By doing whatever a spider can, Spider-Man has spun one the greatest comic book careers of all-time. With some of the best stories, coolest superpowers, and evilest villains around, superheroes don’t get any more fun than this web-slinger. That’s why it should come as no surprise that well before Robert Downey Jr. smooth talked his way onto the scene, Spider-Man was the face of Marvel.
However, despite swinging around for nearly sixty years, Spidey still has a few surprises hidden away inside those webbed underoos.
Look out! Here comes the 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Spider-Man.
15. STAN LEE CREATED THE CHARACTER BY WATCHING A FLY
Everyone’s favorite wisecracking neighborhood web-head was originally just a fly on the wall. After hitting it big with his creation of the Fantastic Four in 1961, Stan Lee spent the next year racking his brain for the next big thing. And then a fly flew in.
After seeing the winged insect crawl up a wall at Marvel’s offices, the comics legend immediately thought what the company needed at that very moment was a guy who could stick to vertical surfaces. So he came up with the next amazing superhero: Stick-to-Wall Man.
Even though a name like that is pure gold, Lee tried out a few others like Insect-Man, Fly-Man, and Mosquito-Man until he finally hit the bug on the head with the most dramatic of all, Spider-Man. He then enlisted artist Steve Ditko to whip up the costume design and presented the awesome idea for an awkward teenage hero with all the powers of a spider to Marvel head Martin Goodman, who as expected replied, “That’s the worst idea I’ve ever heard.” And the rest, as they say, is history.
14. PETER PARKER WAS THE SECOND “SPIDER-MAN”
Marvel’s chief thought the original concept for Spider-Man was absurd since people hate spiders, teenagers are only good as sidekicks, and superheroes should be anything but awkward. So Stan Lee and Steve Ditko did what any good employees would do and ignored their boss by sneaking the character into the final issue of the recently cancelled Amazing Fantasy. After fans asked for more, Goodman demanded Lee get his act together and give Marvel’s newest hero his own series already. Thus in 1963 the world got The Amazing Spider-Man #1.
Peter Parker’s debut wasn’t Marvel’s first spider-themed character. During the 1950s, monster and sci-fi comics were all the rage. So it was little surprise that Journey Into Mystery #73 featured a household spider transformed by radioactive rays into a walking, talking Man-Spider. Tragically, he was killed by issue’s end, kindly paving the way for a more enduring webbed progeny. Since then, there have been as many as 13 people other than Peter who’ve been Spider-Man, including Gwen Stacy and Deadpool. Of course there’s also the time he turned into an actual spider. Which sounds weird, but not so much when you recall his stint as a pig known as Spider-Ham.
13. SPIDER-MAN IS JEWISH
Or at least that’s the widely held belief by anyone who’s ever stared long and hard at Spidey’s crotched tights. Other than Daredevil’s catholicism, religion is one topic mainstream superhero comics usually avoid. But if we’re to believe Andrew Garfield (who’s Jewish by the way), Peter Parker’s “neurotic” is a surefire sign of his religion, as is the fact “he never feels like he’s doing enough.” All stereotypical assumptions aside, Spider-Man’s dialogue has been frequently littered with a surprising amount of Yiddish.
Of all the indelible characters he’s created over the years, Stan Lee has said that Spider-Man is his closest alter-ego. What’s more, Lee has compared Spidey to David from the Hebrew bible, who in addition to famously defeating Goliath, was saved from death by the web of a spider.
Take into account Lee’s real name is Stanley Leiber and that he placed Peter Parker’s teenage home in the historically predominant Jewish neighborhood of Forest Hills in Queens, New York, and there’s a strong case to be made. On a more secular note, his neighborhood also explains why Spider-Man is such a huge Mets fan. That and the fact Parker has said growing up he could relate to the team on account of their being “a bunch of loveable losers who hit the occasional home run by accident.”
12. HE’S A TEAM PLAYER
In the premiere issue of his first solo comic, the plot revolved around Spider-Man’s demands to be let into the Fantastic Four… until he found out they were a non-profit and jumped ship. When the Human Torch was killed off nearly 50 years later, he finally joined up as part of the revamped Fantastic Foundation, though we’re not sure what he got paid for the gig. He was also a member of the briefly awesome new Fantastic Four with Hulk, Wolverine, and Ghost Rider. Aside from that, he’s worked alongside the X-Men, The Outlaws and had a storied on-again, off-again relationship with the Avengers dating back to the 60s.
The plot of the Civil War comics revolved heavily around Peter Parker joining a side. And perhaps most relevant to Homecoming, during his Ultimate series Spider-Man was mentored by Iron Man. At one point in the comics Tony Stark even gifted the web-slinger his very own armored suit, appropriately named the Iron Spider. Tom Holland’s new costume will inevitably include some of the same wild Stark tech.
