Marvel’s current “Spider-Man” crossover, “The Clone Conspiracy” (by Dan Slott and Jimmy Cheung), promises to surprise fans with twists and turns and some shocking returns from the dead (heck, that was just issue #1!). However, longtime readers of “Spider-Man” know that it takes a whole lot more than that to shock Spidey fans, as there have been a whole lot of bizarre stories about Spider-Man over the years.
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These weren’t just ideas that fans might have reacted to negatively at first but then got into (like “Superior Spider-Man”) or even ideas that people never quite got used to (like the Spider Totem), but those that seemed absurd at the time and haven’t gotten any less absurd in retrospect. In other words, moments that make you go “WTF?” So, without any further ado, let’s look at the fifteen most “WTF?” moments in Spider-Man history.
15. The Spider-Mobile
Perhaps the most ridiculous thing about the Spider-Mobile — and there are a lot of ridiculous things about the Spider-Mobile — is that Peter Parker did not even have a driver’s license when he received it! However, logic had to be thrown into the trash for a story that was intended to possibly lead to a Spider-Man toy car in real life (as superhero toy cars were very popular at the time), but instead just ended up with a bizarre-looking, short-lived part of Spider-Man’s life.
A company asked Spidey to help them promote a new car engine, so Johnny Storm built the Spider-Mobile. It helped in its first appearance in “Amazing Spider-Man” #130 (by Gerry Conway, Ross Andru, Frank Giacoia and Dave Hunt) but Spider-Man soon crashed it and lost the car; again, he didn’t even have a driver’s license! It has returned a few times over the years, mostly by other writers wanting to make fun of it.
14. Six-Armed Spider-Man
A consistent theme throughout Stan Lee‘s work on “Amazing Spider-Man”, particularly once Steve Ditko left the book, was a desire by Peter Parker to give up being Spider-Man and live a “normal” life. That was the plot behind the classic “Amazing Spider-Man” #50. Well, fifty issues later, in his last issue as the writer of “Amazing Spider-Man” (he would very briefly return a few months later), Stan Lee re-visited that idea again, along with artists Gil Kane and Frank Giacoia.
In “Amazing Spider-Man” #100, Peter tested out a potion that would allegedly remove his Spider-powers. Instead, it hilariously resulted in him gaining four more arms! The funniest thing about the twist is that, again, Lee left after the issue, leaving quite a weird story for the incoming writer, Roy Thomas, to deal with. Thomas got Spider-Man back to normal by the end of “Amazing Spider-Man” #102.
13. The Bombastic Bag Man
A running gag throughout Spider-Man’s history is the fact that his Spider-Man costume was homemade, so that naturally led to a number of amusing problems for the web-crawler over the years. The first notable example happened in “Amazing Spider-Man” #25 (by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee), where Spider-Man had to lose his costume to get away from a Spider-Slayer and Aunt May had found his back-up costume and thrown it out (she didn’t want Peter dressing up as Spider-Man as a prank), so he was without a costume. He bought one from a costume shop that hilariously broke down during battle. Spider-Man also had to borrow a Fantastic Four costume when he learned that his black costume was an alien and the Fantastic Four helped capture it.
The oddest makeshift costume for Spidey, though, happened in “Spectacular Spider-Man” #256 (by J.M. DeMatteis, Luke Ross and Dan Green), when Spider-Man had to rescue two wanna-be heroes from the White Rabbit and didn’t have time to go change into a costume (this was during a period when he was using alternate superhero identities because there was a price on his head as Spider-Man), so he became simply the “Bombastic Bag Man!”
12. Spider-Man vs. A Rather Bizarre Alien Plot
The cover of this one-shot, “Spider-Man vs. Prodigy,” was drawn by regular “Amazing Spider-Man” artists Ross Andru and Mike Esposito, but that generic cover belies the strangeness found within the comic itself. You see, the issue was not a regular Marvel release, but a special public service comic book that they did in conjunction with Planned Parenthood.
Written by Ann Robinson, it involves an alien (the aforementioned Prodigy) who planned to trick the teenage girls of Earth into believing nonsense like “you can’t get pregnant before age 15,” “you can’t get pregnant the first time you have sex” or “you can’t get pregnant if you only do it once in a while,” so that there would be a boom of teen pregnancies, which he would then come to Earth to kidnap all at once as part of a plan to find child labor for his planet. Spidey defeats him and then the comic doles out some helpful information about teen pregnancy.
11. Gwen Stacy… Alive?!
While a bit hard to place into proper context now, with the second Clone Saga being so famous for being a “WTF?” magnet, the original Clone Saga was a shocker at the time, as well. After Gerry Conway killed off Gwen Stacy in “Amazing Spider-Man” #121, he kept getting pressure from Stan Lee to bring her back, in any way possible. He didn’t even need her to be part of the cast of “Amazing Spider-Man,” just that she was back — period.
