10 Most Controversial Spider-Man Editorial Decisions That Nearly Ended The Series

Split Image Miles Morales, Mephisto, and Scarlet Spider vs Spider-Man in Clone Saga

Spider-Man may be one of the most popular characters in the history of Marvel Comics, but that doesn’t mean that every part of his comic book history is equally loved. With over 60 years of stories, Spider-Man has been at the center of several major controversies that still divide readers to this day.

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Spider-Man’s passionate readers have often taken issue with creative choices made regarding the character over the years. Whether it be extended storylines that made little sense, changes or retcons, or simply a costume swap, Spider-Man has endured endless controversies that, had things gone differently, could have killed his comic book career.



10 Spider-Man’s Suit Changes

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Everyone is familiar with Spider-Man’s traditional red and blue suit that he wears in the vast majority of his appearances. However, Spider-Man wore several different suits and armors at different times in the comics, the most notable of which have been his black suit, the Iron Spider armor, and the Superior Spider-Man suit.

Although most alternate Spider-Man costumes have grown on fans over time, almost every single one was met with widespread controversy upon its debut. The issue became such that, most times Spider-Man wears a new suit for the first time, writers often include a meta line of dialogue anticipating fan outcry at the sudden change.

9 The Clone Saga

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Peter Parker and Ben Reilly fighting each other in The Clone Saga

The Clone Saga remains one of the most controversial Spider-Man comics of all time, following Peter Parker’s reaction to learning that the villainous Jackal had made multiple clones of him, including Ben Reilly, the Scarlet Spider. While the storyline had some potential, it quickly spiraled out of control.

The Clone Saga suffered from endless retcons that made little sense and an overlong timeline that stretched throughout much of Spider-Man’s comics in the 1990s. The story became so indecipherable and convoluted that it risked completely alienating its core audience, though Spider-Man’s fanbase has thankfully managed to recover from this event in the years since.

8 Mark Millar’s Trouble

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>A young Aunt May brings baby Peter Parker to his father.

Just about anything writer Mark Millar writes is bound to be heavily controversial and his 2011 Trouble miniseries starring a young Aunt May is no different. This infamous story shockingly revealed Aunt May to be Peter Parker’s biological mother, having had an affair with Richard Parker, Peter’s father.

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This strange and unnecessary change compromised Peter’s special relationship with his aunt, rooting it in lies and casting everything about their dynamic in a new, objectively worse, light. Readers may never have looked at Aunt May the same way again had Marvel not retconned the story to have taken place in an alternate universe.

7 The Introduction Of Miles Morales

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Although Miles Morales’s Spider-Man has become an iconic character in his own right, the events leading up to his introduction were heavily controversial at the time. When Ultimate Spider-Man killed off Peter Parker in order to introduce a new Spider-Man, Marvel took a major risk that could have killed the series.

It may have taken a long time for readers to warm to Miles Morales as Spider-Man, but the results speak for themselves. The character has remained a crucial part of Marvel’s ongoing stories for over a decade and has appeared in several mediums, including the beloved animated Spider-Verse franchise, proving that the major risk Marvel took in introducing him definitely paid off.

6 Aunt May’s Return

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Peter Parker mourning the death of Aunt May in Amazing Spider-Man 400

Aunt May’s death in The Amazing Spider-Man #400 was surprisingly retconned several years thereafter with the revelation that Norman Osborn had faked her death using a lookalike. Peter discovers his aunt’s survival in Spider-Man #97, throwing a major wrench in his ongoing storyline.

While May’s return itself wasn’t necessarily a problem, it is clear that the event was a last-minute addition. Previous issues had heavily suggested that Peter and Mary Jane’s long-lost infant daughter, also named May, had been Osborn’s hostage instead. The revelation that it was Aunt May instead was forced, disappointing, and unsatisfying, leaving the storyline of Peter and MJ’s missing child completely unresolved.

5 Sins Past

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Spider-Man and Sarah Stacy from Marvel Comics

“Sins Past” is a heavily controversial Spider-Man storyline that reveals that Gwen Stacy, Peter Parker’s late first love, had two children before she died. Even more shocking, the fully grown Gabriel and Sarah Stacy are revealed to have been fathered by none other than Norman Osborn himself, who had slept with Gwen while she was still with Peter.

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Needless to say, this storyline didn’t sit well with longtime Spider-Man readers, who still held Gwen Stacy in high esteem as a character. “Sins Past” compromised Gwen’s entire personality for the sake of cheap surprises that ultimately didn’t pay off. Thankfully, Marvel since retconned the storyline.

4 The Spider-Totem Arc

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Marvel Comics' Morlun standing in front of burning buildings

Writer J. Michael Straczynski’s “Spider-Totem” arc is a bold alternate perspective on Spider-Man’s origin, suggesting that the spider bite was an act of fate rather than chance. The story ties Spider-Man to the Web of Life and Destiny, introducing the villainous Morlun, whose threat sparks an upgrade in the hero’s superpowers.

Marvel Comics has changed Spider-Man’s origin on occasion, but this is by far one of the biggest alterations ever made to the character. The “Spider-Totem” arc could have very easily derailed Spider-Man’s story but is thankfully delivered in such a way that readers can choose whether they believe the retcons to be true, lessening the controversy that such changes could cause.

3 Spider-Man’s Identity Reveal

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Spider-Man revealing his identity to the public in Civil War (2006)

At the beginning of Marvel’s Civil War crossover, Peter Parker makes a bold sacrifice in order to support the Superhero Registration Act, revealing his identity as Spider-Man to the entire world. This naturally caused major problems in the web spinner’s life–and heavy controversy in his fanbase.

Though this was a decision that Spider-Man quickly came to regret, readers may have disliked this turn of events even more than he did. While Peter Parker’s identity becoming public was certainly a unique moment in the history of Spider-Man comics, the hero also lost a key facet of his character in the process, leading Marvel to conceal his identity once more in later issues.

2 One More Day

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Peter and MJ make a deal with Mephisto in Marvel Comics

“One More Day” is by far the most controversial Spider-Man story in the history of Marvel Comics. The storyline explores Peter Parker’s desperate attempts to save his aunt’s life after she is shot by an assassin. Finally, Peter makes a deal with the demon Mephisto, who erases Peter’s marriage with Mary Jane, completely altering the timeline.

Not only was the erasure of Peter and MJ’s marriage disappointing but it also led to major timeline issues that writers would spend years attempting to iron out. The story reeks of editorial command, with Marvel seeking to return Peter Parker to the destitute bachelor life that he led in previous decades.

1 Superior Spider-Man

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>The Superior Spider-Man enters from his multiverse in The Amazing Spider-Man

The “Dying Wish” arc saw Peter Parker and Doctor Octopus switch bodies, ending with Peter’s death and Otto accepting his new position as the self-proclaimed Superior Spider-Man. The next few years of Spider-Man stories were then dedicated to Otto’s exploits as the Superior Spider-Man, with Peter Parker taking a backseat to his victorious enemy.

Sidelining Peter Parker, especially for such a long time, was a major risk for Marvel that didn’t necessarily go over well with their readers. Though the series is generally well-liked today, the massive shift that it brought to the Spider-Man mythology was a major swing that could have easily killed the entire franchise had a less talented writer than Dan Slott been behind it.

NEXT: 10 Spider-Man Comic Covers Better Than Their Stories


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