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Other heroes have had some humiliating exploits in their time, but nothing beats out Spider-Man's streak of bad luck. That's part of what makes Peter Parker so relatable and endearing -- when the star is getting his life shit on at every turn, we're more invested in seeing him finally succeed. Pile on the crap too high, though, and Spidey stops coming off as the lovable screw-up and more like a full-on nimrod. Because it's exceedingly difficult to make dick jokes while celebrating a hero's greatest triumph, we've chosen to instead assemble a list of Spider-Man's biggest goofs.

 

5. The Spider-Mobile

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Batman gets away with having so many vehicles because he doesn't have any powers, and because he has an entire internet full of disciples ready to dismantle any argument against him. Yet Spider-Man has incredible mobility built-in -- the only reason he would need a car is if he wanted something to hang his truck nuts on. But Marvel had several reasons, and they rhymed with "dash," "honey" and, uh, " mossover cherchandise." So smack dab in the middle of a classic 1970s run (we're talking the issue right after the first appearance of The Punisher), the Spider-Mobile rolled onto the scene after Peter finally succumbed to the allure of rent money in the form of celebrity endorsement. He and the Human Torch built it together with a lot of elbow grease and regular high-fives, and by the time it was finished the red and blue buggy was equipped with web shooters, an ejector seat and a camouflage mode -- it could do everything a spider could, up to and including dangling right in front of your face until you almost walk into it and then freak out and stub your toe on the bedpost.

Though the Spider-Mobile came and went in one issue, it turned back up a few times over the years, presumably whenever a warehouse unearthed another cache of unsold toy cars. The buggy got so uppity that it even gained a mind of its own and tried to kill its former master:

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G-List villain The Tinkerer, last seen getting his elderly spine shattered in Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2, dug up the Spider-Mobile and used his mechanical prowess to flip the Good/Evil switch. Along with newfound bloodlust, the buggy had some other new features like the ability to dampen Spidey's powers. It was a lot like the Stephen King flick Christine, only the car could drive up walls and looked a lot more hilarious when it murdered somebody. The Spider-Mobile has been the abdomen of jokes for years, but it should be commended for one thing in particular...

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...making it possible for an aging Wolverine and a blind Hawkeye to race away from a Venom T-Rex, otherwise known as the strongest case for comic books as art.

 

4. Peter Parker's parents are alive, also robots

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Though saying they have "stories" is being generous, the new Spider-Man movies vaguely suggest their attempt to capitalize on the mystery of Peter's deceased mom and pop. In the 90s comics, Peter's parents actually came back for a while -- their excuse is literally that they were in a secret Russian prison for a couple of decades but came back healthy and well-adjusted. Peter sees no problem with this, and everything is hunky-dory for almost two years before Aunt May hires a private detective to stake out these life model creepazoids. When he finds out about her investigation, Peter thanks his Aunt for years of raising him alone by assuming she's losing her mind and muttering something about Sally Field under his breath. Of course, May's auntie-sense was right to tingle, because Peter's "parents" were part of a long-con by supervillain and Voldemort cosplayer The Chameleon:

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As it turns out, Ma and Pa Parker were robots with pom-pom shoulder pads all along, designed specifically to be lifelike enough to... find out Spider-Man's true identity. See, the Chameleon's master plan was to get to Spider-Man by making robot parents of Peter Parker, who he just assumed was just a good buddy of the famous superhero and not at all the actual person he was trying to track down. It's such a complicated and ridiculous way to find out something so obvious, like breaking out the fingerprint kit to find out who pooped in the kitty litter box. What's worse, Spidey was so willing to shun his only real family in favor of impostors that he revealed his true identity to his fake mom and dad. Why, if his roboparents hadn't conveniently died the next issue, something of lasting consequence could have happened in a monthly comic book starring a character that never ages!

