Marvel’s friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is celebrating his 55th birthday this month, and what a life he’s had. With a bevy of classic stories and defining moments under his belt, the wall-crawler may be more iconic than even the likes of Superman or Batman. Classics such as “The Death of Gwen Stacy” and “Kraven’s Last Hunt” speak to the longevity of the character, still resonating with fans and new readers alike decades after their original release, while film appearances in Captain America: Civil War and Spider-Man: Homecoming continue to draw praise and wow viewers.
Like with any long running comic book character, there are obviously some skeletons in the closet. For every “Death of Jean DeWolff,” there’s a “Gathering of the Five” to remind you how odd Spider-Man can get. But there’s something even worse than a bad story or a forgotten story: an actively ignored one. For the purposes of this list, we’ve left off two notable entries: “The Clone Saga,” which is referenced in The Clone Conspiracy and the current Ben Reilly: Scarlet Spider ongoing, and “One More Day,” which is technically still the status quo. Here are 15 things Marvel Comics actively wants you to forget about the Spider-Man.
15. SPIDEY’S STYLIN’ RIDE
In 1974, toy sales were king and as such, it was time to give Spidey something cool to put on shelves. So some advertisers pitched Spidey on a new reduced emissions engine. With help from Johnny Storm, Peter was gifted the biggest joke in all of comics, the infamous Spider-Mobile. Peter’s first big hurdle with the Spider-Mobile? His own inability to drive.
Having been Spider-Man since he was a teenager and always having been poor, he just never bothered to learn since he didn’t have a car. This played to Mysterio’s favor, who tricked Spidey into driving it into the river. He made an attempt to recover it, but ultimately decided it was probably for the best. Given its appearance as a joke in several stories such as Old Man Logan, Marvel seems to feel that way too.
14. SPIDEY’S SPIDER EVOLUTION
There have been a number of strange retcons made to Spider-Man over the year, but perhaps none was as major as 2005’s “The Other.” Suffering visions of Uncle Ben, the villainous Morlun and others, Peter soon finds he’s at death’s door. In a final fight with Morlun, Peter seemingly dies but days later all that’s found of him is his shed skin.
Emerging from a cocoon, Peter is reborn with new powers such as organic web spinnerets in his wrists, stingers that produce a sedative and night-vision. The new abilities stuck around for the next few years, though aside from the organic webbing were rarely mentioned. With the reality rewriting “Brand New Day,” all of the powers were removed from Peter and he notably returned to homemade, mechanical web shooters. However, it appears the events of “The Other” instead occurred to his clone, Kaine.
13. PETER PARKER, ANTI-PROTESTER
The Amazing Spider-Man #38 from 1966 is a pretty by the numbers story, all things considered. With a bounty placed on his head by Norman Osborn (comically disguising himself with a dollar store goatee), Spidey winds up trading blows with a boxer and a mob of crooks. But in between this, there’s an odd scene.
On his way to Empire State University, Peter comes across a group of protesters who are picketing against another protest, which Peter is visibly irritated by. This incredibly out of character moment of Peter hating on people staging a protest is supposedly a bit of Steve Ditko slipping in, who wrote Peter as very angry. This was Ditko’s last issue though, and the incoming John Romita mellowed Parker out considerably, and that’s exactly how Marvel would prefer you to remember him.
12. THE NOT READY FOR MARVEL COMICS PLAYERS
Saturday Night Live has always been a big franchise, but it was perhaps at its biggest in 1978. With the likes of Gilda Radner, Jim Belushi and Bill Murray on the cast, SNL was well on its way to becoming a public institution. But first, they had to make a quick stop by Marvel Team-Up #74, where Peter and Mary Jane are out for a date night.
With Stan Lee as the guest host and Rick Jones as the (off-panel) musical guest, the show goes awry when Silver Samurai interferes, leading to a sword fight with John Belushi, who was accidentally delivered a ring intended for Samurai. Marvel would probably still love the cross-promotion, but don’t actually own rights to SNL or the likenesses of the actors anymore. As such, it’s been omitted from later reprints and Marvel would rather you just forgot about it.
Several years ago, Peter had his entire world rocked to the core when Marla Jameson died saving her husband from Alistair Smythe. Furious over the repeated loss of life, Spidey boldly declared no one else would die. You can probably see where this is going; Spidey is one hell of a killer himself.
