Ever since his debut in 1962, Spider-Man has been one of the most popular superheroes in comics and it’s not just because of his cool powers. His character as a young man driven by guilt to fight crime and make the world better is a positive and inspiring one, and he also has a great sense of humor that lets him crack jokes in the worst of situations. He’s one of the most heroic and selfless superheroes in all of comic books, which is why we love him so much. But what if he went to the dark side?
That’s the question that’s been explored many times in different comics and it’s one Marvel has gone back to again and again. There have been versions of Spider-Man who became sadistic killers, broken by tragedy and suffering. In other stories, Spider-Man has been mutated into terrifying monsters. There have also been a few different people who’ve worn the name and costume of Spider-Man but didn’t have Peter Parker’s moral barometer. With a new teenage Peter Parker in Spider-Man: Homecoming still in theaters, earning money and rave reviews, CBR thought we should look back at 16 times Spider-Man went dark.
In 1964’s Avengers #11 (Don Heck, Stan Lee), the time-travelling warlord from the future, Kang the Conqueror, created his own evil version of Spider-Man. Using 30th-century technology, Kang created a robot duplicate of the Web Slinger that had all the powers and even memories of the original, but one that was under Kang’s control.
He sent the Timespinner back in time to Earth, where the proto-Spider-Man pretended to be the real Spider-Man and joined the Avengers to betray them, but the real Spider-Man was able to stop him. The Timespinner returned later on during the “Crossing” event of 1995 when it was reactivated and built a machine to drain temporal energy, trying to use it to bring the Age of Kang. It was finally destroyed by the Vision, having almost destroyed reality.
Another one of Spider-Man’s deadly enemies is the Lizard, a scientist named Curt Connors who created a serum that turned him into a humanoid reptile. Since 1963’s Amazing Spider-Man #6 (Stan Lee, Steve Ditko), the Lizard has been back several times, usually from Connors getting affected by the serum or trying to cure himself, but there was another time when Spidey caught the condition.
In Spectacular Spider-Man #39 (Bill Mantlo, John Romita, Jr.), the after effects of a previous attempt to cure the Lizard had an effect on Spider-Man. Parker changed into the humanoid hybrid Spider-Lizard and wreaked havoc all over the city. In #40, Spider-Lizard just brushed off police, so it was up to Connors to track down and give the antidote to Parker, changing him back to Spider-Man.
14. SYMBIOTIC SPIDER-MAN
What if the alien symbiote had possessed Spider-Man? That’s the question answered in 1989 with What If..? #4 by Danny Fingeroth and Mark Bagley. In the original story, Spider-Man received a new black costume during the Secret Wars event that turned out to be a parasitic alien creature called a symbiote, and he had to fight to remove it.
In an alternate reality of What If?, the symbiote couldn’t be removed from Peter Parker, even though the Fantastic Four and other heroes tried using a combination of magic and science. The symbiote took over Spider-Man’s mind and used him to possess other superheroes like the Hulk, and caused the death of others. Symbiote Spider-Man was even worse than Venom, one of the most sadistic villains in the Marvel Universe.
In the fifth season of the 1998 Spider-Man: The Animated Series, the episode “Spider Wars Part 1: I Really Really Hate Clones” introduced another evil version of Spider-Man known as Spider-Carnage. In the episode, Spider-Man was sent to an alternate reality where the Hobgoblin and the Green Goblin teamed up with their version of Spider-Man to create a dystopian New York City.
In his reality, Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben and Aunt May had died and the trauma led him to become a psychotic killer. He bonded with the Carnage symbiote to become Spider-Carnage. Spider-Man had to assemble a team of versions of himself from different realities to stop Spider-Carnage, who wanted to make holes in space that would destroy the multiverse. It took the Uncle Ben from another reality to talk Spider-Carnage into destroying himself to save the day.
12. SPIDER-MAN DOPPELGANGER
In 1992’s Infinity War #1 (Jim Starlin, Ron Lim), the evil Magus created an army of doppelgangers of superheroes, one of which was a copy of Spider-Man. The Spider-Man Doppelganger was a monster with six arms, razor-sharp webs and claws, but without any of Parker’s intelligence or compassion. The Doppelganger was killed during the Infinity War but was brought back to life by the Demogoblin.
Later on, the Doppelganger teamed up with Carnage, Shriek, Carrion and Demogoblin during the “Maximum Carnage” event, and was adopted by Carnage and Shriek, who became his demented “parents,” who used him to commit mayhem. The Doppelganger was horrifying and nightmarish, but had the brain of a small dog, making him more of a threat under the control of other people than a danger on his own.
