Most superheroes rely on two fundamental things: their powers and their secret identity. Unless you have the chutzpah of Tony Stark and readily declare your iron-born alter-ego to the world, you’ll guard your real name with your life. When it comes to Spider-Man’s identity, everyone wants to know the man behind the mask. It’s what makes Peter Parker such a legend. Not only can he juggle the insecurities of high school, where no kid has any idea who they are, but he can keep his web-slinging surname a national secret.
Well, most of the time. As it turns out, a fair amount of bystanders, heroes, and villains know that Peter Parker is the lad behind the mask. While there’s little consistency from writer to writer in the world of comics, one element holds true from one story to the next: many people want to know who Spider-Man really is, and many have discovered the answer.
Here are 15 Characters Who Know Spider-Man’s Secret Identity:
15. Dr. Strange
After Spider-Man revealed himself to the world in Civil War #2, he needed some serious magic to put the cat back in the bag. As you might expect, this proved difficult. In Amazing Spider-Man #641, Parker sought the sorcery of Doctor Strange to spare him the unwanted fame.
Enter a gnarly spell that only the Sorcerer Supreme could dream up. Working alongside Mister Fantastic and Iron Man, Doctor Strange crafted a magical storm that would erase Peter’s identity from the world at large. Think the Men in Black pen, except in the Marvel universe. If the spell should work, even the Sorcerer himself would forget the guy beneath the spider-suit, reminding Peter that “When the storm dissipates, I will be incapacitated. Leave immediately, lest you want me to wonder why you’re here.” In the superhero world, it takes a village to keep a secret.
14. Carlie Cooper
Despite his best efforts to separate his professional and personal life, Peter Parker lost the battle with his girlfriend, Carlie Cooper. In Amazing Spider-Man #673, Parker’s lover sniffs out the truth and points at the accused: “You’re Spider-Man.” Peter hems and haws, attempting a thoughtful explanation, but Carlie quickly loses it and uses the opportunity to remember all of the people who had lied to her over the years, “The secrets people have kept from me. My father! Lily! Everyone I’ve ever loved!” Poor Peter really walked into a buzz saw with this one.
After Carlie revealed how she figured it out, she doubled down on her accusations. “You are Spider-Man. Peter Parker’s just a “suit,” a costume you put on to be like the rest of us.” It’s an unfortunate onslaught for Peter Parker to endure, and Carlie soon flees the scene, slams the door, and leaves Peter in the past.
13. The Fantastic Four
Following the implementation of Doctor Strange’s spell, a new set of rules were put in place. The sorcerer’s rough magic left a loophole that still allowed Peter to reveal himself to people, while protecting his true identity from crackpot theories and sleuths.
While surrounded by the Fantastic Four, Peter Parker took advantage of the spell’s caveat. While they talked to him like a friend, the Four clearly had no idea who was under the mask: “Hey, it’s like Ben said…When you’re with us, you’re not just part of a team, you’re part of a family.” This show of affection pushes Spidey over the edge, before he rips off the mask and stands before them as Peter Parker. Sue Storm-Richards gives him a kiss, Mister Fantastic wraps his elongated arm around him, while Jonathan Storm simply says, “Hi, Pete. Long time, no see.”
In Amazing Spider-Man #522, Mary Jane allegedly breaks her love pact with Peter Parker and gets together with Tony Stark. Our hero hears the news while still in bed, via a 6 AM call from Robbie Robertson who holds the Daily Tattler with disdain. Upon bolting out of bed and shouting for MJ, Peter finds himself surrounded by Luke Cage and Wolverine, who warns him that “[Mary Jane’s] in the living room.”
If only Logan stopped there. While Peter marched past him, Wolverine couldn’t help but offer up a wisecrack, assuring him, “Hey, it’s not your fault she screwed up. I mean, if she had any brains to go with all that beauty, she wouldn’t be with you in the first place, right?” Woops. Peter manhandled Wolverine and threw him out of the skyscraper window.
When Dan Slott started the Amazing Spider-Man series in 2010, “The Clone Conspiracy” was always the endgame. In it, Slott would give Peter Parker a run for his money against The Jackal, one of his meanest villains. While upending the “clone” tropes bandied about with seemingly every superhero star, Jackal jumps on yet another loophole in Doctor Strange’s spell.
