Does death matter in comic books any more? After all, so few are permanent that it seems like more of an inconvenience rather than any lasting state of being. There could be an argument made that the narrative gymnastics that comic book writers have to pull to get a hero out of a nasty case of death is part of the fun. It's almost an in-joke, an agreement between reader and creator to embrace the ridiculous. Comic book death has become more of a way to put a character on the back-burner (or, you know, to sell a lot of comics) rather than to write them off completely.
It's pretty much guaranteed that if a hero is popular enough, they will have “died” dozens of times over their crimefighting careers. Being perhaps one of the most beloved superheroes of all time, Marvel's Spider-Man has managed to shrug off fatality on many occasions. As they range from the interesting to the downright weird, we figured we'd better do something with them. Here are 15 Times Spider-Man “Died”.
15 Mutates into a giant spider then dies
The Six Arms Saga was a weird time in Spider-Man comics where Peter Parker sprouted extra limbs and eventually turned into Man-Spider, a slavering gigantic arachnid monster. After The Avengers disbanded, Spidey's Disassembled run had Peter turning into an eight-legged abomination once again. By the end of The Spectacular Spider-Man #19, the metamorphosis was complete and Peter was no more. In his stead was a shiver-inducing giant spider pet in the service of Adrianna Soria, aka the Spider-Queen.
All seems lost until issue #20, when the spider has some sort of seizure and keels over. So, Pete's dead, right? Apparently not. A naked and decidedly human Peter bursts out of the spider's carcass, good as new. No, it doesn't make any sense. There's even less logic in the reveal that Peter now had new powers like organic webbing and, rather weirdly, insect telepathy. Ant-Man's lawyers probably weren't too happy about that last one.
14 Impaled by the Goblin's glider
After dragging on for approximately seven hundred years, the tortuous Clone Saga eventually started to wind down. One of the longest running parts of The Clone Saga was the question over who was the “real” Peter Parker. Was it the Parker we knew, or was he actually a clone of Ben Reilly? In The Night of the Goblin appearing in Spider-Man #75, the truth was finally revealed.
The Green Goblin has a badly beaten Ben Reilly in his grasp. He admits that he's been manipulating Peter from the start and that Ben Reilly is the clone. Spidey and Gobby face off, but Osborn gets the upper hand. Ben shakes the cobwebs loose and rallies to help Peter, but it doesn't go to plan. Goblin sends his glider on a deadly trajectory. Reilly manages to warn Peter of the danger, but gets speared through the back by the glider before falling off the rooftop to the streets far below. Ben Reilly's death actually stuck for an impressive amount of time, lasting about 20 years before he was brought back in the Clone Conspiracy arc in 2016.
13 Drained and prematurely aged by the symbiote suit
If we're talking “death” with the all-important inverted commas, then it's kind of expected that we delve into the wacky world of the non-canonical What If? comics. In What If? Vol.2 #4, the premise was simple - what if the alien costume had possessed Spider-Man? Instead of heroically casting off the black suit in this reality, Peter and the symbiote end up bonding, impossible to separate by science and magic.
Reed Richards keeps the Parker/Venom creature under observation, but it escapes. It ends up attacking The Hulk, leaving its previous host discarded as it latches onto the Jade Giant. VenomHulk leaps away, leaving Peter behind, prematurely aged by being under the symbiote's influence for so long. Reed offers to care for rickety Pete, but Parker collapses and dies of old age soon after. In case you were wondering how the twisted tale ends, Black Cat blasts the symbiote with a energy weapon, killing it in revenge for her fallen “Spider”.
12 Stabbed by Wolverine
A mere two issues after the alien shenanigans, What If? Vol. 2 #6 featured Spider-Man dying again. The famous X-Men event Inferno involved a demonic invasion of Earth, with X-Man Colossus's sister, Illyana Rasputin, being the key element to the whole nefarious plan. New York is overrun with demons and all the nearby costumed crusaders band together to fight them off. The day is eventually saved when Illyana sacrifices her demon powers and banishes the invading horde back to the extradimensional plane they came from. The ordeal also reverts Illyana to a seven-year old for some reason.
