Comics Features

The 10 Worst Things to Ever Happen to Spider-Man

Written by Matt Spencer

Being Spider-Man ain’t all sunshine and sugar lumps. Sure, he’s married to a supermodel, with full Avengers’ membership and his own Spider-mobile, but his life has been plagued with misfortune. Between trying to hold down a minimum wage job, maintaining a secret identity, tending to his elderly aunt, keeping his marriage going, and saving the city on a daily basis from a plethora of deadly rogues, all the while plagued by guilt for the deaths caused by his actions, frankly it’s amazing he hasn’t been found hanging from a web noose.

Here are the worst things to have ever happened to Peter Parker, along with some of the worst aspects of his life.

10. Aunt May Refuses to Die or Stay Dead

The elderly living longer lives due to medical advancements has been a strain on the economy, resources and their families, and few exemplify this burden better than Aunt May. May has been nothing but an irritating thorn in Peter’s side since day one. In a world of super soldiers, ninja magician assassins and mental mutant terrorists, he’s constantly fretting for the safety of a woman frail enough for a stiff breeze to be a cause for concern. This is bad enough when she isn’t looking for trouble, yet May seems to draw danger to her the way a root seeks out nutrients for sustenance. Whether she being abducted, held hostage, mortally wounded, falling down an open manhole or occasionally sleeping with some of Spideys’ biggest foes, May is a magnet for concern for her fretting nephew.

Let’s chalk up her most notable adventures, shall we? Marrying Doc Ock, with pre-marital escapades in eroticism thrown in for good measure; getting kidnapped by the Green Goblin and buried alive, twice; being shot days after Peter’s identity becomes public, then coming back to life and repaying her nephew (who paid for her life with his marriage by literally dealing with the Devil) by marrying J. Jonah Jameson’s father, making Spider-Man and his nemesis step-brothers.

If she died there would be a moment of grief but Pete could move on. Unfortunately, there appears to be no ridding him of this albatross from round his neck.

 

9. Turn Off The Dark

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Spider-Man 3, all is forgiven. Running low on ideas for who to join his all new Sinister Six, Norman Osborn recruited the most ruthless monsters he could find: Lizard, Carnage, Kraven the Hunter, and Bono & The Edge (and I guess those other two guys in U2). Having heard of U2s’ diabolical tax dodging over in Ireland, Osborn thought he was enlisting like-minded individuals with a genius for business strategy and a specialty for long-term maniacal planning, unaware that their actual shared trait was bat-shit insanity. But oh, even Green Goblin’s grip on sanity could be called solid when U2’s master plan was unveiled: the Spider-Man musical that would forever taint the good name of the hero in the eyes of the public.

Operation Turn Off The Dark ultimately failed and U2 was banished from all future incarnations of the Sinister Six. The damage was done though, and both hero and villains left to lick wounds that are still healing today.

8. Gwen Stacey Gets Impregnated By the Green Goblin

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What could possibly be worse than being responsible for the accidental murder of your first true love? How about discovering that she cheated on you with the very guy (in this case, Norman Osborn) who threw her from the bridge in the first place? Throw in the rapidly retconned fact he got her pregnant and what you’re left with is a woman with her legacy in tatters.

Good luck trying to get that horrific image from your brain everybody

Good luck trying to get that horrific image from your brain everybody

The crowning nugget in this turd is that Osborn clones the unborn twin babies, with mutated super aging and strength genes for good measure, and sets them loose on Peter, whom they believe (with some justification I’ll grant) killed their mother. The son becomes a goblin knock-off, then, like Carnage’s son Toxin, is never heard from again, while the daughter dies, having forgiven Peter for the misunderstanding. This just goes to show that nothing good can ever come from copulating.

Speaking of which…

7. Kills Mary Jane with Radioactive Sperm

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Radioactive. Sperm. Did the editors gloss over that part of the script when it landed on their desk first thing Monday morning after St. Patrick’s Day? Just to be clear: Peter literally f***s MJ to death and this raised no flags, rang no alarm bells, and brought no questions as to the sanity of the writer to the entire editing staff of Marvel?

