Your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. He’s been around since 1963, and is one of the world’s most popular heroes. He’s faced hundreds of villains and has had thousands of adventures. Some of his tales have been truly incredible, and others not so much…(we’re looking at you Spider-Man: Reign1). But as incredible as the hero is, he also has some rather impressive villains. Some, like Venom and the Green Goblin have become nearly as famous as Spider-Man himself. But their infamy means that they have plenty of fights to choose from, because what good is a hero if he doesn’t have an equally compelling villain to drive him forward in some way?
Spider-Man has had his fair share of tragedies during his super-heroic career, some of which we’ll cover in this list. But those tragedies have often led to some incredible fights. Just to keep it simple, we’ve stuck simply to the Peter Parker version of Spider-Man rather than any of the clones or Miles Morales. Mainly, because the clones get a little too confusing -- and since Miles has some impressive fights under his belt, he deserves his own list. But here are the 15 iconic fights that changed Spider-Man forever.
15 THE INFINITY GAUNTLET
Unfortunately, this one isn’t so family friendly. During The Infinity Gauntlet, a whole host of heroes take the fight to Thanos as he threatens to wipe out half the life in the universe -- all to impress the living embodiment of death, of course. And when Spider-Man momentarily manages to change the tide of the fight by webbing Thanos’ face and kicking him in the face mid-swing -- Spidey is brutally murdered.
How? By Thanos’ partner/lover Terraxia. It’s not even a graceful death, but it sure is violent. She grabs a piece of the rubble around her and begins to bash Peter’s brains out. It’s not even shown as the focus of the panel, but takes place in the background of the main fight. Luckily, it’s all undone by Nebula at the end of the battle -- but still. Ouch.
14 SPIDER-MAN VS. THE PUNISHER
The cover itself is visually striking, but the fight that carries across the issue between The Punisher and Spider-Man is fantastic. Whilst The Punisher misunderstands who Spider-Man is, it’s The Jackal who sparks off their conflict and it’s a great introduction to the character, since this is his first appearance in comics.
But whilst this fight ended with the pair acknowledging they were wrong about each other, it’s The Jackal who realizes how much he truly despises Spider-Man. He even vows to destroy the wall-crawler so that he can claim New York for himself. And since we know the extent of The Jackal’s plans for Peter with “The Clone Saga”, “Spider-Island” and “Dead No More” -- the issue sees the start of a villain who knows how to terrorize our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.
13 PETER FIGHTS MILES MORALES
During Spider-Men #2, Peter Parker finds himself transported to the Ultimate Universe. This is where their version of Parker has been dead for some time and Miles Morales has taken up the Spider-mantle. As soon as the pair meet, Peter (understandably) freaks out a little and demands to know what’s going on. A fight between them quickly ensues, with Miles showing off some powers that Peter doesn’t have, like his Venom Sting.
It’s fantastic to finally see these two Spider-Men meet, but also to see their differences and similarities. It’s a lighthearted and fun scene, something that a Spider-Man book should be. Miles’ inquisitive nature and Peter’s confusion makes for great chemistry between the two heroes. But part of what makes this fight so great is seeing the pair together for the first time.
12 THE KINGPIN
In the aftermath of Civil War, Aunt May is shot by an unknown assassin, and is very close to death due to the horrible wound. Peter begins a violent investigation into the sniper, and eventually finds that Wilson Fisk had hired an assassin to kill him, but May was shot accidentally. The fight that ensues shows just how strong Spider-Man can be when pushed to his limits.
He nearly murders the Kingpin during the fight, as he beats him into submission. Luckily, the wall-crawler doesn’t cross that line he can't walk back from, but he comes close to it. And given the sheer strength that Kingpin can use in a fight, it’s impressive that Spider-Man truly bests his opponent. Don’t make Spider-Man angry, you won’t like him when he’s angry.
11 THE BIRTH OF THE SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN
Love him or hate him, the Superior Spider-Man marked a monumental change for Peter Parker. Otto Octavius managed to swap his consciousness with Peter Parker, intending for his dying body to take Peter’s consciousness with it. And it works.
