It seems to be common practice to witness our favorite comic book superheroes suffer immeasurably. Whether it’s Superman and Kryptonite, Batman watching his parents killed, or even Wolverine being tortuously experimenting on, they’ve all had horrible things happen to them. But perhaps none more so than Peter Parker and his alter ego, Spider-Man.
Boy, this kid has had it rough. Let’s start with the fact that Peter is bitten by a radioactive spider. It’s not something he wanted in any way. Sure, it helps the young man gain superhuman powers and offers him the chance to do good in the world by fighting crime. But really? Uncle Ben‘s quote, “with great power comes great responsibility,” just kind of adds salt to fire. No pressure or anything.
Turning into a web-slinger is not ideal because it also opens Peter up to a world of hurt, both on himself and, most especially, on the ones he loves. No one in Peter’s world is safe. Just ask Aunt May, Gwen Stacy, or Mary Jane Watson.
Here are 15 awful things that have happened to Peter over the course of his years as your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.
15. LOSES BABY WHEN PREGNANT MARY JANE IS POISONED
This one’s a real bummer. In Sensational Spider-Man #11, Peter and Mary Jane Watson reconcile and decide to give their relationship a real shot. They get married, and later, MJ gives him the big news they are going to be parents. But she worries about Peter continuing to be Spider-Man, putting himself in danger when they are starting a family. That’s when Peter decides to quit and hands over the reins to clone Ben Reilly. But when Marvel editors ended up deciding to bring Peter back as Spider-Man, they had to somehow resolve the baby situation.
So, Norman Osborn aka Green Goblin hires a mysterious woman to pose as a waitress at the Daily Grind. The woman poisons pregnant MJ’s food, which causes her to go into premature labor. After an agonizing delivery, the doctor breaks the news that the baby, a girl, didn’t make it. The comics sort of make it seem like maybe the baby didn’t actually die but is stolen by the evil woman and brought to Osborn as yet another way to mess with Peter, but it’s never fully explained exactly what happened to the kid. In some arcs, however, the little one became Spider-Girl.
14. MARRIAGE TO MARY JANE ERASED
How about the time Peter and Mary Jane’s marriage is just completely erased from their memories? Yeah, that happened. From the not-so-popular Spider-Man comic One More Day, Aunt May has been shot by a sniper and her life hangs in the balance. Spider-Man does all he can to try to save her life, even going to Doctor Strange for help, but nothing works.
Peter then meets a little red-headed girl who tells him she has a solution to his problem. Turns out, this girl is really a demon known as Mephisto, and he offers Spider-Man a deal. He’ll save Aunt May if Peter and Mary Jane sacrifice their marriage by having it completely wiped out. Oh, and he’ll also throw in a bonus: the public’s knowledge of Peter’s secret identity, which had been exposed in the Civil War arc, would be erased from the world.
The couple agree, but before he makes it so, Mephisto also tells them that little girl he disguised himself as was the future daughter they would have had (different from the baby girl above). Why this demon would add salt to the fire like that is beyond us, because that’s just doubly cruel.
13. BODY STOLEN BY DOC OCK AND DYING IN DOC OCK’S BODY
Let’s see if we can make sense of this because it does sound pretty awful. In an Amazing Spider-Man comic series, it’s revealed one of Spidey’s nemesis, Dr. Otto Octavius aka Doc Ock, has a degenerative disease brought on by his years as a supervillain. To combat this, he tries various ways to prolong life, finally swapping bodies with Peter, implanting his mind into Peter’s body, and forcing the hero’s consciousness into Doc Ock’s decaying form. Try as he may, Peter cannot break free of the villain’s body, and eventually dies in it. Yuck.
Meanwhile, Doc Ock becomes Superior Spider-Man after Peter forces him to remember memories over a life lived as Peter Parker and Spidey. Doc Ock tries to do good, and Peter’s consciousness is still in there somehow, warring with Ock from within and trying to influence him into doing the right things. Ock ends up giving Peter his body back after a run-in with Green Goblin/Norman Osborn, because the doc finally realizes Peter is ultimately the best Spider-Man. Sure, that’s all well and good, but could you have realized that a little earlier and saved Pete the torture?
12. EYE RIPPED OUT AND THEN EATEN IN FRONT OF HIM
This one is just nasty. In the Amazing Spider-Man #30, we meet the villainous Morlun, a magical totem hunter who wants Spider-Man’s super-powered goodness. The two have a few battles, and Spider-Man seems to gain the upper hand with this new foe. But then, Spidey is inexplicably afflicted with some ailment that is basically killing him, and he no longer has the strength required to defeat Morlun.
