Let’s face it, Spider-Man is a bit of weakling. Yeah, he can lift over 10 tons, run 200 mph, and knock out a T-Rex in a single punch. But who can’t? Sure, the webbing helps, but it’s no Mjolnir. Compared to the likes of Iron Man’s tech, Thor’s hair, and Hulk’s everything, let’s face it, he is a verifiable wimp. Our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man may have a lot of WTF moments, but perhaps the craziest thing about Underoos is just how frail he can be.
All that said, do not sell this web-slinger short. Spider-Man’s vulnerability is what makes him such a great superhero. Not everyone can relate to an armored billionaire playboy, Fabio-esque space god, or enormous green rage monster, but we can all sympathize with a guy struggling to get by that constantly has relationship problems, occasionally spits up blood, and is forever living in fear of getting shot in the head. Which is why his entrance into the MCU with Spider-Man: Homecoming is so welcome, because we finally get to see an everyman hero on the big screen (other than his five other films) that is just as weak as the rest of us.
Here are the 15 Weaknesses You Didn’t Know Spider-Man Had.
15. The Common Cold
Getting a cold is no joke. All that sneezing, grogginess, stuffiness, and mucous – it’s enough to sideline the toughest of us. But you wouldn’t expect the flu to be much of a match for a superhero. Unless we’re talking about Spider-Man.
Despite having survived the irradiated bite of a mutant spider, Peter Parker’s immune system is astonishingly weak. Spidey seems to have spots swirling around his head (comic book for being sick) every other issue. Side effects include incessant whining, fatigue, falling off buildings mid-crawl, and blunted Spider Senses. In The Amazing Spider-Man #48, the web-slinger pretty much gives up on life on account of feeling under the weather, and as a result, he gets his butt handed to him by the Vulture. In The Amazing Spider-Man #87, a fever reduces the radiation in his bloodstream, causing him to swing around deliriously telling everyone his secret identity. In The Amazing Spider-Man #121, Parker comes down with the sniffles, and a few panels later, Gwen Stacy dies. Would she still be alive if Spider-Man had gotten a B-12 shot before breaking her neck? We’ll never know.
14. Gas Attacks
No, we’re not talking about Spider-Farting. (Though that is probably lethal.) We’re talking about The Amazing Spider-Man #39, when Spidey gets hit with a smoke bomb and loses all sense of himself. The Green Goblin hires some thugs to stage a robbery and attract the web-head’s attention. When he swings onto the scene, they hurl a device at him that explodes in a billow of pink smoke. Devised by the Green Goblin himself, this specialized vapor inexplicably prevents Spider-Man’s Spidey sense from working for a plot-contrived 24 hours.
This issue is pretty iconic. Not because Spider-Man is such a wuss, but because the Green Goblin’s true identity is finally revealed. (Spoiler: he’s Norman Osborne). Following Spidey’s gas attack, the Green Goblin unknowingly follows him and creepily watches as the web-slinger changes out of costume in an alley way. With the spider out of the bag, Goblin confronts Parker, wraps him in a steel alloy cable from which he can’t escape (because apparently he’s also defenseless against steel alloy cables. Why is this guy a superhero, again?), and then takes Peter back to his Goblin-y lair to undress in front of him and reveal his true identity. We’ll let your imagination take it from here.
Want to die? Get in a car with Spider-Man behind the wheel. In no time at all, you’ll be seeing your life flash before your eyes. Being from New York, Peter Parker never learned to drive, and as a result, he’s truly heinous driver. Which is why the Spider-Mobile was such a terrible idea.
Of course, this isn’t all that rare for anyone growing up in a big city. But that’s no excuse for a superhero. We’re pretty sure Batman was driving the Batmobile like a boss when he was still in diapers. And we’re not just talking cars here. Spider-Man has had a horrible track record driving/flying every vehicle he’s ever been in. So if you enjoy breathing, just like with strangers, don’t ever take a ride from Spider-Man. Don’t believe us? Just watch how appalling his driving skills are in this Spider-Man: Homecoming promo.
