When it comes to Spider-Man, the old “Parker luck” is always in play. It seems that tragedies and other unfathomable scenarios have plagued Peter at every turn from the second he appeared in comics. Peter is easy to sympathize with because we all experience challenges on a regular basis. Reading tales of Peter overcoming these obstacles and always coming back for more as motivating for the reader as it is a defining characteristic of Spider-Man.
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Peter has encountered a lot in his young life. He’s had quite a dating life with many beautiful women. Even if he wasn’t Spider-Man there would be drama there, but considering his secret identity, things have been much more complicated. His love of science has led to him encountering some interesting teachers and mentors who take their experiments to some wild places. Peter has always had to navigate the complex ties between family and being a superhero. All of that leads us to supervillains, many of which have very personal ties to Peter Parker in his civilian life. These relationships extend to multiple generations in many cases, making dealing with the fallout all the more difficult. It has been a very challenging road for everybody’s favorite wall-crawler.
15. OSBORN FAMILY DRAMA
The Osborns have been a constant factor in making Peter’s life miserable over the years. Starting with Norman Osborn and his son Harry, Peter had to juggle the issue of having your alter ego’s worst enemy be your best friend’s dad. Pretty messed up, right? Beyond that, there have been multiple seeming deaths and resurrections. This has been followed by Harry going from best friend to heir to the Green Goblin mantle.
Peter has had to emotionally balance caring about Harry with his hatred for Norman. Norman continuously comes up with new ways to infiltrate Peter’s life. Be it the “Sins Past” angle, his interference in the “Clone Saga,” or his time as a pseudo hero following Secret Invasion. Harry seems to have stabilized, but now Norman is interfering in foreign nations. It seemingly never ends.
14. THE CLONE SAGA
Spider-Man has a lot of stories that make for some real confusing times for any human to process. One of the most confounding began with Professor Miles Warren, a biology teacher at Empire State University. Warren becomes obsessed with Gwen Stacy, and is jealous of Peter Parker and their relationship. After her death, he becomes the Jackal to get revenge on Spider-Man, whom he blames for Gwen dying. The Jackal gets caught up in cloning and the saga begins there.
In the ’90s, it came to pass that the clone of Spider-Man, Ben Reilly, is actually the real Spider-Man and that the Peter Parker readers had known had been the clone all along. This rocked the readership as well as Peter Parker. Over time, things shifted once again (Ben Reilly actually was the clone after all!) to being the work of a highly manipulative Norman Osborn, but the damage had been done. It took time for all involved to recover from another story that seemed to have been somewhat ill conceived at the start.
13. SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN
Many battles with Spider-Man had taken their toll on Dr. Otto Octavius, better known as Doctor Octopus. His mind was something that was truly special and advanced, but for it to be preserved it would take drastic measures. In Superior Spider-Man, Otto finds a way to implant his mind inside Peter Parker’s body and becomes the Superior Spider-Man. He actually lives up to the title in many ways.
He builds up Parker Industries and gets crime under control in ways Peter never had. But there is a dark side to all of this. Otto also goes out with Mary Jane, remembering what it is like to be with her as Peter. He turns many people off through his negative banter and blunt actions. Peter bears witness to this through still being a part of the body in which Otto’s mind has taken root. This is another story where things get put back in the toy box at the end, but one that gave Peter a lot of positive motivation by its end to use his intellect in more innovative ways.
12. HIS SECRET IDENTITY IS REVEALED TO EVERYONE
In the build up to Civil War in the comics, there was a burgeoning relationship between the brilliant scientific minds of Peter Parker and Tony Stark. With Stark squarely on the side of superhero registration, Peter had to make a very difficult decision. He revealed his identity publicly and the ramifications on the character ever since have been monumental.
This led to putting his family in danger in a way that he had previously been able to avoid. The supervillains came fast and furious, but it was a regular hired gun who did the most damage. Aunt May is quickly near death following a gunshot wound. It leads Spider-Man to a vengeful attack on the Kingpin and, in many ways, it led Marvel to have to wipe the slate clean with Mephisto just a short time later.