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11. HE’S BEEN WITH A LOT OF WOMEN
His longest on-again, off-again relationship has been with the redheaded Mary Jane Watson, who was for his wife for awhile until Spidey sold their marriage to the devil. Prior to MJ there was Peter’s high school sweetheart Liz Allen, Daily Bugle secretary Betty Brant and, of course, the tragic Gwen Stacy. And who can forget Spidy channeling his inner-Batman through casual hook-ups with Felicia Hardy aka the Black Cat. Beyond these mainstays there were the pair of co-eds at his alma mater, Debra Whitman and Marcy Kane, the last of which turned out to be an alien.
Cissy Ironwood, his roommate’s sister, Gwen Stacye’s cousin, Carlie Cooper, Kitty Pryde and even Captain Marvel are a few others that have been tangled up in his webs. The list goes on. Point is, Spider-Man may have dealt with a lot over the years, but he’s never had trouble finding comfort in the arms of beautiful anatomically absurd women. Though none will ever come close to trumping the one true love of his life – Aunt May.
10. HE HAS RADIOACTIVE SPERM
By far one of Spider-Man’s weirdest moments, the mere shock of this revelation wasn’t enough. Instead we got an in-depth explanation of how “like a spider, crawling up inside your body and laying a thousand eggs of cancer” he killed her with his love gun. On top of that, Parker yells all this at Mary Jane’s corpse after having dug up her coffin, where he conveniently keeps his costume now. Just to show she was not okay with this, MJ’s skull bites his face. Looks like Gwen Stacey was saved from a far worse fate when Green Goblin threw her off that bridge. Then again she did get knocked up by Norman Osborn, so maybe not.
9. HIS PARENTS WORKED FOR S.H.I.E.L.D.
You see, Richard and Mary Parker are more than just MacGuffins to get their son into red and blue tights. It was revealed during the late ’60s that Spider-Man’s parents were actually government agents operating as members of S.H.I.E.L.D. Amidst the many world-saving missions they went on together, they once saved the life of a shirtless Wolverine.
Richard and Mary were killed shortly after giving birth to Peter in a rigged plane crash that was orchestrated by the Red Skull. That’s mostly all we know about this covert couple aside from a few extremely confusing and stupid subplots, including one when they show up alive only to turn out to be cyborgs. Notwithstanding this last bit, the whole “Spider-Man’s parents were S.H.I.E.L.D. spies” seems tailor-made to find its way into the MCU at some point.
8. HE HAS DIED THREE TIMES
In the alternate world of 2011’s Ultimate Spider-Man #160 Peter Parker gets killed by Green Goblin and replaced by Miles Morales. But since you can’t keep a good spider down, Pete resurfaced a few years later in a random laboratory before driving off into the sunset with Mary Jane.
And proving that the New Millennium has been a particularly deadly time for Spidey, 2012’s Amazing Spider-Man #700 features him dying in battle with Doc Ock only for the villain to possess the web-slinger’s body and take over the mantle for over a year in an attempt to prove he is a superior Spider-Man. It didn’t work. Most fans were none too pleased and Marvel brought Peter back to life in a whole new series as if nothing had ever happened.
7. HE ONCE SAVED THE WORLD FROM TEEN PREGNANCY
In The Amazing Spider-Man vs the Prodigy, our friendly neighborhood sex expert battles against an evil alien disguised in platform shoes and bellbottoms deliberately misinforming the planet’s teens about the repercussions of sex so he can steal their babies. This includes telling them that getting pregnant is a great way to clear up acne and that you can’t get knocked up the first time you do it. Luckily, Spider-Man swings in to unmask the lies and shoot his webs down the villain’s throat. The whole thing concludes with some helpful Spidey tips on sex, masturbation (“it won’t make you insane”), wet dreams and homosexuality (“being attracted to a person who’s the same sex doesn’t mean you’re homosexual, or ever will be”).
Spanning from 1994 to 1996, the Clone Saga followed the ramifications of Spidey believing he was not the real Peter Parker and deciding to give up the mantle of Spider-Man. Throw in a confusing number of other clones, a pregnant Mary Jane, Portland, the mustachioed Judas Traveller and a horribly conceived Lady Octopus, and what we were left with was one of the most reviled comic storylines in history.
While there were several key factors that led to Marvel declaring bankruptcy in 1996 — like their boneheaded move to self-distribute their own content — the Clone Saga is typically cited as shorthand for an all-around bad era of decision making. Its exhaustively long commitment, convoluted plot, and excessive marketing turned off fans of one of the most profitable superhero names in comics. A third of Marvel employees were laid off during this time and the company was left scrambling to find a new means of income, which ultimately led them into the movie-making business. So we guess that turned out pretty awesome. Thanks, Clone Saga!