In one particularly epic fight, Spider-Man tries as hard as he can to beat the villain but ends up breaking all the bones in his hand with just one punch. Morlun is amused – and then in one swift move, he rips out Spider-Man’s eye and devours it, right in front of him. Morlun then completes his task by sucking the life out of the weakened Spider-Man, thus gaining the web-slinger’s totems. It seems like our hero is dead, but he is naturally resurrected in a gooey cocoon later. Still, that whole eye thing is just brutal.
11. BURIED ALIVE
Again with the bad guys trying to kill Spider-Man in such a cruel way. In the beloved Spider-Man comic Kraven’s Last Hunt, Kraven, real name Sergei Kravinoff, is a big-game hunter who wants to bag Spidey to prove he is the greatest hunter in the world. Tracking Spidey down, Kraven finally gains the advantage when he tranquilizes our hero, shoots him with rifle, and buries him alive – with a headstone and everything.
Crazy as that sounds, Spider-Man actually survives and manages to claw his way out after two weeks underground. During that time, Kraven dons the Spidey suit and goes about mercilessly brutalizing a few small-time criminals, which we guess isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But once Spider-Man breaks free, he immediately goes after Kraven, but the hunter takes his own life before the web-slinger can bring him to justice. It was a rough few weeks for Peter Parker, to be sure.
10. BULLIED IN HIGH SCHOOL
Clearly, this isn’t the worst thing to happen to Spider-Man, but for teen Peter Parker, getting bullied in school totally sucks. His primary tormentor is Flash Thompson, the Midtown High School star football player, who dubs the geeky teen “Puny Parker.”
One of the best parts of the Spider-Man comics (and movies) is when Peter — infused with radioactive spider power, enhanced speed, and reflexes — literally runs circles around Flash when the bully is trying to beat Pete up in front of crowd of students. Pete also knocks Flash down with just a tap of his fist. It’s poetic justice. Ironically, Flash idolizes Spider-Man and defends him every chance he gets, so that probably always makes Peter smile a little. Eventually, Flash and Peter become friends in college, with Flash growing to admire Peter’s intelligence and his way with the women.
9. UNCLE BEN DIES
We all know Uncle Ben’s death is what really sets Peter Parker on his journey to becoming your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, and it’s still heartbreaking every single time you read/watch it. As the story goes, with his newfound superhuman powers, the teen tries to figure out what he wants to do with them, and also doesn’t think he should be treated as a kid anymore.
One night after a quarrel with Uncle Ben, Peter takes off to be alone, and he ends up basically letting a robber get away with a crime. Later that evening, Ben is killed by the same robber (in different variations from the comics to the movies), but Peter doesn’t discover this fact until he goes after the criminal as Spider-Man and realizes it’s the same guy. Peter is forever plagued with guilt, but vows at that moment to fight crime the best way he can.
8. GWEN STACY DIES
Time for another soul-crushing event in Peter’s life, folks! In the comics, Peter starts dating Gwen Stacy when they are in college (in the Amazing Spider-Man movies, they meet in high school), but nonetheless, Gwen is considered Peter’s first love and holds a special place in his heart, even after he later falls for Mary Jane and marries her.
That’s because poor Gwen is killed when Green Goblin kidnaps her and then throws her off the George Washington Bridge. Spider-Man shoots his web down to catch her, but as he pulls her up, he sees that she’s dead, with her neck having been snapped by the whiplash of catching her at a certain speed. In the Amazing Spider-Man 2 movie, it’s even more tragic, because it seems like Gwen is saved as the web catches her just as she hits ground for a brief moment. Unfortunately, the fall is enough to break her neck. That scene just kills us, and we can certainly see how it will haunt poor Peter forever.
7. WEARING THE BLACK VENOM SUIT
Spider-Man is initially looking for a new suit because his classic red and blue costume is in bad shape from his crime-fighting ways. When he finds the ultra-tricked out black Spidey suit, he doesn’t realize it’s an alien symbiote, which will eventually become supervillain Venom.
At first, Peter loves the new Spider-Man look and the power it possesses, making him feel more confident and assertive. It also makes the web slinger more aggressive and angry, especially when he seeks vengeance for those who shot Aunt May. These are not the qualities we’ve come to know and love in our hero. He almost doesn’t recognize the suit is actually an alien lifeform until it’s too late. A few more days, and the symbiote would have completely bonded with its human host (which is the creature’s MO), thus turning Spidey into a villain with a nasty set of sharp teeth. Thankfully, Peter sheds the symbiote – and it goes on to bond with photojournalist Eddie Brock, the second real Venom.
6. AUNT MAY DIES… AND THEN DOESN’T
Although Aunt May doesn’t “die” quite as many times as Spider-Man does (see below), she has had her fair share of near misses. We’ve already described the agony Peter went through when a sniper’s bullet meant for him hits May. She lingers near death in the hospital with Peter doing everything he can to save her, including giving her an infusion of his radioactive blood (which unfortunately she has an immunity to). Then, Mephisto offers Peter and MJ the marriage-erasing deal in exchange for May’s life; they accept, and May lives again.
