There are certain rites of passage that any superhero worth their salt must go through. Death and subsequent resurrection is one of the most common, but being stripped down to the level of a mere mortal is another. The chances are that if a character has superpowers, they’ve been taken away at some point. This usually follows with a story of redemption as our heroes are forced to adapt and use their cunning to survive until they get their powers back, reaffirming the heroic characteristics that made us like them in the first place.
As one of Marvel Comics’ best and brightest, the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is no exception. As well as having to contend with one of the deepest and most varied (arguably, the very best) villainous roster in all of comicdom, Peter Parker has had to grapple with his own body betraying him on a surprisingly high number of occasions. In no particular order, here are 15 Times Spider-Man Lost His Powers.
15. Amazing Spider-Man #12 (1964)
The story Unmasked by Doctor Octopus! features the first time that Peter’s powers wavered. Fueled by revenge, Doc Ock storms into The Daily Bugle offices and demands Spider-Man. Throwing J. Jonah Jameson and Peter aside, Octavius leaves with Betty Brant still in his metal clutches. Meanwhile, Peter has a cold, but dons his red and blue garb anyway to save Ms. Brant. Spidey tracks Ock down and the pair fight, only for Peter to realize that the illness has compromised his strength, leaving him able to do little more than annoy Otto with his offense. Even the mad doctor notices the difference in Spider-Man and easily takes him out, unmasking him in front of Betty, Jameson, and a couple of cops.
Spidey’s poor pugilistic performance ends up working in his favor — everyone assumes Peter was just impersonating our hero in an attempt to save Betty. After some bed rest, Pete wakes up with his powers restored. He swings into action, and after wrangling some rampaging zoo animals set free by Ock, he squares off against the tentacled jerk. The bitter enemies tangle, but as he’s fully rejuvenated, Spider-Man gains the upper hand. Octavius is led away in cuffs and Peter scores a date with a grateful Betty Brant in a rare, but welcome happy ending.
14. Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 (1964)
In October 1964, readers were introduced to the Sinister Six – a villainous group led by Doctor Octopus and consisting of Electro, Kraven the Hunter, Mysterio, Sandman, and Vulture. Spidey had faced off against all these criminals before, but their combined skills truly made them a force to be reckoned with. As fate always has a sense of twisted humor in the comic book world, Peter’s powers abandon him when he needs them the most, leaving him clinging onto a flag pole for dear life, high above the city streets.
Things change when the Six capture Betty Brant and Aunt May, forcing a powerless Pete to bravely take them on regardless of his current situation. Electro hurls a lightning bolt at him and Parker manages to dodge it. With this, Peter realizes that his superpowers are back and he had them all along. If we’re honest, it’s a bit of a cop out. As Spidey explains later on, the whole thing was psychosomatic, apparently brought on by his deep-seated guilt over Uncle Ben’s death. Still, you have to admire the Sinister Six’s knack for failure. They grow sick of being beaten individually by Spider-Man, so they group up to…er, fight him one on one in different locations, even going so far as to draw cards to determine where each bad guy will be stationed. Isn’t Doctor Octopus supposed to be smart?
13. Amazing Spider-Man #98 (1971)
The Goblin’s Last Gasp! opens dramatically, with Peter caught in a desperate situation. Not only is Harry Osborn seriously ill after a drug overdose (a controversial storyline at the time), but Harry’s father, Norman, is back to his old Goblin tricks, relentlessly pursuing and attacking Spider-Man.
The old foes meet again and have an airborne punch-up, with Peter finding out that the Goblin knows (and plans to spread) his secret identity. Goblin hurls some bombs, but one of them doesn’t explode like the others. Instead, it releases a gas that seeps through Spidey’s suit and neutralizes his wall-crawling abilities. Peter’s quick to adapt and soon leaps on the Goblin’s shoulders, piloting the glider Ratatouille-style back to the hospital to force Osborn to confront the image of his critically ill son. The plan works, and Norman is brought back from his insanity and goes into shock, fainting in the process. When the villain wakes up, he’s conveniently forgotten all about the Goblin and Spider-Man’s identity. While the special anti-climbing gas wasn’t really used again, Osborn would expand the Goblin arsenal in later issues to include custom bombs that could mess with Parker’s Spider-Sense instead.
