One of the most iconic characters in comic book history, Spider-Man is the character who has done it all. You’d be hard pressed to name a situation or adventure he hasn’t been in. Thanks to the sheer volume of Peter Parker’s history, there’s a monumental amount of Spider-Man moments that are just plain weird, particularly with the variations on Spidey’s iconic looks. With the upcoming release of Spider-Man: Homecoming in mind, here’s a look at some of Spider-Man’s strangest transformations.
The times when Spider-Man was actually a robot or cyborg.
What’s better than a Spider-Man? A Spider-Man that is a robot and/or cyborg! At least it looks better on paper. The execution? Well….
First up, we have a robot Spider-Man that was eventually called the Timespinner. Appearing waaay back in Avengers #11, it was a robot built by Kang the Conqueror to defeat the Avengers. It lured them to an Aztec temple, because reasons, only to be defeated by the real wall-crawler. It later came back one more time in the ’90s for additional reasons.
Remember when Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. introduced Deathlok in the first season? That’s not the only time that character has been added to a popular franchise in the hopes of making him more mainstream. Case in point, Uncanny X-Force #5 featured a utopian future where Earth’s heroes were turned into Deathloks, including Spider-Man. In a plot that totally didn’t rip-off Terminator in any way (no sir!) — just a bunch of Deathloks sent to the past to make sure their future happens. If the cyber-enhancements aren’t enough for you, he looks like his face fell in the cheese dip.
Spider-Man may be friendly, but these Spider-Monsters are horrible and terrifying.
Marvel also loves turning Spider-Man into a monster like some horrible Halloween costume mash-up. Easily the most famous is the Man-Spider, which was first seen in Marvel Fanfare #2, as Peter Parker horribly de-evolved. This turned him into a creepy six-armed spider-monster. While most people probably haven’t read that one comic, the premise has been recycled in prettymuchevery Spider-Man cartoon since. The creepiest Man-Spider goes to Patton Parnel, who appeared in Edge of Spider-Verse #4. When he turned into the Man-Spider he became a psychotic serial killer who ate his victims. If that’s not creepy enough, his teeth contain spider eggs that hatch into thousands of baby spiders, which we find out after one embedded in his girlfriend’s neck hatches. Gross.
Then you’ve got your standard issue Spider-Vampire, first seen in What If? Vol 2 #24. It’s a story that takes place where Wolverine is the king of the vampires because it was written in a time where any X-Men story was a license to print money. Not much to really say here except for he got killed by the Punisher who’s the Sorcerer Supreme of that world. No joke.
Naturally, Marvel also turned Spider-Man into the most derivative horror monster of the 21st century: a zombie. During the hugely popular Marvel Zombies run, Spider-Man was one of the many infected heroes who turned into a flesh eating zombie. The poor guy couldn’t stop himself from eating Aunt May and Mary Jane. His grieving process didn’t last too long because apparently, the zombie virus reduces you to making bad puns about eating people. If that wasn’t wacky enough, the Spider-Zombie later became cosmic powered and helped eat the entire universe, and later was given cyborg limbs, because why the hell not? What is really gross about this character is when he ran out of webbing he shot veins out of his wrists. Barf.
スパイダーマン: That says “Spider-Man” in Japanese because Japanese Spider-Man is crazy!
If there’s one thing Japan is good at, it’s taking western pop-culture and turning it into something absolutely bug!@#$ crazy (pardon the pun). In the 1970s, Marvel Comics licensed out Spider-Man to artists in Japan and what they pumped out was certainly unique.
Let’s talk about the Spider-Man Manga: Published in Monthly Shōnen Magazine and drawn by Ryoichi Ikegami (Crying Freeman, Sanctuary), it featured serialized adventures of Yu Komori, a Japanese boy who becomes Spider-Man. It’s most memorable quality was a wildly shifting tone. One minute the manga had slapstick humor, the next there was sex and gratuitous violence, all as it’s black and white format made everything super gloomy. It’s like Spider-Man being written by a manic depressive.
