When you are Marvel Comics’ flagship character for over five decades, you get taken in a lot of different directions. The number of creators that have worked on Spider-Man is, at this point, likely large enough to populate a small town in the Midwest somewhere. This plus superhero comics’ tendency to engage in stories across countless alternate universes means that the spectacular Spider-Man has seen some very, very weird iterations indeed. There have been Spider-Men hailing from countries far and wide, Spider-Men of different races and creeds, several female Spider-Men, clones of Spider-Man, cyborg Spider-Men, Spider-Men from the future, Spider-Men from the past. So, yes, obviously, one of them is a cartoon pig.
Spider-Fever is already beginning to sweep the nation with the recent release of the Venom film and the forthcoming release of the animated feature-length film, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Again, as we find ourselves nearing 60 years of the adventures of Peter Parker, a freelance photographer, and friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, if the general public is not exactly clamoring for different Spider-Men to root for, then it is at the very least intrigued by the notion of Spider-Men across the multiverse. However, when it comes to possibly the weirdest version of Spider-Man to ever come out of the House of Ideas, it might be best for those not in the know to go in equipped with some basic facts. So web up and pig out on these Spider-Ham fun facts!
15 FIRST APPEARED IN 1983
For a good chunk of the late 20th century, Marvel published a title called Marvel Tales, which featured reprints of Spider-Man’s earlier adventures. So naturally, the world at large met Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham, in the pages of Marvel Tails #1, a one-shot parody released in late 1983.
Teaming up with Captain Americat in this first appearance to battle Hulk-Bunny, Spider-Ham was the creation of long-time Spider-Man writer Tom Defalco and cartoonist Mark Armstrong, under the auspices of then-Spider-Man editor Larry Hama. What was likely intended as one-off goof soon acquired, as these things so often do, rather a cult following.
14 HAD A REGULAR SERIES FOR TWO YEARS
It was another two years before he was given his own title, but in the spring of 1985, Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham made its debut. It was published under the Star Comics imprint, which was Marvel’s attempt to fill the void in the young readers’ market left by the defunct Harvey Comics and other publishers of children’s comics.
The title was published bi-monthly and featured an army of anthropomorphic analogs of the regular MU: Ducktor Doom, Deerdevil, Eelectro, Goose Rider, and any number of strained animal pun-based characters. The book was even more fun than it sounds, but alas was canceled in 1987. Peter Porker found himself then as a regular backup feature in Marvel Tales, returning home in a way.
13 HAILS FROM EARTH-8311
Speaking of home, the primary Marvel Universe has been given the official unofficial designation of Earth-616. The exact number of universes within the MU is not clear, but the implication is that there are thousands – millions? – infinity? Yes. Therefore, mathematically, there has to be a universe where there are no humans but instead cute and fuzzy animals with human characteristics. What this means for quantum space, we don’t know – MIT has stopped returning our emails.
Earth-8311 is where Peter Porker makes his home, also known as Larval Earth. How this particular name came about is not quite clear, but we figure it is a play on Marvel Earth? Regardless, as stated, it is home to naught but funny animals, superpowered or otherwise. Perhaps Captain Americat will one day face off against Baron Zebro on the big screen? Experts say no.
12 NAMED ONE OF MARVEL’S 10 ODDEST CHARACTERS
Back in 2009, when Disney bought Marvel, no less stately a publication than Time magazine ran a list of the 10 most odd characters Disney now owned the rights to. Obviously, you’ll get no argument from us that Spider-Ham is indeed an odd duck (er, pig), but hey, Time magazine, why don’t you go ahead and leave the lists to us, yeah?
Some of the other characters they mentioned are only marginally odd: Sure, Dazzler was created to cash in on the disco phase, but she’s become her own character since! The Puppet Master is one of the F.F.’s most important villains! And Hellcow, well…okay, you can have Hellcow.
11 DEFALCO HIMSELF GOT TO RETCON THE CHARACTER IN 2009
When Peter Porker made his first appearance back in ’83, his origin story was even odder than Hellcow’s: May Porker, in an attempt to revolutionize the hair-dressing industry, is the victim of a freak nuclear blow-dryer accident. In her radioactive mania, she bites an innocent spider named Peter, thereby imbuing him with the powers (and body) of a pig!