12. Lack of Tall Buildings
A spider is only as good as its webbing. And its webbing is only as good as the structures around it. Without all those nooks, crannies and door jams, they would have a much harder time spinning their traps and annoying the crap out of people who obliviously walk through them. Similarly, Spider-Man is useless if there are no tall buildings around.
Alright, maybe “useless” is a bit of an exaggeration. But when your main mode of life saving transportation is swinging from skyscrapers, you are kind of stymied when they aren’t around. Without a ready supple of sufficient tall buildings, he would never be able to propel himself down the street, let alone get from point A to B. Disregarding for a moment that most of the time, Spidey actually appears to miraculously be swinging from the sky, overall, he is way too dependent on his surroundings to save the day. Take Spider-Man out of New York and place him in a small mid-west town, and you’ll probably find him pathetically waiting around by the side of the road for an Uber to pick him up.
Anti-Venom is basically the Oxiclean of Venoms. Got some Venom on your shirt? He’ll have that Symbiote cleaned right up. Only problem is that the same goes for Spider-Man’s powers. For those who don’t know, Anti-Venom was a new type of Symbiote linked solely within Eddie Brock. Imagine Mr. Clean, only with a longer tongue. It was created when the remnants left in Brock’s bloodstream from the original Venom Symbiote began combining with his white blood cells, forming an all new breed. Notably, Anti-Venom contained powerful healing powers that could cure any known disease, eradicate other Symbiotes, and remove impurities within the human body — such as radioactive spider blood.
In The Amazing Spider-Man #570, Anti-Venom attempts to cleanse Spider-Man of his own Symbiote remnants. Not stopping there, he also decides to cure the web-head of the radiation from his spider bite, which would in essence purge him of being Spider-Man. The process was stopped before completion, but as a result, whenever Anti-Venom is too close to Peter, his powers cancel out. Similarly, if Spidey were to get any of Anti-Venom’s webbing on him, he would also be powerless until free.
10. His Spider-Sense
It often goes that a superhero’s greatest strength is also their worst weakness. If ever there was a poster child of this motto, Spider-Man is it. Especially when it comes to his Spider-Sense. Spidey can do a lot of cool things, but what truly sets him apart is his amazing ability to tingle at any sign of danger. You know that feeling you get in the base of your skull when watching Bob Ross paint trees? It’s kind of like that. Only problem is that without this ability, Spider-Man is basically a massive red and blue-tighted bullseye for villainery.
As we saw with gas attacks and head colds, Spidey’s Spider-Sense is very easily rendered ineffective. But it doesn’t only need an outside stimulus to prove faulty. If something is not perceived as a threat, his Spider-Sense won’t trigger. So if Aunt May hits him over the head with a vase, one of Peter Parker’s bazillion clones appear, the Venom symbiote attacks, or its offspring like Carnage strike, Spider-Man will be swinging blind right up until he gets a red and black spike in the back. Thanks a lot, “superpower.”
No superhero, not even billionaire Tony Stark, is more obsessed with his own personal finances than Peter Parker. Spider-Man is the type of guy that orders water at a bar, picks up pennies off the ground, and asks if he can crash on your couch for a week and ends up staying 5 years. In fact the only reason he became Spider-Man in the first place was because of money. What’s more, his earliest escapes were mostly driven by a desire to increase his cash flow and he is routinely throwing caution to the wind in pursuit of the almighty dollar. Wave around a few benevolent bucks in front of his bug-eyes, and Spidey will surely pimp himself out to get his hands on it.
When Peter Parker first realized the potential of his powers, he selfishly saw it immediately as an easy way to make money, so he took up professional wrestling. When he has the opportunity to stop a thief, he opts to stay out of it, since he’s already gotten paid, and the thief ends up killing his Uncle. In a way, you could say if Peter wasn’t so greedy, Uncle Ben would still be alive (and there would probably be no Spider-Man).
In The Amazing Spider-Man #1, he is in dire straits, so he attempts to convince the Fantastic Four that they should let him join, with a hefty salary to boot. When they tell Spidey they are a non-profit, he bails. Overall, an alarming number of Spider-Man’s decisions, especially early on, are money-based. Not exactly where you want a hero’s head at when he’s stopping a bank robbery.