In Cable and Deadpool #15 in 2005 (Fabian Nicieza, Patrick Zircher), Deadpool was searching for his missing former partner, Cable. In order to find him, Forge sent Deadpool through different alternate realities to track the missing X-Man. In the process, Deadpool dropped into a different world where the supervillain Apocalypse had conquered New York and changed four superheroes into his Horsemen. Along with Cable and Archangel, one of those Horsemen was the universe’s version of Spider-Man.
Spider-Man had been changed into Pestilence with four arms, four legs and a taste for human bones. We didn’t get to know much more about Pestilence Spider-Man because Cannonball and Siryn chased them off, but they ended up meeting an alternate Cable who was Apocalypse’s War. Deadpool teleported out, away from the cannibalistic Spider-Man.
10. THE OTHER
In a memorable 2005-2006 storyline known as “the Other,” Spider-Man began a transformation to the wild side. He began having strange symptoms and dreams of Uncle Ben and spiders. Thinking he might be dying, Parker threw himself more into his crime fighting, especially against the scientific vampire, Morlun. As Morlun wreaked havoc by beating Spider-Man so badly that he ended up in the hospital and smacking Mary Jane around, Spider-Man reached his limits.
In 2006, Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #3 (J. Michael Straczynski, Mike Wieringo), Spider-Man even pinned Morlun down and killed him with a bite to the head. After seeming to die, Parker erupted from a cocoon with new powers and dedicated himself to embracing the spider-side that he calls “the other.” Even though he changed, he came back to become the Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man once again.
9. LAST STAND
In an alternate future known as Spider-Man: Last Stand, we saw a version of Spider-Man who went down a dark path. First seen in 2008’s Amazing Spider-Man #58 (J. Michael Straczynski, John Romita Jr.), we saw Spider-Man’s vision of a Peter Parker who had killed his enemies and become a masked vigilante of a more grounded and brutal kind (with a cool jacket).
As an old man, he was hunted by the NYPD for charges of manslaughter and finally commits “suicide by cop” by fighting overwhelming odds and letting them kill him. In some ways, the Last Stand Spider-Man was a hero like the Punisher, who probably would argue Parker should have killed his enemies long ago. Yet many of us admire Spider-Man’s no-kill policy and don’t want to see him go this way.
8. IMPERFECT SPIDER-MAN
In 2005, a fighting game called Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects was released that didn’t sell too well, but it did lead to a pretty good tie-in miniseries written by Greg Pak and drawn by Renato Arlem. In the prequel series, we saw Spider-Man, Thing, Wolverine and Elektra captured and injected with a drug developed by an alien scientist that corrupted them into bloodthirsty killers. Well, Wolverine was halfway there, but it was a bigger change for Spider-Man.
The drug turned Spider-Man and the other heroes violent and brutal, eagerly fighting in an arena in gladiatorial combat. It didn’t last long before Spider-Man was able to fight the drug and escape, leading the fight against a group called the Imperfects that had been infected with the same drug. The bloodthirsty Spider-Man was pretty scary, but an awesome fighter.
7. SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN
Since his first appearance in 1963’s Amazing Spider-Man #3 (Stan Lee, Steve Ditko), Doctor Otto Octavius has been Spider-Man’s arch-enemy, Doctor Octopus. Doc Ock’s worst move came in Amazing Spider-Man #698 by Dan Slott and Richard Elson when he switched minds with Spider-Man, leaving Peter Parker to die in his aging body.
You’d think having one of the world’s worst villains in Spider-Man’s body would lead to world domination, but Octavius was driven by Parker’s memories to become a hero. He became the Superior Spider-Man but used brutal methods of murder and torture on criminals, along with an army of robots that turned New York City into a police state. Parker eventually returned to control his body again, left to deal with the fallout from Doc Ock’s reign. His motive was good but his methods were pretty evil.
6. THE QUEEN’S SPIDER-MAN
One of Spider-Man’s most recent but dangerous enemies is Adriana Soria, also known as the Queen, first introduced in 2004’s Spectacular Spider-Man #15 (Paul Jenkins, Michael Ryan). The result of an experiment to expose female soldiers to nuclear bomb tests and mutate them with radiation, Soria was driven mad and kept locked up for decades. When she escaped, the Queen developed the power to telepathically control people with an insect gene, and that includes Spider-Man.