As the rules state, anyone who unmasks Spider-Man will remember his identity from the moment he revealed himself to the entire world. If you’re the Jackal, however, and you’re building an army of Spider-Man clones, you have a leg up on the competition. Simply put a mask on your creation, remove it, and remember the true identity of Spider-Man…over and over again. The Jackal himself admitted, “Parker, I never get tired of looking at that face, no matter how many times I’ve cloned it, masked it, unmasked it…liquefied it…or worn it like a little hat.” So yeah, things got a little dark there at the end.
10. Carol Danvers
Stripped of her powers as Ms. Marvel, Carol Danvers became more of a vigilante than a superhero. Saving her from a ruthless enemy attack, Spider-Man swoops in and calls her out on her behavior: “What’re you? Lady Punisher?” These were prickly words that led to Parker taking a punch to the kisser, a knee to the family jewels, and a gun barrel planted against his temple. Despite the harsh introduction, Peter and Carol team up and agree to go on a date.
In Ms. Marvel #47, Carol descends on a rooftop as Peter throws a button-up over his Spidey suit. Ms. Marvel sets the tone, telling her man that he’s effectively “the girl” on the date and that she hopes he’s “prepared to put out.” It’s a tough life for Peter Parker.
9. Aunt May
In Amazing Spider-Man #38 ,“The Conversation,” authors John Romita Jr. and J. Michael Straczynski ask the ultimate question: what if Aunt May found out that the truth, that her beloved Peter Parker was actually the notorious Spider-Man? This narrative has been played out countless times (and once again very recently, in fact), but this one in particular inverts the approach.
Peter finally comes clean and tells her that fighting crime as Spider-Man helps assuage his guilt from the death of Uncle Ben. Aunt May reveals her own feelings of responsibility for failing to protect her husband. Amid these revelations, however, Aunt May takes a more sardonic approach, saying, “to tell the truth, Peter, for a while I thought you were gay…I mean, I knew something was in the closet. Could’ve been chiffon. Who knew it was a costume?”
8. Doctor Octopus
The world of superhero comics is replete with upsetting imagery, ridiculous retcons, and unexpected deaths. Though every superhero owes their longevity to the consistent creativity of their writers, sometimes, things get a little out of hand. In Spider-Man #699, Dan Slott and Humberto Ramos flip the tables by letting Doctor Octopus switch bodies with Peter Parker. As Spidey himself said while living in the moribund body of Doc Ock, “Oh God, this is bad. So much worse than just dying. He’s out there. With my face! My knowledge! My powers!” No kidding.
While Otto Octavius finally learned the truth of Spider-Man’s identity, that simple fact paled in comparison that Doc Ock actually was the web-slinger. Worse yet, the new “Peter Parker” could do whatever he pleased with the reputation, powers, and knowledge Spider-Man had earned.
7. Nick Fury
As the ringleader of The Avengers, it’s no surprise that Nick Fury knows who’s behind his masked militia. Though he may be the ultimate superspy in the Marvel universe, many writers have chosen to leave Nick Fury in the dark about Spider-Man’s real identity.
The truth came out when Miles Morales and Peter Parker went head-to-head in Spidermen #2. It’s an appropriately numbered issue for the ultimate showdown of two Spider-Men making their claim to the webbed throne. After all is said and done, Peter gets interrogated by Nick Fury and offers up a meaty monologue to explain his frustration with Miles and his attempts at preserving his legacy. While staring at the unmasked Peter Parker and hearing his case, Nick Fury is as terse and unemotional as can be: “Come with me.”
6. Black Cat
Whatever Mary Jane and Peter Parker shared, it was but a dim reflection of the dynamic between Spider-Man and Black Cat. Felicia Hardy owned every ounce of the winsome web-slinger, and even though their relationship grew somewhat abusive over the years, their scenes always jumped off the comics page.
Peter Parker grew quite attached to Felicia. While laying beside her in bed, his mind raced into a melodramatic monologue about their total lack of communication: “We don’t talk after. Not about us. Not about our relationship. Not about…why we found a corpse made of stone inside.” That last bit is rather concerning and deserves attention. Nevertheless, it’s clear that while Black Cat knows Spider-Man’s true identity, he has absolutely no real knowledge and understanding of her.