In Amazing Spider-Man #700, Otto’s body dies with Peter inside it. But as he does, he forces Otto to relive all of his memories as Spider-Man and encourages Otto to be a force for good instead of a villain. Doc Ock has an incredible change of heart and promises to do better than Peter ever did. He becomes the "Superior Spider-Man". Using his scientific knowledge, Otto builds Parker Industries and a whole host of new gadgets to aid him in his new superheroic career under the mask of the famous the wall-crawler.
10 THE SINISTER SIX
During The Amazing Spider-Man Vol.1, the Sinister Six put their differenes aside and all team-up to fight against the loveable wall-crawler. But unfortunately for them, Peter soundly beats them one-by-one. A knockout punch against Electro, lassoing The Vulture, evading Kraven and another punch for the master illusionist Mysterio. Sandman technically defeats himself by creating an airtight room he can’t breathe in. Silly Flint Marko.
It all goes swimmingly well and in favor of Spidey until Doctor Octopus traps him in a giant fishbowl (because, really, why not?) and decides to fight him like a real octopus would. Newsflash Otto, real octopi aren’t made out of metal. But, hey, at least the fight does give us the beautiful artwork of Spider-Man struggling with the tentacles underwater.
9 KRAVEN'S LAST HUNT
This story is one of the best Spider-Man stories, alongside one of the best villain stories too. Kraven tracks Spider-Man and shoots him, buries him in a grave and dons the Spider-Man costume for himself. He spends the next two weeks pretending to be the wall-crawler, defeating villains and trying to prove himself a better hero than Peter. He manages to find and capture a villain named Vermin that had previously gotten the best of Peter.
But at this point it turns out that Spider-Man wasn’t dead in the grave, merely tranquilized. He digs himself out of the grave (leading to that iconic image) and sets out to find Kraven. The Hunter already considers himself a better vigilante than Peter at this point -- so simply doesn’t bother to fight back. Eventually, he goes home and commits suicide, having completed his desire to become the best hunter.
8 AGAINST THE UNSTOPPABLE
Spider-Man is known for being able to fight his way out of tight spots, but the Juggernaut is one villain he just can’t seem to stop in The Amazing Spider-Man #229-230. In fact, nothing can. When the Juggernaut smashes his way across New York City looking to kidnap Madame Web, Peter continuously attempts to stop him, but each time is beaten by the giant. That is, until Spidey manages to lead Juggernaut into an area filled with wet cement that is.
The Juggernaut sinks below and Spidey leaves him there. He escapes in a later story, but for the time, he was subdued. Sometimes it’s not all about braun, but having a little brains can help too. It’s a story that also shows just how resilient Spider-Man can be when facing an impossible situation.
7 FIGHT ON SPIDER-ISLAND
Remember how we said The Jackal had a huge grudge against Spider-Man and caused him a lot of trouble over the years? Well, "Spider-Island" is one of those times. The Jackal engineers a plot that initially gives the entire island of New York Spider-powers. Now don’t get carried away, because whilst that might sound fun -- it really isn’t. Because as their powers grow stronger, they end up transforming into giant Spider-monsters that plague the city.
In fact Peter and MJ are the last two left un-Spidered on the top of the Empire State building, and have to fight them all off. Luckily Peter uses the antenna to cure the city of their Spidery-selves so they’re not permanently mutated. Annoyingly, The Jackal manages to escape the ordeal to cause Peter pain further down the line.
6 THE DEATH OF HARRY OSBORN
Harry Osborn and Peter Parker had been friends since High School, and their storylines had always weaved together closely. Whether it was to do with Norman discovering Peter’s identity or the pair of them both being romantically involved with the same women. But when Harry’s sanity bean to break down and he became the Green Goblin, it had disastrous effects.