We challenge you to think of a sillier origin story for this or any character. Years went by and Spider-Ham’s original origin was lost to the ages, only to be re-written in 2009 by one of his original creators. Tom Defalco in a story in Amazing Spider-Man Family #4 retold the story to more closely resemble Peter Parker’s, wherein our hero, a mild-mannered pig, is bitten by a radioactive spider. Yet in 2010, he re-re-wrote it to be the original in Spider-Ham’s 25th-anniversary issue – make up your mind, Tom!
10 THE SPIDER-HAM VENOM FIRST APPEARED IN 1992
As is clearly evidenced by the box office success of Venom, the people are clamoring for dark, gritty versions of their favorite spider-based superheroes. Certainly, Larval Earth would be no different. Making his first appearance in What The--?! #20, Pork Grind was a big slab of Austrian ham steak created by Barry Dutter (the basis of the She-Hulk villain, Dutta) and John Costanza (no relation to George).
His identity is never revealed, but Pork Grind was recruited by Negative Forbush-Man to fight Spider-Ham over in the States. Pork Grind makes short work of Milk and Cookies (Earth-9047’s version of Cloak and Dagger), before being defeated by Spider-Ham. Years later, Pork Grind and the rest of the Swinester Six would meet the same high-cholesterol fate.
9 THE FUTURE IS SPIDER-HAM 15.88
In 1992, Marvel introduced their 2099 imprint to the delight of some. Set in the waning days of the 21st century, the 2099 books re-imagined many of Marvel’s most popular characters in a dystopian future. One of the few books that has had a lasting impact is Spider-Man 2099, starring brilliant geneticist Miguel O’Hara (fun fact: he was named after the late, great character actor Miguel Ferrer), who even had a comeback regular series a couple years ago.
We’re sure you see the pattern forming here: What The--?! #26 introduced the world to Spider-Ham 15.88 (marked down from $20.99), also created by Dutter and Costanza. Obviously meant to be a one-note joke, Piguel O’Malley has found his way into current continuity in the Web Warriors series, also from a couple years ago.
8 ZOMBIE SPIDER-HAM? SURE, WHY NOT
Likely the most popular and lasting wrinkle of Marvel’s now-defunct Ultimate Universe – aside from Miles Morales – is the Marvel Zombies. Created by Mark Millar and Greg Land in the pages of Ultimate Fantastic Four, Earth-2149 very closely resembles the regular Earth-616 universe except for the small twist that all the heroes and villains are undead flesh-eating monsters.
Zombie Spider-Ham – or Undead Ham, as he’s often called – is a resident of Earth-7044, otherwise known as the Larval Zombies universe. He only makes a brief appearance in the Ultimate Civil War: Spider-Ham one-shot, but as we are seeing, what might be one of Marvel’s oddest characters has already inspired as many different iterations as his namesake has.
7 HAS A CRIME-FIGHTING DAUGHTER NAMED SWINEY-GIRL
Speaking of a crisis on multiple pigs, there is yet another alternate universe wherein Peter Porker and his lovely wife, Mary Crane Watsow, have a daughter named May Porker. Also created by Tom Defalco, it would appear that we have solved our earlier discrepancy in Spider-Ham origins – Defalco may not have retconned Spider-Ham’s origin but just set the story in yet another Earth. Boy, comics are confusing.
Anyway, Defalco based at least one of these versions on his own alternate universe Spider-Man, that of Earth-982, where Peter Parker retires as Spider-Man to help raise his daughter, who herself develops spider powers and becomes Spider-Girl. Swiney Girl helps herself to her own adventures as well, except her dad seems cooler with the whole thing (but only slightly).
6 SPENT THE CIVIL WAR TRYING TO FIND THE THOUGHT BALLOONS
In 2006, Marvel debuted one of their biggest crossovers, Civil War, a story that would change the shape of the Marvel Universe indefinitely. In 2007, we found out that while the heroes fought amongst themselves, Peter Porker had taken a much more important task upon himself: finding the missing thought balloons. Oh, sure, thought balloons had been a staple of comics since their inception, but they’d become a silent fatality in this war to end all wars.
