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Who, What, and Why Is Spider-Ham?

Who, What, and Why Is Spider-Ham?

The second trailer for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse dropped this week, introducing a new twist on the likes of Miles Morales, Peter Parker, Gwen Stacy, Peni Parker, and a Nicolas Cage-voiced Spider-Man Noir. But, in a trailer full of goofy fun, there was one character who stood out as the goofiest by far: Spider-Ham, the anthropomorphic pig voiced by comedian John Mulaney.

If you’re not familiar with Spider-Ham, it’s easy to think he’s a one-off joke or maybe a reference to the “Spider-Pig” song in The Simpsons MovieIn fact, Spider-Ham has a history going back three-and-a-half decades to the early 1980s. But, no need to worry! We’ll catch you up so you know all you need to know before Into the Spider-Verse arrives in theaters.

Just Who Is Spider-Ham Anyway?

Cover of Peter Porker: The Spectacular Spider-Ham 15, homaging the cover of Amazing Spider-Man 50, with Peter Porker walking away from the image of Spider-Ham

It all started with a spider… and a pig. But, probably not in the way you’re expecting. In an alternate universe where talking anthropomorphic animals rule the world (think DuckTales or Zootopia), there lived a spider named Peter. He resided in the basement lab of Dr. May Porker—aptly named, as she was not just a scientist, but also a pig—who was working to develop the world’s first nuclear-powered hairdryer. Inevitably, something went wrong, and poor Dr. Porker was exposed to an unhealthy dose of radiation, which, for important plot reasons, led to her biting poor Peter, who just happened to be there minding his own business.

As a result of the bite from a radioactive pig, Peter found himself transformed into a pig with the powers of a spider… or perhaps a spider with the powers of a pig.

“This is astounding! Am I a spider with the limitations of a pig? Or a pig with the proportionate strength and agility of a spider? I’ve become something greater than either spider or pig… I’ve become a Spider-Ham!”

Meanwhile, as a result of the nuclear-powered hairdryer accident, May Porker became convinced that Peter had actually been her nephew all along.

Are You Serious? Marvel Actually Published This?

There’s no way I would have made up that “spider bitten by a radioactive pig” thing, I swear.

Cover of Marvel Tails Starring Peter Porker the Spectacular Spider-Ham #1, showing Spider-Ham, Captain Americat, and Hulk Bunny

Spider-Ham first appeared 35 years ago in the one-shot Marvel Tails Starring Peter Porker: The Spectacular Spider-Ham (itself a gag on the long-running Marvel Tales, which reprinted classic Spider-Man comics). The book sold well enough that it became one of the signature titles of Marvel’s short-lived Star Comics imprint geared toward kids. The series lasted a little over two years (17 bimonthly issues), with Star Comics shutting down not long after. But Spider-Ham didn’t disappear entirely; instead, he made regular appearances in backup stories in Marvel Tales until the early 1990s.

And that would have been the end of poor Spider-Ham’s story, except for the fact that comics creators are an especially nostalgic lot. By the mid-2000s, creators who had grown up reading Spider-Ham’s adventures were making comics themselves, and he started popping up in anthology books like Spider-Man Family. In 2010, he got his own 25th anniversary special.

So Why Is He in Into The Spider-Verse?

Spider-Ham got promoted to the big leagues of Spider-People in the 2015 Spider-Verse comics crossover. Spider-Verse was famously billed as starring “every Spider-Man ever,” and while there were a few who were left out due to licensing issues (notably the movie and most cartoon versions of Peter Parker), pretty much everyone else was there, including good ol’ Spider-Ham, who served as much needed comic relief. With the usually quiptacular Peter Parkers distracted by all the death around them, Peter Porker filled the void and brought the funny, becoming a key part of the team that helped save the day.

(It’s not clear yet how much the comics Spider-Verse crossover relates to Into the Spider-Verse; from the trailers, it looks like Into the Spider-Verse borrows the concept of the Spider-People of multiple universes teaming up without using the actual plot of Spider-Verse.)

Cover of Secret Wars: Spider Verse #5 showing Spider-Ham with Spider-Girl, Spider-Man Noir, Spider-UK, Spider-Gwen, and Pavitir Prabhakar, the Indian Spider-Man

While most of the Spider-Folks went home at the end of Spider-Verse, Spider-Ham instead joined a special team dedicated to protecting the multiverse (and spiders) from further disruptions, first during the Secret Wars: Spider-Verse miniseries, and later during the Web Warriors ongoing series that lasted for 11 issues in 2016.

So What Should I Read If I Want to Know More About This So-Called Spectacular Spider-Ham?

The best place to start brushing up on Spider-Ham before the movie hits is probably the Spider-Verse crossover, and then you can move on from there to the the Secret Wars: Spider-Verse miniseries and Web Warriors. There was a 2010 trade collecting some of the classic 1980s Spider-Ham stories, but it’s been out of print and can now be a bit pricey online.

Amazing Spider-Ham 25th anniversary one-shot showing Spider-Ham breaking through a spider-man comics page

If you want to read the classic stuff, you’re probably better off tracking down old issues. Or you can check out the Amazing Spider-Man: Animal Magnetism collection, which includes the 25th anniversary Spider-Ham one-shot along with a few other ’80s-inspired tales. And if all that isn’t enough, then check out the Spider-Geddon crossover, which launched in September of 2018.

Which Spider-Hero are you most excited to see in Into the Spider-Verse? Let us know!

Featured image: Sony Pictures

Images: Marvel Comics

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