During their final fight in Harry’s apartment, he managed to immobilize Peter using a serum and decided to kill them both with the explosives in the apartment. But when Harry realized that Mary Jane and his own son were in the building, he had mere seconds to save them all. Luckily, they all made it out in time, but the formula Harry had swallowed quickly killed him. Peter was with his best friend in his final moments, in which he was finally free of his sanity.
5 IRON SPIDER VS. IRON MAN
During Civil War, Peter Parker initially sided with Tony Stark’s pro-registration side of the fight. He even went as far as to reveal his identity on live television. Tony even graciously created an "Iron Spider" suit for Peter to wear. But when Peter realized that he was on the wrong side of the fight, he ended up having to fight his way out of quitting the team.
Tony and Peter’s fight ends up blasting a hole in the side of a building as Spider-Man escapes. But from there, three former villains are sent after Peter and he takes a hell of a beating before The Punisher steps in. So whilst he managed to beat Tony Stark, he didn’t make it out of the pro-registration side completely unscathed.
4 DOCTOR OCTOPUS
The eight- limbed villain returns to our list as he masquerades as someone called the ‘Master Planner’. Unfortunately, Aunt May is dying (again) in Amazing Spider-Man #32-33 and Doc Ock has the serum that could save her. Spider-Man goes after him in an unrelenting fit of rage. And as their fight escalates, Doctor Octopus realizes that he just can’t win against the wall-crawler and flees the building as it all starts to crumble around him.
And this is the moment that became so well-known -- Peter becomes trapped underneath all the rubble and has to summon a tremendous amount of strength to get himself free. It shows just how resilient everyone’s favorite wall-crawler can be when it comes down to his family, and we even saw a version of the moment on the big screen recently during Spider-Man: Homecoming.
3 SPIDER-MAN VS. EDDIE BROCK
The black suited Spider-Man is nearly as iconic as the normal red and blue Spider-Man costume. The symbiotic suit took control of Peter and began to fight at night without Peter realizing. When it bonded to Eddie Brock, Brock began to torment Peter, as he was shielded from Peter’s Spidey-sense. When Venom finally makes his appearance, the pair fight for an extended amount of time, and Spider-Man attempts to use a sonic gun on Brock, but it doesn’t work.
They fight atop a church tower -- and when Brock runs out of webbing, he’s weakened and is knocked out from a fall. Spider-Man takes him to the Fantastic Four who put the villain in stasis until he can be transferred to a more secure prison. It’s an incredible introduction to one of Spider-Man’s most famous villains.
2 THE DEATH OF SPIDER-MAN
It’s probably one of the most emotional storylines in Spider-Man’s history, whilst also proving just how heroic Peter Parker can be. After taking a bullet meant for Captain America, Spider-Man discovers that the Green Goblin and the rest of the Sinister Six are out for his blood. As as he takes them down one by one, Spidey becomes weaker and weaker until he and Norman Osborn are the only two left standing.
After Norman threatens his family, Peter uses a van to repeatedly beat the Green Goblin down, it explodes -- throwing Peter into the air. He’s surrounded by friends and family as he passes away, but dies knowing that he saved everybody. The story makes way for a new Spider-Man to take over in the Ultimate Universe: Miles Morales.
1 THE NIGHT GWEN STACY DIED
It’s the moment that cemented the Green Goblin as Peter’s most terrifying foe, and marked a point in Spider-Man’s career where he truly realized how much his family and friends were in danger from his vigilantism. The Green Goblin hurls Gwen from the top of the Brooklyn Bridge and as Spidey catches her with his webs, the whiplash snaps her neck.
And whilst at first it’s not clear if Norman Osborn killed Gwen first or if it was Peter -- it’s made clear by a note from the writers that it’s Spider-Man’s webs that snapped her neck. It’s a heartbreaking moment for Peter, one that sends him into a fit of rage. He attacks Norman, nearly killing him but can’t finish him off. It’s a true testament to the hero that he came so close to killing the man who caused his girlfriend’s murder, but stopped.
Are there any other Spider-beatings we missed? Let us know in the comments!