Despite his reputation as one of Marvel’s most optimistic, child-friendly heroes, there’s no shortage of dark, disturbing Spider-Man moments peppered throughout the character’s very rich history. It’s the nature of comic books to constantly re-invent and experiment with their characters to keep them fresh and interesting, so it makes sense that the tone of certain characters’ stories are in constant flux. This is especially true taking into account the variety of writers who are brought on board to pen different story arcs, all with different ideas of what makes the character tick and what makes a story worth telling.
It’s these shifting creative teams that are responsible for the dichotomy between the light and dark aspects of certain characters, which is why we might see a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man foiling bank robberies one issue, and a black-suited Spidey seeking bloody revenge a few issues later. All of this is part of what makes the medium so unique however, and whether you prefer your stories light and breezy or grim and heavy, there’s a story for every taste. For those with a penchant for the darker side of life though, here are 15 disturbing Spider-Man moments that will make your skin crawl.
15. PETER SNAPS GWEN STACY’S NECK
One of the most well-known issues of The Amazing Spider-Man ever produced, the image of Peter Parker cradling a lifeless Gwen Stacy has since become an iconic piece of comic book imagery. The events depicted transpire after Green Goblin kidnaps Gwen Stacy, throwing her from a bridge before Spider-Man intervenes.
Attempting to catch her with his webbing, Peter fails to realize that the sudden change in momentum would be fatal to Gwen, snapping her neck in the process. A truly spine-chilling moment, the moment was so powerful that it ushered in a whole new age of comic books — the Bronze Age — and shocked readers to their core. Serving as Spider-Man’s first and arguably greatest failure, the story is one of the few comic book deaths to have genuinely long-term implications for the character, solidifying it as one of the most important comics in the history of the medium.
14. PETER BEATS DOWN THE KINGPIN
Following Mark Millar’s controversial decision to have Spider-Man publicly unmask himself as Peter Parker in Civil War, fans were curious to see the effect this would have on Spider-Man’s life post-conflict, and the results were about as unfortunate as you might have expected.
Aunt May is immediately put in harm’s way after a bullet meant for Peter hits her, leaving her comatose. Discovering that the shooter was working for the Kingpin, Peter pays him a visit in prison — donning his black suit — and mercilessly beats the crime lord to a bloody pulp. Going full Jack Bauer, Spidey proceeds to torture Kingpin, threatening to web up his lungs through his mouth, slowly suffocating him. Despite ultimately deciding to leave Kingpin alive and humiliated, this sinister side of Peter Parker is still such a far cry from Spider-Man’s traditional character that it’s more than a little chilling to see.
13. NEW YORK’S CITIZENS BECOME MUTATED SPIDER CREATURES
Known for concocting some of the most devious, convoluted plots in Spider-Man’s entire rogues’ gallery, mad scientist Miles Warren, aka Jackal, somehow managed to outdo himself yet again in Dan Slott’s “Spider Island” story arc. Giving the entirety of New York spider-based powers similar to those of Spidey himself, things soon take a darker turn when the citizens of Manhattan — including several villains — begin to mutate into terrifying spider-like creatures.
Sprouting grotesque mandibles, multiple arms and several beady, black eyes, even the citizens of New York — who are very much used to being caught in the crossfire of similarly villainous schemes — were horrified by this development. As you’d probably expect, Spider-Man eventually foils Jackal’s plan and reverses the transformation, restoring New York to its former glory, but this is one event the people of Manhattan will surely never forget.
12. SPIDEY TEARS CHUNKS OUT OF SASHA KRAVINOFF’S FACE
During the “Grim Hunt” story arc, which was a follow up of sorts to the popular “Kraven’s Last Hunt”, the titular villain’s family attempt to resurrect him through ritualistic means, aiming to hunt Spider-Man down as part of their plan. Killing several of Spidey’s friends in the process, including Mattie Franklin and Madame Web, Spider-Man is overcome with a rage we rarely see from the usually optimistic character.
Using the same power that allows him to crawl up walls, Spider-Man places his hand on the face of Sasha Kravinoff — Kraven’s wife — and tears out chunks of her flesh in a shockingly bloody display. Eventually convinced not to kill Kraven by Arachne’s grim vision of the future, Peter luckily manages to avoid going down an even darker path, but the sight of a vengeful Spider-Man dishing out bloody justice is a little disturbing nonetheless.
