After Tom Holland’s knockout debut as Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War, the superhero world is buzzing with theories, rumors, and gossip about the newest guy in red rights to crawl across the big screen. Considering that the web-slinger was the star of five movies and has been a constant presence in theaters since 2002, it says a lot that Marvel Studios was able to bring the hero back to his roots and remind the world why everyone once fell in love with Spider-Man in the first place.
But Peter Parker’s not the only one who has disguised his identity behind that infamous bug-eyed mask. Between clones, imposters, and alternative realities, many characters have adopted his arachnid alter ego, and not always for responsible reasons. Scroll down to find out the best (and worst) Spider-Men that have swung through the streets of New York.
13. Miles Morales
Possibly the most headline-making alternate Spider-Man of all time, the first appearance of Miles Morales caused a huge splash on such major news sources as NPR, CNN, and NBC.
In Marvel’s Ultimate Universe — a parallel reality to the mainstream Marvel Universe that has been hugely influential on the movies — Miles is the 13-year-old Brooklyn-born son of a Puerto Rican mother and an African American father. Though a genetically altered spider bite endows Miles with a familiar set of arachnid abilities, Miles is uncomfortable with the idea of risking his life to become a hero, until a battle between the Ultimate versions of Peter Parker and the Green Goblin ends with Spider-Man being killed. Realizing that he could have saved Peter if he’d gotten involved, Miles adopts his fallen hero’s identity, becoming the new Spider-Man of his world.
In our world, Miles became so popular that he had an interdimensional crossover with the mainstream Marvel Universe version of Spider-Man/Peter Parker, and though the Ultimate Universe was eventually wiped out of existence, Miles and his family were salvaged from it. Today, Miles swings in the same world as an older, alternate version of the man who first inspired him to become a hero. He could even be popping into the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the very near future. Possibly.
12. Gwen Stacy
Speaking of alternate realities — a sci-fi concept that has been popular in comics since the 1950s — Miles Morales isn’t the only web-head to hail from a parallel universe. After the popularity of Emma Stone’s version of Gwen Stacy in the Amazing Spider-Man movies, Marvel took advantage of this by introducing a new version of the long-deceased character in Spider-Verse, an event that tied in all of the Spider-Men from all of the various universes.
In the “Spider-Gwen” world, it’s Gwen Stacy — not Peter — who gets bitten by the radioactive spider, leading her to become a costumed crime fighter named Spider-Woman, all while being pursued by her police chief father. As if that wasn’t weird enough, this Gwen also joins a band called “The Mary Janes,” fronted by Mary Jane Watson, and is forced to battle her universe’s version of Peter Parker, who becomes the Lizard.
The demonic Spider-Man imposter known as “Spider-X,” once mistaken for Spider-Man himself, comes from innocent beginnings. As a boy, Brian Kornfield idolizes superheroes as much as any real life fan, even going so far as writing them personal letters. His idol, of course, was Spider-Man. After his mother is brutally assaulted by a mugger, he does what many wannabe heroes might do: he tries to avenge her.
However, his thirst for vengeance is amplified when he is transformed by an agent of the demon Chthon into Spider-X, a twisted personification of his desire to be like his hero. Spider-X’s mystical powers allow him to replicate all of Spider-Man’s abilities with bizarre variations, as well as possessing sharp fangs, and other strange powers. Brian’s obsession with justice is amplified by Chthon’s black magic, and he violently murders the mugger who attacked his mother, then follows this by attempting to kill others. This leads him into conflict with the Ghost Rider, and then the Nightstalkers, until he is eventually killed trying to overtake the electrical monster known as Zzzax.
10. Ben Reilly
The Clone Sage was one of the longer-running Spider-Man stories, telling the story of another man who once became Spider-Man — because he thought he was the original one.
After the villainous Jackal perfects his cloning experiments, he creates multiple clones of his archenemy, and pits the first successful one against Peter. This clone, feeling sure he is the original, is seemingly killed in action — and then, after convincing himself that he is merely a clone and desiring not to interfere in Peter’s life, disappears into the shadows. Renaming himself Ben Reilly, the clone lives a nomadic existence for many years, until he learns of Aunt May’s failing health. At this point finally revealing himself to the original Peter Parker, Ben returns to New York, is driven to help others, and dons a makeshift costume to become the so-called Scarlet Spider, a vigilante much like Spider-Man.
When Mary Jane becomes pregnant with Peter’s child, Peter allows Ben to assume the role of Spider-Man, feeling that his new role as a father means that he should retire from superheroics. As Spider-Man, Ben begins a new life, remaking the Spider-costume in a new style, dying his hair blond, and working at a coffee shop. However, everything becomes complicated when both Peter Parker and Ben Reilly are deceived into believing that Ben is the original, and Peter is the clone — meaning that both of them have been living the wrong lives for years. However, this is revealed as a falsehood when Ben is killed by the Green Goblin. His body rapidly decomposes in Peter’s arms, thus revealing that Ben has been a clone the whole time, and Peter is the true original.