Editors' note: this is her long rotted corpse. Spider-Man: role model for our children

Editors’ note: this is her long rotted corpse. Spider-Man: role model for our children

In this Orwellian future, it transpires that Peter is radioactive due to the famous spider bite and has been slowly poisoning MJ up to 3 times a day for 20 years (sure, I mean it’s not like spiders don’t already have bad PR with our species. Why not make ‘em radioactive too? Hell, throw in a penchant for arson with ties to Al Qaeda while we’re playing the blame game).

Naturally, murdering his wife in such a moronic yet erotic way leaves him totally and paralytically crazy from grief, just in time for Venom to succeed winning the election for Mayor of New York and begin the gradual mass genocide of its people over the following decades.

After you’re done allowing your kids to read this mini-series, why not cap the evening off perfectly by showing them The Fly and Requiem For a Dream?

 

6. A Pigeon (And By Proxy: Mr Fantastic, Dr Strange, Tony Stark and Himself)

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Peter has fought some dangerous foes in his time, yet none of them come close to the devastation brought about by a pigeon – well, a demon lord masquerading as a pigeon – in the suicide-courting conclusion to the Brand New Day fiasco. To say this explanation of all of the events following One More Day (which effectively annulled Peter’s marriage to MJ because Marvels’ Satan Mephisto thought it’d be a lark, and screwed 20 years of continuity in the process) is an underwhelming convoluted mess would be an understatement on par with describing the battle at Stalingrad as ‘a bit of a scuffle’.

Now, One More Day is a terrible story, don’t get me wrong, and is more than deserving a place on this list. However, although created with the worst intention to annul the marriage in order to prevent alienating an audience of unwed bitter geeks and horny teens who’d rather see Pete on the pull than in a committed loving relationship, One More Day at least acted as a spring board to go new places with the title. This story (titled One Moment in Time, subheading One Painful Moment in Perpetuity) has no purpose other than a rushed attempt to explain how two decades of continuity was undone in a matter of minutes, with the finesse and deft precision of a drunk performing dental surgery on himself in a hall of mirrors during an earthquake.

So what exactly did MJ whisper in Mephistos’ ear before agreeing to have her marriage time-annulled to save Aunt May’s life, leading to 100 issues of mystery and suspense? In a nutshell, “I’ll allow Peter to make the deal to end our marriage if you promise to leave Peter alone forever.” So glad I waited 100 issues, given my mind may have exploded if I hadn’t been given 3 years to mentally prepare myself for that shocking reveal. Deal done, Mephisto travels back to the day before Peter and MJ are due to be married, disguised as a pigeon (!?) and frees a criminal Spider-Man had just apprehended.

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The following day, said criminal returns and knocks out Spider-Man, causing him to miss his wedding. Pissed to say the least, MJ calls off the wedding (even though Peter had proposed 8 times and persisted despite the 7 rejections, clearly he has commitment problems). However they continue to date and events proceed as they had previously, up to Aunt May getting shot in the aftermath of the Civil War series – this time though, Peter SOMEHOW manages to resuscitate her, even though it was the inability of the ENTIRE MARVEL UNIVERSE CAST TO SAVE HER LAST TIME AROUND THAT CAUSED THIS WHOLE PROBLEM IN THE FIRST PLACE! Feeling screwed out of his end of the bargain, Mephisto informs The Kingpin (who hired the boss-eyed marksman) that he failed to kill an old woman at point blank range, and a second assassin is sent, this time hitting MJ.

Distraught that his identity now being public knowledge will result in a life of murder and misfortune for his loved ones (gee, if only he’d known that earlier – like he did for the first 50 years of his comic book life!), he calls together Iron Man, Dr Strange and Mr Fantastic to magic/science/BS their way out of this black hole of a plot, and undo the point in his life when he publicly declared his secret identity. Despite being the three greatest scientific minds in the world being unable to save a woman from a bullet wound (because lord knows we don’t have access to that level of medical technology yet), the brain trust are able to dislocate all of reality so everyone forgets who Spider-Man is. Oh, if only Anakin Skywalker had thought of this, Padme would still be alive and the dark reign of galactic civil war and strife could have been avoided (and it still would have been a better film than what George Lucas gave us). Peter prevents MJ being affected by the mind wipe, but turns out she wanted to forget, and decides to leave him.

And there you have it: the worst possible way to break up the most well known and sacrosanct marriage in comic history, allllll in order to appeal to younger readers who apparently wanted to see Pete boning random skanks. Wouldn’t a divorce on grounds of poisoning her with his radioactive semen have been less troublesome?

