Peter Parker’s daughter Spider-Girl is one of Marvel’s best legacy heroes. She lives on Earth-982, where the events of the Silver Age (Fantastic Four’s flight, Bruce Banner’s transformation, Peter’s spider-bite) happened 15 years earlier than on Marvel’s primary world, Earth-616. Some 616 events turned out differently, and some events never happened at all. 982 Peter Parker retired as a superhero more than a decade ago after losing his leg in a final battle with the Green Goblin. He never went through the dreaded “One More Day” story that erased his marriage, so he and Mary Jane Parker are still together.
Peter always wondered if his daughter would inherit his powers, but they didn’t manifest until her teens, in What If #105. May discovers her agility has increased to amazing new levels, and she learns what that means when the Goblin’s grandson Normie attacked Peter. Mary Jane then explained May’s heritage to her, and the young girl promptly saved Peter by donning a costume as Spider-Girl. After she defeated Normie, Peter and Mary Jane burned the costume and told her that it could never happen again. May didn’t listen, and so, a legend was born.
Here are 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Spider-Girl.
15. If the Clone Saga had ended well, Spider-Girl wouldn’t exist
The 1990s Clone Saga was supposed to end by revealing that Peter Parker was merely a clone of the real Spider-Man, Ben Reilly (shown battling Peter as the Scarlet Spider in the photo above). Peter would retire, leave town with the pregnant MJ, and bring up their baby in peace; Ben, meanwhile, would reclaim the Spider-Man mantle. Negative fan reaction forced Marvel to backpedal: Ben died, Peter wasn’t a clone, and as the writers didn’t want a baby in the series, Norman Osborn poisoned MJ, leading her to give birth to a stillborn.
Except editor in chief Bob Harras insisted on leaving it ambiguous — could it be that Osborn had May kidnapped instead? Editor Glenn Greenberg says a lot of the editorial and creative team thought that was a mistake, and that a clear-cut “she’s dead” was the only way to go. Eventually, a later story confirmed May was dead. But during the window of “maybe not,” Tom DeFalco wrote that What If, with a backstory where May was indeed kidnapped but the Parkers recovered her. Harras’ decision gave DeFalco that window.
14. Spider-Girl is Marvel’s second most successful spider-character
Like her father’s first appearance in Amazing Fantasy #15, May’s debut was a one-shot story that led to her getting her own series. Even when sales on Spider-Girl were sluggish, fan support kept the series going for 100 issues. Then came another series, a couple of miniseries, and some back-up appearances in Amazing Spider-Man Family.
That puts May Parker way ahead of any of Marvel’s other Spider characters: the two Spider-Women, the other Spider-Girl, or Peter Porkchops — the Spectacular Spider-Ham. The Jessica Drew Spider-Woman came closest, with 50 issues in the original series. Miguel O’Hara, Spider-Man 2099, lasted 46. Miles Morales, the second Ultimate Spider-Man, managed 28.
Of course, Miles or Miguel or Jessica, or Spider-characters such as Cindy Moon or Spider-Gwen, could still supplant May. Then again, May’s still around and appearing in Spider-crossovers, so we might see more of “Mayday” Parker yet.
13. May is the teenager Peter would have loved to be
Peter Parker’s early high school life were miserable. No friends, no love life, struggling to support Aunt May. Plus the burden of having lost his parents early, then losing Uncle Ben.
May’s high school life, meanwhile, was great. Good grades, a basketball star (she earned her “Mayday” nickname on the courts), parents who love her, and a tight circle of friends. Her love life, admittedly, seemed as messed up as her father’s, and that got even worse after she became Spider-Girl — the old problem of not being able to explain why she never showed for the big date became a thing for her as well. Being Spider-Girl made everything tougher, even basketball. Mayday had always gone all out, now she had to be careful not to let go and use her powers. Even her spider-sense gave her an edge.
12. The series’ emotional core was parents and kids trying to understand each other
Spider-Girl writer Tom DeFalco has said that the heart of the series was the generation gap between May and Peter, highlighted by May’s decision to keep fighting crime as Spider-Girl.
As DeFalco explains it, Spider-Man’s a legend to May’s generation. And legends have their crap together, right? Even knowing he’s really her dad, May can’t imagine Spidey ever hesitated or felt uncertain about his decisions the way she often does. In trying to be as confident and sure as the original web-slinger, she’s holding herself to a standard Peter rarely actually attained.
For his part, Peter is horrified to discover his beloved daughter doesn’t always listen to him, even about important things like not risking her life to play superhero. Sure, it was fine for him to swing around on webs in his teen years, but he had to atone for the death of Uncle Ben. May has no excuse! None! And yet she’s out there doing it! And talking about how with her great powers comes great responsibility — where do kids get these ideas?