Or had they? Turns out the events of Ultimate Civil War: Spider-Ham was in yet another reality, which kind of makes sense since Spider-Ham does not attract the strange looks from his fellow heroes that he has when meeting them in Earth-616. Regardless, this one-shot written by J. Michael Straczynski was a welcome light-hearted respite from the heavy tones of Civil War (not to mention all that book’s missed ship dates).
5 HE’S A PLAYABLE CHARACTER IN MARVEL AVENGERS ACADEMY
In another very loose tie-in to Civil War, we have the mobile game Marvel Avengers Academy. In the comics, the Academy was opened after the events of the Civil War in order to better train superpowered youngsters. The game is a bit different, taking place on a campus where the heroes and villains are re-imagined as students learning how to develop their powers.
In this world, Peter Porker doesn’t draw quite as many stares. He was introduced during the Spider-Man event, in which players had to help Spider-Man clear his name for the many crimes across the city for which he was being blamed. Spider-Ham had several Mission Board quests for players to enjoy, and by our count, this is the 900th version of the character so far.
4 HAS CAMEO IN SPIDER-MAN: SHATTERED DIMENSIONS
Speaking of video games, 2010 saw the release of Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, which featured not one, not two, but four different Spider-Men that players could control. Obviously paving the way for Spider-Verse, the game’s protagonists are Earth-616 Spider-Man, Spider-Man Noir, Spider-Man 2099, and Ultimate Spider-Man.
In the game, Madame Web recruits each of our heroes to retrieve shards of The Tablet of Order and Chaos, and she shows them brief flashes of different universe, including one with Peter Porker, which prompts Spider-Man to ask, “Is that a cartoon pig?” At the end of the game, our porcine hero shows up at Madame Web’s and asks if he missed anything. Oh, Peter!
3 APPEARS IN TWO WAYS ON ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN
The popular animated series Ultimate Spider-Man actually features two versions of Spider-Ham. One of them is actually Peter Parker himself who gets turned into a cartoon pig by Loki after he tricks Peter into eating a magical hot dog (we’ve all been there.) This episode was a clear reference to Peter Porker, even though Larval Earth and its denizens do not make any kind of appearance.
However, when the show did its own take on Spider-Verse, that’s when they really brought home the bacon. In this version, Peter is given his powers when a spider falls into the pancake batter that Aunt May then feeds him. In this universe, he even joins their version of the Avengers, but quits when J. Jonah Jackal won’t drop his smear campaign against him. Some things are constant in all universes, it seems.
2 NOW VOICED BY STAND-UP COMEDIAN JOHN MULANEY
As is evidenced by this list you are now reading, we are all very excited for the Into the Spider-Verse movie and for yet another iteration of Peter Porker. With the release of the most recent trailer, it was also made known that Peter Porker’s voice would be provided by none other than stand-up comedian and writer John Mulaney.
Mulaney is widely known for his stand-up, including his most recent and widely lauded Netflix special, Kid Gorgeous. He is also half of Oh, Hello, a live show starring him and Nick Kroll playing characters they developed for Comedy Central’s Kroll Show. Mulaney also wrote for SNL for a number of years, co-creating Bill Hader’s Stefon character. All in all, Mulaney is a fine addition to the Spider-Ham universe.
1 WAS A MAJOR PLAYER IN THE ORIGINAL SPIDER-VERSE
The storyline that really brought Peter Porker back into the limelight was, of course, 2014’s Spider-Verse. In what is certainly one of the best Spider-Man storylines in recent memory, Spider-Men from the seemingly limitless number of universes are being hunted down and taken out by the mysterious Inheritors, and it is up to the remaining Spider-Men to put an end to this before they’re all wiped out.
30 years later and this character who was mostly meant to be a light-hearted one-off has now become a major player in huge crossover event. Peter Porker is probably not even the weirdest Spider-Man that the Spider-Army enlists, but…no, actually, he still is the weirdest. However, he’s no longer quite as cartoony and actually a little more sardonic than readers may have been used to. Regardless, the story would not have been the same without him.