?Spider-Man is an icon. Comic book writers have made all kinds of changes to him throughout the years – physical mutations, new costumes, married life – but in the end Spidey always returns to the marketable status quo of the happy-go-lucky neighborhood webslinger in the blue and red tights. Perhaps that’s why the various writers of the venerable What If…? titles, which examine other possible outcomes of the Marvel Universe’s events, so frequently shook up the status quo by killing off Spider-Man. Like, a lot.
Spidey is pretty much untouchable in the regular Marvel Universe (616, baby!), but in any alternate universe he’s fair game, and boy, did the writers like to slay him every chance they got. Chronicling all of Spidey’s numerous deaths throughout the multi-verse would probably result in article few of us would have the patience to read (or write), so here are the 10 best dire fates met by Spider-Man in the pages of What If…? Marvel with us at the dreadful possibilities!
Daily List suggested by Bowlingpete.
10) What If… You Were Spider-Man? (Vol. 2, #34)
?In this short Choose Your Own Adventure-style comic strip, Marvel asks what it would be like if you, dear reader, were your favorite wallcrawler?! It even invites you to paste a picture of your face on Spider-Man’s head. The short answer, though, is that you’d be dead as a doornail because you’re no superhero, and all of Spidey’s villains would be dancing on your grave! You are also invited to fill in your own name on Spidey’s tombstone. Real nice, Marvel.
9) What if… Spider-Man Continued to Mutate? (Vol. 2, #88)
?The radioactive spider-bite Peter Parker received as a teenager continues to cause him to mutate, to the point that he occasionally turns into a savage spider creature. Peter is racing around the clock to find a cure for himself and his son, Ben, who has inherited the condition. Peter, in spider-monster form, even eats his poor kid’s dog. Ben murders the neighborhood bully, who also happens to be the son of Peter’s old nemesis, Flash Thompson, and Flash misinterprets his son’s dying word of “Parker” to mean that Peter killed him. Flash and his cronies, mistaking spider-monster Ben for his father, track him down and beat him senseless, until the real Peter spider-monster shows up. Flash then kills Peter, but Ben escapes and joins Professor Xavier’s School for the Gifted, realizing that his father loved him and that ,”With great power comes great responsibility.” Heartwarming, eh?
8) What If… Spider-Man Intervened for the Scarlet Witch? (2010)
?This issue starred Spider-Man in two different stories detailing possible alternate outcomes to The House of M, and he got exterminated in both of them. In this tale, the Scarlet Witch let Spidey keep his new wife (and ex-dead girlfriend) Gwen Stacy and their child when the Scarlet Witch restored the Marvel Universe back to normal after changing it into a magical fantasy land. However, this causes a problem when Peter’s wife in the normal Marvel Universe, Mary Jane, finds out he is married to another woman! Peter tries to work it out by dividing time between his two sexy women but is unable to make his new polygamous lifestyle work (he’d never make it on Big Love). Finding the most natural solution, Peter’s fractured mind and Green Goblin persona from House of M universe resurface and he tries to impale MJ with his big, throbbing glider. He comes to his senses at the last second and jumps in front, taking the deadly impact and telling MJ he loves her in his dying breath. Later, Gwen and Peter’s slacker son Richie develops spider powers but decides it’s just to much responsibility to bother with. Nice…
7) What If… Spider-Man Had Married the Black Widow? (Vol. 1, #34)
?It was only a one-panel gag about spider-themed heroes in a joke issue, but it was an amusingly dire faite for our unsuspecting hero. Black Widow is burping and picking her teeth and all that remains on the floor of poor Spidey is his costume and some scattered bones.
6) What If… Captain America Had Led An Army of Super Soldiers in World War II? (Vol. 2, #28)
?Peter Parker’s appearance in this issue is only a one-page cameo at the end, but it’s pretty chilling. In this dark story, Captain America (Steve Rogers) is able to save the scientist who created the Super Serum that gave him his power, leading the way for a whole army of Super Soldiers that quickly ensures the defeat of all opposition in World War II and becomes the peacekeeping force for the entire world, quickly putting an end to every threat. Rogers is eventually elected President and promises to give the serum to every American, However, he has (improbably) become corrupted by power and paranoid, and only makes the serum available to whitebread Americans. Minorities resist, are arrested and placed in relocation camps. Anybody that is different is considered a threat to Captain America’s Aryan-like Super Soldiers, and Peter Parker’s early public stunts as Spider-Man do not go unnoticed. Parker comes home to find Aunt May and Uncle Ben dead, and is quickly shot down by a Super Soldier named Frank Castle. Yeah, this issue was a bit uncomfortable to read. If it’s any consolation, the next issue reveals that President Rogers is really the Red Skull in disguise, and the real Captain America is retrieved from his icy prison and fights to make things right.