However, in What If the X-Men Had Lost Inferno? One of the demons, S'ym, finds Illyana's powerful Soulsword and uses it to teleport to Earth. He kills all of the X-Men except Wolverine, who becomes possessed. The dimension's demonic aura corrupts the vast majority of the Marvel Universe's remaining heroes, but “for reasons unknown” (direct quote) She-Hulk, Human Torch, Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, and a handful of others are unaffected. They're soon set on by Wolverine, Hulk, and the rest of their demonic brethren, and the results are brutal. Captain America is cut to ribbons and poor She-Hulk gets her neck snapped by her raging green cousin. Spider-Man holds out a little longer before Demon Logan leaps up and stabs him through the back with his claws. Tough break.
11 Hit with a massive energy blast
Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #11 ended on quite the cliffhanger. Dr. Doom manages to steal godlike power from The Beyonder and he uses it to destroy The Avengers, The X-Men, The Fantastic Four, Hulk, and both Spider-Man and Spider-Woman in one fell swoop. A massive energy blast tears through the heroes' temporary Doombase HQ and takes them all out with little fuss.
Obviously, some of Marvel's most popular heroes ever didn't stay dead for long. In Issue #12, Doom grows paranoid that he hasn't killed his enemies. Black Panther villain Klaw does his best Grima Wormtongue impression and slowly convinces the unstable Doom that he hadn't finished the job. Thanks to Doom's lack of control over his new power, his paranoia simply wills the heroes back into existence, with Thor's hammer Mjolnir crashing through the wall mere seconds later. Although it was quickly overturned, this counts as one of only a handful of times that Spider-Man has legitimately died.
10 Dies in hospital after a mysterious illness
Hold your noses, because we're about to delve back into The Clone Saga. In Spider-Man #70, Peter collapses and is rushed to hospital. By the time we catch up with him in the next issue, things have gotten a lot worse. Peter's on death's door, and Mary Jane and Ben Reilly are powerless to do anything about it. At the end of Issue #71, Peter finally succumbs to his mystery illness and flatlines, but not before telling Ben to continue his legacy.
Spectacular Spider-Man #237 opens with a few pages of MJ and Ben mourning before Peter miraculously wakes up, his powers restored after having lost them at the end of Spider-Man: The Final Adventure. Peter then joins Ben in a climactic fight against The Lizard, dressed in scrubs and a surgery mask. We'd say this may be one of his worst looks ever, but there's some hefty competition from the Bombastic Bag Man outfit to consider.
9 Poisoned by The Owl
For people not familiar with supervillain The Owl, he's basically like the Vulture, but with a crappier suit. In Amazing Spider-Man #396, The Owl (real name Leland Owlsley) and Vulture team up, but they have a shaky alliance to say the least. Owl experiments with a new kind of poison and paints it on the talons of his pet vulture (not Adrian Toomes, an actual bird). Daredevil and Spider-Man confront The Owl, but Spidey is slashed by the bird's claws, raking his face and causing him to collapse. Peter recovers, but the poison works its way through his system, giving him an unspecified, but certainly short, time left to live.
Parker's unlikely savior is Doctor Otto Octavius. He's so caught up in the poetic notion that he and Spider-Man are destined to fight each other forever that he concocts an antidote for Parker to drink. After some fighting, he complies, only to fall down dead. Peter visits the afterlife and sees his beloved Uncle Ben again before being jolted back to life via Ock's CPR attempts. With Peter Parker having been purged of the pesky poison, Ock gives himself up to the authorities, ready to start their usual dance all over again.
8 Gets badly beaten, kills Morlun, and then dies
One of Spider-Man's toughest enemies, Morlun, returns in The Other story arc, hungrier than ever for Peter's potent superpowered spider energy. Morlun is ridiculously tough, and their second fight goes about as well as the first one did, which is to say “not very”. To put it charitably, Spidey is overpowered by Morlun and mercilessly pummelled beyond recognition. The critically injured Peter is rushed to hospital, but it isn't long before Morlun shows up to finish the job.
