Ever since he first appeared in Amazing Fantasy #15 in 1963, Spider-Man instilled into generations the need for power and responsibility to go hand-in-hand. Throughout his many years of wall crawling, Peter Parker, the Amazing Spider-Man has faced down hundreds of colorful foes. From the Shocker to Thanos, Spidey has thrown down with nearly every hero or villain to put on a pair of tights. Usually wearing nothing else but a skin-tight cloth costume, it’s nearly a wonder Spider-Man has survived all this time. When heroes like Iron Man and Wolverine armed with high-tech armor or endowed with incredible healing factors, Spider-Man relies on luck and hoping he can withstand whatever beating he’s dealt.
One of the strongest street-level heroes in the Marvel Universe, Spider-Man’s strength increases astronomically whenever he’s pushed to the brink. Never one to question where the power comes from, content to believe he must prove worthy of his own spider powers, Spidey often turns to finding inspiration in the people he loves in order to fuel his might. Here at CBR, we’re taking a look at 15 moments and battles against villains where Spider-Man should’ve met his end, but instead found the strength to persevere, emerging victorious thanks to an indomitable will and a refusal to give up.
15 VERSUS VENOM
One of Spider-Man’s greatest enemies, Venom is a foe unlike any other. Capable of instilling a sense of fear and dread, the likes of which Spider-Man rarely experiences, Eddie Brock as Venom is more than just a powerful adversary, he’s a manipulative one at that. When Venom faced off against Spider-Man in The Amazing Spider-Man #300, the webbed hero all but met his match. Merged with the alien symbiote Spider-Man once possessed, Eddie Brock as Venom has all of Spider-Man’s powers and more; capable of negating his spider-sense.
In their first meeting, Venom easily bests Spider-Man, knocking him out. Taking Spidey to the church where he originally thought he destroyed the symbiote, Venom ties Spider-Man to a church bell, waiting for the bells to toll so they can crush him. The plan doesn’t work, as Spider-Man breaks free, but it goes to show Venom could have killed Spider-Man much earlier.
14 VERSUS KRAVEN THE HUNTER
For years, Kraven the Hunter never garnered proper respect. Spider-Man and readers alike had their minds changed upon the storyline "Kraven’s Last Hunt." Arguably the darkest Spider-Man story arc, the event kicked off in Web of Spider-Man #31.
Catching Spider-Man off guard, Kraven hit the wall-crawler with a poisoned dart before trapping him in a net. With Spider-Man struggling to get free, Kraven loomed over his prey with a rifle in hand. Then, doing the unthinkable, Kraven shoots Spider-Man. At the time, nobody could fathom what happened, but as it turns out, Kraven shot Spider-Man with another drugged dart and buried Spidey alive in a coffin while he took up the mantle of the Spider. Left buried in the ground for two weeks, Spider-Man barely finds the strength to come back. Still, Kraven had numerous chances to kill Spider-Man; thankfully the Hunter merely wanted to prove he was superior.
13 VERSUS DOCTOR OCTOPUS
Or rather, when Spider-Man first fought Doctor Octopus. Way back in The Amazing Spider-Man #3, our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man endures his first proper defeat. Still getting the hang of being a superhero, Peter Parker has beaten every villain to cross his path; at least until he went one-on-one with Doctor Octopus.
The two went at it and despite all of Spider-Man’s powers, Doctor Octopus toys with him during their first encounter. The mad scientist makes it abundantly clear that he could kill Spider-Man at any moment, but finds the hero beneath him and settles with throwing him out the window. So shaken is he by the defeat, Peter all but gives up his relatively short career as a superhero. It's not until he hears inspiring words from the Human Torch that he’s able to fight his fears and defeat Doctor Octopus for the first time.
12 VERSUS SCORPION
By the time The Amazing Spider-Man #20 had rolled around, J. Jonah Jameson, the Daily Bugle’s senior editor, had had enough of Spider-Man. Not content with tarnishing Spider-Man’s reputation in his newspaper, Jameson enlists scientist Dr. Farley Sitwell to give scorpion-based powers to Mac Gargan. The experiment is a success and Gargan is bestowed with powers far greater than Spider-Man’s.
At Jameson’s instruction, the Scorpion tracks down Spdier-Man and beats him senseless. Knocking him out, the Scorpion moves on to try his hand at crime, but Spider-Man interferes again and again gets knocked out. At any point, it’s clear the Scorpion has the power to kill Spider-Man, but keeps getting distracted. Finally, in their third bout, Spider-Man, using every bit of ingenuity at his disposal, manages to defeat the Scorpion.
