SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #6 by Chip Zdarksy, Michael Walsh and Ian Herring, on sale now.
This week, Spider-Man’s world was shaken to its core when he revealed his secret identity to J. Jonah Jameson after a sit-down interview between JJJ and Spidey. How this will affect Spider-Man in the months and years to come remains to be seen, but such a notable case of unmasking reminded us that Spider-Man has actually had a remarkably diverse history of revealing his identity to people over the years.
Here, we’ll take a look at a few of the most prominent examples of Spider-Man unmasking himself (as opposed to somebody else doing the unmasking for him, like when Doctor Octopus pulled his mask off in Amazing Spider-Man #12)
The very first time that Spider-Man intentionally revealed his identity came in one of the oddest Spider-Man stories of all-time. In Amazing Spider-Man #87 (by Stan Lee, John Romita and Jim Mooney), Spider-Man came down with the flu. He, however, did not know that it was the flu but instead just thought that his powers were going away. While in a sick daze, he even decided to rob a jewelry store to get a present for Gwen Stacy’s birthday!! Figuring his career as Spider-Man was over, he walked to the party in a daze and revealed his identity to everyone…
Luckily, his being sick helped convince people he was just messing around (it helped that he had previously “dressed up as Spider-Man” in the aforementioned Doctor Octopus unmasking). He then enlisted the Prowler to pretend to be Spider-Man to trick his friends into thinking that Peter wasn’t really Spider-Man, but instead had a highly unethical relationship with Spider-Man where Peter took photographs of Spidey and cut Spider-Man in for a cut of the profits (by the way, Spider-Man managed to enlist Prowler’s help without actually revealing his secret identity to him).
In Amazing Spider-Man #200 (by Marv Wolfman, Keith Pollard and Jim Mooney), Spider-Man discovered the truth of why the burglar traveled from Manhattan to Forest Hills to rob the Parker home way back when – there was gold hidden there! An irate Spider-Man hunted down the burglar, who was now out of prison and trying to find the gold. He confronted the burglar and revealed that the man that the burglar killed was Spider-Man’s uncle Ben!
The shock ended up ultimately giving the burglar a fatal heart attack, neatly protecting Spider-Man’s secret identity (it is reminiscent of the old school Batman stories where villains would keep finding out Batman’s secret identity right before being killed).
In an odd little story in Spectacular Spider-Man #74 (by Bill Mantlo, Bob Hall and Jim Mooney), Peter Parker’s sometimes girlfriend, Debra Whitman (who he worked with when he was a teaching assistant), believed that Peter was Spider-Man and it was giving her serious mental issues. Eventually, Peter felt that he had caused her too much pain so he decided to unmask himself and her reaction was surprising…
A little over a year later, Spider-Man had started a romantic relationship with the costume vigilante (and former criminal) Black Cat. In Spectacular Spider-Man #87 (by Bill Mantlo, Al Milgrom and Jim Mooney – don’t worry, Jim Mooney isn’t involved in every single one of these), Spider-Man revealed his identity to Black Cat with this amazing Al Milgrom cover that really evoked John Byrne’s work of this era…
Amusingly enough, Black Cat did not like this news at ALL. She was so disappointed to see that Spider-Man was just some guy. It really knocked him down in her estimation and it ultimately led to their break-up.
The most touching unmasking on this list was clearly the famous “The Boy Who Collects Spider-Man” from Amazing Spider-Man #248 (by Roger Stern, Ron Frenz and Terry Austin). Spider-Man visits a young boy who had an article written about them. They chat and really open about Spider-Man’s life. Ultimately, the boy asks for Spider-Man to tell him his true identity and Spider-Man obliges…
Of course, the twist is that the little boy was near death from a fatal illness and he would actually pass away soon after Spider-Man’s visit, presumably taking Spider-Man’s identity to his grave with him.
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