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Every Time Spider-Man’s Identity Has Been Publicly Revealed in Comics

Ever since Superman revealed that he had a secret identity in Action Comics #1, the threat of a superhero's identity being revealed to the public has been a key part of many comic book narratives. It slowly became the main plot purpose for Lois Lane and it was the reason for th introduction of Vicki Vale into the Batman titles in the late 1940s. While the Fantastic Four broke from convention by not having secret identities, Spider-Man more than made up for it by not only having a closely guarded secret identity but also having said secret identity seemingly always in peril of being discovered.

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Here, we will take a look at all of the times that Spider-Man's secret identity was revealed in public (by "public," we mean any time he either revealed it to a group of people or any time a villain uncovered somebody uncovered his identity with the intent of revealing it to other people. For instance, when Spider-Man revealed his secret identity to Daredevil, that doesn't count. When J. Jonah Jameson pays a thousand dollars for anyone who can find out who Spider-Man is under the mask, that would count. As for groups, we are also clearly not counting when he revealed his identity to the New Avengers and the Fantastic Four, as they are obviously all superheroes and it really doesn't count as revealing it to "the public" when you reveal it to a bunch of fellow superheroes. It is implied that they won't tell anyone about it.). We will also explain how Spider-Man put the proverbial genie back in the bottle each time after his identity was exposed.

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The very first instance of this theme occurred in Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's Amazing Spider-Man #12, when Peter Parker fights Doctor Octopus while dealing with a very serious flu that makes him so weak that he can't really compete with Doc Ock, leading to Doc Ock defeating him very easily and pulling off his mask...

As you can see from above, since he did not really have superpowers at the time, it was simple to convince people that he was just a dumb kid trying to impersonate Spider-Man to be heroic, which is precisely what happened on the next page....

Luckily for Spidey, his flu then subsided and he was back to his fighting best and was able to take on (and defeat) Doctor Octopus later in the issue (while still covering for his secret identity)!

Next up is Amazing Spider-Man #87, by Stan Lee, John Romita and Jim Mooney. In it, Spider-Man is once again very ill. He is so ill that he actually robs a jewelry store to get his girlfriend, Gwen Stacy, a nice necklace for her birthday (yes, we know that "I had the flu" is not a very good reason to commit a robbery, but hey, one of the reasons we all love Spider-Man is because he doesn't always come to the right decision right away. He often needs to fight his worst impulses. It is why he is always repeating the mantra of "With great power comes great responsibility," because he often needs reminding!). Once again, just like last time, Spider-Man believes that he has lost his powers due to the illness. Thus, the only thing to do, of course, is to reveal his secret identity to his friends...

After doing so, he realizes his mistake and runs away. He then goes to the hospital to discover that once again, he has the flu (while you might ask, "REALLY, Spidey? The SAME thing that took your powers away last time and it didn't occur to you that it might have happened again?" but to be fair, Spidey's brain was kind of addled FROM the flu, ya know?).

He then enlists the help of the Prowler to pretend to be Spider-Man to save his identity (and yes, it is awfully curious that he was able to get Prowler to pretend to be him to clear Peter Parker from being Spider-Man without letting Prowler know that he is, in fact, Peter Parker)...

Next up is Amazing Spider-Man #105 (by Stan Lee, Gil Kane and Frank Giacoia), when Professor Smythe captures Peter changing from being Spider-Man on camera....

Luckily, Spider-Man figured out that his identity had been discovered by Smythe. In the next issue (with Romita stepping in for Kane), Spidey has a pretty ludicrous plan that involved Dr. Curt Conners turning his laboratory over to Spidey so that the webslinger could create a perfect rubber mask of Peter Parker's face. He then put the mask on over his own face, and he then allowed himself to be "accidentally" spied on again and voila...

Luckily, Smythe was not big on thinking things over. It's important, also, to note that Peter's name wasn't given away, as well, so the other criminals correctly note to Smythe that it isn't like they would even know who Spider-Man was even if it wasn't a fake mask.

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Next, in Amazing Spider-Man #151 by Len Wein, Ross Andru and John Romita, Spider-Man is photographed getting rid of the body of the Peter Parker clone (which, really, is some kind of fantastically bad luck, right?)...

J. Jonah Jameson eventually gets a hold of the pictures and in Amazing Spider-Man #169 (by Wein, Andru and Mike Esposito) he tries to use them to prove that Peter Parker is Spider-Man (under the unusual "Peter is dead and Spidey is pretending to be him via a mask or whatever" theory). However, Spider-Man had come across the photos in Jameson's office earlier so he was ready for Jameson when JJJ showed up to confront Peter...

Peter is not only such an unethical photojournalist that he sells photos he takes of himself, but he even alters real photos to make them look like fakes!

Finally and perhaps most famously, in Civil War #2 (by Mark Millar, Steve McNiven and Dexter Vines), to show how much faith he has in the government's new superhero registration program, Spider-Man unmasks to the public...

In Amazing Spider-Man #641 (by Joe Quesada and Paolo Rivera), we learn that Doctor Strange, Mister Fantastic and Iron Man (after Aunt May is nearly murdered as a result of Spider-Man's identity being public knowledge) conspired to put together a techno-magical spell that would remove the memory of Spider-Man's identity from everyone in the world...

Spidey later pulls Mary Jane in with him so she remembers too, only she gets angry when she realizes that she'd prefer NOT to know. This causes her to realize that she can't be around Peter right now and they break up (hence the status quo at the beginning of Brand New Day).

Eventually, the spell was canceled out and so Peter once again has to worry about his secret identity being exposed once more!

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