5. Norman Osborne
Whether you’re well-versed in comics lore or simply saw Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man, it’s not surprising that the head of Oscorp Industries knows who’s behind the webslinger’s mask. In Peter Parker: Spiderman #75, the war of attrition between Green Goblin and Spidey gets amplified when the eternal enemies finally find out each other’s identities.
The big reveal is as good as it gets, especially because the impetus behind it comes from Peter Parker alone. After surviving a series of vicious blows from the Goblin, Spider-Man roundhouse kicks his enemy and declares, “No more masks. This has never been about Spider-Man and the Green Goblin. It’s always been about Peter Parker and Norman Osborn, and tonight they settle this face to face…as men.” Whether or not you agree with Peter Parker’s claim (would the Parker/Osborn struggle even exist without their alter egos?), it’s hard to deny the awesomeness of the moment.
4. Luke Cage
Spider-Man can take down just about anyone in the superhero universe, but when he comes up against that rare specimen who he can’t manhandle, he turns to his wits. Take Luke Cage, for example. The steely Defender of New York City would put a beatdown on Spider-Man, and Peter Parker knows it. To keep ribbing his ally, the web-head asserts, “Hey, Luke, man, what about that thing with me and your wife before? You know, about her being in love with me in high school?”
Cue the jealousy and rage. Jessica Jones herself affirmed this before an audience that included Captain America and Wolverine, as she told Parker, “Seriously, you don’t even remember that I was totally in love with you?” To which the impenetrable Luke Cage inquired, “Love or crush? Because they’re completely two different things.” So yeah, Luke Cage knows who Spider-Man really is, and he doesn’t like him all that much.
Over in Hell’s Kitchen, Spider-Man and Daredevil continue their highly praised partnership. As Marvel fans wonder when, if ever, the Netflix original series will crossover with the MCU, one question remains: how soom can we see Tom Holland’s Peter Parker team up with Charlie Cox’s Matt Murdock?
There’s plenty of precedent for their alliance in the comics. Not only does the web-head make a perfect foil to Murdock’s fighting style, but Spider-Man is a huge help to clearing Daredevil’s head. After a knockdown, drag-out fight, Murdock waxed poetical and questioned the nature of their job: “Nothing good comes out of anything we do!” Peter calmly reassured him of his purpose and reminded Daredevil, “You saved that baby girl’s life, Matt. Think about it.” After Peter swung away from the scene, Daredevil stood stoic and thought, “Thanks, Peter. I owe you one.”
2. J. Jonah Jameson
As editor-in-chief of the Daily Bugle, J. Jonah Jameson has used every imaginable connection to uncover Spider-Man’s true identity. From unleashing Spider-Slayer robots to hunt him down, to hiring a private investigator and commissioning Silver Sable to track him, triple-J has stopped at nothing to find out the web-slinger’s secret. Despite all of these efforts, Jameson has rarely gotten what he wanted.
There are only a few instances where the sociopathic publisher put two and two together. In the Ultimate Marvel universe, Jameson figured out that Peter Parker was Spider-Man, but rather than use the knowledge against him, his change of heart compelled him to keep his newfound knowledge a secret. In Civil War: The Amazing Spider-Man, Peter’s global unmasking leaves Jameson humiliated: “In a world built on lies, I thought, he’s the only one who’s always been straight with me. The last honest guy in town…probably spent whole days just laughing at me.” It’s probably best if Jameson doesn’t know that his go-to photographer is actually the man in the mask.
1. Kraven the Hunter
There’s only one guy who hungers for Spider-Man’s identity more than J. Jonah Jameson. Kraven the Hunter has even ravaged the Daily Bugle office and held triple-J at gunpoint to get his much-coveted answer. This tactic proved fruitless, but in Web of Spider-Man #31, Kraven manages to reach his ultimate destination.
After Peter Parker starts going stir-crazy after attending the funeral of a low-level criminal, he spends his night restlessly swinging from skyscraper to skyscraper. Riding into the Big Apple on a helicopter, Kraven airdrops from the chopper, pumps a tainted dart into Spider-Man, then captures him in his signature net. After taking the web-slinger to an undisclosed location, Kraven shoots him point blank with a rifle, buries him alive, then parades around in Peter Parker’s symbiote costume before eventually committing suicide.
Who else knows the truth about Peter Parker? Let us know in the comments!
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