There’s a pretty significant list of times Spidey killed; hell, so many that we already did a list on it. While many of them were accidental, such as when Charlemagne committed suicide by tricking Spidey into punching her as hard as he could, or when his Other-possessed self killed Morlun, but he has shown a vicious streak, attempting to break a furious Wolverine’s neck in 1987’s Spider-Man vs. Wolverine, and Marvel doesn’t want you thinking of their premier superhero as a killer.
10. THE DARK SPIDER RETURNS
So obviously, The Dark Knight Returns was influential on comics. It took its toll on Spider-Man comics when he donned his black costume and darker attitude in the ’80s, but it didn’t seem to work all that well and he was back in the red and black just a few years later. In 2006, Marvel tried again with Spider-Man: Reign.
A four issue miniseries, Spider-Man: Reign takes place in the year 2036, where Peter is an old man and the world is overtaken by a militaristic force known as The Reign. The story’s dark overtones lost readers, but more shocking were elements such as Mary Jane having died of cancer, attributed to exposure to Peter’s radioactive body fluids. Readers balked at such a concept, and Marvel has chosen to sweep Reign quietly under the rug.
9. THE DEATH OF THE BURGLAR!
Spider-Man has been defined for years by his refusal to stop a burglar in his early days. As you know by now, the burglar would eventually make his way to Peter’s home and shoot his Uncle Ben, a tragic death that shaped his decision to continue heroically as Spider-Man rather than selfishly. What you may not realize is Peter got closure on this!
In the anniversary issue Amazing Spider-Man #200, it’s revealed the burglar had made his way out to Ben and May’s home because of a stash of treasure hidden by a Prohibition-era crime boss. After being captured as Peter, he frees himself to chase the burglar as Spider-Man. Upon seeing him, the burglar suffers a heart attack from the sheer terror and dies on the spot, closing the book on one of Spider-Man’s greatest personal tragedies, but the burglar’s has been rarely mentioned since.
8. AUNT MAY DIED (BUT NOT REALLY)
Spidey didn’t always sell his marriage to devils to solve his problems. 1995’s Amazing Spider-Man #400 saw Aunt May pass away after a lengthy illness. The issue was spectacularly done, with May revealing she had always known Peter was Spider-Man and her death happening in a quiet, emotional moment. Naturally, it didn’t stick.
Deciding it was weird not having May around, the creative staff concocted a story that saw her held captive by Norman Osborn. The May who died was actually an elderly actress already dying. When the real May had a stroke, Osborn swapped the two out after genetically altering the actress’ DNA and appearance to make her resemble the real May Parker. The ruse lasted until 1998’s Spectacular Spider-Man #263 when the real May was found and hasn’t been mentioned since.
7. PETER’S PARENTS ARE ALIVE (BUT NOT REALLY)
Peter Parker’s parents died when he was a little boy, and that’s been the status quo for decades. For nearly two years, however, this wasn’t the case. Amazing Spider-Man #365 saw Richard and Mary Parker shock their family by seemingly returning from the dead, claiming they’d been held captive after working undercover for the CIA with The Red Skull.
This ruse came to a close nearly 20 issues later in the story “Lifetheft,” which revealed Richard and Mary were Life Model Decoys that had been modified by Chameleon, who was attempting to exact revenge for Spider-Man’s role in the death of his brother, Kraven the Hunter. Spidey reluctantly battled the two and later chased down Chameleon for his role, but since then the story has been quietly ignored.
6. SAM RAIMI’S SPIDER-MAN
While Blade proved that movies inspired by comic books could still be successful, it was 2000’s X-Men that proved a comic book movie had serious box office potential. Seeing the success of these two properties, Sony Entertainment took to the big screen in 2002 with Spider-Man, starring Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, and Willem Dafoe. Helmed by iconic director Sam Raimi, the films featured snappy writing, stellar action and cleaned up at the box office.
Spidey remained a mainstay of films with Marc Webb’s Amazing Spider-Man duology of films, but fans were upset that Spidey wasn’t participating in the growing Marvel Cinematic Universe. After The Amazing Spider-Man 2 failed to impress at the box office, Sony and Marvel came to an agreement, bringing Peter Parker to the MCU. With Spider-Man Homecoming receiving rave reviews and a lofty payday, Marvel would very much like if you forgot the previous films ever happened.