8. Aunt May
As a superhero, you are only as good as the people around you. For Spider-Man, this means one person before all else – May Reilly Parker. Known to the world as Aunt May, she is definitely Peter’s perennial “damsel in distress.” But unlike Tony with Pepper, Hulk with Betty, Supes with Lois, Bats with Robin, Wonder Woman with Steve, Spider-Man is willing to give up much more for his aunt-by-marriage than all the rest.
You might think Mary Jane or even Gwen would better qualify as his leading lady weak spot, with Aunt May more akin to an Alfred Pennyworth. But Parker has never been more helpless than when his beloved Aunt gets kidnapped, attacked, marries Doctor Octopus, or gets caught in bed with his boss.
Case in point: One More Day. After Peter Parker unmasks during Civil War, someone tries to assassinate him and ends up mortally shooting May instead. Grief stricken, guilty, desperate, and defeated, Spider-Man recklessly throws away everything in an attempt to save her. This means making a deal with the devil (aka Mephisto) for her life, and in return agreeing to have his marriage to Mary Jane (and their unborn child) wiped from existence. So in other words, Spidey destroyed the lives of three people in order to save his 90-year-old Aunt. Love it or hate it, this story arc shows just how vulnerable Spider-Man can be by targeting the person he holds most dear. It also shows why both the unmasking and selling his soul to the devil rank as the most WTF things Spider-Man has ever done.
In The Amazing Spider-Man #141, Spidey drives the Spider-Mobile into a lake. (Like we said, don’t drive with Spider-Man.) But losing his ridiculously stupid looking ride wasn’t the only casualty of this impromptu swim. The water also wreaked havoc on his web shooters. Because just like the rest of him, they’re pretty weak.
When you think Spider-Man, one naturally thinks of pointed fingers. Few hand gestures are more iconic or uncomfortable. As you probably know, he makes this motion to set off his web shooters. They are easily Spider-Man’s most used accessory, tripling as a weapon, tool, and kinky sex swing generator. Just don’t get them wet. Peter Parker can invent a fluid with the tensile strength of 120 pounds per square millimeter strong enough to stop the Hulk, but he can’t make his most valuable piece of equipment water-proof? So in other words, his web shooters are the iPhones of superhero gadgetry.
There’s one last way to screw with Spidey’s tingly sixth sense, and this one’s mind blowing — literally. While all the other methods listed above only temporary impair his precognitive abilities, the right frequency blast can obliterate it. On the low end, this means falsely triggering his Spider-Sense without any danger nearby, confusing the crap out of Parker. Increase the current and he experiences a disorientating sensory overload, akin to being hit with a flash grenade or watching a Michael Bay film. On the super-high end, the results can be far more severe.
In The Amazing Spider-Man #654, a new breed of Spider Slayers have overrun the city. In order to stop them, Peter Parker creates a device capable of delivering a bio-electro magnetic pulse on an epic scale. As expected, when he sets off his makeshift Slayer-Fryer, it devastates their spider-like abilities. Unfortunately, since he was unable to escape the blast radius in time, the EMP also disintegrated his own enhanced senses, seemingly for good. For over eight months following the incident, Spidey was completely senseless, and it took advanced training from martial arts master Shang-Chi to restore them.
5. A Lack of Web Fluid
Don’t you just hate it when you fire blanks? There’s nothing more embarrassing then lining up your web shooter for a well-aimed takedown of, say Doctor Octopus, and with a tap, tap of the finger… nothing. Peter Parker is a genius for sure. The nerdy dude invented his own substance so nuanced that it’s engineered to solidify upon contact with air, disintegrate after an hour, and electromagnetically congeal to form cool things like paddle boats. And he did it all in his bedroom using a DIY chemistry set. One problem: Parker forgot to figure out how to sustain his goods and keep that shooter firing for the long haul. Typical teenager.
Each of Spider-Man’s web shooters have a compartment for a small web cartridge, with later models fitted with a rotating carousel to automatically reload. Yet despite all that technical wizardry, he can still run out of web fluid at the most inconvenient of times. Really, there’s only one failsafe solution for shooting your spidery silly string to heart’s content. Two words: Organic. Webbing.
