If you know anything about the Amazing Spider-Man, you know he protects his secret identity like it’s nobody’s business, because it isn’t anybody’s business. Peter Parker has been appearing in comics as your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man since he debuted in “Amazing Fantasy” #15 back in 1962 and his secret has remained pretty much that… except for the times it hasn’t.
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Parker’s identity is known by a select few people, but when he began slinging webs, he held it so close that nobody in his life was aware of his alter ego. Even his beloved Aunt May knew nothing of his secret life. When his identity did become known by anyone, it was a big deal and often involved numerous issues covering the story arc. It has happened more than 15 times over the past 55 years, but here are the times we think were the most important.
15. DOCTOR OCTOPUS
The first time Spider-Man was ever unmasked happened early in his run. All the way back in “Amazing Spider-Man” #12, written by Stan Lee and penciled by Steve Ditko. Spider-Man was dealing with the flu at the time, making him barely able to stand much less fight the enraged scientist. His powers were on the fritz, too, and he was little more than a teenager when Oc landed blow after blow. Not only does he kick his Spider-Butt rather quickly (and is surprised he was able to do it in the first place), he has no difficulty at all removing his mask!
Betty Brant, J. Jonah Jameson and a police officer all gasp at the realization… only, nobody actually believes Pete is Spider-Man. He certainly wasn’t fighting like he had superpowers, after all. Oc even proclaims, “I should have known!! It isn’t Spider-Man! It’s that weakling brat, Peter Parker!” Everyone just assumes the teen was out to protect Betty and immediately dismisses the notion that he could be anything but the freelance photographer who was only playing at being a hero.
14. THE GREEN GOBLIN
Poor Peter Parker. Once again, he is suffering from a cold while his Aunt May might drop dead at any moment if she were somehow aggressively shocked. Little does he know that the Green Goblin is out to get him in “Amazing Spider-Man” #39, written by Stan Lee and penciled by John Romita. The Goblin’s plan centers on removing his nemesis’ spider-sense with a special gas bomb that one of his thugs lands on the web-slinger. Peter thinks the bomb had no effect, so he doesn’t realize the Goblin trails him to an alley and watches him change back into his civvies. With this subterfuge, Ole’ Gobby learns Spidey’s secret identity!
The Goblin later surprises Peter in front of his house and the two battle, but without his web-shooters, Pete is at a disadvantage and is knocked out by an asphyxiation grenade. Pete is tied up and gets the Bond villain treatment from his enemy, who finally reveals his own identity at the very end of the book., as none other than Norman Osborn! Thankfully in the following issue, Norman succumbs to a convenient bout of amnesia and Pete’s identity is safeonce again.
Back in the day, Marvel enjoyed playing around with Spider-Man’s powers and his health. In “Amazing Spider-Man” #87, Written by Lee and penciled by Romita, Pete is again suffering from the flu (but doesn’t know it). His powers are all but gone and he becomes depressed, even checking himself into a hospital for fear that his radioactive blood might be damaging his body. He even forgot that it was Gwen Stacey’s birthday party and he broke into a jewelry store and stole some pearls. Since that was a bit out of character, he returns the pearls and heads back to the house where the party is taking place.
When he arrives, the only people still there are Gwen, Mary Jane, Harry Osborn and Captain Stacey. As Pete walks into the door, he is holding his mask in his hand and depressingly admits, “Spider-Man is finished” and tells his friends his secret. Harry recalls a time Doc Oc unmasked Peter and they get to talking. Realizing he was just ill when his powers returned, he asks Hobie Brown (The Prowler) to put on his costume and trick his friends back into believing Pete not to be the web-slinger. Somehow, it works!
12. CAPTAIN STACEY
A few issues after Pete outed himself as Spider-Man in “Amazing Spider-Man” #90, written by Stan Lee and penciled by Gil Kane, Doc Oc launches a plan to cause some chaos in Spidey’s life. The two men battle across the city of New York until they come to a point where Doc knocks a part of a building loose, threatening the people down below. Watching this, Captain Stacey rushes to save a young boy and is mortally wounded in the process. Spider-Man rushes over to see if his girlfriend’s pop is ok, only to hold him in his arms as he dies.
Before he succumbs to his injuries, Captain Stacey reveals that he always knew Peter Parker was Spider-Man and he tells him to continue to care for his daughter after he dies. When he finally passes away, Peter is overcome with guilt and anger… even being blamed for the death of the beloved police officer. The death of Captain Stacey would continue to plague Spider-Man for decades (years in comic book time) and it affected his relationships with other people throughout the rest of his life.
11. J. JONAH JAMESON
In many ways, Spider-Man took a turn for the crazy when the books started creating clones all over the place. In “Amazing Spider-Man” #151, written by Len Wein and penciled by John Romita, they finally put a rest to the clone issue by having Spider-Man bury his deceased other self (of course, nobody stays dead in comics, so you know where this ends up). As he is disposing of the body, he unmasks the clone to look down on his own face. Little did he know, somebody took a photograph.
