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Controversial Things Spider-Man Has Done That Marvel Fans Will Never Forget

There are few heroes simultaneously as good-natured, hopeful, and heroic as Spider-Man. Throughout his 60+ year history in the pages of Marvel Comics, he's continually shown that no act of good, big or small, is worth ignoring while abiding by his Uncle Ben's cherished words about balancing great power and responsibility. Despite being an exemplary superhero and a positive role model for countless others, he's not above making controversial decisions — some of which have haunted him years later.

Even if he's always trying to do good in the Marvel Universe — with exceptions being his corruption by forces such as the Venom symbiote and more recently, becoming a new menace called Spider-Goblin following exposure to Norman Osborn's sins — there have been a few instances where the web-slinger has made some real bad choices. From making a literal deal with the devil Mephisto, to striking Mary Jane Watson in a fit of rage, to straight up killing someone after believing they were Wolverine and could withstand the full force of his strength, these are controversial things Spider-Man has done that Marvel fans aren't likely to soon forget.

Peter hits Mary Jane Watson out of anger

Among the most disturbing moments in Marvel Comics history have been several incidents of domestic abuse. While Hank Pym might be the most infamous example of a Marvel character committing domestic violence, Peter Parker actually had a somewhat similar moment involving Mary Jane Watson that readers have since tried to dispel from their collective memories.

In "Spectacular Spider-Man" #226 (by Tom DeFalco, Sal Buscema, Bill Sienkiewicz, John Kalisz, and Clem Robbins) the infamous "Clone Saga" reaches its ugliest heights. In the issue, Peter discovers he's actually the clone of Ben Reilly, and not the original version of himself (Marvel later retcons this). Upon learning this, he attacks and nearly kills Ben. However, Mary Jane Watson tries to stop the chaos, only for Peter to extend his arm and hit her back towards a wall. Peter immediately regrets his reaction and flees in shame. Making matters worse? Mary Jane is pregnant at the time.

Mary Jane ultimately forgives Peter, blaming the stress of losing Aunt May and being arrested for her murder, and all of the drama with the clones, for him snapping. She calls being hit an "instinctive reaction" and pleads for him to come back. While the story quickly glosses over the horrifying act and tries to downplay Peter hitting MJ, the moment is unquestionably one of the worst things the hero has ever done. 

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

Making a deal with the devil ruined his marriage

One moment readers wish they could forget is the events of "Spider-Man: One More Day," in which Peter destroys his marriage and life to save his Aunt May.

In "The Amazing Spider-Man" #545 (by J. Michael Straczynski, Joe Quesada, Danny Miki, Chris Eliopoulos, Richard Isanove, and Dean White), Aunt May is on the verge of death after taking a bullet that is intended for Peter Parker. To erase the tragic events and prevent May's death, Spider-Man agrees to a reality-changing deal with Mephisto that makes the world forget about his publicly revealed identity, while his marriage to Mary Jane Watson and all memories tied to it disappear. In the process, Peter erases the couple's daughter from the future, causing irreparable damage to his future and family.

Peter changing reality to rescue his elderly Aunt May is one of his most frustrating decisions ever. Saving May at the cost of his own happiness and marriage felt like the creative team trying to reset the status quo through the most ridiculous means possible — by a literal deal with the devil. Since then, the relationship between Peter and MJ hasn't recovered to the point it was before "One More Day," as the storyline is considered among the worst in Marvel Comics history. Over the subsequent 15+ years following its publication, Marvel has worked to undo the damage. But while Peter Parker has shown real growth on the screen, it's rarely happened in the comics despite fans' pleas.

Spider-Man kills someone thinking they're Wolverine

When Spider-Man and Wolverine come into conflict in "Spider-Man versus Wolverine" #1 (by Jim Owsley, Mark Bright, Al Williamson, Petra Scotese, and Bill Oakley), the web-slinger doesn't hold back against the adamantium-coated mutant. Unfortunately, as he unloads his full strength at Logan, he hits someone else and strikes a killing blow by mistake.

In the story, Wolverine meets up with Charlemagne, a former intelligence agent from his past who's become one of the most targeted killers on the planet. Knowing she doesn't have long to live, Charlemagne asks Wolverine to kill her. However, when Spider-Man (who's tracking the pair) intervenes after Wolverine stabs her, a fight breaks out between the two heroes. Unfortunately for Spider-Man, Charlemagne sneaks up on him amidst the chaos. Believing Wolverine is about to attack, Spider-Man turns around and delivers a devastating punch to Charlemagne, killing her. 

So why isn't Peter considered a killer? Given that Charlemagne put herself in danger, the moment is, at worst, accidental manslaughter. Later issues, however, establish that Peter is incredibly remorseful for his actions. In a touching one-page story in "Marvel Comics" #1000 (by Christopher Priest, Mark Bright, Scott Hanna, Laura Martin, and Joe Sabino), Spider-Man visits Charlemagne's grave, revealing he's still haunted by nightmares of the situation. Wolverine arrives and confirms that Charlemagne was already dying and deliberately got in his way that day. Although Spider-Man asks how that makes him less of a murderer, Logan tells him to work through his grief and stop visiting the gravesite. Spider-Man seems to listen, easing his guilty conscience.

The events leading to Uncle Ben's death

In the very first Spider-Man story ever, in "Amazing Fantasy" #15 (by Steve Ditko, Stan Lee, Stan Goldberg, and Artie Simek), Peter Parker learns an extremely difficult but important lesson about being a hero and the responsibility that comes with it.

After getting bit by a radioactive spider and becoming Spider-Man, the hero becomes increasingly more famous, quite a change from his life as a nerdy student who girls don't give the time of day to. However, after a thief runs past Spider-Man and he doesn't intervene, allowing him to escape, the wall-crawler tells a police officer he's tired of being pushed around and is only looking out for himself. That turns out to be a fatal mistake, as a few days later, his Uncle Ben is murdered. When Spider-Man tracks down the thief, its the same man he let escape from police. 

Realizing his actions led to Uncle Ben's death, Spider-Man understands that with great power, there must also come great responsibility, which becomes his ultimate mission statement. While not stopping the thief led to Spider-Man becoming the responsible hero that he is today, letting the robber go only for him to eventually murder Uncle Ben remains one of Spider-Man's biggest regrets. Yes, it's a foundational moment in his history, but his selfishness cost him greatly that day.

Spider-Man kills Mary Jane Watson in a very shocking way

One of the strangest alternate universe stories Marvel ever published features Spider-Man being responsible for the death of Mary Jane Watson — but in the last way readers would ever guess.

"Spider-Man: Reign" (by Kaare Andrews and Chris Eliopoulos) follows a dark timeline where superheroes are no longer operating and Peter Parker is old and retired from crimefighting. Mary Jane is dead when the comic begins, as it's revealed that she contracted cancer and passed away from prolonged exposure to Peter's radioactive semen. Even with the comic being part of Marvel's more mature "Marvel Knights" line, the way MJ dies is seemingly added purely for shock value and to push the boundaries of what readers normally would get with a Spider-Man story. As a result, the comic is remembered almost solely for being controversial and not for anything that actually happens to its hero.

Despite the controversy surrounding the death of Mary Jane in "Spider-Man: Reign," Marvel Comics is publishing a sequel later in 2024. While it remains to be seen who exactly is asking for a follow-up story in this dark universe, hopefully writer and artist Kaare Andrews has learned his lesson about including shock value simply for the sake of it. Otherwise the upcoming title will be another head-scratcher like the original.