4. An Ulcer
Word to the wise: don’t Google “ulcers.” Take our word for it, they are nasty. Just one look is enough to drop you to the ground in the fetal position. Even superheroes aren’t immune to the debilitating powers of these gross internal legions attacking their duodenum. Although, when it comes to crippling ailments, our sickly neighborhood Web-Head takes the bloody cake.
If you are a lonely nerd from Queens, fighting supervillains can be understandably stressful. So in The Amazing Spider-Man #113 when Spidey goes up against Doc Ock and comes down with a bad case of cramps, it only makes sense. Add in the fact that Aunt May is currently sleeping with Octavius, and who wouldn’t start bleeding out their small intestines? As a result, Spidey is turned into more of a weakling then he already he was, requiring a special body harness to boost his energy and keep from spitting blood. Despite the potential of showing a superhero worrying himself sick with stomach acid, not much was ever done with this plot development, and he started to feel better a couple issues later, presumably because he had the likes of Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane babying him back to health. Hard to be stressed with those two around.
Fact: the Clone Saga sucked. Sure, some may like a plot line here or there, or even the character of Ben Reilly, but as an all encompassing story, it was an overlong, convoluted painful experience. Punctuated by the beginning of its end with Spider-Man: The Final Adventure. The details of this four issue miniseries are confusing and pointless, so we won’t spend an hour trying to explain what happens. All you need to know is that by series end, Spider-Man had lost all his powers, and it was thanks to the very radiation that gave them to him in the first place.
Spidey takes down two dudes spreading death and decay who’ve been empowered by the same experiments that resulted in his own superpowered transformation. They are brought back to a lab, where scientists work to depower them. Things go awry, the equipment goes haywire, lives are in danger, Spider-Man steps in and is caught up in the process, blasted away by the specialized radiation. Stripped of his powers, he quits being a superhero, and Ben Reilly takes over until everyone realized that this was a crap idea and quickly MacGuffined their way out it.
2. Overthinking aka Psychosomatic Disorders
Imagine a superhero who’s so neurotic they can think their superpowers away. Pretty ridiculous right? Not for Spider-Man, who on several occasions has completely lost his abilities on account of stress, guilt, and feelings of indifference. The first psych out came in 1964’s Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1. The Sinister Six was at large and taking full advantage of our hero’s weakened mental state. Eventually, Pete snaps out of it to fight back, realizing his issues were the result of his deep-seated guilt over Uncle Ben’s death. Turns out, all it took was punching some bad guys in the face for him to get his confidence back.
Still, one never knows when Spider-Man will fall off a building because he can’t get his act together. In Spider-Man 2, Sam Raimi played around with this concept when he has Peter inexplicably lose all his powers. No longer able to do whatever a spider can, he decides that with no more power, he can shirk all responsibility, and so he chucks the tights and gets back to the business at hand — hitting on Mary Jane. Some random physician explains all this away as Peter’s lack of motivation to be Spider-Man, thus unconsciously self-inflicting a superpower blockage. When MJ’s life is suddenly endangered by the tentacles of Doc Ock, it’s enough for Peter’s powers to resurge, proving once again that the desire to kick butt trumps all.
1. Ethyl Chloride
Need to euthanize a spider? Buy some Ethyl Chloride and call it a day. How about something a little bigger and less realistic? No problem, just up the dosage. Spider-Woman, Spider-Boy, Madame Web, Arachnoman, Spider-Ham — it’s all the same. Every spider-esque hero, villain or otherwise, that you can imagine is weakened by its deadly effects, including your friendly neighborhood web-head. That’s why many refer to Ethyl Chloride as Spider-Man’s “Kryptonite.”
Thanks to this chemical compound, several of Spider-Man’s rogues have been able to defeat him over the years, particularly the the mad scientist Spencer Smythe and his aforementioned Spider-Slayers. In the right dosage, Ethyl Chloride drains Spidey of all his spider-like powers. Go beyond that, and he can even be killed when attacked with enough of the chilling pesticide. That’s right, Spider-Man is vulnerable to bug spray. Oh the irony!
Know of any other frailties squashing Spider-Man? Let us know in the comments!
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