Jumping ahead to “Amazing Spider-Man” #169, written by Len Wein and penciled by Ross Andru and John Romita, Peter is surprised by J. Jonah Jameson with the photograph proving once and for all that Peter is, in fact, the Amazing Spider-Man! Fortunately, this wasn’t actually a surprise since Pete had previously found the pics. He was able to take identically-posed shots to “prove” that the real shots Jameson had were forgeries. Reluctantly, he backs down and Pete even has the audacity to ask for a raise.
10. HIMSELF (AGAIN)
Peter gets dosed with some nasty chemicals by Mysterio and temporarily loses his powers in “Amazing Spider-Man” #200, written by Stan Lee, and penciled by John Romita. Returning home, he finds none other than the burglar who killed Uncle Ben waiting for him. Enraged, Peter attacks him, but without his powers, he gets knocked out and tied up. The burglar is after a treasure he thinks the Parkers know of and brings in Aunt May as leverage to get Peter to talk. Unbeknownst to him, Pete has escaped and returned as Spider-Man whose sudden appearance shocks the burglar.
The burglar wants to know why Spider-Man cares so much about the death of some old guy from years ago and that’s when he reveals that he is none other than Peter Parker! This revelation takes the shock the thug was already experiencing and ramps it up a notch straight into a fatal heart attack. Once again, Peter’s secret is safe and the man responsible for both killing Uncle Ben and turning Peter into the superhero he had become was dead. This was a truly compelling storyline that brought about an end to the character of the burglar is a very satisfying way.
Did you know that people have unique heartbeats? No? Well, Matt Murdock, otherwise known as the Man Without Fear, Daredevil, sure does. After meeting both Peter Parker and the Spectacular Spider-Man, Murdock deduces that the two men are one in the same. Fortunately for Peter, Matt knows a little something about maintaining a secret identity, so he doesn’t immediately blab his newfound knowledge to the rest of the world. They do, however, get your standard match of superhero misunderstanding-inspired fisticuffs in “Peter Parker The Spectacular Spider-Man” #110, written by Peter David and penciled by Rich Buckler.
Eventually, it all gets sorted out and in a tense scene where Daredevil is in some serious trouble and trying to get Spider-Man’s attention, he yells out “Peter,” which of course works. After the web-slinger swings into action to help out the Man without Fear, the two get to talking and trade secret identities. It’s a great issue that brings together two amazing superheroes who really should have gotten along from the start.
If Daredevil can sort out a unique heartbeat coming from Spider-Man and Peter Parker, it isn’t much of a surprise that our favorite furball Canadian can sniff the same secret right off of our friendly neighborhood web-slinger. That’s exactly what happens when the two bump into one another in search of the infamous Wendigo while in Canada in “Spider-Man” #10, written and penciled by Todd McFarlane.
Pete is just minding his own business, walking down the street in his civvies, when from out in the shadows of a dark alley, someone calls, “Yo, Spidey! I think I could use a bit of your help.” This obviously alarms Peter, whose spidey sense doesn’t go off. He heads off to meet with the stranger, only to find the one and only Wolverine waiting for him in the forest. The two meet up, agree to work together, and set about to deal with the Wendigo problem. Pete took the whole sniffing out his secret identity pretty well considering it came right out of left field.
7. HIMSELF (YES, AGAIN)
Spider-Man stories aren’t just about getting powers and kicking super-villain butt; sometimes they can cut pretty deep, too. In “Amazing Spider-Man” #248, written by Roger Stern and penciled by John Romita Jr., a story called “The Kid Who Collected Spider-Man” features a sequence where Spider-Man meets a nine-year-old boy named Timothy Harrison (aka, Spider-Boy!) in a hospital who is his biggest fan. He shows off his collection of Spider-Man photos and toys as the superhero sits with him and talks about life, the universe and everything.
After a short while, Peter reveals himself to the young boy and talks to him about why he became Spider-Man. It is finally revealed that the young man is afflicted with terminal cancer and there is nothing that can be done to save his life. It is an endearing story and has been ranked #84 out of “Wizard Magazine’s” 100 Best Single Issue Comics Since You Were Born.
6. THE SYMBIOTE
By the time “Amazing Spider-Man” #300, written by David Michelinie and penciled by Todd McFarlane, hit the newsstands, Spider-Man had been rocking the black costume for over 50 issues. He rid himself of the symbiote in “Web of Spider-Man” #1, written by Louise Jones Simonson and penciled by Charles Vess, but with #300, the symbiote is back with Eddie Brock as the new villain, Venom! Because the symbiote became integrated with Peter, it knows everything about him. When it bonded with Eddie Brock, the secret of Peter’s identity came with the new digs and superpowers, creating one of Spider-Man’s deadliest foes.
The two battle it out and of course, Spidey ultimately prevails after running Venom out of webbing and knocking him out. He then takes him to Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four to help imprison Venom until a true cell can be made at The Vault. This issue launched a return to the familiar red and blue costume fans grew up with. Mary Jane asked Peter to switch his duds (he had been wearing a cloth version of the black costume since dumping the alien/suit), so he agrees and returns on the last page in his original costume.