Using her powers, she drew him to her and kissed him with a mutagenic enzyme that turned him into a gigantic spider-creature. As that creature, Spider-Man was a monster doing whatever she wanted. She tried to use him to give birth to her children, but he “died” and changed back into Peter Parker again. Spider-Man was almost helpless around her.
There were actually two versions of the Man-Spider in the comics and the TV show. In Marvel Fanfare #1 (Chris Claremont, Michael Golden), Spider-Man and Angel traveled to the prehistoric Savage Land and were captured by Magneto’s Savage Land Mutates. After being exposed to a machine that turned them into primitive monsters, Spider-Man became a hybrid of a spider and a human called the Man-Spider. The Mutates then tried to use him to conquer the Savage Land. Parker recovered and fought to become human again.
In the legendary “Six Arms Saga,” first introduced in 1971 with The Amazing Spider-Man #100 (Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, Gil Kane), Spider-Man tried to cure himself of his powers but the serum caused him to mutate further with six arms instead of two. In Spider-Man: The Animated Series, the storyline was adapted with Spider-Man mutating further into a spider-like monster.
4. MAC GARGAN
Mac Gargan was introduced in 1964’s Amazing Spider-Man #19 (Steve Ditko, Stan Lee) and was turned into the Scorpion, hired by J. Jonah Jameson to stop Web-Head. For years, he was one of Spider-Man’s deadliest enemies until 2005’s Marvel Knights: Spider-Man #9 (Mark Millar, Terry Dodson) when he bonded with the Venom symbiote and became the new Venom. As part of Norman Osborn’s plan to create an evil team of Dark Avengers, Gargan was recruited to be Dark Spider-Man.
As Dark Spider-Man, Gargan was just as violent and brutal but with more power than ever before. Driven by the symbiote, Gargan killed and ate his enemies, tried to frame Jameson for murder and even tried to eat the Asgardians. He was more than just a dark mirror of Spider-Man; he was a living nightmare.
3. THE SPIDER
The Exiles series was about a group of heroes and villains from alternate realities gathered into a team called Weapon X, sent to other worlds to restore order. 2002’s Exiles #12 by Judd Winick, Mike McKone and Jim Calafiore introduced one of the worst Spider-Man versions, known simply as the Spider.
In his reality, Peter Parker was a sociopathic mass murderer who was sentenced to 67 consecutive life sentences and merged with the Carnage symbiote before being recruited by the Timebreakers into Weapon X. Instead of becoming a hero, the Spider joined with other members of the team to try to conquer other Earths instead of helping them, killing and torturing for fun. It took a blast from Firestar to end his reign of terror, along with the other rebels.
2. PATTON PARNELL
In the 2014 miniseries, Edge of Spider-Verse, we saw alternate versions of Spider-Man characters and Edge of Spider-Verse #4 (Clay McLeod Chapman, Elia Bonett) was a horrific take on the Spider-Man origin. Instead of Peter Parker, it was Patton Parnell who lived with his cruel Uncle Ted instead of Aunt May and stalked his next-door neighbor, Sarah Jane. When he visited the labs of Alcorp Industries, he was bitten by an experimental spider.
If that sounds familiar, what happened next isn’t. Instead of turning into a superhero, Parnell started webbing and eating people, including his Uncle Ted. He bit Sarah Jane before turning into a monster that was drained by the vampiric Morlun. Instead of a happy ending, the next morning we saw hundreds of baby spiders coming out of Sarah Jane’s neck. Parnell was what Spider-Man would be like if he had been a monster.
1. ZOMBIE SPIDER-MAN
In 2005, the most violent and destructive Spider-Man was first seen in Ultimate Fantastic Four #22 by Mark Millar and Greg Land. In the story, the Fantastic Four were brought to an alternate reality where a virus infected most of Earth’s superheroes and villains, turning them into zombies. One of them was Spider-Man whose hunger even drove him to eat Mary Jane and Aunt May.
The superpowered zombies ate almost all life on Earth until they ate Galactus, giving them the Power Cosmic, which they use to travel the universe, eating other worlds in their endless search for more food. Yet, as their hunger dwindled, Zombie Spider-Man began to recover his sanity and turned Sandman into a zombie-destroying weapon. Even though he destroyed countless lives, Zombie Spider-Man ended as a hero.
What’s your favorite dark version of Spider-Man? Let us know in the comments!
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