So Conway came up with the original Clone Saga, where a deranged former teacher of Gwen and Peter used Gwen’s DNA to clone an exact copy of her, but without her memories. She debuted in “Amazing Spider-Man” #144 by Conway, Ross Andru, Frank Giacoia and Dave Hunt. The villain, known as the Jackal, also cloned Peter and forced Peter to fight against his own Spider-Clone! Again, compared to later plot ideas, this almost seems tame, but at the time it was definitely a “WTF?” moment.
10. Death of Mary Jane?
Almost as soon as Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson got married, there were attempts by Marvel to break the marriage up, but without Peter and Mary Jane getting a divorce. One of the most absurd attempts occurred in 1999, when Howard Mackie and John Byrne (along with inker Scott Hanna, the creative team on “Amazing Spider-Man”) decided to temporarily kill off Mary Jane so that Peter Parker could be single. As messed up as that sentiment is, it alone wouldn’t be that much of a “WTF?” moment, as the death of Gwen Stacy isn’t on this list, either. Deaths of major characters happen.
However, the “WTF?” aspect of this one is that the person who blew up the plane had been stalking Mary Jane for a number of issues prior, and had recently been in an explosion of a taxi — which he survived! So clearly, explosions did not equal death with this guy, so the whole time it was obvious that Mary Jane wasn’t really dead, but we still had to see Peter act like she was (and move on to being single super quickly).
9. Peter is Reborn Through the Corpse of a Giant Spider
When the first “Spider-Man” film came out, Spider-Man had organic webshooters instead of the mechanical ones that he used in the comics. In 2004, with the release of “Spider-Man 2,” Marvel decided to match the film. It all began in “Spectacular Spider-Man” Volume 2 #15-16 by Paul Jenkins and Michael Ryan. In the first issue, a mysterious woman calling herself the Queen shows up in New York City and soon she has a whole pile of subjects. At the end of the issue, she captures Spider-Man and guest-star Captain America. She then kisses Spider-Man on national television.
It turns out that there was something messed up with her kiss, as it slowly transformed Spider-Man into a giant spider. And then… he died. But not really, as apparently Peter was actually in a cocoon within the giant spider and was now back to normal — only now he had organic webshooters! Yes, that really is as nonsensical as it sounds. Amazingly enough, a year later, Marvel did a similar story in a crossover called “The Other,” where Spider-Man went into another cocoon and came out with new powers.
8. Peter Parker Was Sexually Abused
You certainly cannot fault Marvel for their intentions with their 1984 comic book, “Spider-Man and Power Pack,” made in conjunction with the National Education Association and the National Committee for the Prevention of Child Abuse, as they were clearly good ones. The end result was a bit out there, though, especially considering it has never been addressed since.
Jim Salicrup, Jim Mooney and Mike Esposito did the Spider-Man half of the comic book, which saw Spider-Man telling a story to get a kid to open up about something that happened to him. The story was about how young Peter Parker was befriended by an older boy named Skip (who had white hair for some reason). The relationship changed, though, when Skip forced Peter to do some sort of sexual act while they were reading pornographic magazines alone together. Peter told Aunt May and Uncle Ben and that was the end of it, although apparently it wasn’t until he got the little kid to tell his parents that Spider-Man truly realized what had happened to him was not his fault. Again, a noble effort, but certainly a strange story to see in a “Spider-Man” comic.
7. Spider-Man’s Robot Parents
In “Amazing Spider-Man” #365 (by David Michelinie, Mark Bagley and Randy Emberlin), things seemed to be going Spider-Man’s way for a change when it turned out that his spy parents, Richard and Mary Parker, were not actually dead! They had survived and were now back in Peter’s life. However, as time went by, there seemed to be something slightly… off about Richard and Mary (Richard especially).
The truth was revealed in the most bizarre way possible in “Amazing Spider-Man” #388 (by Michelinie, Bagley and Emberlin), when it turned out that Richard and Mary were robots created by the Chameleon designed to trick Peter Parker into revealing Spider-Man’s secret identity (the Chameleon knew Peter and Spider-Man were close, but he didn’t realize HOW close they were). Once Peter told them the truth, their programming kicked in and they went to report to the Chameleon. The Mary robot, however, “malfunctioned” and decided she couldn’t betray Peter, so she tried to keep Richard from telling Chameleon. Spider-Man then showed up and fought his father, now fully transformed into a robot. In the end, Mary destroyed Richard by electrocuting him. Sadly, she was then killed by the Vulture, who was working with the Chameleon.
6. Aunt May’s NOT Dead?
In “Amazing Spider-Man” #400 (by J.M. DeMatteis, Mark Bagley and Larry Mahlstedt), May Parker finally passed away after nearly dying roughly 112 times in the previous 30-odd years of “Spider-Man” comic books. Before she died, she let Peter know that she had known that he was Spider-Man since almost the very beginning of his superhero career and that she was very proud of him. It was an incredibly moving issue.
Fast-forward a couple of years, and Peter and Mary Jane received a mysterious hint that Norman Osborn had “May.” They thought that it was their seemingly still-born daughter, but as it turned out in “Peter Parker: Spider-Man” #97 (by Howard Mackie, John Romita Jr. and Scott Hanna), it was Aunt May! You see, Norman Osborn had hired an old woman actress, gave her plastic surgery, told her Spider-Man’s secret identity and had her pass it along to Peter and then killed her — all to mess with Peter’s head! That is some absurdly convoluted villainy right there.