11. ALIEN SYMBIOTE
During Secrets Wars, Spider-Man donned a new black costume that garnered a mixed reaction from fans. As time went on, it was revealed that the costume was actually an alien symbiote that was bonding with Peter, but had a violent side as well. While the costume itself was troublesome for Peter, it was what came after that was even more horrifying. Peter had Reed Richards create a sonic gun to remove the costume, but the symbiote would live on and find a new host.
Eddie Brock would be at the point of suicide when the symbiote bonded with him, making his nature much more violent than that of Peter’s. The emergence of Venom would terrorize Spider-Man and Mary Jane over the next couple years of stories. Venom has taken heroic turns over the years, but the initial horror of the character will always be memorable.
10. VICTIM OF BULLYING
Peter Parker is skinny kid who wears glasses. He is also an academic standout, especially in the area of science. So it may come as no surprise that he wasn’t exactly the most popular guy in school. This was true of Peter in high school both before and after he was bitten by a radioactive spider.
However, some of the most inspiring moments for readers came when they got to see Peter use his newfound abilities to turn the tables on the meaner jocks at school, like the infamous Flash Thompson, who would actually become Peter’s friend years later. It is also worth noting that despite being pushed around being called names like “puny Parker,” maturity ultimately won out and Peter became the center of a great group of friends.
9. BLACK CAT LOVES SPIDEY, NOT PETER
While many of the relationships with the ladies that have characterized Peter have been largely centered on his regular life, one really stand out as being more about his superhero life. The Black Cat is a vivacious burglar who draws the attention of Spider-Man for her crimes. However, she draws his attention for a lot of other reasons as well, and she knows it.
Spidey is a young guy and her advances win out. The only problem comes when Black Cat realizes that he is the straight-laced Peter Parker under the mask, her attraction wanes. Their relationship serves as a constant reminder to Peter of the differences between Spider-Man and Peter Parker. What could be if he could only have to be one of them?
8. SINS PAST
It might be hard to say whether this one was worse for Spider-Man or the people reading it. However, if we go back to the revelations of “Sins Past,” and we try to put ourselves in Peter’s shoes, it could justify some real crazy emotions from Peter. The story’s premise is that there are two new twin characters who exhibit some powers. Upon unmasking we find out one looks like Peter’s ex-girlfriend Gwen Stacy.
Questions abound and the answers are where things came unraveled. Apparently in the past, Gwen had an affair with Norman Osborn, resulting in her pregnancy. Norman raised the kids and they aged quicker due to Osborn’s enhanced blood. It’s disgusting on multiple levels and really not something that has been followed up on much since. There are many discussions of how this story was changed by editorial and was never meant to be what was published.
7. SPIDER-MAN: PUBLIC MENACE
Peter Parker has always had a need to make money. The job that is most iconic throughout his comic book history is his work as a photographer for the Daily Bugle and its Editor-in Chief J. Jonah Jameson. Peter’s secret is his ability to use his Spider-Man identity to get the best photos in the business. Jonah pays him, but always makes sure the headlines are negative regarding the wall-crawler.
While there have been shifts in this dynamic form time to time over the years, the thankless nature of what Spider-Man does cannot be overlooked. Sacrificing relationships, sleep, and money to help people only to be publicly shamed. The public view of him is tainted by this and it certainly makes for some interesting encounters with civilians. And boy, was Aunt May angry when she learned Peter’s secret.
6. CONNERS FAMILY TRAGEDY
Dr. Curt Conners is a man that has let tragedy drive him. When he lost his arm to an explosion during war, he spent his life researching the way to grow it back. This results in his experimentation with reptiles and the successful growth of a new arm, but it came with an extreme side effect. Dr. Conners was not a full-on lizard-human hybrid. Throughout the years, there has been a back and forth by Conners involving cures from Spider-Man and shifting back into the monsterous Lizard.