11. CARNAGE POSSESSES
Responsible for a long list of disturbing Spider-Man moments all on his own, Carnage leaves a trail of blood and guts in his wake every time he rears his head, but it’s actually one of his subtler moments that remains amongst his most harrowing.
In Carnage USA, Cletus manages to take over the entire town of Doverton, Colorado — using his symbiote to bond with its residents and create countless copies of himself. Early in the story, we see this in disturbing effect when Carnage bonds to two young children as they bathe, with their father walking by just in time to witness the horror. Seeing the fear on his son’s face as he’s taken over, the man attempts to help his children, only for them to turn on him — killing him instantly.
10. BURIED ALIVE FOR TWO WEEKS
“Kraven’s Last Hunt” stands as one of the most memorable Spider-Man stories of the past few decades and with good reason. Its dark themes, well-realized character work and grim plot serve as the definitive story for hit-or-miss Spidey villain Kraven the Hunter, with the arc following his successful attempt to subdue Spider-Man and take over his role as New York’s protector.
His method of subduing Spider-Man however, is the stuff of nightmares. Rendering Spidey unconscious with a tranquilizer dart, Kraven proceeds to bury him alive for a whole two weeks before the chemical’s effects wear off, leaving Peter to frantically dig his way out before confronting the villain — who happily commits suicide after coming to the realization he’s finally bested his long time enemy.
9. THE DEATH OF JEAN DEWOLFF
Between Uncle Ben, Gwen Stacy, Captain Stacy and several others, it seems that the people in Peter Parker’s life are amongst the only characters in comics that actually stay dead, and Jean DeWolff — NYPD Captain and long-time friend of Spider-Man — is no exception to that rule.
Killed in her sleep by the murderous Sin-Eater, Jean DeWolff is found by the NYPD and Spider-Man the following morning, sending a distraught Peter Parker on a path of revenge that sees him come to blows with Daredevil when he almost beats the villain to death. Dealing not only with the death of one of Peter’s closest allies but the hero’s rapidly spiralling rage as well, “The Death of Jean DeWolff” is one of the darkest chapters in Spider-Man’s history, and even had a knock-on effect that led to the creation of Eddie Brock’s Venom.
8. SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN EXECUTES MASSACRE
When a dying Doctor Octopus concocts a plan to switch bodies with Peter Parker moments before his death, he decides to take on the Spider-Man mantle, eager to prove that he’d make a superior version of Spider-Man than Peter Parker ever did. Admittedly smarter and more vigilant than Peter Parker tended to be, Otto lacked the empathy and restraint of the former Spider-Man, often resorting to extreme violence — and in one case murder.
After the mass murderer Massacre is set loose on the streets, Otto tracks him down and thwarts his murderous rampage, and after learning that that Massacre is physically incapable of feeling emotion due to severe brain damage, decides the only way to stop him is to execute him. Shooting him point blank, Massacre actually shows a brief moment of emotion before his death, which Otto ignores completely, snuffing out any glimmer of hope for Massacre.
7. MUTATED SPIDER-MAN IS BEATEN TO DEATH
Marvel’s What If… series of comics are a great way of exploring hypothetical scenarios without affecting Marvel’s mainstream continuity, leaving writers free to play with characters — usually killing several off — with no consequences. What If… #88 is a great example of this, exploring what could have happened if Peter Parker’s spider powers caused him to mutate into a spider-creature as he aged.
With Peter’s son Ben suffering a similarly grotesque transformation as his father, he’s bullied and ridiculed by his peers, accidentally killing Flash Thompson’s son after losing control of his anger. As an angry mob of parents descends on Ben, Peter gets in the way, allowing his son to escape as he’s beaten to death by the crowd, shouting a loving goodbye to his son as he’s killed.
6. KAINE IS SACRIFICED
After Sasha Kravinoff and her family track down Spider-Man in an attempt to resurrect Kraven the Hunter in “Grim Hunt”, Spidey is stabbed and shot several times over, incapacitating the hero. Laying him out on a stone altar in a suitably creepy graveyard, the Kravinoffs then sacrifice Spider-Man, stabbing him in the chest with a dagger before letting him bleed out.
