There’s one Spider-Man, right? Peter Parker’s alter-ego? The product of a radioactive spider? The bane of J. Jonah Jameson’s existence?
Well, actually, any comic book fan worth their boards will tell you, not quite. Alternate universe shenanigans are a signature feature of the Marvel comics universe, and that includes your friendly neighborhood Spider-man. In fact, there is a wide variety of alternate spider-type people (and barnyard animals) swinging around the multi-verse, which has only gotten more crowded in recent years.. The entire spider-mythology came to a head in 2015’s sprawling Spider-Verse storyline, in which each spider-person is revealed to be a (slightly confusing) manifestation of mystical spider-totem; the villain Morlun (ruler of alternate Earth-001) and his creepy family take to hunting them down across dimensions. Because they taste really good, apparently. In that book and its forthcoming sequel, Spider-Geddon, the spiders of various universes band together in order to defend themselves and stop Morlun from conquering more than one universe, but mostly, the whole thing is just a well-worth-it excuse to bring the various spideys together to make them fight for their creepy-crawly lives.
Some of these variations on a web-slinging theme have been around for decades, and some are newer. Many of them are featured in the new animated film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which isn’t a direct adaption of anything on the page, but takes its inspiration from a variety of spider-sources. Here are a few of the webbed warriors featured in the film, and well worth exploring on the page.
Earth-1610: Spider-Man (Miles Morales)
Ultimate Spider-Man, from Brian Michael Bendis, was one of the breakout books of Marvel’s “Ultimate” line—a rebooted universe that ran alongside the mainline books (referred to as the 616 universe). That Peter Parker’s story ran for years before he (spoiler) died heroically battling the Green Goblin—but not before the appearance of an inheritor to the suit, young Miles (co-created by artist Sara Pichelli), who turns spider-like after he’s exposed to a chemical formula stolen by his criminal uncle. At first reluctant to use his newfound powers, Miles witnesses the death of Peter Parker and, realizing that he could have helped but didn’t, is inspired to become the new Spider-Man. Though Marvel’s Ultimate line is no more, Miles is now a big part of the original-recipe Marvel Universe, having been both an Avenger and a Champion, and currently headlines his own book. He’s also the star of the new movie. Not bad for a character who first appeared in 2011.
Earth-65: Spider-Woman (Gwen Stacy)
Spider-Woman (aka Spider-Gwen, to distinguish her from several earlier Spider-Women) was created by Jason Latour and Robbi Rodriguez for the original Spider-Verse event. In Gwen’s universe, she was the one bitten by a radioactive spider and became a spider-themed superhero. In a twist worthy of hanging on the fridge, the moment of tragedy that spurs her to hero-dom is the death of none other than Peter Parker, who created a formula granting himself mutant lizard powers in a bid to impress Spider-Woman. Not, strictly speaking, his best idea: the formula made him an insane mutant lizard, which isn’t really all that surprising. He didn’t mean to rampage, though, making it all the more poignant when Gwen inadvertently kills him in the act of subduing him. He dies in her arms, she feels bad, and she’s also branded a murderer by her own father, police captain George Stacy. Gwen became the breakout star of Spider-Verse, not only due to her truly stellar character design (that hoodie tho); her solo book updates the Spider-mythos with a hint of punk rock and gives a “dead girlfriend” character her own hero’s journey.
Earth-14512: SP//dr (Peni Parker)
Mech-friendly Earth-14512 sees Peni Parker piloting the SP//dr suit, the same one her father died using. Only members of the Parker bloodline can control the suit, and even then, only when bonded to the radioactive spider that forms part of the suit’s CPU. (Think Evangelion, but less whiny.) Peni has been a part of the cross-dimensional spider armies of Spider-Verse and Spider-Geddon, and also starred in one-shots in the Edge of Spider-Verse and Edge of Spider-Geddon mini-series, each written by Gerard Way of Umbrella Academy. She’s the only spider on this list who hasn’t had her own book… yet.
Earth-90214: Spider-Man Noir (Peter Parker)
During the Great Depression, young Peter Parker gets a harsh awakening—first when he discovers the terribly mutilated body of his uncle Ben, murdered in retaliation for organizing a sweatshop strike, and then when his mentor, reporter Ben Urich, is found to have been in a tit-for-tat relationship with the criminal Goblin to fuel a drug habit. Getting the “noir” part yet? This Peter is from a darker, grittier, rainier Earth, full(er) of crime and corruption. Created in 2009 by David Hine, Fabrice Sapolsky, and Carmine Di Giandomenico, the character was recruited into the Web Warriors during Spider-Verse.
Earth-8311: Spider-Ham (Peter Porker)
The spider-hero of Earth-8311 (aka Larval), Peter was a lowly spider hanging out in the lab of eccentric scientist May Porker, before she bit the future hero during an accident involving a nuclear-powered hair dryer. Thus was born Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham, battling threats like Ducktor Doom and King-Pig of crime alongside friends and allies like Mary Jane Waterbuffalo, Deerdevil, and Silver Squirrel. Mostly, he’s an excuse for a lot of animal-related puns and barnyard adventures. Though its been decades since he’s had a solo book, he pops up here and there, having been a warrior in the spider army of Spider-Verse and its sequel, Spider-Geddon. Some fans will argue that the character is a too silly to take part in serious spider action. Those fans are wrong.
Who’s the best spider in the ‘verse?
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