11 VERSUS THE ULTIMATE SINISTER SIX
Right off the bat, this here is a tricky one, if only because Ultimate Spider-Man does die. However, Ultimate Peter Parker would later come back, apparently not really dead. So really, due to the damage he takes, Spider-Man should have stayed dead.
Anyway, right before this epic showdown takes place, Spider-Man has already been shot by the Punisher and left for dead. Hobbling his way home, he finds himself face-to-face with the Ultimate Sinister Six, made up of Kraven the Hunter, the Vulture, Electro, Sandman, Green Goblin, and Doctor Octopus, who would’ve shown up if not for the Goblin killing him earlier. Amidst the fight, Spidey gets beaten, blown up, nearly electrocuted, and set on fire, not to mention the exertion of beating all his enemies. Only then, after throwing a 16-wheeler truck on the Green Goblin, does he allow himself to “die.”
10 VERSUS MORLUN
Spider-Man’s strength and spider-like abilities are such that he can usually beat his foes with his bare hands. Yet when he encountered the villain Morlun for the first time, everything changed. In Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 2 #32, Spider-Man ran into the supernatural predator. Morlun’s only motive is to feast on Spider-Man, as his kind has been doing for millennia. Their first battle lasts a staggering 12 hours, with the web-slinger going all out, using anything and everything at his disposal, but to little avail.
Over the course of several issues, Morlun all but kills Spider-Man, pushing him far past the point of mental and physical exhaustion. It would’ve been the end of Spidey too if he hadn’t run and hidden, whipping up some super science to do battle. Still, Morlun would come back in later issues and claim victory over Spider-Man.
9 FIGHTING POWERLESS AGAINST THE BURGLAR
In The Amazing Spider-Man #200 Peter Parker comes face-to-face with the man who killed his Uncle Ben; it was nearly 200 issues since they last met. The pathos driving the story is incredibly heartfelt and moving, as the incident offers Spider-Man a moment of catharsis like never before.
Yet in leading up to his final confrontation with the burglar, Spider-Man has already been fatigued, dealing in exhausting battles with the Kingpin and Mysterio, the latter creating a gas causing Spidey to lose his powers temporarily. Throughout issue #200, Peter encounters the burglar several times. The first time, Peter gets knocked out, tied up and beaten. Eventually escaping, Peter chases the burglar as Spider-Man, but without his powers he gets shot and left for dead. In their final fight, Spider-Man barely holds his own, but in realizing what he’s fighting for, his strength returns and victory is his once again.
8 VERSUS THE GREEN GOBLIN
The early days of The Amazing Spider-Man featured the enigmatic villain known as the Green Goblin pulling various strings and making life exceedingly difficult for Spider-Man. The two would lock horns often enough, but a winner would never be determined. Finally, in The Amazing Spider-Man #40, the two men had their “final” showdown.
In the previous issue, Green Goblin ambushed Peter at his home, revealing he knows his identity. The two fight, but without his Spidey gear, Peter is quickly defeated. Rather than killing Peter outright, the Green Goblin abducts Peter, taking him to his lair and revealing his identity as Norman Osborn. From there, Osborn could still kill Peter, but Spider-Man tricks him into giving a long monologue about their history and his motives, long enough for Spider-Man to get his second wind, break free and defeat his nemesis handedly.
7 LIFTING THE DAILY BUGLE
When it comes to lifting unimaginable weight, Spider-Man has proved time and time again; he’s no slouch in the strength department and in Peter Parker: Spider-Man #98, that power would be put to the ultimate test.
As a bomb goes off in the Daily Bugle’s offices, the building is crippled and on the verge of crashing to the ground. Spider-Man, already fatigued and beaten, sets himself underneath the Bugle as a living support beam. It’s one of Spider-Man’s strongest recorded feats, but he can barely hang in, even with his famous Spider Strength. On the verge of passing out, and by proxy death, Spider-Man finds inspiration in both his love for Mary Jane and his refusal to let the Green Goblin, the mastermind behind his recent months of distress, win. In one impressive moment, he lifts the Bugle long enough to insert some support beams and strengthen them with webbing.
6 VERSUS THE SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN
Before he died, Doctor Octopus devised a plan to hijack Peter Parker’s body and plant his own mind into that of his enemy’s. His plan worked and Peter seemingly died with this consciousness trapped in Otto Octavius’s dead body. By all accounts the story of Peter Parker should’ve ended there, but since this is comic book, and a Spider-Man comic requires Peter Parker as Spider-Man so in order to function in the long run, the web-slinger came back.
