From big softie, to chill hipster, to bright-eyed high-schooler, we’ve seen every possible version of Peter, but what about the dozens of other characters who have worn the Spider mask over the years?
One of Spider-Man’s most important features is his universality. He could be anyone beneath the mask, so he ultimately becomes an everyman hero that inspires countless others to join their own respective efforts for good. Often, those inspired by Peter’s alter ego adopt a similar name, and while we generally focus on the radioactive teen, dozens of Spider-People populate Marvel Comics. Let’s briefly take the spotlight off of Peter and highlight our favorite men and women who have taken up the Spidey mantle.
FIRST APPEARANCE: SPIDER-MAN: INDIA #1
Though Spider-Man: India only ran for four issues, the book proved that the story of Spider-Man is intercultural. Though Pavitr’s origin story (and name) are very similar to Peter Parker’s (He gets spider powers, ignores a woman in need, and his Uncle Bhim dies trying to save the woman) the culture he grew up in shapes him differently. Originally from a tiny village in India, Pavitr moves to Mumbai to pursue his education, something extremely important to him and his family. Additionally, Pavitr and his villains are, rather than science experiments, products of spirituality. Pavitr receives his powers from a traveling mystic, and his version of Doctor Octopus is inhabited by a tentacled demon. Everyday stuff for Spider-Man.
#6 FLASH THOMPSON (AGENT VENOM)
FIRST APPEARANCE: AMAZING FANTASY #15 AS FLASH
SECRET AVENGERS #23 AS AGENT VENOM
Since Flash’s first appearance in 1962, he has grown exponentially in depth. Beginning as Peter’s high school bully, Flash went from arrogant kid to devoted friend to two-time veteran. After Flash lost his legs in Iraq, the U.S. government bonded him to the Venom symbiote in order to heal him. Because of his strong character and morals, Flash is able to control the symbiote and spends time as a secret agent before joining the Secret Avengers then the Guardians of the Galaxy. Flash Thompson’s Venom has saved the world and the galaxy on multiple occasions, but more impressive is his bravery pre-symbiote. Not only did Flash serve two military tours, he was known to throw himself at super villains just to give Spider-Man time to breath.
#5 CINDY MOON (SILK)
FIRST APPEARANCE: AMAZING SPIDER-MAN VOL. 3 #1
Though Cindy was bitten by the same spider that bit Peter, their lives diverged drastically. While Peter put on a costume and helped people, Cindy was locked away in order to protect her from a villain named Morlun. Though she knew how to escape, Cindy remained away from society for 13 years, afraid of both Morlun and the world’s reaction to her. After learning about her, Peter releases her from containment. The two begin a passionate relationship–like, making out upside down on the ceiling kind of passion. Silk is faster than Peter and has a stronger spider-sense, which makes her one of the only characters more agile than Spider-Man. Plus, she keeps the fun, quippy nature of Spider-Man while maintaining her own more aggressive and biting sense of humor.
#4 MIGUEL O’HARA (SPIDER-MAN 2099)
FIRST APPEARANCE: THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #365
Miguel O’Hara is constantly punished for doing the right thing. No matter how good and kind he is, tragedy still befalls him. And yet he always does good, even knowing it will bring him nothing but torment. In the year 2099, Miguel attempts to leave his job at the company Alchemax after discovering their genetic experimentation. Unbeknownst to him, the CEO gets him addicted to a drug that only Alchemax creates in an attempt to force Miguel to stay. Rather than work for an evil corporation, Miguel uses their genetic experiments to cleanse his body of the drug, but the experiment is sabotaged and Miguel’s DNA is spliced with that of a spider. Not a great day, all in all. The first non-white Spider-Man, Miguel truly embodies the idea of everyone’s hero. Also, his spider-suit is a repurposed Day of the Dead costume, which is vibrant and great.
#3 JESSICA DREW (SPIDER-WOMAN)
FIRST APPEARANCE: MARVEL SPOTLIGHT #32
Though she shares the title with him, Jessica Drew is the only person on this list to have no connection to Peter Parker (Until they both join the Avengers). She also has one of the most tragic backstories of any hero. In order to protect Jessica from the radiation given off by his work, her father injected her with a super-soldier serum made of spider blood and locked her in a genetic accelerator. She emerges an indefinite amount of time later as a 17-year-old girl with no memory of her life and the power to shoot bio-electricity from her fingers. After years as first a Hydra agent then a Shield agent, Jessica spent an entire year trapped in a Skrull prison while the Skrull Queen impersonated her. That’s a whole lot of sh*t to go through. Although Jessica Drew struggles with trust, mental health, and self-perception, she prioritizes protecting others anyway. No matter how much she questions herself, Jessica understands the importance of what she does.
#2 MILES MORALES (SPIDER-MAN)
FIRST APPEARANCE: ULTIMATE COMICS FALLOUT #4
Though Miles Morales was also bitten by a radioactive spider, his origin is a bit different than Peter Parker’s. In fact, it is only because of Peter Parker that Miles became Spider-Man in the first place. Unlike many other teenaged superheroes, Miles actually rejects his powers and tries to live a normal life, deciding to leave the hero-ing to the already existing Spider-Man. In the Ultimate Universe, though, Peter Parker dies while fighting Norman Osborn, and Miles realizes he could have helped prevent that. Honoring Peter, Miles takes over as Spider-Man. In addition to the normal spider-powers, Miles can also shoot blasts of bio-electricity, an ability that has allowed him to defeat the main Marvel Universe’s Peter Parker.
HONORABLE MENTION: PETER PORKER (THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-HAM)
FIRST APPEARANCE: MARVEL TAILS STARRING PETER PORKER, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-HAM #1
Spider-Ham. Yup. You heard right. Peter Porker was a spider who was bitten by May Porker and became half-pig/half-spider. Why this character exists I will never know, but I am so glad he does. Oh my god, why are his nostril-holes just two more eyes? Spider-Ham is more than just a gag, though, having joined the team of Spider-Heroes known as the Web Warriors. Our #1 spot even sometimes hallucinates Spider-Ham, who narrates her life.
#1 GWEN STACY (SPIDER-WOMAN)
FIRST APPEARANCE: EDGE OF SPIDERVERSE #2
Gwen Stacy has been an integral part of the Spider-Man mythos for fifty years, but her rise to heroism marks her as the most compelling and entertaining web-swinger. The daughter of a police chief, Gwen is an excellent detective and analytical thinker who, in classic Spidey fashion, defeats her foes by outsmarting them rather than punching them until they give up. Well, she does that too, but you know what we mean. Despite tragedy in her life (like accidentally killing Peter Parker after he turned into the Lizard) Gwen Stacy is a consistently upbeat character. From her quips, to her musical ability–she’s a drummer in a band called The Mary Janes–to her lithe and agile fighting style, she is perhaps the most compelling character to don a Spidey costume.
What do you think of this radioactive spider-list? Anyone we missed? Let us know!
Featured Image: Marvel, Kotobukiya