Perhaps the most incredibly sad thing to happen during this back and forth involved when the Lizard ate his own son. Conners’ mind has decayed over the years following the bouts with the Lizard formula and its cures as well as his wife’s death from cancer. He may have one more shot though, due to some cloning…
5. THE CLONE CONSPIRACY
Clones show up on this list on more than one occasion. They have had large roles in Spider-Man’s history for years, but that all came to head in the recent Clone Conspiracy. The Jackal had created a pharmaceutical company called New U that had the ability to bring anybody back with all their memories by just taking one pill a day. One big issue is that most of those who took the pills set off Spider-Man’s spider sense. The internal conflict for Spidey begins with not choosing to use this on Auny May’s husband, John Jameson, resulting in his death.
This is followed by a tidal wave of emotions that hits when just about every character from Peter’s life that has died reappears, seemingly as good as new. Regular civilians as well as villains and their families are back. The feelings are still stinging and ramifications are yet to play out.
4. ULTIMATE DEATH
The various runs on Ultimate Spider-Man over the years are remembered very fondly. In many ways, it was a greatest hits for the many years of Spider-Man stories before it combined with a modern sensibility. Readers had the chance to get to watch the character grow before their eyes again. This made the end of his run one that was filled with emotion. Ultimate Spidey dies in an intense battle with the Green Goblin. He dies a true hero’s death.
The point is really slammed home in seeing the reaction of others, from Aunt May and his various girlfriends in the Ultimate Universe to Peter from the 616 Universe (which is the main Marvel continuity) in Spider-Men. Yes, Peter has even had to watch the ripple effects of his own death on others as well.
3. RELATIONSHIP WITH MARY JANE
Once upon a time, Peter Parker hit the jackpot. A beautiful redhead knocked at his door and his life was never the same. Their relationship wasn’t always perfect, but after years of experiences together, they wound up getting married. Peter, the guy who was a science nerd getting bullied in high school, wound up marrying a supermodel. But life would take a number of wild turns, as it often does for superheroes.
They would go through a pregnancy that results in a stillborn child. This came on the heels of questions regarding Peter’s being a clone or not. Their relationship struggles with this, with MJ strongly wanting Peter to quit being Spider-Man for good, and Peter not being able to fulfill this promise. Eventually, events lead to one of the more controversial events in Marvel history, the removal of the marriage from history by Mephisto in exchange for saving Aunt May’s life.
2. DEATH OF GWEN STACY
Death is such a huge part of Spider-Man’s journey. It has driven him to declare that “no one dies” at times. It haunts him on every level. In his actual time as Spider-Man, the death of Gwen Stacy is one of the most lasting images for the character. Gwen Stacy was a unique girl in that she was incredibly beautiful, but not following the popular crowd all the time. Peter was oblivious to her crush on him for a long time due to his preoccupation with being Spider-Man.
But she didn’t give up and they did experience a memorable dating life. Many fans see her as Peter’s first true love. Her death at the hands of the Green Goblin was a shocking and sudden one for comic fans. Despite some clones and stories told in the past, this is a character whose death has had a real lasting impact on the character. Only one death has affected Spidey more.
1. DEATH OF UNCLE BEN
We all make mistakes. Peter Parker may know this more than anybody. It is his responsibility that is at the center of so many of the events he experiences. That all began when he has a moment of selfishness and it costs him the life of his greatest mentor and best friend, Uncle Ben. Money and anger had clouded Peter’s judgment into letting a thug run away, who in turn would coincidentally murder Uncle Ben later that night.
Out of all the events on this list, the change that this created in the way Peter saw things is the most pronounced. He now needed to use his great power with great responsibility. Uncle Ben’s death is one that does not get touched. There may have been some mild hints, such as those during Clone Conspiracy, but we know that this death is permanent. It has to be because without it, there is no Spider-Man.
Who knew it sucks so much to be the web-slinging Spider-Man? Let us know in the comments what you think is the worst thing to happen to the wall-crawler!
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