12. Dark Reign: Fantastic Four #2 (2009)
Following the events of Secret Invasion, where the alien Skrulls wreaked havoc upon Earth, the Fantastic Four’s Reed Richards retreats inside his own mind and tries to figure out what went wrong. He builds a device called The Bridge, which enables him to both view and enter alternate realities. By this, he hopes to gain insight into the situation and avoid the mistakes of the past.
In issue #2, Reed is skipping through the multiverse (not literally) and views the realities where the big superhero Civil War came to a peaceful end. Of those, he sees a parallel medieval dimension, a dimension where Hank Pym and Reed Richards initiate the Registration Act instead of Tony Stark, and one where a serum was created that gave superpowers to anyone who wanted them. Most interesting of all is the Earth-26 reality, where Spider-Man, Captain America, Hulk, and all of Marvel’s superhumans are stripped of their powers completely, using a device that Reed himself creates. This obviously negates the need for a Superhuman Registration Act and averts Civil War completely. It’s still a tough break for alternate Peter Parker and his superhero buddies, though.
11. Amazing Spider-Man #160 (1976)
Hey kids! Remember the Spider-Mobile? Y’know, the ridiculous buggy that Spider-Man would never need but drove around anyway for a while to sell toys? Well, after being driven into a river, it makes a show-stopping reappearance in the fantastically titled My Killer, The Car!
In the story, Spidey’s hit by a gas bomb from nowhere and it takes away his powers temporarily. He then faces off against his rogue vehicle and it becomes apparent that it’s being remotely operated by someone. Worse still, the gas also affected his webshooters, meaning he can’t swing to safety. He just manages to get away from the first encounter, but is hit with the same gas later and is snagged by the buggy’s webbing. Spider-Man then has to endure the humiliating ordeal of being captured by his own car and is driven back to meet the mastermind behind it all. It turns out that the villainous Tinkerer is responsible. Tinky gloats for a while, but since the effect of the gas is only temporary, Peter gets free and deals out some payback. He defeats the Tinkerer and his goons before finally returning the Spider-Mobile to the advertising execs who convinced him to drive it in the first place. Pete doesn’t exactly make it easy for them either, leaving the trashed car suspended in webbing fourteen stories up, with an attached note reading “Compliments of your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man”.
10. Spider-Verse #4 (2015)
As one of the many storylines that made up Marvel’s huge Secret Wars event in 2015, readers were treated to a new Spider-Verse, combining some of the weird and wonderful Spider-Men (and women) across the multiverse into one narrative. The motley crew is made up of Spider-Woman (Gwen Stacy), Spider-Man India, Spider UK, Spider-Girl and Spider-Ham – the talking pig Spidey from the Marvel “Zooniverse”. They call themselves the “Web Warriors” and work as a team to solve what exactly brought them together.
At the end of issue #3, Spider-Gwen makes a shocking discovery. Their corner of Battleworld (a patchwork reality made up of broken multiverses) has a Peter Parker too. However, as explained in the next issue, this Peter lost his powers years ago and went into hiding to protect his family. This leads to a bit of role reversal when Venom jumps out of the woods and attacks Peter. Spider-Gwen manages to protect the depowered former hero from harm and the pair escape. Inspired by Spider-Woman’s heroics, Peter comes out of hiding and challenges Norman Osborn and his cronies to a fight. He joins the rest of the Web Warriors, and after a brief battle, their combined forces help defeat and apprehend the villains. The day saved, the team decides to stick together for future adventures.
9. Marvel Knights: Spider-Man #19 (2005)
The Other was an early 2000s event that tied together three Spider-Man titles for one big story, starting with Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #1. In the lead-up to the rather depressing tale, Peter has been noticeably weaker and his powers have failed him at key moments in battle. After he’s injured in a battle with bad guy Tracer, Spider-Man needs medical assistance and learns that he’s got some kind of terminal disease. He travels around to the biggest brains in the Marvel Universe, but not even Reed Richards, Bruce Banner or Black Panther can help him. As always seems to be the case, the timing of this is just the worst, as supernatural wrecking ball Morlun has returned from the grave to exact his revenge.
Morlun and Peter have one of the biggest battles in the web-slinger’s storied history. Morlun triumphs after he plucks Peter’s left eye out of its socket and beats the living daylights out of him on a public street, leaving his broken body embedded in the tarmac. This sends Peter on a spiritual journey of sorts, one where he learns he’s been neglecting his spider side. Peter agrees to embrace his primal nature and is reborn with a suite of new powers, including night vision, organic webbing, sharp fangs and arm stingers. He savagely kills Morlun with his “Other” powers and learns to adjust to his new lease on life.