5. BEN REILLY
Ben Reilly was the clone Spider-Man disposed of all the way back in ASM issue #151. After some retconning and a little story tweaking here and there, it turned out he was the real Peter Parker all along (until it turned out he wasn’t). However, in this instance, it was Ben Reilly acting as Spider-Man when his identity was discovered; since Reilly and Peter are one and the same, his carelessness gave away Pete’s secret.
In the “Sensational Spider-Man” #4, written and penciled by Dan Jurgens, Spider-Man/Ben goes web swinging back to the alleyway he stashed his duds after stepping in to break up a robbery. Peering over at his antics is Jessica Carradine, the daughter of the burglar who killed Uncle Ben, and her trusty camera. As she attempts to track Spider-Man’s movements, she notices him in the alley and focuses right through a fire escape to discover that Spider-Man’s true identity is Ben! Jessica initially attempted to blow Ben’s cover since she blamed him for her father’s death, but eventually relented and broke things off with him.
Sometimes, unmasking Spider-Man doesn’t involve taking off his mask. Sometimes, all it takes is tearing his civilian clothes from his body telekinetically to reveal the costume underneath. This is exactly what happened in “Amazing Spider-Man” #420, written by Tom DeFalco and penciled by Steve Skroce. In it, Peter tries to deny his web-slinging nature to Nate Grey (X-Man). The two are walking and talking when Nate mentions that he scanned his mind and uncovered Pete’s “Web thing,” which Pete tries to play off like he just doesn’t know what he is talking about.
Without hesitation, Nate points his hand at Pete and says “Save the coyness for someone you can con!” All of Peter’s clothes are torn off like an angry Wolverine went to town on them and of course, he is wearing his costume underneath. Hard to deny you’re Spider-Man when an incredibly powerful psychic scans your mind and blasts your clothes off. But man, does Pete get pissed off about the whole thing. He begrudgingly agrees to work together, but it just goes to show you that keeping a secret can be tough around powerful psychics.
3. THE CHAMELEON
One of Spidey’s oldest enemies, the Chameleon, has returned after his imprisonment in Revancroft with the ultimate plan to take out the web-slinger for good in “Spectacular Spider-Man” #242, written by J. M. DeMatteis and penciled by Luke Ross. He appears to Spider-Man as none other than Peter Parker being held captive by Doc Ock (who just so happens to be dead at the time) and the two come to blows. Spider-Man knows for a fact that the man he faces isn’t Peter Parker (that would certainly be weird) so he deduces that he is the Chameleon.
Once Spider-Man lays his gloved hands on the Chameleon, a chemical on his clothing renders him unconscious. As he comes to, he awakens in a straight jacket on the floor, looking up at Doctor Kafka who Spidey insists is his foe, the Chameleon. She assures him that he is mistaken and that he is not, in fact, Spider-Man, but actually a man named Mr. Smith! It’s all a play to trick him into thinking his time as Spidey has been a delusion and it couldn’t happen without the mask coming off.
2. AUNT MAY
You know how Pete spent the first several decades swinging through the comics doing everything in his power to keep his secret double-life away from his frail, old Aunt May? Well, he would have gotten away with it if he just learned how to lock a freakin’ door in “Amazing Spider-Man” Vol. 2 #35, written by J. Michael Straczynski and penciled by John Romita Jr. Peter swings home battered, bruised and passes out due to overwhelming exhaustion. At least he made it to his bed as he barely managed to strip off his shredded costume and drop it on the floor.
This is a perfect time for Aunt May to drop by. She walks in and there is her beloved Peter, lying on the bed all bandaged up, and a Spider-Man costume torn to shreds on the floor. Does she freak out and die (like Pete always thought she would do)? Nope. All she does is quietly fold up the costume and head back home. It was a hell of a way to close out an issue, and even though it was all retconned later on (turns out that wasn’t actually Aunt May), it was still an amazing reveal.
1. HIMSELF (THIS IS GETTING RIDICULOUS)
When “Civil War” kicked off in 2006, Pete aligned himself with his mentor, Tony Stark. Due to the Superhuman Registration Act, it became necessary for anyone with powers to register with the government, though their true identities would (hopefully) be protected. Even though he could have retained his anonymity, Peter did the unthinkable in “Civil War” #2, written by Mark Millar and penciled by Steve McNiven. At a news conference in front of the entire world, Spider-Man removed his mask and says, “My name is Peter Parker and I’ve been Spider-Man since I was 15 years-old.”
This was the biggest reveal of them all. Not only did he out himself, he did it to the entire world on television. Eventually, he would make a deal with Mephisto in “Amazing Spider-Man” #544, written by J. Michael Straczynski and penciled by Joe Quesada, to save Aunt May’s life at the cost of his and Mary Jane’s relationship, this was alongside Mary Jane’s own deal to restore Peter’s secret identity. It was a strange way to restore things… somewhat to the status quo… but nothing can beat the time Peter Parker admitted to the whole world that he was your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man!
What were your favorite times that Spidey’s secret was outed? Reveal them to us in the comments!
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