Alternate Cover: Spider-man stories we’d rather forget

James relives some moments from Spider-man's history that, given the choice, we'd all rather just forget about...

Writing last week’s Hulk column got me thinking about all the ridiculous pieces of trivia I know about hundreds of Marvel characters. Sometimes, I wish I could wipe my brain clean of some of it. This week, I’m going to take a look at three Spider-Man stories that, given a sudden attack of amnesia, I’d rather not read again.

Any character that’s been around as long as Spidey has can accumulate plenty of stupid moments that, for better or worse, are canonical and must be acknowledged. Comicbook fans are the ones who have to live with it, while the general public can safely ignore them – until now, because there are the 3 worst offenders. If you thought the Devil-dealing Spider-Man of One More Day was hard to read (and I’m skipping that one because the wound is still too fresh) just you wait…

1. New Powers! Twice!

In a 2001 cross-under called Avengers Disassembled, Spider-Man inadvertently mutated into a giant spider. Though he was thought dead, the spider he mutated into was actually pregnant, and gave birth to… an adult, human Peter Parker. The only side-effects? New powers! He was now much stronger than before, could fire webbing from his wrists without the need for mechanical web-shooters, and had gained the ability to telepathically communicate with spiders.

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That’s probably ridiculous enough as it is for most people, but get this – a few years later, in a more recent crossover entitled The Other, a seriously-injured Spidey mutated into a part-spider beast and, once again, appeared to die. Of course, he didn’t, which his family and friends realised when he shed his skin, and spun himself a web-cocoon which he eventually emerged from, once again human-looking, and again with new powers. This time, he developed two giant “stingers” that retracted into his forearms, night vision and… the ability to telepathically communicate with spiders. Again.

Thankfully, all of this has apparently been reversed following the events of One More Day. After Mephisto altered reality, Spider-Man now has only his traditional powers, and we can pretend the stories above didn’t happen.

2. Doctor Octopus Marries Aunt May

This one’s so old that some people will consider it something of a classic. Well, it’s not. It’s utterly insane. Let’s look at the facts:

Doctor Octopus dates Aunt May and proposes to her, without knowing the Peter is his arch-foe, Spider-Man. He does this because he is trying to get hold of a Uranium mine that she has inherited from a previously-unknown relative. During the wedding, the mob-boss Hammerhead attacks Doctor Octopus, and he accidentally blurts out his plan to kill May and inherit her Uranium mine.

So… Doctor Octopus just HAPPENS to date Spider-Man’s Aunt. And he just happens to be attacked at the wedding. And May just happens to look past the fact that he’s a convicted criminal with psychological problems and GIANT METAL ARMS, even though every time she catches a glimpse of “that awful Spider-Man” on TV she has a quadruple-heart attack.

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I don’t care if it was 1974. That story was ridiculous.

1. The Clone Saga

I’m not even going to try to summarise this one comprehensively, but here’s the gist: Way back when, a super-villain called The Jackal created a clone of Spider-Man. The two fought, the real one triumphed, the clone died and all was well. However, after a succession of very bad stories that lead Marvel editorial to decide (not for the first time) that they had broken Spider-Man beyond repair, they decided to fix things by bringing back the clone and insisting that HE was the real Spider-Man, and the Peter Parker we’d been following for 20 years was the clone.

Dangerous territory, but it could’ve worked, if only Marvel hadn’t bottled it. As their resolve to replace Peter Parker with the “clone” Ben Reilly repeatedly broke, what was initially conceived as a short storyline became a sprawling multi-year mess, where even the team of Spider-Man writers didn’t seem sure who was the real Spider-Man and who wasn’t. In the course of the story, they killed off Aunt May, introduced yet more clones, gave Ben Reilly a new identity as “the Scarlet Spider” and had Mary Jane get pregnant. Having written themselves into a corner with no obvious resolution to the story and fans unwilling to let go of Peter Parker in favour of Ben Reilly, the decision was taken to resurrect Norman Osborn, the original Green Goblin, and place him as the mastermind behind the whole affair to give it some credibility. The clone was eventually killed, Osborn turned out to have kidnapped Aunt May after replacing her with a genetically modified actress (I swear I’m not making this up) and Peter Parker was definitively placed as the “real” Spider-Man.

A decade later, people still weep openly at the memory of it.

So, there you go. If you think those stories sound bad, just try reading them and see how far you get…

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James will be back with another Alternate Cover next week; read his last column here.