8. Amazing Spider-Man #545 (2007)
In case you weren’t aware, the One More Day arc is one of the most disliked stories in comic book history. It’s a sloppy retcon where Peter literally makes a deal with the devil to save his Aunt May’s life. The price? His marriage to Mary Jane. Mephisto agrees to the Faustian deal, and all of reality is changed to reset the status quo. Peter is no longer married and lives back with Aunt May, struggling to make ends meet once again.
When dealing with comic book lore, sometimes a reset is warranted. It clears any of the troublesome baggage that the superhero may have accrued and it frees the writers to work on more creative stories instead of being shackled to decades of continuity. Having said that, One More Day was not the way to do it. It was poorly handled and did away with some interesting character growth from both Peter and Mary Jane. When the deal is struck, reality is rebooted and everyone forgets about everything that happened. This also marked the end for Peter’s “Other” powers, as Parker simply forgot he had them.
7. Spider-Man: The Animated Series (1995)
Fox Kids’ Spider-Man cartoon became a fixture for many children growing up in the ’90s. It was a great series that managed to be good in the face of a lot of executive hand-wringing over censorship and standards of decency. The animated series suffered a ton of notes from worried execs, who ordered that the show be as non-violent as possible. As a result, Spider-Man threw a total of about three punches in the entirety of its four-year, 65 episode run. Despite being heavily compromised, the series shined thanks to its strong characterisation, excellent voice cast, and, perhaps most importantly, the kickass screeching guitar intro.
In the first part of “Neogenic Nightmare: The Insidious Six”, Spider-Man finds his powers failing him, causing him to lose his grip whilst climbing. Taking its inspiration from Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1, the story hits the same basic beats. Peter becomes sick and a new group forms called the Insidious Six (the word “sinister” was deemed, no joke, “too menacing” from the higher-ups). However, the series goes its own way after Spider-Man confronts the Six. Spidey’s powers fail him again but he manages to escape. After some lab work from Doctor Connors, Peter learns that he’s still mutating and that his power loss could be permanent. This all tied to the series-long arc which adapts the bizarre Six-Arm Saga and in which Pete slowly transforms into a slavering spider-beast named Man-Spider.
6. Amazing Spider-Man #341 (1990)
After another near-worst case scenario, Peter’s guilt over putting Mary Jane and Aunt May in constant danger reaches a peak. He learns about a Doctor Turner who wants to analyze his powers, and it transpires that the good doctor has a device that can remove all of Spidey’s incredible abilities. Seeing the opportunity for a normal existence, Peter seizes the chance to get zapped. The process works and Pete is completely drained of his powers.
However, all is not what it seems. Doc Turner is actually the shape-shifting Chameleon in disguise, and has used the machine to suppress Pete’s spider skills. Scorpion hunts the now powerless Spider-Man and the pair duke it out, with Black Cat coming to Peter’s aid. Eventually, Parker learns of the true nature of Turner’s schemes, and his powers come flooding back after he sciences the hell out of the device, reversing the “causative energy flux” (whatever that means). Peter comes to the conclusion that if MJ and Aunt May are going to be in danger no matter what he does, he may as well have super-strength and agility to protect them.
5. Amazing Spider-Man #329 (1990)
Okay, so before we detail this one, we need to back up a little. There was a point (specifically The Spectacular Spider-Man #158, fact fans) when Spider-Man gained the Power Cosmic and became Captain Universe. He was so strong and powerful during this run that he punched Grey Hulk into space at one point. Talk about an upgrade. However, this power wasn’t reliable, and Peter couldn’t properly harness it.
All of this came to a head in Amazing Spider-Man #329 as part of the Acts of Vengeance event. Loki transforms three of Sebastian Shaw’s Sentinels into one Megazord-like ultimate weapon called the Tri-Sentinel. Loki sets it loose on a nearby nuclear power plant, and the wall-crawler goes after it. Spidey’s hit by an energy beam, and instead of draining him of his power as intended, it unlocks the secret cosmic side of him. Peter then transforms into the ridiculously overpowered Captain Universe, and he easily deals with the Tri-Sentinel and averts nuclear disaster.
However, with the final huge energy blast, Peter finds his cosmic powers have left him, turning him back into the regular (but still spider-powered) hero we know and love.