After Morlun strikes Mary Jane, Peter suddenly leaps from his bed and savages Morlun, having now mutated into a spider monster with arm spikes and razor-sharp fangs. He rips Morlun's throat out, killing him and turning him to dust before keeling over himself. Now appearing more human, Peter dies in Mary Jane's arms. Fans of the web-slinger needn't have worried, though. Peter was soon reborn in a gross gooey cocoon under a bridge and ended up perfectly fine.
7 Crucified by Kulan Gath
In a particularly violent issue of Uncanny X-Men (#191 to be precise), the mutants took on Kulan Gath after the sorcerer transformed Manhattan into his own personal medieval playground, changing everyone and everything into a Dark Ages approximation. Spider-Man remains unaffected, but is captured, tortured, and beaten by the wizard. Gath intends to use the death of Spider-Man to amplify his spell to cover the entire world and crucifies him as part of the ritual.
In a heroic final deed, Spider-Man breaks free from the cross and attempts to help his altered friends fight, but is struck down with another spell. Spider-Man dies on the floor and the Earth's fate is sealed. The day is eventually saved when Doctor Strange teams up with Illyana Rasputin and reverses the time flow to before the incident. All those who died, including Peter, sprang back to life, blissfully unaware that anything happened in the first place.
6 Killed by Terraxia
As you'll no doubt be aware, Infinity Gauntlet revolved around the Mad Titan Thanos getting his purple hands on the six Infinity Gems and laying waste to creation as we know it. In Infinity Gauntlet #4, Thanos faces off against the assembled might of some of Marvel's biggest names in a final push to stop the destruction. Spoiler: it doesn't go well for the heroes.
Wolverine has his bones turned to rubber and collapses in a useless heap, Cyclops has an unbreakable airtight cube put on his head that suffocates him, and the mighty Thor is turned to glass. But it's Spider-Man's death that's arguably the most unsettling. Instead of being transformed into something weird, he's wrestled down by Terraxia and simply has his head beaten in by a rock. It's a brutal and unglamorous death that thankfully was undone when the universe was reset at the end of the series.
5 Killed by the Green Goblin
There's a strong case to be made for the Green Goblin to be Spider-Man's all time greatest nemesis. Other villains may be more dangerous and powerful, but Norman Osborn's cackling alter-ego has had an immeasurable effect on Peter's life, least of all killing his first lady love, Gwen Stacy. In the aptly-titled Triumph of the Goblin, appearing in Spectacular Spider-Man #263, it seems that the Goblin has finally bested his enemy once and for all.
Long story short- Osborn hospitalizes Aunt May (later revealed to be an actress and not the real deal) and after taking her to Reed Richards, Spider-Man tears off after Goblin for some retribution. Peter attacks, but the Goblin is much stronger than before. Osborn overpowers Peter and takes him on a painful glider trip through New York City. He slams him through windows, drops him to the ground multiple times and launches barrages of Pumpkin Bombs at the stricken Spidey. It all culminates in Goblin publicly unmasking Peter before throwing a final bomb and killing him in front of a shocked crowd. However, in Peter Parker #98, this was all revealed to be a figment of Osborn's fevered mind, and that the Goblin was actually safely webbed up and hauled away after their encounter.
4 Killed in a chemical explosion
Spider-Man Vol. 1 #17 opens with Peter web-slinging around town, fretting about taking some barbeque sauce to Aunt May's. He soon has bigger things than condiments to worry about as a window washing platform snaps, sending two workers flying. Spidey webs the men to safety, but the platform hurtles toward the ground, hitting several freon tanks on its way down. Spying a mother and daughter in peril on a rooftop, Peter swings down and shields them from the blast, getting doused with a lethal dose of the chemical. Pete dies and has an out-of-body experience that takes him to the afterlife. We're also sorry to tell you that the barbeque sauce didn't make it either.
