Spider-Man owes his enduring popularity to the fact that Peter Parker is kind of a loser. Despite having amazing powers and arguably being one of Marvel Comics’ greatest heroes, Peter has always been a perpetually luckless teenager/young adult. Readers have loved and related to Peter’s bad luck and rare wins for decades, but some comics creators took things too far.
There are controversial runs where Spider-Man’s writers seemingly went out of their way to ruin his life. Some readers have even accused these creators of having a vendetta against Spider-Man. It often feels like Marvel wants to prevent Spider-Man from outgrowing his initial purpose as a juvenile power fantasy. For every step Spider-Man takes forward, Marvel pushes him three back.
10 Doc Ock Become The Superior Spider-Man
Given how accepted he is today, it’s easy to forget that Superior Spider-Man (aka Doc Ock) was controversial when he originally debuted. This was because Doc Ock literally stole Peter’s life and body by transplanting his mind into the latter’s. Doc Ock then proceeded to prove himself as the “superior” Spider-Man.
For a time, readers hated how seemingly superior Spider-Man only existed to highlight how bad the original webslinger was. Not helping matters was that Peter literally died during the early parts of Super Spider-Man’s tenure. The reception warmed up when Doc Ock later owned up to his mistakes and declared Peter to be “superior.”
9 Peter Parker Fought Ben Reilly For His Identity
In The Clone Saga (by Terry Kavanagh, Joey Cavalieri, Todd Dezago, JM DeMatteis, and Tom DeFalco), Peter literally fought to be himself. Ben Reilly claimed to be the real Peter and demanded his “life” back. The fight almost ended in a bold way, only for then-executive editor Bob Budiansky to rescind everything.
The arc teased Peter’s retirement and Ben taking his place as Spider-Man. Budiansky then demanded that Peter be Spider-Man again, and Ben died as a result. The fight became controversial since there were fans who hated Ben for “stealing” Peter’s legacy, and those who didn’t like how Marvel couldn’t commit to the story.
8 Peter Parker Publicly Unmasked Himself
In the 2000s, Tony Stark Jr. took Peter under his wing. Peter looked up to Iron Man so much that he sided with him at the height of the Civil War. As a show of faith in the Superhuman Registration Act, Peter unmasked himself in public. This sparked intense controversy by almost immediately ruining Peter’s life and contradicting a core part of his character.
Even in his earliest comics, Peter made a big deal about keeping his identity secret to protect his loved ones. By unmasking himself at the behest of his billionaire boss, Peter knowingly endangered everyone in his life. Which is exactly what happened, and Peter had no one but himself to blame for his villains’ attacks on Aunt May and Mary Jane.
7 Spider-Man Unknowingly Scared Anne Weying To Death
Eddie Brock and his powerful Venom Symbiote have plenty of reasons to hate Peter Parker, but Marvel thought their vendetta weren’t enough. To make Venom and Eddie really hate Spider-Man to the point where they were willing to kill him, Marvel made Eddie’s wife Anne take her own life after seeing Spider-Man.
Specifically, Anne was so scared of the symbiote that seeing Spider-Man zip by in his black suit made her jump from her apartment. Eddie blamed Peter for Anne’s death, and became more brutal. Killing Anne was a roundabout and misogynist way to get Eddie and Venom to hate Spider-Man more than they already did.
6 Norman Osborn Killed Peter Parker & Mary’s Jane Watson’s Unborn Daughter
In 1995, Peter and Mary Jane almost took their relationship to the next level by starting a family. Mary Jane revealed that she was pregnant, only for the child to be stillborn. This wasn’t the fault of a natural tragedy, but Norman Osborn’s machines. As monstrous as Norman was, having him kill an unborn child was too much even for him.
Worse, the baby’s fate was part of a scheme. Mary Jane believed her child was still alive, and Norman taunted Spider-Man with this possibility. In truth, the baby was really dead. Besides the fact that the baby was pointless in hindsight, this was yet another instance of Marvel forbidding Peter and Mary Jane’s relationship from actually growing.
5 Norman Osborn Retconned Aunt May’s Death
Aunt May dying shortly after revealing she knew that Peter was Spider-Man was one of the few things the messy Clone Saga got right, but for whatever reason, this poignant moment was undone. As it turns out, the Aunt May who died was an impersonator sent by Norman Osborn who had kidnapped the real Aunt May.
What’s more, Osborn planted a device in Aunt May’s brain that would kill her in time, but would detonate bombs across the globe if removed. Osborn’s nonsensical plan shocked Peter to his core, and also restored the previous status quo. The real Aunt May came back, but she undid a genuinely dramatic death and turned Osborn into a joke.
4 Gwen Stacy’s death
To this day, Gwen Stacy’s death is one of the most celebrated and detested moments in comic history. Fans loved the abrupt dark turn since it ostensibly cemented Spider-Man’s maturity, while detractors felt it was needlessly cruel. Critics were vindicated when it was revealed that Gwen only died to keep Peter from maturing.
Gwen died so that Peter wouldn’t grow up and take their relationship to the next level. Gwen devolved from a popular love interest to a glorified plot device. The only thing worse than Gwen dying was how it was used as a springboard for more controversial events, like her affair with Norman Osborn.
3 Peter Parker sold his marriage to Mephisto
Peter selling his marriage with Mary Jane to Mephisto in order to keep Aunt May alive is one of the most controversial moments in comic history. The controversy didn’t just come from Peter ending his marriage, but from how it only happened because then editor-in-chief Joe Quesada demanded that Peter be regressed to a young adult.
Quesada’s apparent desire for endless adolescence permeated every beat of One More Day (by J. Michael Straczynski and Joe Quesada). To make matters worse, Marvel was adamant about keeping Mephisto’s deal intact. Despite readers’ and creators’ backlash, One More Day was canon for years.
2 Peter Parker & Mary Jane Watson Broke Up (Again)
Peter and Mary Jane are one of (if not) the most beloved couples in the superhero genre and all comics. Despite this, Marvel keeps splitting them up seemingly to drive controversy and sales. This happened again in The Amazing-Spider-Man by Zeb Wells & John Romita Jr., only now it seems to be more permanent.
The controversy stemmed not just from how Marvel broke them up again, but because it seemingly confirmed the criticism that Peter and Mary Jane’s relationship is not allowed to mature beyond young love. This stuck out even more when contrasted with spiderman: Across The Spider-Verse, which prominently features a middle-aged Peter as a father.
1 Everything about Paul
Paul is one of the newest characters in Spider-Man’s life, and he’s already one of the most hated. Paul is Mary Jane’s current lover and father of her children. Not much has been revealed about Paul, but readers think he only exists to make Peter’s life needlessly miserable and to steal his thunder.
Paul was written to be inexplicably better than Peter and Spider-Man. He somehow outsmarted Peter and overshadowed Spider-Man’s heroics. Mary Jane even went as far as saying that Paul was a better partner and person than Peter. Readers mockingly speculated that Paul was either a creator’s self-insert, or a jab at an actual “Paul.”
NEXT: 10 Worst Things About Spider-Man & Mary Jane’s Relationship In The Comics
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