5. Sins Past
In the storyline “Sins Past” by writer J. Michael Straczysnki and artists Mike Deodato and Joe Pimentel, which ran from “Amazing Spider-Man” #509-514, Peter Parker discovered that he was being stalked by two mysterious strangers. Things got even weirder when one of them looked exactly like his dead ex-girlfriend, Gwen Stacy! As it turned out, these two young people were the son and daughter of Gwen Stacy! They had a disease where they prematurely aged, which is why they looked old enough to be contemporaries of Peter.
Things took an even more bizarre turn when it was revealed that Gwen had the two kids after a brief affair… with Norman Osborn, the Green Goblin! Not only did we have to suffer through such an absurd storyline idea, we also had to see Norman Osborn’s “O” face while he is having sex with Gwen! Originally, Straczynski wanted the kids to be Peter and Gwen’s, but that doesn’t sound like much better of an idea.
4. How Mary Jane Died in Spider-Man: Reign
“Spider-Man: Reign” was Kaare Andrews’ answer to “The Dark Knight Returns.” Like that classic Frank Miller and Klaus Janson tale, Andrews told a story about a retired Spider-Man who is called back into action years later while he is an old man. Andrews also drew a lot of the book in a similar style to what Miller used in “The Dark Knight Returns.”
There were a few odd plot points in “Reign,” but they all paled to the revelation that Mary Jane Watson had died of cancer as a result of being exposed too often to radioactive fluids. To be more specific, every time Peter Parker had sex with his wife, he was slightly poisoning her. If that wasn’t dark enough, Peter revealed this information to Mary Jane’s literal corpse, which Doctor Octopus’ arms had taken from her grave! Nothing gives a story that extra “WTF?” feeling than seeing Spider-Man talk about his killer sperm to the actual corpse of his dead wife.
3. Peter Hits Mary Jane
In “Spectacular Spider-Man” #226 (by Tom DeFalco, Sal Buscema and Bill Sienkiewicz), Peter Parker was dealing with some really awful news. However, there’s no news so bad that it excused his behavior in the issue. While fighting with Ben Reilly over the distressing news that he just gave to Peter, Mary Jane, who was a number of months pregnant at this point in time, came running over and grabbed her husband’s arm to get him to stop attacking Ben.
Peter then smacked his pregnant wife across the room, shouting “Get away from me! Leave me alone!” He was naturally shocked by what he had just done and ran off, but perhaps the most depressing thing about the whole story is that Mary Jane’s first instinct is to feel sorry for Peter. And that’s pretty much how the story goes: that Peter’s actions were more or less swept right under the rug as just a guy dealing with some bad news in a bad way.
2. Peter Parker is the Clone!
That bad news from “Spectactular Spider-Man” #226, by the way, was that Peter Parker was actually not the real Peter Parker! Now again, since Peter and Mary Jane got married, the writers of “Spider-Man” had often tried to come up with ways to get Peter single again. One of their strangest ideas was to re-visit the original Clone Saga. Remember the clone the Jackal made of Spider-Man that we mentioned earlier? Well, what if during their battle in “Amazing Spider-Man” #149, when the clone supposedly died, there was a mix-up and the clone was the one who went on living as Peter Parker for the next twenty years? What if it was the clone who married Mary Jane?
That was the revelation at the heart of Marvel’s second Clone Saga, a story intended to be short that ended up lasting over a year before it was revealed that Ben Reilly, the clone of Peter Parker, was the real Peter Parker. This allowed Ben to become Spider-Man, a single Spider-Man, while the clone and Mary Jane exit the book happy. Of course, Marvel soon reversed that plan after Ben Reilly was Spider-Man for barely a year, because it’s way too nutty.
1. One More Day
After two decades of trying to get rid of the Peter Parker/Mary Jane Watson marriage, Marvel finally succeeded in 2007’s “One More Day” storyline. During the “Civil War” crossover event, Spider-Man decided to show his support for the Superhuman Registration Act by revealing his secret identity to the world. This turned out to be a bad idea when he then decided he was on the wrong side of the Superhuman Registration Act debate. So he, Mary Jane and Aunt May went on the run. The Kingpin, Wilson Fisk, decided to get revenge on Peter Parker by having him assassinated. Peter’s Spider-Sense made him duck out of the way of the sniper’s bullet, and instead it was Aunt May who got shot. As she was slowly dying, Peter went nuts with grief. This led to “One More Day” (by Joe Quesada, Danny Miki and J. Michael Straczynski), where Spider-Man tried anything he could to save Aunt May’s life. Ultimately, Mephisto appears and agrees to save Aunt May if Peter and Mary Jane trade him their marriage for May’s life. They agree and, voila: single Spider-Man! So yes, Spider-Man literally made a deal with a devil. That’s about as “WTF?” as it gets.
What Spider-Man moment made you say “WTF?” the most over the years? Let us know in the comments!
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