4. Amazing Spider-Man #654 (2011)
In the previous two parts of Revenge of the Spider-Slayer, Alistair Smythe has returned with an army of cyborgs and a newly souped-up Scorpion on his side. Spider-Man and the New Avengers, including Iron Fist and Luke Cage, fight the slayers, but notice they seem to be able to predict their moves. Spidey figures that Smythe has found a way to replicate his Spider-Sense and realizes how dangerous this could be. After getting some help from Horizon Lab head Max Modell, Peter creates an electronic device to mess with the Slayers’ senses and plans to detonate it remotely.
Ever the spanner in the works, Scorpion shows up and destroys the detonator, forcing Pete to set it off manually. He does so, and a huge wave ripples through the city, taking out not just the Slayers’ precognitive senses, but his own as well. This self-sacrifice ended up having a significant effect on Peter as he adjusted to life without his early-warning system. It took eight months for his Spidey Sense to return (thanks to some karate training with Shang-Chi and some tinkering from Horizon Labs).
3. Spider-Man: The Final Adventure #4 (1995)
If nothing else, Spider-Man: The Final Adventure can be credited for finally putting the nail in the coffin of the overlong, convoluted, and headache-inducing Clone Saga. Peter takes on Tendril and Dryrot, two villains that cause death and decay. He defeats them and hauls them back to a lab where several scientists work on depowering the two men. The process starts up and Tendril knocks the equipment off-kilter, making the whole situation potentially lethal for everybody.
Parker runs in to fix the equipment, but our hero gets caught up in the radiation. The experiment works and the three men survive, but are stripped of their powers. After the incident, Peter surmises that he couldn’t get his powers back even if he wanted to and quits being Spider-Man. He packs his signature suit away and focuses on forging a new life with his pregnant wife, Mary Jane. Superheroic duties then fell to clone Ben Reilly, but it wasn’t too long before Peter was back to fill the spider-boots once more.
2. Amazing Spider-Man #86/87 (1970)
In the story Beware…the Black Widow!, featured in the July 1970 print of The Amazing Spider-Man, Peter started feeling a little worse for wear. After he barely escapes a fight with Black Widow, Pete realizes there’s something amiss. He analyzes his blood and sure enough, it’s less radioactive than it was before. Out of desperation, an extremely unwell Parker swings across town to find his friend (and occasional snarling lizard monster) Doc Connors.
On the way, Peter remembers Gwen Stacy’s surprise birthday party and stops off at a jewelers. Delirious from fever, Spidey breaks in and almost steals some pearls as a gift before coming to his senses. Pete turns up at the party, mask in hand and tells the assembled crowd not only that he’s Spider-Man, but that he officially quits. Hilariously, after dropping that particular bomb, he turns tail and runs away, summoning just enough strength to make it to the nearest hospital. Spidey dozes off only to wake up in bed to a doctor telling him he had a nasty bout of the flu. Peter quickly recovers, and so do his powers. Oh — and in case you were wondering how he got away with telling a room full of people his secret identity — it was put down to delirium, with his innocence proven when The Prowler shows up disguised as Spider-Man as a personal favor to Pete.
1. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Sam Raimi’s Spidey sequel took everything great about the first film and improved on it considerably. In the movie, Tobey Maguire’s webhead takes on the multi-tentacled Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina) and struggles to balance his superhero life with his private one. Despite having turned her down at the end of the first film due to his crimefighting obligations, Parker still pines after Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst). After news breaks that Ms. Watson is engaged to the handsome astronaut John Jameson, it soon becomes apparent that MJ isn’t the only thing slipping from Peter’s grip.
Our hero finds himself unable to stick to walls, spin webs, and basically do whatever a spider can. Pete seeks medical advice and is told by his doctor that maybe “his friend” isn’t meant to be climbing walls. Peter’s inner turmoil and frustrations have messed with his head and his heart, resulting in a superpower blockage. Parker gives up the red and blue tights and chooses to act selfishly again, ignoring his Uncle Ben’s sage wisdom. He enjoys the civilian life initially, but soon learns that being boring old Peter again isn’t the magical answer to his problems. Worse still, Doc Ock comes crashing back onto the scene and kidnaps MJ, demanding that Spider-Man show up and confront him. The danger Mary Jane is in focuses Peter’s mind and brings him out of his funk. With a clear reason to fight, Parker’s powers come surging back and he swings off to slap some sense into Octavius. It’s an air-punchingly triumphant moment made all the better by the resulting scrap on top of a speeding train.
Do you know of any other times where Spidey lost his superpowers? Let us know in the comments.