5. GWEN STACY AND NORMAN OSBORN’S AFFAIR
Attacked at the grave of Gwen Stacy, Spider-Man finds himself at odds with his own romantic past in 2004’s “Sins Past.” Throughout the course of the story, Peter discovers that his ex-girlfriend Gwen Stacy was secretly pregnant with twins and has a small crisis as he fears he’s being attacked by his own children until Mary Jane points out he and Gwen never slept together.
The twins, Gabriel and Sarah Stacy, are disturbingly the result of an affair between Gwen and NORMAN OSBORN and have been aged prematurely thanks to the effects of the Osborn blood. Marvel shocked and upset readers when Gabriel returned during the “American Son” storyline and confirmed “Sins Past” was still canon in the “Brand New Day” era of Spider-Man. However, given he hasn’t been seen in nearly seven years, it’s likely they’d rather you forgot this one happened.
4. THE ORIGINAL SPIDER-ARMOR
Following the defeat of The Kingpin, there’s a power vacuum in New York City, with a bunch of people looking to fill that void, including Blood Rose (secretly Fisk’s believed to be dead son, Richard). Spidey winds up tangling with the New Enforcers but needs an edge. To that end, he creates a web-hardening formula that lets him make Spider-Armor.
A gray monstrosity that also somehow has a black torso, Spidey’s new armor protects him against physical blows, but the armor is weakened during the fight. Frozen by a cold blast, Spidey breaks free by shattering the armor and goes about finishing off the remaining Enforcers just before the police arrive. The suit’s been known to show up on the odd variant cover over the years, but Peter since traded it in for more practical variations and seems to have largely forgotten about his web-hardening fluid.
3. PUTTING OVER FOOTBALL’S GREATEST HERO
When you need to sell a newly launched title, you have an established and popular character turn up. Sometimes, you wind up with something more embarrassing than you’d hoped — 1991’s NFL SuperPro was one such case. Former football player turned sports reporter Phil Grayfield is, no lie, doused in experimental chemicals and sports memorabilia, gaining super powers.
Spider-Man made an appearance in his first issue to boost sales, though he and SuperPro never actually interact in costume during the issue and only have a passing interaction in their alter egos. SuperPro was cancelled after a mere 12 issues, and as they no longer have the rights to the NFL brand, will likely never be seen again. Given that the comic is consistently regarded as one of the worst ever published, Marvel seems content with you forgetting Spidey and SuperPro’s passing meeting.
2. SPIDER-MAN’S MOST AWKWARD PSA COMIC
You almost certainly got a PSA comic in school, and it probably starred Spider-Man. But none has been as dropped and forgotten as quickly as Spidey’s attempt to prevent child abuse. The dual story Spider-Man/Power Pack free issue was released in 1984, and the main story saw Spidey save a boy named Tony from being molested by his babysitter.
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Peter related his own story, using the pseudonym Einstein to maintain his identity, of a time when his friend Steven “Skip” Wescott had tried to molest him as a child. Though the story had good intentions in trying to present the issue as relatable, tacking it onto a hero like Spider-Man’s origin felt a bit contrived. Obviously this one never made the official canon, and Marvel would rather you didn’t know about it.
1. MAY AND RICHARD HAVE SOME “TROUBLE”
In 2003, Marvel was trying to reignite the long dormant romance comics genre via its Epic Comics imprint and released Trouble, a five-issue limited series tackling teen pregnancy. It also sneakily was an attempt at a Spider-Man retcon. Set during the 1970s, sisters May and Mary befriend brothers Ben and Richard and pair off into relationships. But Richard and May have a tryst of their own which sees May getting pregnant.
The story ends with May having her son and giving him to her sister for Richard and Mary to raise, the implication being that Peter Parker is actually May’s son. This flew in the face of decades of established continuity and raised the ire of fans. The story was never confirmed or denied as in canon, but hasn’t been mentioned since its release and the House of Ideas would like to keep it that way.
What other things do you think Marvel wants you to forget about ol’ Spidey? Let us know in the comments!
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