novel by Jim Owsley (now known as Christopher Priest) and Mark Bright ends with one of the most tragic deaths in Spider-Man’s history. Unfortunately for Spider-Man’s overworked guilt complex, he’s the one that dealt the killing blow. Wolverine’s friend Charlie essentially tricks Wolverine and Spider-Man into an all-out brawl, knowing the duo will get so worked up that one of them (Spider-Man) will strike her dead in a fit of blind rage.
It’s a sort of completely baffling assisted suicide, but in objective terms it’s just murder, with Spider-Man punching a woman’s life out. There’s no question that Spider-Man has held himself accountable for this death for years, but legally speaking, he gets away with the crime as a hero without a public identity.
Since Spider-Man and clones go together like chocolate and peanut butter (or toothpaste and orange juice depending on your memories of “The Clone Saga”), it’s no surprise that at least one of his (alleged) murders happened to a clone. The original “Clone Saga” (from Amazing Spider-Man #139 to #150 depending on your rounding) is notable not just because a clone of Peter Parker dies (or is it the real Peter…) but because Peter covers up the death.
The Spider-clone seemingly dies in an explosion that (also seemingly) kills the Jackal. Peter drags his cloned double to an incinerator and drops him in. Except here’s the twist: it’s revealed years later that the clone didn’t actually die in the explosion. That means Peter thinks he witnessed a murder, attempted to cover it up, and only retroactively lucked out that the clone (later named Ben Reilly) survived!
2. CAPTAIN AMERICA
The central moral conundrum of Marvels’ 2016 event Civil War II comes down to whether Miles Morales should be held accountable for his predicted future murder of Captain America. During a battle between the Marvel Universe heroes over who has the best thinkpiece on Minority Report starring Tom Cruise, new character Ulysses hits everyone in attendance with a vision of Miles holding a lifeless Captain America in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
Despite his appearance on this very list, murder does seem strongly out of character for Miles as Spider-Man, especially of a heroic icon like Captain America. That said, given what we know about Captain America’s role in Marvel’s current Secret Empire this is a predicted killing that could still very much come to pass.
Deadpool being annoying enough to want to murder is nothing new. In fact, if you were making a “Heroes That Want To Kill Deadpool” list, you could probably start with Archangel and end sometime around Zaladane. In Spider-Man/Deadpool #14, a warped and rage-induced Spidey takes this desire several steps beyond the norm, running Deadpool through with a katana before decapitating the merc with a mouth.
This being Deadpool and his impossibly powerful healing factor, his head is eventually placed back in the vicinity of his body and his mutant ability kicks in. A murder’s a murder, no matter how small, and Spider-Man has so far absolutely gotten away with killing Deadpool. We just have to wonder if anyone will even mind.
Did we miss one of Spidey’s kills? Let us know un the comments!
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