Next, we have Takuya Yamashiro who was the Spider-Man on the Japanese television show Supaidāman if you wanna romanize スパイダーマン. The series was a precursor to shows like Power Rangers and a complete departure from the source material. Takuya is a motorcycle racer who’s given a device by aliens from the planet Spider that turns him into Spider-Man so he can fight monsters. As is the fashion in Sentai shows, said monsters also grow to massive size, forcing Spider-Man to summon a massive robot named Leopardon, who is oddly not very spider-themed at all.
Fun fact about this show: Supaidāman was so successful for Toei Studios that the studio used it as the template for creating Super Sentai the series of shows that were later recycled into Power Rangers. So next time you watch Power Rangers, you can thank Spider-Man for helping make it happen.
When Spider-Man hit Spider middle age and it wasn’t pretty.
Although Spider-Man has been in publication for well over 50 years, the character himself has pretty much been in his twenties the entire time. However, some intrepid writers created worlds where Spider-Man is getting on in the years. Nothing says excitement like a perpetually insecure adult going through the ravages of age.
In the early 2000s, Marvel pumped a trilogy of books under the Earth X banner. It featured a Marvel Universe some 30 years in the future. Naturally, there was a big moment where Spider-Man had to get back into action to help save the world. One problem with that: Peter was quite overweight by this point and the only costume on hand was a cheap store-bought Halloween costume.
Not long after this, Marvel also decided to copy the success of the Dark Knight Returns by creating a similar story where an elderly Spider-Man gets back into crime fighting. Whereas Dark Knight Returns features an elderly Batman kicking ass and taking names, Spider-Man: Reign featured Peter Parker constantly mourning his dead wife, and being generally depressed. If you wanted to know the tragic consequences of Spider-Man’s love life and see him bawling his eyes out while fighting the corpse of his greatest villain, this is the story for you!
Marvel has a weird fixation with creating Spider-Animals.
Now don’t think that he’s just a pig in a spider costume because that’s how stereotypes are made. No, my friends, Spider-Ham takes some liberties with the whole origin. See, Spider-Ham isn’t a pig with the powers of a spider, he’s a spider with the powers of a pig. Coming from a universe where anthropomorphic creatures are the norm, Pete the spider was bitten by a radioactive pig to become the titular ham-based arachnid. Just like his human counterpart, there are a bunch of different Spider-Hams web-slinging across the multiverse, most recently they introduced a dark and edgy Ultimate Spider-Ham. I guess you could consider Spider-Pig from the Simpsons movie an alternate Spider-Ham, but don’t quote me on that.
Spider-Ham is just the tip of the iceberg. In Spider-Island: I Love New York City #1, we’re introduced to Spider-Cat. That’s a cat that has spider-powers who frequently has nightmares about a pigeon-based Venom. Apparently, fans were clamoring for a version of Spider-Man that will claw up furniture and poops in a box. When you think about it, the possibilities for this character would have been endless. His worse nemesis would be Norman Osborn, who would be exactly the same as the original, only he’s allergic to cats. Sadly, pulse-pounding tales of Spider-Cat battling the menace of hairballs and feline leukemia were never meant to be as it was one of the many alternate Spider-Men who were killed off during the Spider-Verse event.
Speaking of Spider-Verse, our next example of weird spider-animals is the Spider-Horse, first seen in Amazing Spider-Man Vol 3 #12. Spider-Horse is the faithful steed of Spider-Cowboy. The equine wears a jaunty little Spider-Man mask. Not entirely sure if it has any spider-powers to speak of or not, I don’t really want to think about it because it raises some troubling questions about where the webbing comes from. Mind you, I am quite sure the law of comic books dictates that any super-horse must actually be a cursed Were-Centaur that is secretly in love with the hero that rides them.
Lastly, we have Spider-Monkey, who first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man Family #1. He exists on a world where apes evolved from men or something. I would write more here, but I am becoming dangerously close to making a joke about monkey’s throwing poo, and I am on a strict one-poo-reference per article limit.
And that concludes a look back at some of the weirdest alternate Spider-Men. In summary, just because comic books are the realm of infinite possibilities, doesn’t mean they’re all serious ones.