5. The Man with Two Brains

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While I’m sure Dan Slott is a hell of a nice guy – the kind who would drop his insulin to save a puppy from a burning building -, I have not been a lover of his run on Amazing Spider-Man, least of all the series of events playing out in the background between 600-700 revolving around the imminent death of Doc Ock.

Over the course of 100 issues, the dying Octavius creates a legion on octo-bot drones to be his eyes on the street, builds an iron lung that’d be garishly over the top for a War Hammer model to support his weakened frame, and finds time between coughing up his lungs to reform the Sinister Six and build an orbital satellite that can reflect the suns rays at a lethal magnitude upon the earth, holding it to ransom – and when you’re stealing plot devices from sub-par James Bond movies, you know something is wrong.

Nothing says 'fun for all ages' quite like planetary genocide

Nothing says ‘fun for all ages’ quite like planetary genocide

None of these were specifically good arcs, yet at least they were built up within the previous issues.

To mark issue 700 and 50 uninterrupted years of the Amazing Spider-Man title, Marvel celebrated the occasion in a way more fitting of DC’s modus operandi: cancelled the book in the biggest f*** you move of recent times by killing Peter and having Octavius take up the mantle of Spider-Man by, I swear to Christ I wish I were making this up, SWITICHING THEIR BRAINS. Needless to say this didn’t go down to well with fans to say the least.

This was terrible for a number of reasons:

1) It came out of nowhere. At the last minute, the rug is pulled out from under us as we discover that at some point Ock switched brains with Peter. Even were this hinted at or subtly implied in prior issues, it would have been a slap in the face, but this baffling last second twist felt like a deadline was rapidly approaching so a random idea was plucked from a bad Twilight Zone episode. Not anyones idea of a fitting end and worthy send-off to a beloved cultural icon.

2) Doc Ock becomes Spider-Man to honour the legacy of his fallen foe, having decided that he wants to redeem his life of crime (seems switching their brains back so he died instead of Peter would have been more noble, but what do I know about these things?). So melting all life on earth because of a “If I have to die, then so can everything else” viewpoint a few weeks earlier was justifiable in his eyes, however having Peter’s life flash before his eyes and seeing Uncle Ben died because of Peter’s selfishness is cause enough to make him see the error of his murderous, thieving, petty life as a terrorist? This is the same Doctor Octavius who has stated over the years that he enjoys making people suffer precisely because it makes him feel like a big shot. Spider-Man successor material this does not makes. Y’see why this is contrived and backwards, even in a world where M. Night Shyamalan is allowed to still make movies?

If this fails to convinvce you that the man who tried to melt the planet is Spider-Man material, then you are obviously not an Executive at Marvel

If this fails to convince you that the man who tried to melt the planet is Spider-Man material, then you are obviously not an Executive at Marvel

3) Does this mean we are now meant to be rooting for this new Spider-Man, despite aware of his misdeeds?

4) Peter isn’t really dead but exists as a ghostly conscience inside Spider-Ocks’ head, mainly to whine at length about his situation, but also to stop Octavius essentially raping MJ. This cannot have been how Stan Lee envisioned the end to his most endearing flagship creation.

Comics are at liberty to be goofy and OTT, but this is just bad attention to character history, with a gibberish twist and half-assed plot that makes most 1950s sci-fi films cinematic masterpieces by comparison. After 700 issues and 50 years of print, Spider-Man deserved a more respectful send-off than this.

 

4. Meeting Gwen Stacey

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Gwen was and remains the true love of Peters’ life. Don’t believe me; then how come in House of M, (when Scarlett “Fruit-Loops” Witch makes everyone’s dream life come true) Peter is married to Gwen rather than Mary Jane? Her influence has shaped the life of Peter/ Spider-Man even in death, and has contributed significantly to making Petes’ life the total emotional train wreck it is today. First the love of his life is kidnapped by the Green Goblin once his identity is sussed out, only for Spider-Man to inadvertently kill her when she is tossed off a bridge – snapping her neck due to the webline meant to stop her fall. In grief, Pete becomes infatuated with Gwen’s best friend MJ, who repeatedly turns down his recurrent requests to marry her despite her being a total bitch (until around she mellowed out in around 2000) before she eventually relented and they married in the 1980s – this marriage would then ultimately be annulled by Satan, once more plunging Peter into despair.

