Comic Books: Spider-Man and his Alternates

Everybody knows the story- teenager “Peter Parker” is bitten by a radioactive spider, leaving him with spider-like abilities. Using his vast intelligence, Parker uses his newfound skills for personal gain. This leads to the unfortunate death of Peter’s father figure and uncle, “Ben Parker.” From that moment on, Peter learns the now famous piece of wisdom- ‘with great power comes great responsibility’- and becomes the “Amazing Spider-Man.”

Over the course of “Marvel’s” publishing of the ‘web slinger,’ since 1962’s “Amazing Fantasy #15,” we have had many different takes on “Spider-Man.” Some changes are small- a different spider logo on his chest- while others are more noticeable. Sometimes, however, a change could be made that alter the character completely.

There are tons of different “Spider-Men,” so here is a small list of some of the most popular alternate ‘spiders.’

Black Suit

Arguably the most well-known alternate “Spider-Man,” “Black Suit Spider-Man” was an idea created by a “Marvel” fan in the dawn of their huge event comic, “Secret Wars.” It was simply a black costume with white eyes and a white spider logo that looked more menacing than the original.

“Marvel” paid the young fan for the rights and incorporated the new suit in “Secret Wars #8,” in 1984. The suit wasn’t the only change, however, because whenever Peter wore the black suit he would become more aggressive in his fighting and his relationships with others.

It would later be revealed that the black suit was actually a living symbiotic being that would alter the mood of “Spider-Man.” The alien would eventually reveal itself as being “Venom,” one of the biggest and most popular villains in Peter Parker’s rogues’ gallery.

Ben Reilly- Scarlet Spider

The 1990’s saw a massive “Spider-Man” crossover called “The Clone Saga,” based off another story of the same name, in which Peter was cloned by a mad scientist and forced to fight his clone to the death. The battle ended with the clone seemingly dying.

Years after the original “Clone Saga,” the story was expanded upon, the clone having survived the fight and taking the name “Ben Reilly.” His story is centered on “Ben” finding his own identity, separate from Peter’s. Ultimately, Ben chooses to become the “Scarlet Spider,” who carries on the mantle of “Spider-Man” while Peter was attempting to start a family.

Ben was more ‘quippy’ than Peter, but was generally more respected by his peers for his resolve and skills in the field, tackling big time foes like “Carnage” right from the get-go. He would eventually die in the line of duty, causing Peter to once again return to his role.

Spider-Man 2099

The 1990’s also saw the “2099” universe to life, imagining “Marvel” characters in a futuristic New York. One such character- “Spider-Man”- was reimagined as scientist “Miguel O’Hara.” “Miguel” was shot with beams of DNA containing strands of spiders while he was working on recreating the original “Spider-Man’s” powers. The resulting blast left “O’Hara” with spider-like abilities, including organic webbing and poison fangs.

Taking on the responsibilities he learned while researching “Spider-Man,” as well as dawning a costume based on his Latino heritage, Miguel assumes the role of “Spider-Man,” in the year 2099.

Ultimate Spider-Man 

The “Ultimate” universe was a reimagining of the “Marvel” universe for the modern age. This was launched in 2001 and was met with great critical success. The most popular of this relaunch was “Ultimate Spider-Man,” of which, in this universe, there have been two completely separate men to wear the suit.

 Peter Parker

Similar to his regular comics’ counterpart, “Peter Parker,” with the death of his uncle, learns responsibility and power and become the “Ultimate Spider-Man.”

Peter would later die in the “Ultimate” universe, giving his life to save his friends and family from an onslaught of multiple villains. This would make way for another person to take up the mantle- “Miles Morales.”

Miles Morales

“Miles” was a fourteen-year-old boy who was bitten by a radioactive spider that was accidentally stolen by his uncle who was a known thief only months before the death of Peter Parker. The spider was created in an attempt by multiple scientists to duplicate “Spider-Man’s” powers. Hesitant to use his new abilities, in the wake of Peter’s death, “Miles” creates his own spider suit and begins to fight crime in his own neighborhood in New York.

His appearance was met with public scrutiny, both in the comics’ world and in ours. Miles wearing the suit in the books led for many characters to believe he wass disrespecting the “Spider-Man” name, until the “Ultimates”- this universes take on the “Avengers”- publically endorsed him as the new “Ultimate Spider-Man.”

In the real world, Miles presence stirred a lot of controversy for two reasons- he was a permanent replacement for Peter Parker, and because Miles was of black and Latino decent. This originally didn’t sit well with fans, many worried that this was “Marvel’s” attempt to become more PC, sacrificing long standing characters to push new and diverse ones on their audiences.

Readers were pleasantly surprised with the character, however, who proved to be a worthy successor to Peter Parker, showing that anyone of any ethnicity and background can be a true hero.

Otto Octavius- Superior Spider-Man

In 2012’s “Amazing Spider-Man” #700, supervillain “Doctor Octopus” placed his conciseness into Peter Parker’s mind and Parker’s into his dying body. The switch ultimately led to the death of “Otto’s” body and Peter’s mind along with it. But, with Peter’s last few moments, he taught Otto the message of power and responsibility. This resulted in Otto’s promise to become the best “Spider-Man” he could be- a “Superior Spider-Man.” “Superior Spider-Man” then replaced the long-running “Amazing” title, with Otto now being the main hero.

The “Superior Spider-Man” was an incredibly different hero- gone were quips and merrymaking and in were mocking comments, narcissism and vicious beatings of villains, even including a death by Otto’s hands. New love interests were introduced, along with new hardships. Otto never had the loving father figure Peter did, but an abusive one, resulting in years of repressed rage flying out and in to every punch he throws.

A couple new, more high-tech costumes are made, along with small spider-bots that preform as a brother eye for Otto, leading him to getting booted off of the “Avengers” team.

Ultimately, Otto realizes, through much hardship, that Peter would always be the better “Spider-Man,” and, in one last act of courage, sacrifices his consciousness to bring back the “Amazing Spider-Man.”

Reading Recommendations-

Black-Suit- “The Death of Jean DeWolff

Scarlet Spider- “Clone Saga

2099- “Spider-Man 2099 vol.1

Ultimate Peter Parker- “Ultimate Spider-Man vol.1

Miles Morales- “Ultimate Comics Spider-Man vol.1

Superior Spider-Man- “Superior Spider-Man vol.1

*Remember to support the comic business at your local comic shop, the best way to buy single issues and to buy trades/ novels in the most pristine conditions.