Peter meets Thanos, and the Titan grants him one last look at Earth, showing that Peter only managed to save the mother and not her young daughter. Not only that, but the mother now hates him for saving her instead of her Angelina. Parker demands Angelina's release from the afterlife, and when Thanos refuses, Peter attacks him. They fight until Death herself shows up. It turns out that Thanos engineered Spider-Man's death as a gift to his crush, but she remains unmoved. However, she does seem impressed by Peter's selflessness in fighting for Angelina to live instead of himself, and sends them both back to the mortal realm. They both wake up and mother and daughter are reunited, as Peter swings off to explain the whole sauce situation to Aunt May.
3 Transferred into the body of a dying Otto Octavius
The Superior Spider-Man arc remains a pretty contentious issue amongst comic book fans. Some loved the idea of Doctor Octopus becoming the new Spider-Man, others definitely didn't, if lengthy, usually profane, forum posts are to be believed. In any case, that's how Amazing Spider-Man #700 ended.
Faced with his own mortality, Otto Octavius manages to switch minds with Peter Parker, sending Otto into Parker's jacked agile form and confining Peter to a dying husk. Pete desperately tries to get his body back, but it's too late. After a final fight, Peter forces Ock to remember his memories over a life lived as Peter Parker and Spider-Man. Otto struggles with this, but soon realizes the error of his ways. Peter's memories inspire him to turn good, just as Otto's body finally gives out and Pete kicks the bucket. Otto vows to fight the good fight and becomes the Superior Spider-Man, a do-gooder with a very twisted idea of heroics. Of course, it wasn't too long before Peter's consciousness returned and started battling Otto for the right to exist.
2 Gets shot, fights five villains, dies
In the Ultimate universe, Peter isn't the only person to gain superpowers after a spider bite. Many years after the original incident, student Miles Morales is also bitten and given a suite of spider-powers. However, he shuns the responsibility, leaving the heroics to the “proper” Spider-Man instead.
Well, things didn't end up going so well for Ultimate Peter Parker. He takes a bullet intended for Captain America and stumbles his way back home to find Electro, Sandman, Vulture, and Kraven the Hunter lying in wait, with the unconscious forms of Human Torch, Iceman, and the Green Goblin strewn around. Despite being shot, Spider-Man holds out against the villains before Green Goblin wakes up and strikes. The old enemies have a massive slugfest that turns when Mary Jane drives a truck into the Goblin's side. Summoning his last ounces of strength, Peter lifts the truck and brings it crashing down on Norman Osborn's head twice before the whole thing explodes and Peter is thrown back, landing awkwardly on his neck. He dies as a result of his injuries, safe in the knowledge that he protected Aunt May and Mary Jane from harm.
It's a rough moment, but it does serve a good purpose. Miles witnesses Peter's sacrifice and it inspires him to become the hero he was meant to be. Peter Parker may have died, but Spider-Man lived on.
1 Shot and buried by Kraven the Hunter
Kraven's Last Hunt is one of the most famous and loved Spider-Man stories out there, so if we're talking supposed deaths, this one has to be number one. For the people that haven't read it yet, here's the breakdown. Kraven the Hunter becomes so obsessed with taking down Spider-Man to prove himself capable that he travels to New York to hunt him down. After drugging him, Kraven traps Spidey in a net and shoots him at close range with a rifle. With the wall-crawler now dead and buried, Kraven dons a Spidey suit of his own and fights crime in his own heavy-handed way, driven to prove himself a better hero than Parker ever was.
Peter wakes up two weeks later and busts out of his grave (resulting in the awesome image above) and it's revealed that Kraven merely tranquilized him and took over to prove he was the superior man. Seemingly satisfied by the outcome, Kraven goes home, sends the authorities proof of his misdeeds, and finally commits suicide. It was a shocking and powerful end to a fantastic character study about one of Spider-Man's most fascinating villains. Even after decades of adventures, this one sticks out as one of the greatest Spidey stories ever written.
Did we miss any of Spider-Man's best comic book deaths? Let us know in the comments.
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