3. Spider-Man and Venom battle it out with beach bods

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Most Marvel Encyclopedias will tell you that Venom's biggest weakness is sonic waves, but he actually has another vulnerability: PG-13 beach nudity. Spidey resorts to showing his resort-worthy physique after Venom -- who, remember, is a combination of bully/model internet commenter Eddie Brock and the alien symbiote that Peter dumped like a sack of worthless die-cut collector's issues -- keeps hounding him. Facing a David and Goliath situation, Peter shucks his costume and invites the symbiote to re-invade his supple hairless body, weird leg growths and all. It's a pretty weird trick (supervillains hate him!), but hey, it worked. Maybe a little too well:

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Nothing abnormal about that. Just you know, one buff dude in his underwear exploding all over another dude's willing face. Happens all the time in comics. Nobody is saying that Todd MacFarlane embedded the world's most explicit homoerotic subtext into a Spider-Man comic, complete with money shot -- wait, no, basically everyone is saying that. This wasn't just some aberration, either; years later, Peter and Eddie would have further adventures frolicking on the sand:

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In a slightly tamer beach encounter, Eddie and Peter take turns pining for each other at a distance in between exchanging half-naked blows. It's kind of adorable in its obliviousness -- you almost expect them to tag in Val Kilmer and Tom Cruise for a topless volleyball tournament.

Superheroes are so often about male fantasy -- sexual fantasy for impossibly-shaped ladies that dudes want to bone, and power fantasy via the improbably-muscley guys that young boys want to become. Those two fantasies intersect more than you'd think, and it's actually refreshing to see it portrayed in such a blatant way that it leaves little to the imagination. Though if it's as unintentional as it seems, there's no way everybody gets out of the hardcore Peter/Eddie bromance without a little, uh, egg on their face.

 

2. Spider-Man transforms, dies, molts and emerges alive and naked (twice)

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Some comic book storylines seem to happen over and over. If you got a dollar for each time two different heroes met up, fought over a misunderstanding, inevitably settled their differences and then teamed up to fight the bad guy, well, could I like bum twenty bucks off you? I'm good for it, man.

Still, there are a few stories out there that can't be pinned down to an archetype. Take "Changes," in which Peter Parker is cursed, slowly morphs into a giant spider, dies and then busts out of the giant spider corpse in human form with new abilities like the organic webshooters from the movies. It'd take you a long time to see another story like that crop up. Or maybe about a year.

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In The Other, a story arc published just over twelve months later, a cosmic force transforms Peter during a fight, he dies of his wounds, escapes his body-husk for a new spider-sac and once again busts out in human form to do the naked Terminator walk of shame. Just like after his "Changes" metamorphosis, Peter finds himself with new abilities, this time in the form of a spider-stingers. Sure, some of the finer details are different, but that's still two transformation-death-rebirth stories in about the same time that it takes to create a human child. In both cases, the stories ended up giving Spider-Man new powers through needlessly complex means. Whatever happened to cancer-ridden insect bites?

 

1. Pretty much everything about The Clone Saga

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There's no escaping it. The infamous Clone Saga is too overblown, too convoluted and way too dank a stain on the character for it not to take the top spot. It all started back in the 70s, in a story about a cloned Spider-Man who is later killed. Flash-forward 20 years later (five years in compressed comic book bullshit years) and Marvel is stuck resurrecting the only dead superhero they haven't yet brought back: Spider-Man's doppelganger. The not-Peter, named Ben Reilly, had been living under the radar this whole time, subsisting on a steady diet of cheese curds and artistic license. Of course, when you have a story all about clones of your most popular character, there's always going to be one nagging thought...

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The whole idea was to get Ben Reilly to take over for Peter Parker, who had become saddled with unattractive baggage like "age" and "a loving marriage." But thanks to editorial meddling, the Clone Saga kept getting extended, more and more clones came into the mix. Besides the primary use for all doppelgangers, the Clone Saga was created so that Spider-Man could be simplified, but instead the whole ordeal ended up knotting up in Marvel's pocket like a brand-new set of earbuds you like, just bought god dammit how does that even happen it was in there for like two seconds?!

The conclusion was always in flux -- according to which staffer you asked, it was either going to be a master plan orchestrated from the shadows by Harry Osborn or a batshit twist that revealed that Ben Reilly was just a time-traveling Peter Parker. In the end, they went with the ol' "Green Goblin has been alive this whole time and has been the puppet master behind the scenes and totally faked those clone test results."

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In short, the overblown, years-long event that was made to retcon Spider-Man back to simpler times ended up getting out of control, and could only be salvaged with a retcon of the retcon. Poor Ben Reilly ends up taking a hit for Spidey and dies (and therefore dissolves, because duh, Clone Rules). Ben was the more or less the only thing everyone liked about the shitshow that was the Clone Saga, and now he's nothing more than fleshy gunk stuck to a street sweeper. He's gone forever, unless some bold comic book changes the game forever and brings back a dead superhero, but what are the odds of that?

 


 

Tristan Cooper has a funnier, handsomer clone on Twitter.