Throughout the entirety of The Superior Spider-Man series written by Dan Slott, Doc Ock ran around in Peter Parker’s body, attempting to outshine the original Spider-Man. However, vestiges of Peter’s consciousness still remained and though it takes several years, Peter gathered enough mental powers to kick Octavius out of his body, allowing him to become Spider-Man once more.
5 VERSUS IRON MAN 2024
Iron Man is one of Marvel’s strongest Earth-based heroes. With dozens of different suits of armor, each equipped with ridiculous arsenals and endowed with incredible strength, there’s a reason why he’s called the Invincible Iron Man. Now imagine an Iron Man from the future, armed with even more artillery. That’s exactly the foe Spider-Man faced in The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #20.
Facing a terrorist in the future, Iron Man time travels to the present to kill the boy who would one day pose a threat to him. Spider-Man, thinking Iron Man just wants to kill a kid, does his best to protect the child. Unfortunately, the boy gets injured in the fight, kicking off his plan for revenge on Iron Man in the first place, but that pushes Spider-Man over the edge. A newly inspired Spider-Man proceeds to beat the stuffing out of the much stronger foe, forcing Iron Man to retreat back to the future.
4 VERSUS BLACK TARANTULA
A 700-year-old crime boss, the Black Tarantula first appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man #433. Upon arriving in New York and brokering a deal with the Rose and Don Vicente Fortunato, Black Tarantula offers to get rid of Spider-Man in exchange for some of the Rose’s hijacking operations. Black Tarantula proceeded to hunt down Spider-Man until the two eventually fought.
While Spidey’s tackled guys stronger than the Black Tarantula, the Black Tarantula was a supercharged version of him, with speed and agility that surpassed Spider-Man’s. Not soon after they fight, Black Tarantula grabs hold of Spidey and beats him mercilessly against a brick wall over and over. It’s clear he could easily kill Spider-Man, but refuses to do so, impressed by Spider-Man’s honor (who at the time was trying to find a kidnapped child), instead taking Spider-Man’s torn mask as a trophy.
3 VERSUS THE JUGGERNAUT
One of Marvel Comics’ mightiest villains, the Juggernaut has laid waste to everyone from the Hulk and Thor to the X-Men. Supplied with nearly limitless magical power and with strength greater than most can fathom, the Juggernaut is one foe Spider-Man really had no business fighting, much less surviving.
Yet in The Amazing Spider-Man #229 and #230, Spider-Man was New York City’s last and only line of defense against the rampaging Juggernaut. A classic story arc that has gone on to define the hero, despite the impossible odds set against him, faced with an unstoppable opponent, Spider-Man will not back down. Hitting the Juggernaut with everything from a million volts of electricity to an exploding gasoline truck, it’s obvious Spidey is out of his weight class. In spite of the tremendous beating he endures, Spider-Man wins, tricking the Juggernaut into sinking into wet cement.
2 VERSUS FIRELORD
The herald to Galactus, The Devourer of Worlds, and imbued with the Power Cosmic, Firelord’s might is nearly unparalleled in the superhero biz. Capable of wiping out entire asteroids and even all of New York in a single fiery blast, the wall-crawler is out of his league by leaps and bounds. Accidentally igniting Firelord’s wrath during a misunderstanding in The Amazing Spider-Man #269, their fight carries on into the end of the next issue.
With his blows proving all but ineffective, it’s all Spider-Man can do to try run away in hopes of eluding Firelord. The herald won’t be deterred and despite his ability to wipe out the city in a single strike, Firelord chases Spider-Man up and down New York until their final clash when a battle-weary and emotionally drained Spider-Man has no choice but to tackle Firelord headfirst.
1 TRAPPED UNDER TONS OF DEBRIS
The Amazing Spider-Man #33 featured the most iconic Spider-Man panel ever. Our hero, after a pitched battle with Doctor Octopus, finds himself trapped under an unknowable amount of debris. Tired, beaten, and sporting a busted leg, all the while unable to move as the threat of drowning increases, the odds are pretty awful for the Amazing Spider-Man. In a series of panels that would go down in comic book history, Spider-Man has the greatest internal battle with himself. He realizes that not only does his Aunt May require him to live so that she can live, as the medicine he’s been struggling to get to her lies just feet away from his pinned body, but also that ultimately, it’s about being worthy of the power he’s inherited.
Calling upon strength he didn’t even know he possessed, Spider-Man refuses to accept death and defeat and proceeds to do the impossible in classic Spider-Man fashion.
Are there any other moments where you feel Spidey should have bit the bullet? Let us know when in the comments!