The news about All New All Different Marvel is starting to leak. One of the more interesting tidbits is that there will be a new Spider-Man swinging around New York City. Although it’s hinted that it may be Miles Morales, Axel Alonso stays purposely coy about exactly who it is, opening up the possibility that Peter Parker and Miles Morales won’t be the only two people running around New York City in webs.
This is far from a new development for Spider-Man. More than most characters, Peter Parker has had plenty of alternates, replacements and arch-nemeses wearing his clothes. Here’s a few of the most significant Spider-Men in the history of the character’s publication. This is definitely only scratching the surface, but these are some of the most notable.
How can we talk about Spider-Man without talking about the original, and the best? When the name Spider-Man is spoken, Peter is who 90% of the population thinks of. The story is familiar- a young science geek is bitten by a radioactive (or in some versions genetically altered) spider and gains multiple arachnid-like abilities- strength, agility, a warning sense, among others. At first he uses these abilities for personal gain, but after his Uncle Ben is killed by a burglar he failed to stop he learns that with great power comes great responsibility. It’s the model every version of the character would follow, and it one of many reasons why Peter is still the best Spider-Man.
Probably the most popular of Spider-Man’s replacements, Miles is a half-black, half-Latino youth from the New York City of Marvel’s Ultimate Universe. He was bitten by a spider dosed with OsCorp’s Oz serum, an experimental drug that also gave that universe’s Peter his powers, and turned Norman Osborn into the Green Goblin. After Peter was killed in battle, Miles rose to the occasion and became the new Spider-Man. Miles has quickly became one of Marvel’s most popular characters and a more than worthy successor to Peter Parker.
The other recent notable replacement Spider-Man was his long-time archnemesis, Otto Octavius, AKA Doctor Octopus. In a great twist, writer Dan Slott revealed that all the physical abuse Otto had taken over the years had taken a toll on his body, which only gave him a matter of months to live. He hatched multiple schemes to defeat Spider-Man once and for all, leading up to his final scheme- a mind swap between himself and Peter. To every reader’s shock, Peter died while trapped in Otto’s body, but not before forcing Otto to relive his life and see why Peter became a hero. After the vision concluded, Otto determined to become a hero, one better than Peter, the SUPERIOR Spider-Man. The heartbreaking twist to the story was that Otto discovered that his own arrogance proved that he wasn’t the superior Spider-Man, and that Peter’s selflessness made him Superior, and he essentially committed suicide to bring Peter’s mind back.
One of the greatest alternate reality heroes of all time, Miguel O’Hara is the Spider-Man of the year 2099. Miguel was the first character in the super-successful 2099 line that Marvel launched to capitalize on the cyberpunk/sci-fi craze of the 90’s. After his boss, and (unknown to both) his father, Tyler Stone, dosed him with a highly addictive and fatal drug called Rapture, Miguel subjected himself to an experimental gene treatment to rid himself of the addiction. Unknown to him though, his DNA sample was sabotaged with spider DNA. Miguel survived the process, but emerged with multiple spider abilities, including enhanced strength, spinnerettes in his forearms and talons on his fingers and toes that could cling to walls. He was inspired to become a hero, and take the name of his personal idol Spider-Man, to combat his employer Alchemax and their big brother-like ways.
In Amazing Spider-Man #149, Peter Parker fought a clone of himself created by Professor Miles Warren. Warren was a former teacher of Peter’s that was obsessed with the late Gwen Stacy and held Peter responsible for her death. He created the clone to fight Peter and avenge Gwen’s death. However, Peter won the fight and left the (presumed) dead clone in an industrial chimney. However, the clone survived, crawled out of the chimney and left new York City. Renaming himself Ben Reilly, he wandered the US helping people until he learned that his Aunt May was dying. He returned to New York, and kicked off a chain of events that led to him becoming Spider-Man after Peter retired to spend time with his pregnant wife, Mary Jane. Ben’s time as Spidey was short lived and ended tragically when he was murdered by a resurrected Norman Osborn. Ben was actually a fun character on his own, but as Spider-Man he fell flat. He might still be in publication today if he had remained in his original identity as the Scarlet Spider, rather than replacing Peter Parker.
Mac is perhaps best known as Spider-Man’s long-time nemesis the Scorpion but he held two other familiar identities in his villainous career. When the Venom symbiote rejected its former host Eddie Brock due to cancer ravaging his body, it chose Mac as its new host. Mac became Venom, and was decidedly more brutal and vicious than Brock. After the superhero Civil War, Gargan was drafted into the Thunderbolts, which became Norman Osborn’s Dark Avengers after the Skrull invasion of Earth (it’s pretty complicated). resulted in Osborn being appointed head of SHIELD. Osborn had several Thunderbolts and other villains impersonate/adopt the identities of popular Avengers- Bullseye as Hawkeye, Moonstone as Ms. Marvel, Daken as Wolverine and Venom as Spider-Man. Gargan acted as Spider-Man for several months before the Seige of Asgard ended in unseating Osborn’s control of SHIELD (which he had rechistened HAMMER). The US Government took the symbiote from Gargan, ending his Spider-career.
Not one to take defeat lying down, Osborn broke out of prison several months later and created a new Dark Avengers, using the old model with new villains. His Spider-Man this time was a violent/vicious spider-deity named Ai Apaec the Decapitator. After Osborn was defeated by the Avengers, Ai Apaec was thrown back into prison until he was drafted by yet another incarnation of the Dark Avengers, led first by Luke Cage, then by the USAgent. During an adventure in a pocket dimension, Ai Apaec was shrunken to only a few inches tall and was stepped on and crushed by teammate June Covington. His current status is unknown.
Mattie Franklin’s time as Spider-Man was notable only because it was so short. After Peter discarded the webs at MJ’s insistence, a new Spider-Man emerged. Peter soon learned it was Mattie Franklin, Jonah Jameson’s niece. She was given superpowers in another complicated Norman Osborn story called the Gathering of Five, and adopted the Spidey identity shortly after Peter’s retirement. She inspired Peter to secretly pick up the webs again (after only two issues), and went on to become Spider-Woman. Sadly, Mattie was murdered by the family of Kraven the Hunter, squandering her potential.
Kraven the Hunter
In the immortal Kraven’s Last Hunt, Kraven shots and buries Peter Parker, then replaces him. He violently attacks and captures various criminals throughout New York. Peter fights back, inspired by his love for Mary Jane, and frees himself from the grave. He confronts his archenemy, and Kraven doesn’t fight back, instead releasing Vermin, a monstrous creation of Arnim Zola, and allowing Spider-Man to pursue him. His point made, Kraven returns to his home and commits suicide. It’s perhaps the darkest of all Spider-Man stories, but it drives the point home of why Peter Parker is truly the ultimate Spider-Man, despite how great some of the replacements are.
And after that heavy entry, I have to end on a light note. Deadpool and Spidey have been mistaken for each other more than once. However, in the recent Deadpool annual #2, DP actually put on the webs for the entire story to impersonate Spider-Man while he was being hounded by the Chameleon as revenge for being enslaved by the Superior Spider-Man. Wade took one for the team and helped Spidey catch Chameleon, while hilarity ensued.