Suffice to say, the Clone Saga is infamous amongst Spidey fans, but for all the wrong reasons.
9. Venom (Mac Gargan)
After the cancer-ridden and morally-conflicted Eddie Brock sells his alien symbiote off at a supervillain auction, intending to donate the proceeds to charity, the extraterrestrial lifeform briefly flirts with Angelo Fortunato before eventually bonding to Mac Gargan, the Scorpion. As the new Venom, Gargan is dominated by the symbiote’s desires far more than Brock had been, bringing out cannibalistic tendencies.
Venom is then enlisted by Norman Osborn to be part of his Dark Avengers, a villainous hit squad masquerading in the guises of famous heroes. His symbiote is treated by Osborn to more closely resemble the black-suited Spider-Man, instead of its naturally more monstrous form. Along with Osborn becoming Iron Patriot, Bullseye portraying Hawkeye, and Daken becoming Wolverine, and Venom is reintroduced to the world as the new Spider-Man.
Gargan’s career as Spider-Man is short lived. After the Dark Avengers are taken into custody, the symbiote is forcibly removed from him, and Gargan has since returned to his original identity as Scorpion.
8. Ai Apaec
Even after losing Gargan, Osborn wasn’t done rubbing Spider-Man’s name in the dirt. To replace the role of Spider-Man in his Dark Avengers, Osborn then recruited Ai Apaec, a violent deity of the Mochica culture, whom in the Marvel Universe is a being with the upper body of a human being, the lower body of a spider, and Medusa-like snakes for hair. Just as with with Gargan, Osborn changes Ai Apaec’s appearance, making him resemble a six-armed version of the wall-crawler.
Osborn’s Dark Avengers are defeated by both teams of real Avengers, but they reform soon afterward. After they become trapped in an alternate world, Ai Apaec is shrunken down by Hank Pym. Though he and the other Dark Avengers eventually make their way back to the Marvel Universe, Ai Apaec’s reign of bloodshed is ended when, after reminding everyone that he needs to be restored to his real size, he is instead stepped on and crushed.
7. Mattie Franklin
When the long-suffering Peter Parker puts aside his costume for an extended retirement, a new Spider-Man appears swinging through the city and stopping crimes in a costume that looks incredibly similar to his own. Surprisingly enough, it turns out that the new Spidey is actually a young woman named Martha “Mattie” Franklin, an obsessive fan of the web-crawler, who also possesses unrequited romantic feelings for him of a rather intense variety. When Peter returns to being Spider-Man, Mattie comfortably settles into a new role as the new Spider-Woman.
Mattie’s story takes a darker turn years later, when he is slipped a date rape drug and then prostituted by a drug dealer. She is eventually rescued by private investigator Jessica Jones, at which point she goes into counseling. Mattie eventually becomes a private investigator herself, trying to remake her life, but is later murdered by the Kravinoff family. Speaking of whom…
6. Kraven the Hunter
One of Spider-Man’s earliest enemies, Sergei Kravinoff is a world class hunter, famous for taking down dangerous animals with his bare hands. When he decides that hunting down and defeating Spider-Man will be the ultimate trophy on his wall, Kraven pursues the webslinger time and time again, continuously being defeated, and becoming increasingly frustrated and depressed with every passing year. This all changes in the storyline Kraven’s Last Hunt, wherein Kraven takes down Spider-Man with a coma-inducing drug, buries Peter underground, and then takes his place as Spider-Man.
As the real Spider-Man remains unconscious beneath the dirt for two long weeks, Kraven’s Spider-Man becomes a terrifying creature of the night that brutally beats criminals, trying to prove that he is a better Spider-Man than Parker ever could be. When Peter finally breaks free from being buried alive, Kraven relinquishes the role, feeling that his point has been made, and releases the supervillain Vermin for Spider-Man to pursue. As Spider-Man tracks down Vermin, Kraven shoots himself with a rifle, feeling that his life is now complete.
5. The Space Phantom
The late Dwayne McDuffie’s Beyond! is a miniseries that drops a wacky variety of mismatches superheroes and supervillains onto a planet called Battleworld, where all of the characters — including Spider-Man, Venom, Medusa, the Wasp, Hank Pym, Gravity, Venom, Deathlok, the Hood, and Kraven the Hunter’s son Alyosha Kravinoff — are told by a cosmic entity known as the Beyonder that they must slay all of their enemies, at which point they can claim their rewards. The first issue then ends with a twist, as Venom wastes no time murdering Spider-Man on the end of his pointed tail.
However, the truth is far weirder than it appears. As the heroes roam Battleworld, Alyosha Kravinoff later stumbles upon a still-alive Spider-Man, who tells him that he needs to kill the others so that he can win the prize. Kravinoff immediately smells the deception and takes down Spider-Man, who is then revealed to actually be the Space Phantom, an alien being that can impersonate any single being or object. After more strange reveals, the group eventually makes their way back to Earth.
