At this point in comic book history there’s little we don’t know about Spider-Man. After two origin films and more than six decades worth of material on the wall-crawler, it’s safe to say that most people in the world have an encyclopedic knowledge of Spider-Man.
But the same thing can’t be said for the man underneath the webbed suit: Peter Parker. Though we all know Peter started out as a nerdy genius with a dead uncle that teaches him about great power and great responsibility, what else do we really know about the Midtown Science High School student? As it turns out, not a lot. And what we do know is sometimes a misconception, as varying movie and comic storylines have skewed our perception of one of the most famously infamous superhero alter-egos of all time.
Here’s 12 Things You Didn’t Know About Peter Parker.
12 Peter's Parents Were CIA Agents
Up until 1968 there was no mention of what had happened to Peter’s parents, Richard and Mary Parker, or who his parents even were to begin with. Having lived with his Aunt May and Uncle Ben since the debut of the first Spider-Man comic, no one was that interested in Peter’s parents and the occasional photograph or flashback was all anyone saw of them.
That is until The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #5, when it was revealed that Peter’s parents were both CIA agents that were sent on a secret mission and killed in a plane crash. It added intrigue and mystery to the origin of Peter Parker, and eventually tied into the larger Marvel Universe; a story-point that some fans see as novel and some see as the cheapening of Peter’s seemingly ordinary high-schooler persona.
11 The Red Skull Was Responsible for His Parents’ Deaths
As Spider-Man writers churned through stories of the web-head, fans became equally engaged in the life of Peter Parker and had a thirst for more stories regarding his past. These fan desires were met when it was revealed that Parker’s parents were actually undercover agents in an evil organization run by the third Red Skull, Albert Malik.
While we saw a version of these events in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, that entire subplot was axed with the cancellation of the trilogy and Spider-Man’s subsequent inclusion in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In the comics, as in the film, Parker’s parents were killed in a plane crash, but where the two differ is that the official story in the comics has Red Skull's assassin, The Finisher, sabotaging their plane and causing the crash in the first place.
10 He Isn’t Related By Blood to Aunt May
While it’s worth noting that Ben Parker didn’t say “with great power comes great responsibility” in the comics, the man who is attributed to Peter’s moral compass and reason for becoming Spider-Man was actually Peter’s last surviving blood relative. Although Aunt May is one of the most familiar characters in Spider-Man lore, the woman who raised Peter – May Parker – isn’t a Parker at all. Born May Reilly, Aunt May married Richard Parker’s brother Ben, and the rest is history.
While it may seem like a minor bit of trivia, the fact that Parker was raised by Aunt May represents just how strong of a relationship they have compared to most in comic book characters. While Peter was essentially an orphan living in an adopted home, feeling cursed and somewhat responsible for his entire bloodline being wiped out, so much of his character traits come from the strength and love of Aunt May, and it’s safe to say he’d be a very different Spider-Man without her; blood-relative or not.
9 The Radioactive Spider Didn’t Only Bite Peter
Between comic books, animated series, and two film series, we’ve seen Peter get bit by that famous radioactive spider more times than necessary. Though the way it’s happened has varied depending on the medium, the result is always the same; a nerdy high school-aged Peter Parker turns into Spider-Man. But as it turns out, many of us don’t know the whole story.
After that radioactive spider bites Peter, it doesn’t merely crawl away and live a life of quiet solitude, but rather, it bites someone else. Moments after feasting on Parker’s hand, the spider moves onto another high school student standing nearby; Cindy Moon. In Cindy’s case, after her powers began to manifest a man named Ezekiel Sims took her away and trained her, after which she became the superhero known as Silk.
8 He Only Became Spider-Man to Make Money
Not always the altruistic wise-cracker we now know him to be, when Peter Parker first got his powers his only thought was that this was his chance to make money. While we know the story of how he used his newfound abilities to last in the ring with professional wrestlers, what’s less clear is how this all led to the origin of Spider-Man.
We may take the concept of superheroes donning costumes and masks for granted – we’ve been conditioned by decades of comic books and films telling us that this is just what a hero does – but Peter Parker’s reason for becoming Spider-Man was more practical than other origins. Parker created his costume because a TV producer told him it would sell as an “act” along with his wrestling, and he created a mask to avoid the embarrassment if he lost a match. After developing web-shooters to give him the advantage over pro-wrestlers, from there we know what happened next. He declined to stop a thief who went on to kill Uncle Ben, and the superhero was born.
7 He Didn’t Meet Harry or Gwen until University
As it turns out, all five Spider-Man films have most likely skewed your perception of Peter Parker. In reality he was really more of a loser in high school than you might have imagined. He didn’t have the coolest friend in Harry Osborn, and he didn’t have two incredibly smart and attractive girls fighting over him in Mary Jane and Gwen. All he really had was a bully, Flash Thompson, and the rest didn’t happen until he got to university.