In Amazing Spider-Man #400, Aunt May seemingly dies in Peter’s arms from an illness, but it’s discovered that a genetically-altered actress impersonated her while the real May was held captive by Norman Osborn/Green Goblin. Spider-Man is lured to Goblin’s lair, thinking at first he might be rescuing his daughter, who he thought was stillborn, but is shocked to find that it’s actually Aunt May. Peter ends up taking her to Reed Richards, who heals her. We’re not sure which is worse, this or when Peter finds out May and Doc Ock were once engaged – and had sex. Shiver.
5. ALL THOSE FREAKING CLONES
Let’s not forget about that not-so-awesome arc where Peter Parker was cloned a bunch of times, leading him into an existential crisis and left doubting if he was the real Spider-Man anymore.
This torturous and controversial Clone Saga tells the story of Spider-Man encountering the Jackal, whose secret identity is Peter and Gwen Stacy’s former biology professor, Miles Warren. Jackal secretly loved Gwen and blamed Spider-Man for her death, so he clones them both, discovering that Peter is Spider-Man. Jackal makes Peter fight his doppelganger, who believes he is the real Spider-Man, and one of them dies in a bomb explosion that also kills Jackal.
Some still question whether the real Peter Parker died in the explosion. Years later, more clones turn up, including Ben Reilly, who also could possibly be the real Peter Parker. Turns out, Green Goblin had been orchestrating the whole thing from the beginning, just to mess with Peter, and that Peter is and always will be the real Spider-Man.
4. TRICKED INTO THINKING HIS PARENTS ARE ACTUALLY ALIVE
Oh fun, here’s another time that the Osborns sent Peter down a dark hole. As our hero has always known it, his parents, Richard and Mary Parker, were killed in a plane crash, leaving the orphaned Peter to grow up with his Aunt May and Uncle Ben. In the Amazing Spider-Man comics, however, his parents suddenly show up out of nowhere, claiming they were held captive overseas. Although May has her doubts, Peter believes it to be true and is overjoyed.
Alas, the bliss is ruined when Peter discovers his “parents” are actually “Life Model Decoys” creating by Chameleon, who is actually working for Harry Osborn. Harry wanted to get back at Peter for killing his father, Norman (who isn’t really dead). Needless to say, Peter suffers a mental breakdown over the whole thing. Poor guy, how much more can he take?
3. FINDING OUT GWEN HAD GREEN GOBLIN’S TWINS
Oh, right, there’s definitely more. In the Amazing Spider-Man comics “Sins Past,” it’s revealed that years before Gwen was killed, she had twins, a boy and a girl, while she was in Paris away from Peter. Turns out, Gwen had sex with the villain who would eventually throw her off a bridge and gave birth to his kids.
The worst part of this is that Mary Jane is the one who tells him the whole truth, because she’s known all along, having been previously sworn to secrecy by Gwen. Again, Peter pretty much loses it when he hears the news, and after a mini meltdown, he decides he has to help the now adult twins, who, in fact, are trying to kill Peter because they think he is their father. That gets all straightened out, but still, ewww on Gwen and Norman. Just ewww.
2. THE OSBORN FAMILY
Hands down, the Osborns, particularly Norman Osborn aka Green Goblin, has inflicted the most torture on poor Peter Parker, as a sort of payback for all the wrongs Osborn thinks the web-slinger has done to his family. It’s even doubly awful for Peter because one of his best friends is Harry, and to see him turn against Spider-Man – and ultimately Peter – just breaks the guy’s heart.
If you’ve been counting in this particular list alone, here are horrible things the Osborns have done: 1) poisoning MJ and making her lose her baby; 2) knocking Gwen up and then later, killing her; 3) pretending to kill Aunt May; 4) cloning the crap out of Spider-Man just for kicks; and 5) the fake parents ordeal. That Green Goblin, man, what a dick.
1. “DIED” SO MANY TIMES
Like all the awful things the Osborns have done, this list also highlights a few ways Spider-Man has died. There’s Morlun eating his eye and then beating him to death, and Kraven shooting him with a rifle and then burying him alive. Also, dying in Doc Ock gross decaying body; yeah, that isn’t fun.
Throughout the series, Spider-Man has also expired after mutating into a giant-ass spider and suffering a seizure. He was crucified once by a wizard and poisoned by an Owl. Peter has even died of a mysterious illness. Naturally, Spidey’s main nemesis Green Goblin has slayed the hero more than once, impaling him one time and seemingly blowing him up in another.
And yet, each time he dies, they find a way to resurrect him — because what good are these great comics without its main player? Long live Spider-Man!
If there’s a horrible thing that happened to Peter Parker/Spider-Man we missed, let us know in the comments!
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