5) What If… Kraven The Hunter Had Killed Spider-Man? (Vol. 2, #17)
?Kraven’s Last Hunt, one of the best and most mature Spider-Man stories of all time, did indeed involve Kraven shooting Spider-Man and burying him. But Kraven never actually intended to kill Spider-Man. He drugged him and buried him alive, and then masqueraded as his nemesis. He knew Spidey would eventually “rise from the dead” and find that Kraven had proven himself superior as Spider-Man. This, to Kraven, finally gave him victory over his enemy and peace of mind. He then blew his brains out. But in this version of the story, though, Kraven decides that true victory is a truly dead Spider-Man. He stills takes over as Spider-Man, and Mary Jane figures out it is an imposter, just as she did in the main timeline. In this story, though, she enlists Daredevil, Captain America and the Human Torch to uncover the truth. They trio of heroes manage to take down Kraven and find Spidey’s corpse. Mary Jane reveals her husband’s identity to the public in an attempt to get him some post-mortem recognition for his good deeds, but it backfires when J. Jonah Jameson twists the situation into a cover-up on behalf of the superhero’s to hide Spidey’s crimes. His articles about it in the Daily Bugle creates mass distrust of superheroes and the U.S. President approves an injunction on them, mirroring what would later happen in the main Marvel Universe with the Superhero Registration Act. Mary Jane begins a campaign to change the public perception of her husband and the other heroes, according to our narrator, Uatu the Watcher.
4) What If… Scarlet Spider Killed Spider-Man? (Vol. 2, #86)
?The Jackal takes control over Peter’s body and forces him to try and murder Mary Jane. This happened in the main storyline, but Peter was able to overcome it with thoughts of people he loved. He then retired from being Spider-Man for a time and left his clone to take up the slack. In this alternate version of events, Peter is unable to regain control of his body and begs his clone, the Scarlet Spider, to kill him in order to save Mary Jane. The Scarlet Spider (Ben Reilly) regretfully complies and uses his webbing to bring factory machinery crashing down on Peter. The factory then explodes and Ben survives, albeit unconscious. When he awakes, he’s in the hospital (with most of his costume having been torn off, so no one is any wiser) and everyone thinks he’s Peter. Mary Jane tearfully admits that she’s so happy he’s okay because she couldn’t imagine going through life and raising their child without the man she loves. It convinces Ben to continue the charade and become both Peter and Spider-Man. Ben, consumed with guilt, begins to wonder if he killed Peter in order to take over his life, A few years later and after Ben daringly saves their daughter from the Green Goblin (who it is implied, could possibly have been Peter), Mary Jane admits she figured out awhile ago that it was really Ben. She says she even might love him, but they’ve been using each other and frees Ben to finally have a life of his own.
3) What If… Gwen Stacy Survived The House of M? (2010)
This is the other What If story mentioned in entry #8. When the Scarlet Witch gave a personal makeover to the Marvel Universe, Peter Parker became famous and respected for being Spider-Man and he was married to his lost love Gwen Stacy, who he had failed to save from death after the Green Goblin tossed her off a bridge in the regular Marvel Universe. When the Scarlet Witch restores the normal reality, she also brings Gwen back into it. This causes some distress for Gwen: her son with Peter no longer exists; Peter is married to Mary Jane instead of her; and to top off her problems, her very existence is causing the universe to destroy itself. Gwen ends up blaming herself after Spider-Man’s villains kill Mary Jane and Aunt May, and throws herself from Avengers’ Tower. Spider-Man once again jumps to save her from a fall, but doesn’t snatch her with his webs like last time because it had snapped her neck. He instead jumps and grabs her, then tries to stop their fall with webs, but it’s not enough and he takes the impact of the hard drop when they land on a car. Although Peter lays dying, he’s happy he was able to save her this time. But then the universe explodes anyway, so it doesn’t really matter.
2) What if… the Punisher had Killed Spider-Man? (Vol. 2, #58)
?Holy crap, was this awesome! In the regular Marvel Universe, the Jackal hired the Punisher to kill Spider-Man, convincing the assassin that Spider-Man was a murderer. The Punisher took a shot at Spider-Man but missed due to Peter Parker’s spider-sense. The same thing happens in this comic, only the Punisher and the Jackal come up with a second plan – a dummy that looks like Doctor Octopus and is stuffed with a bomb. Spidey falls for the decoy and gets too close, resulting in an explosive death. Spidey’s allies begin hunting the Punisher and Spidey’s villains sing the Punisher’s praises, making the Punisher realize the Jackal had used him. In the final scene of the comic, the Punisher has the Jackal in his crosshairs and the police have the Jackal in theirs. Knowing his fate, the Punisher says he’ll meet the Jackal on the other side.
1) What If… The Alien Costume Had Possessed Spider-Man? (Vol. 2, #4)
?It’s really a great question, and the second What If series tackled it almost immediately — What if Spider-Man hadn’t gotten rid of the black alien costume in time and it possessed him instead of Eddie Brock (who’s union with the suit created Venom)? While the sequence of events didn’t really make sense in terms of what happened to Peter compared to its effects on other hosts in the regular Marvel Universe, it was a great, tragic story nonetheless. The alien costume takes over Peter, but abandons him when it finds a more powerful host, the Incredible Hulk. Shockingly, it had drained so much energy from Peter that he was left as an old man. Having lost 50 years of his life, Peter (pretending he’s someone else) tells Aunt May how much Peter loves her, and then invents devices that can track and kill the alien costume. However, Reed Richards soon after finds Peter dead of old age. The alien costume goes on to possess Thor and become even more powerful, but Reed calls in Black Bolt, who is able to drive the alien away from Thor with his sonic yell. Reed refuses to kill the creature, reasoning it is a sentient being that was brought to Earth by accident, and begins planning a way to imprison it. But the alien costume is suddenly shot dead by the Black Cat, who tearfully explains that to the shocked heroes gathered around that she had to destroy the monster that had killed the man she loved. However, she had turned to the crime lord Kingpin to develop a copy of the gun Peter invented, and doomed herself to forever be in his employ as payment.