Once Peter graduated and enrolled in Empire State University, he met the characters that would go on to fill out the Spider-Man universe. With a new friend in Harry and a love triangle brewing between himself, Mary Jane, and Gwen, the stories between the pages of Spider-Man’s crime fighting capers began to fill out with the intrigue of Peter’s personal life; something that fans embraced and eventually helped to launch Peter Parker into the pop-culture stratosphere.
6 He Eventually Became Friends with Flash Thompson
Yes, the guy who made Peter’s life a living hell in high-school – the same guy that Peter eventually pummeled into the ground once he became Spider-Man – later became friends with Peter in university. Flash Thompson, bully extraordinaire, eventually came around to Peter, perhaps aided by the fact that he (Flash) was Spider-Man’s biggest fan.
Although following their reconciliation Flash and Peter still insulted each other from time to time, Flash actually ended up respecting Peter for being good at all the things that he himself thought he was good at. Popular with girls, athletic, and beyond intelligent, Flash and Peter were finally part of the same social ladder, and with both of them being friends with Harry, their rivalry was laid to rest as the two eventually became friends.
5 He Didn’t Originally Like Mary Jane
Another fact, another legion of fans that were misled by Sam Raimi’s trilogy. This time all of us have to consider that what we always held to be true – that Mary Jane was Peter’s high-school crush – is actually the opposite of true. In reality, Mary Jane Watson was meant to be a running joke in the Spider-Man comics; a girl that Aunt May repeatedly tried to set up with Peter.
But Peter was having none of it, turning down dates in issue after issue, finding excuses to not even see the face of the girl next door. Then, in one fateful issue released in November 1966, all of that changed as Peter finally saw the face of Mary Jane and heard her speak her iconic line: “Face it, Tiger… You just hit the jackpot!” From there on out, the writers and artists had a hard time keeping Mary Jane away from Peter, eventually causing him to leave Gwen and marry Mary Jane; the love of his life.
4 He Traveled to Algeria to Find Out the Truth About His Parents
Though none of the five Spider-Man films ever left New York City, Peter is more of a world-traveler in the movies, not only going on trips with The Avengers to save the world, but also carrying out his own missions. One such mission was when Peter went to Algeria in order to find out what really happened to his parents.
After an article in an old newspaper tipped Peter off to the fact that his parents were actually traitors, Peter seemed unwilling to accept that and with the Fantastic Four’s help he went to get the truth. Eventually discovering that his parents were only undercover with the Red Skull, and not actually working for him, Peter cleared his parents’ names and returned home, ready to fight crime stateside once again.
3 He Unmasked Himself to the World During The Events of Civil War
One of the biggest Spider-Man stories in recent years was directly tied to the 2006 Civil War arc, although it's one we’re unlikely to see in the upcoming film. Originally siding with Iron Man to condone the superhero registration act, Peter had strong beliefs about the issue and decided to set a press conference in Washington, D.C. to publicly give his support.
With the world watching, Peter took off his Spider-Man mask and told everyone “My name is Peter Parker, and I have been Spider-Man since I was 15 years old.” While this news may have meant nothing to the billions of people that had no idea who Peter Parker was, it had vast implications in Peter’s world. Some effects of the unmasking including J. Jonah Jameson fainting and subsequently disowning Peter, feeling betrayed after coming to see Peter as a son over the years.
2 He Can Turn Into a Spider
Among the strangest moments in Peter Parker’s life is The Six Arms Saga, a comic book storyline that saw Peter Parker turn into… A man-spider. Not a spider-man. But a man who was a spider.
Told in great detail in Spider-Man: The Animated Series, Parker finds himself mutating far past his powers years after his original spider bite. As he finds himself unable to stop his mutation – and as a result grows increasingly ill and desperate – he turns to Professor X and the X-Men to help develop a cure. After they fail, another attempt at a cure results in Peter growing four new arms, and thus the mutation accelerates, obliterating Peter’s human genes and turning him full-on into a man-spider. It was a wild ride.
1 He Has Multiple Clones
Cloning storylines in comics have been around since the beginning; where there are superheroes there are clones, and Peter Parker is no different. Kicking off with the Clone Saga, Peter Parker found himself with a variety of clones created to destroy him; these clones include Kaine – the most immoral of the clones – as well as Spidercide, Guardian, Spider-Skeleton, and a guy named “Jack.”
Perhaps the most famous Peter Parker clone is Ben Reilly, created from Peter’s own DNA by the Jackal for the sole purpose of killing Spider-Man. This clone was so similar to Peter that even Peter couldn’t tell whether he was the real Peter Parker or not. Though he ran DNA tests, he never checked his results, eventually being certain that he was the original Peter due to his feelings for Mary Jane.
While Peter went on living his life, so too did his clones, including Ben, who became a waiter and dyed his hair blonde. When Mary Jane became pregnant and Peter retired as Spider-Man to move to Portland (yes, that really happened), Ben saw this as an opportunity to don the Spider-Man costume and fulfill his destiny.
Which of these facts did you find most interesting? Are there any we missed? Let us know in the comments!