11. When May started crimefighting, the Human Torch was more impressed with her than her own father was
One early example of the father/daughter gap came right after Spider-Girl teamed up with the Fantastic Five against the villainous Spyral. May didn’t unmask or reveal her identity, but Johnny Storm, not being brain-dead, had no trouble figuring it out. Naturally, Johnny asked his old buddy Peter out for coffee and told Pete how amazing May was, how proud Peter must be of her. Johnny only hoped that when his own son was ready to join the FF, he did half as well. All Peter could do was sit in silence, not letting on how different his own feelings were.
Despite his disapproval, however, May continued fighting crime and saving lives as Spider-Girl. Over time, Peter and MJ came to accept and support her, at least most of the time. Though Peter was probably tougher on May when he began training and coaching her than when he didn’t want her wearing a costume at all.
10. May’s powers aren’t the same as Peter’s
At first, May appeared to have inherited identical powers to her father. As time went on, though, that changed. Some of the differences could just be May using her powers better. In one issue, May mentions offhandedly how she uses spider-sense to find the point where her foes are least dangerous and attack there. Peter doesn’t admit that he never thought of that.
Several other differences emerged after Spider-Girl temporarily lost her powers (see #1) then regained them after an electrical shock. May discovered she could repel objects as well as cling to them. She could also use her power to stick people to objects she was clinging to. During the “Spider-Verse” crossover with spider-heroes throughout the multiverse, May discovered her abilities might be unique. She suggested that maybe nobody else had ever tried them.
9. Spider-Girl has a crush on Reed Richard’s son Franklin
The fifteen extra years the 982 heroes have lived through have made for a lot of changes. Franklin Richards, for example, is now in his twenties, a member of the Fantastic Five as Psi-Lord, and, in May’s opinion, one fabulous hunk of man-flesh. Hanging out with him? Being treated like a peer? Superheroing doesn’t get better than that.
Franklin is, however, only one of the Earth-982 second generation heroes who’ve entered the family business. Juggernaut’s son has inherited his father’s powers, which he uses both as a solo hero and an Avenger. Wolverine’s daughter Rina Logan (Elektra’s the mommy) fights crime — not to mention slicing and stabbing crime — as Wild Thing. Hank and Janet Pym’s kids turned into supervillains, the Big Man and Red Queen. Blaming the Avengers for their parents’ death, they organized the Revengers to destroy them.
Of course, first-generation heroes have aged too in this world. Nova started as a Bronze Age teen hero, but on Earth-982, he’s a grouchy fortysomething crimefighter who wishes Spider-Girl would get off his lawn.
8. Spider-Girl finally ended the feud between the Parkers and the Osborns
Normie Osborn wasn’t as committed to being the Green Goblin as he first appeared. Sure, he wanted revenge on Peter for killing Norman and Harry, but he knew following in their footsteps would probably get himself killed too. When Normie captured Spider-Girl in Spider-Girl#27, he tied her up and subjected her to a long supervillain harangue. A really, really long harangue. While triple-dog daring May to break free and take him on before he killed her.
May finally realized his real goal wasn’t to kill her, it was for her to put him out of his misery. May offered him her support and friendship instead, and three generations of Parker/Osborn hate came to an end. When Normie’s grandfather came back from the dead again, May put an end to the generation too (see #5)
7. May and her father disagree on whether organic web-shooters would be cool.
When the first Spider-Man film (2002) came out, Sam Raimi’s decision to give Peter organic web-shooters touched off no end of fan controversy. Raimi’s rationale was that if Peter could create web-fluid in the lab, he could just patent the formula to support himself. Fans replied that this just wasn’t the classic Spider-Man. A few people pointed out that Peter should be shooting the webbing out his butt like a real spider, not his wrists.
May, though? She’s cool with the idea. In Spider-Girl #20 (second series) Peter is coaching her in how to whip up the web fluid and she’s discovering it’s difficult: one slip in the formula and the stuff is useless. Gee, dad, May said, wouldn’t it be great if we had organic web-shooters instead?
6. May’s father isn’t her only mentor
On Earth-982, it takes a village to raise a superhero.
May’s first teacher, back before Peter accepted her as Spider-Girl, was Peter’s coworker Phil Urich. As a teenager, Phil had used a cache of Green Goblin tech to become a heroic version of the maniacal supervillain. It hadn’t lasted long, neither had his later career as the Blue Wail. But by making May his protege, he could fight crime vicariously through her. Later, he helped her out on the front lines in yet another identity, the Golden Goblin.
Superheroes of May’s own generation, like the Avenger’s Stinger, were happy to run combat drills with her. Non-powered heroes such as the Ladyhawks and American Dream helped May hone her hand-to-hand skills. The mysterious Darkdevil constantly goaded May to be better, and the reformed Normie helped out in any way he could. As Normie put it, May’s greatest power may have been her ability to form friendships.