But Pete isn’t the only Gwen enthusiast around. Enter Mile Ellis, their former tutor turned mad scientist villain the Jackal. So distraught by Gwen’s death is he, Miles perfects cloning in a time when the best the greatest scientific minds in Britain could make were arthritic sheep, and creates a Gwen doppelganger. Weird sure, but all’s well that ends well. Oh before I forget on little detail: Miles also blamed Spider-Man for her death so creates a Spidey clone to kill the real one, eventually resulting in The Clone Saga debacle that brought all existing Spider-Man titles to a grinding halt for a small portion of eternity 20 years later.

What I’m getting at here is that if Peter had never met and subsequently fallen in love with Gwen, we never would have had The Clone Saga. Still think she’s all that perfect now?

 

3. Being Bitten by a Spider, of all Gods’ Creatures

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Proportional strength and reflexes of a spider? Doesn’t sound too shabby at first, until some ass-tard writer looking to make a name for himself come up with a way to make your life a living hell by having you undergo a horrific metamorphosis into a monstrous arachnid, the slow, painful and socially awkward way that would have a devastating domino effect on events to come.

To celebrate Amazing Spider-Man’s 100th issue, the editors congratulated the character on his enduring popularity by having him grow additional arms and threatened to further mutate him into a spider-monster. “Thanks guys, I feel so glad I earned all those millions in comic book sales for you.”

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This alone would be bad enough, however in a desperate attempt to find a cure, Peter ends up inadvertently creating living vampire Michal Morbius: a plague upon the lives of New York and the introduction of vampires to the Spidey-verse that’d literally come back to bite him in the ass later…

Transforming into a freak and creating a blood leeching parasite (not to mention killing your wife with spider-infused radioactive bodily fluids in an alternate future) still not enough? Then how about an incredibly sub-par story from Spectacular Spider-Man #17 when a Z-list villainess, The Queen, able to control spider or some nonsense, successfully “evolves” Peter into his “true” form: a gigantic spider that then gives birth to itself as a reborn Peter, now with organic web shooters and able to talk to all insects? Confused? Why the frack shouldn’t you be? The logic behind the story is as coherent as 2001: A Space Odyssey playing with the subtitles from Neon Genesis: Evangelion.

Dear Peter, Thanks for all the money. Love, Marvel

Dear Peter,
Thanks for all the money.
Love, Marvel

The Queen would later reappear in the Spider Island cross-over event, to the collective groans of all those few unable to repress their memories of her, as she transformed all of New York into (all together now) giant spiders – because if an idea is retarded enough to fail once, why not repeat it ad nauseum?

Then to cap it all off, Spider-Man is hunted down by the vampire (kinda) Morlin who is convinced that due to the spider bite, Peter is the Spider Totum: a bridge betwixt beast and man that’ll grant him immense power – y’know how spiders, spiritual bridges and immortality are so commonly associated. Skipping the cliché of drinking his blood there and then, Morlin beats Peter into a coma over a series of issues and rips out his eye, weakening him to better absorb his life source energy, all the while try to kill his nearest & dearest.

Why didn't anyone else in his rogues gallery ever think of this?

Why didn’t anyone else in his rogues gallery ever think of this?

In his death throws Peter’s mind is discarded and the spider aspect takes control, leading him on a killing spree before he magically rebirths himself (again) as plain old Peter Parker, now with organic web shooters and the ability disregard to the laws of science and natural order. That makes such perfect sense it’s hard to believe it took 40 years for them to finally get around to this oh-so-obvious storyline.

Suddenly wall crawling and spider-sense don’t seem worth the bother. Bruce Wayne should count his blessings all he had to do to become a superhero was have his parents brutally murdered in front of him.

2. Being Raised by Uncle Ben

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“With great power comes great responsibility” and what more emotionally scarring way to demonstrate this lesson then getting shot by the same robber Pete allowed to go free. Peter has taken this lesson to heart, adopting it as his catch-phrase. A good motto, albeit a far less intimidating battle cry than “It’s clobberin’ time!” or “Hulk Smash!”