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5. HE’S TEAMED UP WITH SUPERMAN, BATMAN, TRANSFORMERS, SNL, AND OBAMA
In Transformers #3 J. Jonah Jameson sends Peter Parker into the field to snap some shots of the Decepticons and Autobots battling in Oregon. Spider-Man naturally saves the day by wrapping Megatron up in webbing. In Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-Man, the super duo awkwardly fight and then team-up to take out the combined powers of Lex Luthor and Doctor Octopus. Never one to be left out, Batman shared a similar experience when he and the web-head took on a Carnage and Joker team-up. All these were topped in improbability by Spidey joining forces with the original 1970s cast of Saturday Night Live to defeat the villainous Silver Samurai. Highlights include Bill Murray clocking someone over the head with a fake Mjolnir.
Finally, there’s the time Spider-Man met President Barak Obama back in 2008. On assignment covering his inauguration, Peter Parker’s alter ego swoops in to save the day when two Obamas surprisingly show up to the ceremony. Spidey quickly resolves the problem by asking what Barry’s high school nickname was, revealing the fraud to be none other than the sports-challenged Chameleon. One fist bump later and the ceremony’s back on track. The issue of Amazing Spider-Man #583 in which this story first appeared is impressively the New Millennium’s fourth highest-selling comic.
4. THERE’VE BEEN 8 SPIDER-MAN CARTOONS, 2 LIVE-ACTION TV SHOWS & 1 HORRIBLE PLAY
Far less prolific (and a billion times more hilarious) is Spider-Man’s live-action resume. First there was 1977’s Amazing Spider-Man which CBS cancelled after two seasons for fear of being labeled “the superhero network.” Or maybe it’s because that costume was freaky as hell. Then there was Japan’s 1978 TV series where Peter Parker was replaced by Takuya Yamashiro and Spider-Man piloted a giant Gundam-esque robot. Classic.
We’d be remiss to not bring up his occasional live TV appearances on PBS’s The Electric Company. You know, the one where Spidey fought Morgan Freeman dressed as a vampire and had a spinoff comic where he thwarts Hulk ruining a garden party. And we guess we should mention the Bono-extravaganza, actor death-trap that was Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. Though the less we say about that the better.
3. JAMES CAMERON ALMOST MADE A SPIDER-MAN MOVIE WITH ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER
A version of the script from that aborted effort eventually wound up on the desk of James Cameron. The king of the world penned an R-rated treatment complete with storyboards that included Spider-Man cursing like a sailor and having sex with Mary Jane atop the Brooklyn Bridge while discussing the mating rituals of spiders. It also contained a climatic finish atop the World Trade Center. Cameron wanted his Terminator 2 star Edward Furlong for the lead, Leonardo DiCaprio as Harry Osborne, Drew Barrymore for Gwen Stacey and– wait for it– Arnold Schwarzenegger as Professor Octopus. A slew of litigation surrounding the project ultimately kept it from ever seeing the light of day. A few aspects of Cameron’s script did however make it into Sam Raimi’s films, such as the organic webbing. Sadly, Arnie was not one of them.
2. LEONARDO DICAPRIO, JAKE GYLLENHAAL AND CHARLIE SHEEN WERE ALMOST SPIDER-MAN
When James Cameron moved on from his film, Sony still had plans to use the script and wanted Leonardo DiCaprio to star. He passed and the part eventually went to his close friend Tobey Maguire, though not before Freddie Prinze Jr. and Jude Law nearly got there. In the ’90s, Charlie Sheen made a push that brought him one “yes” away from suiting up, or so he says. When it came time to reboot the series in 2012, Josh Hutcherson, Michael Cera, Robert Pattinson, and pretty much every other young male actor in Hollywood tested before it finally went to Garfield.
Of all these misses, Jake Gyllenhaal came the closest after Maguire suffered a back injury in between Raimi’s first and second films. Jake even went so far as to start training for the role but after Maguire recovered in time, he was put out to pasture.
1. MICHAEL JACKSON TRIED TO BUY MARVEL SO HE COULD BE SPIDER-MAN
You see, Michael Jackson was a huge Spider-Man fan and really wanted play him in the movies. He even approached Stan Lee several times about buying the film rights to the character to no avail. Realizing his chances of ever getting to play the part were slim by traditional means, he decided to just buy the company instead. Because that’s what the moonwalk and a high-pitched voice will get you. However, the asking price of $1 billion for the struggling business kept the deal from going through, and kept Spider-Jackson from swinging into our lives. Though we think we’re good with Tom Holland. Or are we?