The canon of the Marvel Universe is long and convoluted, so it is easy to forget what is canon and what isn’t — especially if you’re following Spider-Man comics. At one point, there were four Spider-Man series published simultaneously — Web of Spider-Man, Amazing Spider-Man, Spectacular Spider-Man, or even just Spider-Man. The continuing adventures of the web head remain a beloved staple of superhero fiction.
However, not all stories are good. Not all Spider-Man tales deserved to be told. Some are downright terrible. While many have been retconned over the years, many more are not — even if you don’t remember they exist. In honor of reminding everyone that, yes, these events took place, it is time to remember a few terrible Spider-Man stories that are still canon, whether you want them to be or not.
10. Peter Parker’s Parents
The Amazing Spider-Man films may have been obsessed with Peter Parker’s parents, but at least it didn’t recreate this awful story. In this story, Peter Parker’s parents, long thought to be dead, return.
Only it turns out that, no, they didn’t. They’re just robots made by the Chameleon to mess with Peter. Except, no, they weren’t made by the Chameleon. They were made by Harry Osborn.
The story is pretty dumb, but it ultimately amounted to nothing. Not all of it was even bad (Venom kidnapping them is a highlight). But the payoff? Pretty lame.
9. Carnage Becomes The Silver Surfer
During the Clone Saga, the Carnage symbiote grafted itself onto Ben Reilly, becoming Spider-Carnage. The character must’ve been popular at the time, because, a while later, the Carnage symbiote grafted itself to Norrin Radd, the Silver Surfer, turning into the Carnage Cosmic. Carnage, now with phenomenal cosmic powers —
It lasted for two issues. How underwhelming.
8. Venom, Suicide Squad?
This awful story happened in the ’90s Venom mini-series, but it remains so absurd it bears repeating. At one point, the government decided to make Venom into a secret agent who would go around in secret-agent missions. And this wasn’t just a one-off mission, either. This happened over the course of a year or two.
Of course, to control Venom, they put a bomb inside Eddie’s brain. Because of course they did.
This story is awful because it’s a clear rip-off of Suicide Squad. It culminates in what would end up being the last Venom mini-series for a while, where Spider-Man and Venom duke it out all while the government “defeats” Venom once and for all. He was back a few months later.
7. Stewart Ward, Alien HYDRA Agent
In the early ’00s, Stewart Ward existed as a reoccurring villain who people, in particular Arthur Stacy (Gwen’s uncle), kept trying to assassinate. Over the course of 24 issues straight, Arthur Stacy tried to kill Ward. He paid the Sandman (and Sinister Six…with Venom) to kill him, Doc Ock tried to defend Ward, and, when that didn’t work, Stacy decided to just try blowing the guy up.
Who was Ward? Was he a terrorist? Maybe an agent of HYDRA? Or a member of an obscure alien race? Or…all of the above? A HYDRA agent/Z’nox alien who wanted to unleash alien trapped in the Negative Zone into the real world?
The whole story is so completely bonkers, but the fact that this much build-up across so many other stories happened that led to something so contrived and meaningless makes it pretty awful.
6. Norman Osborn Runs A Cult
Scier was a strange villain who would crop up throughout the ’90s for Spider-Man. He always seemed enigmatic, unknowable. It turns out that Scier is not an individual, but rather a cult. The cult had existed for thousands of years, with members who all altered their appearance to look like this ancient entity. Much like Batman’s Court of Owls, they sought power through manipulation and power.
…but then it turned out they were just Norman Osborn’s henchmen and were being used by Osborn to just mess with Spider-Man.
It’s telling that the Brotherhood of Scier has been almost unseen since The Final Chapter. Any enigma this group possessed was sucked out when Osborn turned out to be the real big bad.
5. Judas Traveller
Judas Traveller is an often forgotten Spider-Man villain, and for good reason: he appeared during the Clone Saga and never really again afterwards. However, for a time, Judas Traveller was presented as the next big Spider-Man villain. He was a mystic who traveled around with an entourage (including members of the Scrier cult). One of the first things he does is defeat Carnage by “separating” his symbiote from him. He seems to be able to distort reality around him, and even runs circles around multiple Spider-Men (both Ben Reilly and Kaine were after this guy).
But then it turns out that none of it was real. Traveller had no powers. He was just good at tricking people. He never was a real threat, but only convinced people he was. The Scriers, fed up with his nonsense, just capture him and the last we see of him is Spider-Man rescuing him. He amounted to nothing inside an awful storyline that, ultimately, also amounted to nothing.
4. Maximum Clonage
The Clone Saga is often regarded as one big story when it is actually a series of smaller stories pieced together. It is often seen as a low-point in Spider-Man canon, and for good reason. However, because it’s lumped together, the individual stories, many of which are particularly awful, are overlooked. Of all the stories in the Clone Saga, “Maximum Clonage” is the dumbest.
“Maximum Clonage” was supposed to be the end of the Clone Saga, and, as such, features the Jackal unleashing a multitude of Spider-Man clones, including Spidercide, the edgiest, dopiest looking clone around who can turn into water. For some reason. Peter almost joins the Jackal — which is stupid.
It even fails as a finale, since nothing is really resolved. The Clone Saga kept going, which meant this “grand finale” barely served as a roadblock for the awful story.
3. Sins Past
Gwen Stacy is, by many, idolized. It’s understandable why, but also a little ridiculous. She is treated as a perfect angel who died too early. Even good stories like Spider-Man: Blue don’t help this. It seems natural that writers would want to humanize Gwen Stacy. That might have been the motive behind writing Sins Past, but, on the otherwise spectacular JMS run, this story is awful.
Essentially, shortly before the Green Goblin killed Gwen Stacy, the two characters had sex. Not only that, but Gwen Stacy was impregnated, and the secret love children are still running around as fully grown adults. And one of the children has a crush on Spider-Man.
There are too many levels of WTF in this story to count (one obvious one being how did Gwen Stacy hide her pregnancy from Peter), but this story, though ignored by most other writers, remains canon.
2. Peter Parker Being Molested
Yes. Let’s talk about this.
In the Spider-Man/Power-Pack one-shot, we learn that, as a twelve-year-old boy, Peter Parker knew an older student named Skip Westcott, who treated Peter very well as a child. It turns out, of course, that Skip was grooming Peter in order to, ultimately, take advantage of him. Sexually.
While this story has never been referenced before or since in canon, it has also never been retconned. Which means, in canon, Skip Westcott molested young Peter Parker. This one isn’t awful because it is in some way a bad story, but, rather, it’s just too disturbing to think about little Peter being hurt in that way.
1. One More Day
Some might say One More Day reshaped the modern Spider-Man canon. Others might say it ruined it.
Following the events of Civil War, the Kingpin learned of Peter Parker’s true identity, and, as a result, shot Aunt May. As she lays dying, Peter tries everything he can to save his aunt from death. Because no one in the MCU can apparently fix a bullet wound — not even Dr. Strange himself — Peter’s sole, rational decision was to sell his marriage to Mephisto — essentially, Marvel’s Devil — in order to fix Aunt May’s wound.
What makes One More Day so frustrating is how stupid and contrived it all is. This isn’t the first time Peter Parker and MJ were separated, but it’s by far the most infuriating, especially for older readers who grew up and matured with Peter over the years. It’s an awful story that is, infuriatingly, essential to modern Spider-Man canon.