5. Spider-Girl has teamed up with Aunt May’s ghost.
Aunt May died peacefully shortly after May’s birth. May remembered nothing of her namesake until she went back in time in Spider-Girl #10 and discovered what a wonderful great-aunt she had.
Years later, after Spider-Girl wound up comatose after an explosion, she found herself wandering in her own mind, unable to escape. A young blonde woman, also named May, gave Mayday mystic guidance on escaping the dreamscape and getting back to reality.
Despite an interfering bodysnatcher, Spider-Girl eventually regained consciousness. Good thing, as this was when Norman Osborn came back from the dead by having his mind downloaded into Peter’s body. Unable to defeat Norman physically, the two Mays traveled into Peter’s consciousness, joined forces with him, and helped Spider-Man defeat Norman one final time. Her family safe, Aunt May faded away, telling Peter she was proud to see what an amazing job he and MJ had done raising her grand-niece.
4. May lost her father in one crossover event, but gained a grandfather.
May’s series ended in 2010 on a happy note: she had a boyfriend, her family was safe, life was good. Perhaps inevitably, Marvel didn’t let things stay that way.
A 21st century retcon established that Peter’s powers were actually supernatural, bestowed by a spider totem spirit. In the big “Spider-Verse” event, the Inheritors, beings who fed off totemic powers, crossed the multiverse trying to kill every version of Spider-Man. On 982, they attacked the Parkers, killing May’s family and her boyfriend Wes. May joined Earth-616 Peter’s legion of spider-heroes to help defeat the Inheritors once and for all.
When it was all over, May returned to 982 to find her family had survived — except for her father. A version of Peter’s Uncle Ben, from a world where he’d gained the powers but Peter had died, came along with Spider-Girl. May took the great-uncle she’d never known into her heart, and Ben got a chance to care for a family again.
3. Spider Girl is now Spider-Woman
May’s first costume belonged to her “uncle” Ben Reilly, Peter’s clone. After her initial battle with Normie, the Parkers burned it, as she’d never, ever need it again, right?
When she finally decided to keep with the hero gig, May, like her father thirty years earlier, sewed her own.
In the aftermath of Peter’s death in Spider-Verse, May, with Mary Jane’s encouragement, donned her father’s costume instead. To further acknowledge she was stepping into Peter’s shoes, she started calling herself Spider-Woman, although most people on 982 are still using “Spider-Girl.” She’s changed her costume since then, but stuck by the Spider-Woman moniker. Although May doesn’t have her own series at the moment, she’s appeared in other spider-events, and there’s constant talk of introducing her into a Marvel movie at some point, so who knows?
2. Joe Quesada used Spider-Girl as an argument for erasing Peter and Mary Jane’s marriage.
“One More Day” was one of the more controversial Spider-Man arcs in recent years. Many spider-writers over the years have argued that Peter works better if he’s single. Marvel editor-in-chief Joe Quesada shared that view, and he had the clout to get his wish.
In OMD, Aunt May was fatally wounded by a hitman gunning for Peter. To save her, Peter literally made a deal with the devil. In return for restoring May’s life, the demon lord Mephisto got to retcon out Peter’s marriage and all the happiness it brought him. One of Quesada’s arguments for OMD was that if fans really liked seeing Peter and MJ with rings on their fingers, they could get their marriage fix with Spider-Girl.
Of course, her book only lasted a little longer, and now, 982 MJ’s a widow. But even an ongoing Spider-Girl series probably wouldn’t make fans hate OMD any less — it’s #1 on Screen Rant’s list of worst Spider-stories for a reason.
1. It’s not May’s powers that make her a hero
Taking powers away is a classic superhero trope. How will they cope with being normal? Will they give up fighting crime? Is it the powers that make the hero, or the person who wields them?
That’s the dilemma May faced after Spider-Girl #25. After a shock from the supervillain Killerwatt, her powers went away for several issues. At first, May contemplated the joys of having a life with only one identity. Before long, though, she’d talked Phil Urich into loaning her a goblin glider and some weapons, and she resumed fighting crime.
Her parents had been worried about her before, but now? Why did she think she still had great responsibility when she no longer had great powers? But even after they grounded her, May refused to stay out of action, whether she was fighting the Soldiers of the Serpent or convincing the supervillain Raptor to reform.
Eventually, May powers returned, but not before it was crystal clear that they weren’t what made her a hero. It’s May’s courage and her desire to make the world better that make her the true heir to the original Spider-Man.
What else should fans know about Mayday Parker, aka Spider-Girl? Let us know in the comments.
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