The ritual works, and Kraven bursts forth from his grave, but the family soon discover that one of Peter Parker’s clones, Kaine, has taken Spider-Man’s place by donning his outfit in a selfless act of heroism. As if Kaine’s brutal sacrifice wasn’t enough to send a shiver down your spine, the clone is later seen rising from a grave of his own, hideously transformed into an arachnid-looking creature known as Tarantula.
5. THE THOUSAND INFECTS ITS HOSTS
In The Tangled Web of Spider-Man #1, it’s discovered that one of Peter Parker’s childhood bullies, Carl King, learned of Peter’s transformation into Spider-Man after being bit by a radioactive spider. Tracking down the irradiated spider and swallowing it whole, Carl gets powers of his own, albeit far more grotesque powers than those of Spider-Man.
After waking up one day to find his body is now entirely composed of spiders, Carl gains the ability to invade the bodies of other humans by crawling inside them, devouring their insides and controlling their now-hollow bodies. Killing many, many people in this way — including his father, girlfriend, and several innocents — Spider-Man soon has a run in with The Thousand, witnessing the spiders as they leave their host in a truly horrific scene that resembles the most disturbing of Cronenbergian body horror.
4. THE LIZARD MURDERS HIS OWN SON
The constant fight for control between Dr Curt Connors and his destructive alter ego The Lizard has been the central crux of the character. Despite his reputation for chaos however, nothing could’ve prepared fans for the sheer brutality of the “Shed” story arc, which sees Curt Connors’ lizard brain finally eradicate any remaining shred of the scientist.
Hunting down and cornering his own son Billy, with Spider-Man in pursuit, it’d be safe to assume that the story ends with Spidey’s arrival, defeating Lizard and saving Billy. That isn’t what happens, however. Failing to reach Lizard on time, Billy is torn in half by his father and devoured as he screams for help, all while The Lizard takes full control of Connors’ brain. It’s easily one of the most haunting issues of Spider-Man ever written, and is bound to etch itself in your memory for a long, long time.
3. GWEN STACY AND NORMAN OSBORN HAVE AN AFFAIR
Often considered by Spider-fans to be Peter Parker’s “one true” love interest, Gwen Stacy was perceived by the public as innocent, kind-hearted and honest, which is part of what made her untimely death such a shocking tragedy. As it turns out however, Gwen Stacy may not have been so innocent.
It’s revealed in “Sins Past” that Gwen Stacy had an affair with Norman Osborn, resulting in a rather uncomfortable scene and an unwanted pregnancy. After discovering she’s having twins, Gwen decides to keep Norman out of their lives, creating another reason for Green Goblin to target her. To top it off, MJ knew about all of this, and kept it from Peter at the request of Gwen — who initially planned to raise the children with Peter as their father. The whole thing is just creepy, and puts an unfortunate stain on a revered character.
2. CLETUS KASADY KILLS A DOG WITH A DRILL
If there’s one thing that makes a villain instantly detestable even more so than killing a human being, it’s when they kill an animal — or in this case a small dog. It’s no secret that Cletus Kasady (aka Carnage) is amongst the most vile, deranged and psychotic villains in the entire Marvel Universe, so it probably won’t come as a surprise to learn that he didn’t have the smoothest childhood.
It’s revealed in Venom: Carnage Unleashed that he’s been deranged from an early age, killing his grandmother by pushing her down the stairs and attempting to toss a hair dryer into his mother’s bathtub. Perhaps his most disturbing act is the murder of his mother’s dog however, which he kills with an electric drill while she looks on in horror, taking pleasure in the idea of destroying something his mother loves so much.
1. MORLUN PLUCKS OUT (AND EATS) SPIDER-MAN’S EYE
Without a doubt one of the deadliest Spider-Man villains in existence, Morlun feeds primarily on spider-totems, meaning he hunts down and devours the different incarnations of Spider-Man from across the multiverse, with them usually standing little to no chance of survival in the face of his raw power.
Having a particular axe to grind with Earth-616’s Spider-Man, Morlun tracks him down in “The Other” story arc, sparking a gruelling slugfest between the pair that pushes Spider-Man to his limits in a way no villain has done before. Managing to put up a fight long enough to move the battle away from civilians, Spidey eventually succumbs to Morlun’s power, who proceeds to rip out an exhausted Spider-Man’s eye and eat it in front of him in a savage display of dominance.
Did we miss any disturbing Spider-Man moments? Let us know in the comments below!
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