4. Doctor Octopus
When Otto Octavius discovers that he is dying, his villainous plans become bolder and more desperate than ever before. In a final last ditch effort to hold onto his life, Doc Ock swaps minds with Spider-Man, trapping Peter within his failing body while he is restored in Peter’s spider-powered one. Though Peter fails at reclaiming his own body, he does manage to bludgeon Octavius with all of his most painful memories, forcing Octavius to have empathy for the man he hated, and to accept the responsibilities and values that Peter has always held. As Peter seemingly dies in Octavius’s body, Octavius decides that, as the new Peter Parker, he will combine his genius ambition with Peter’s values, thus attempting to become a better man than he ever was as Doctor Octopus — and, in his mind, a “superior Spider-Man” to the original Peter.
Octavius redesigns Spider-Man’s costume and weapons, pursues the PhD that the real Peter gave up on, and is a far more ruthless and violent Spidey than Peter was. Torn between his good intentions and his megalomaniacal nature, Octavius is also haunted by Peter’s spirit, still lingering deep within the body’s subconscious and trying to reclaim control. Octavius finally realizes his mistakes when Peter briefly reassumes control to save a child from a runaway train, an action that Octavius hesitates to perform, and a telling moment which reveals Peter to truly be the superior Spider-Man out of the two of them. Doc Ock willingly erases his own consciousness from Peter’s body, allowing Peter to once again be in control, sacrificing his existence so that Peter can live again.
In a possible future, May “Mayday” Parker is the daughter of Mary Jane and Peter, who retires from being Spider-Man after losing his leg in his final battle against the Green Goblin. Raised in a normal, happy household, May begins to exhibit her father’s spider-like powers when she becomes a teenager. When Harry Osborn’s son becomes the new Green Goblin and threatens May’s family, blaming Peter for the death of his father and grandfather, Mayday dons Ben Reilly’s old Spider-Man costume to become “Spider-Girl,” and save the day.
Spider-Girl quickly establishes herself as a valuable member of the superhero community, forming friendships with the Avengers, the Fantastic Five, and more. Like her father, Mayday struggles to maintain a balance between her regular high school life and her superheroic activities, though she is helped by the fact that, unlike Peter, she was able to save her family at the beginning of her vigilante career, and is thus not motivated by the same guilt that drove him. As Spider-Girl, Mayday confronts new versions of many of Spider-Man’s classic foes.
2. Miguel O’Hara
In the far more dystopian version of the year 2099 than we’ll hopefully ever see, the United States has been overtaken by megacorporations, with New York City’s sciences, schools, police forces, crime rings, and media dominated by a company called Alchemax. In this future world, Miguel O’Hara is a rebellious and solitary man who works as the head of Alchemax’s genetics program, attempting to create super-soldiers called Corporate Raiders. After a test subject dies, Miguel tries to resign from the project, but is instead forced to take a drug called Rapture, a drug only sold by Alchemax, turning Miguel into an addict dependent on the company for his survival.
Miguel attempts to rewrite his DNA to escape from this chemical addiction, but sabotage from a coworker causes Miguel’s genetic code to be rewritten as 50% spider DNA — granting Miguel new spider-like abilities including organic webbing, venomous fangs, and talons that allow him to crawl walls. Miguel clads himself in a Mexican Day of the Dead costume, and becomes the Spider-Man of his age, using his newfound powers to take down the Alchemax megacorporation and bring down its head, Tyler Stone.
Sometime after a melting of the polar icecaps kills most of humanity, Miguel is sent back in time to the present day, where he becomes stranded. Accepting his new state, Miguel carefully monitors the present day version of Alchemax, working to improve the present day world without becoming Spider-Man again, but occasionally being pulled back into action.
Spider-Man and Deadpool are Marvel’s two most popular jokesters, so it’s no wonder that they’ve had many amusing interactions since they first met. The uber-responsible Peter Parker’s disdain for Deadpool’s homicidal tendencies contrasts heavily against Wade Wilson’s desperate crush on the web-slinger, and the similarity between their costumes is hard not to notice. In fact, on one occasion when Spidey is knocked out, he and Deadpool actually switch costumes — or rather, Deadpool takes advantage of the unconscious Spidey, and takes his costume — at which point Wilson goes after the Chameleon, and has fun pretending to be Spider-Man for a while.
But perhaps the best Spider-Man/Deadpool crossover of all time was years before this, back in Deadpool Vol.1 #11, wherein Wade and his friend/hostage Blind Al are sent back in time to the pages of 1967’s Amazing Spider-Man #47. As Blind Al takes the place of Aunt May, Deadpool makes use of an image inducer to pretend to be the random guy in May’s photos…a guy who just happens to be Peter Parker.
Any other Spider-Men out there that we missed? Let us know in the comments.