Problem is,  while this is solid advice and all, it’s done nothing but bring misfortune to Peters’ life. Going to that amazing job interview? Sorry, that fire in downtown Manhattan comes first. Finally landed that hot date with MJ? Too bad there’s a mugging happening on the way to the restaurant. Need your appendix removed? But then who else will save that kitten from the tree? Remember that guy you stopped from holding up that convenience store 4 months ago? Well he’s now got destructive superpowers and is looking for payback. It would be worth it if the city even thanked him for his efforts, but instead he’s labelled as a menace despite constantly putting his ass on the line for others, and he doesn’t even get paid for it!

“With great power comes great responsibility – oh, and also people trying to kill you on a daily basis due to your moral principals.” Gee Ben, what else you got; “running with scissors saves time”; “the blender is a great masturbatory aide”; “mercury makes for a wholesome children’s’ snack”? The guy’s better off dead before his wisdom could infect others.

 

1. The 1990s

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As if it could it could have been anything else. What was your personal lowest ebb of this decade of wretchedness? Maybe it was the 6 months it took Maximum Carnage to repeat the same tedious issue 14 times with an ever increasing cast of z-listers, like the Final Fantasy XIII of its day. Perhaps you’re more inclined to vomit purest black rage-bile at the faintest memory of Gathering of the Five, or that time when Peters’ parents seemingly returned from the grave, having miraculously survived that mid-air plane explosion, only to later be revealed as robot assassins sent by the Chameleon to do…  something. I  must have blocked it from my memory.

Some may recall the 13 years of not particularly caring as to the outcome of ‘Who is the Hobgoblin?’, praying there would at some blessed point be an outcome – after 156 months we wouldn’t care if it was a resurrected Uncle Ben, so long as it was over. Then of course there was the agonising writing and viscerally gratuitous stories by Todd MacFarlane, who was devout in his belief that if you put enough sex and violence into a book it becomes more adult-accessible, even if the writing itself was preschool level – so long as there’s boobs and blood, who could argue comics are just for kids? As a result of this period, schizophrenia, public outbursts of hysterical weeping and recreational self-harming increased tenfold across America.

Then of course, there was the bloated Clone Saga. For those fortunate enough to have been born outside of this unendless tirade of pain disguised as literature, this was 2 years of sheer purgatory spanning 15 – FIFTEEN! – core titles, mini-series and one-shots. Remember that Spider-Man clone mentioned earlier created by the Jackal to kill Spidey for the death of Gwen Stacey (Amazing Spider-Man #149)? Well the clone returned, calling himself Ben Riley, however now he, Peter and apparently all the editors and writers of Marvel had no idea which was the original Wall Crawler and who was the clone.

You aren't going to like where this is going. Signed, October 1975

You aren’t going to like where this is going.
Signed,
October 1975

For a while Peter was assumed to be the clone, waving 30 years of continuity farewell as we were forced to accept Ben as the real deal. Shame he was neither likable nor empathetic, or he would have taken the world be storm. Eventually Marvel realised no one liked this new Spider-Man, but had dug itself in too deep with no writers able to think of a way out of the desperate sale-afflicting situation, going so far as to publish this special one-shot issue:

Write in a winning idea fans, and become the new cheif creative editor for the company. Please end this nightmare!

Write in a winning idea fans, and become the new cheif creative editor for the company. Please end this nightmare!

Deciding to just cut their losses and retcon the entirety of the last 24 months, Ben literally crumbled into dust and Peter was re-established as the not-clone. Hoo-freaking-rah! 731 days doesn’t seem a long time; then again 731 seconds doesn’t sound long, but you try saying that when you’re undergoing dental sugary without novocaine and on fire, because that was what this felt like!

Fortunately the events of September 2001 eventually gave the western world something else to dwell on in misery. However, even today memories of the escapades of Ben Riley still evoke a strong desire to burn down research centres looking into cloning.

The 90s were a horrible time to be Spider-Man, and an even worse time to be a reader of Spider-Man. It was a decade of migraine inducingly awful arcs and cross-over’s that could last whole years, and which dragged Spider-Man into the decades’ aesthetic of adult-oriented ‘edgy grittiness’ and violence in massive yet needlessly complex/ convoluted plots, like Eli Roth handling Inception or Michael Bay doing Sense and Sensibility.

One day man will invent a time machine and use it to eradicate these 10 years from history. Until then, Spider-Man will forever be haunted by this dark period in his life of ever increasing woes.

 

What do you think is the worst thing to happen to Spider-Man?

About the author

Matt Spencer