We already know Spider-Man is one of the biggest and most successful characters on the planet, but the Spider-verse is a whole lot bigger than Peter Parker.
Over the decades there have been dozens of characters introduced with spider powers and abilities. Some come from alternate realities, others are clones, and some are just straight-up parallel stories (hey, there’s not just one radioactive spider out there, right?). Of course, a lot of those alternate Spider-characters focus on different versions of Peter Parker (and there have been a lot of variations on Peter Parker over the years) — but we’re not talking about those.
Parker gets enough attention these days, especially now that he’s a globe-trotting icon with his own successful tech company. So we’re digging a bit deeper into the Spider-lore to spotlight some heroes who have made a name for themselves outside of Peter’s shadow.
The Spectacular Spider-Ham, Peter Porker
The Marvel universe is a very big, and often very weird, place. Turns out there’s an alt-reality filled with anthropomorphic animals, and like virtually every other reality, it has its own Spider-Man. Dubbed Peter Porker, Spider-Ham actually dates all the way bak to 1983. Except in this version of the story, Peter is actually a spider bitten by an irradiated pig. He was initially part of Marvel’s wacky Marvel Tails series, but Spider-Ham proved to have some staying power.
He’s popped up in cameo roles for decades, in everything from Marvel Zombies to Secret Wars. Spider-Ham has also popped up several times in Disney XD’s Ultimate Spider-Man animated series, stealing the show pretty much every time. Oh, and his greatest enemy is Ducktor Doom, which is awesome.
Spider-Man India, Pavitr Prabhakar
This retelling of the classic Spider-Man story was launched in 2004 and followed young Indian teen Pavitr Prabhakar (get it?) after he is bitten by a spider and gains Spider-powers. The character was essentially a fresh spin on the classic Spidey story for an Indian audience, and Marvel eventually brought Pavitr into the fold via the universe hopping Spider shenanigans (Pavitr lives in the alt-reality Earth-50101). Pavitr became a team member in Web Warriors (which is coming to an end this month), and provided a unique angle on the tried and true Spidey tropes. Plus, c’mon, the costume is just cool.
Silk, Cindy Moon
Introduced in 2014, Cindy Moon’s story provided a fascinating retcon to the origin of Peter Parker. You remember the spider that bit Pete and gave him his Spidey powers? Well, it also nibbled on Cindy right before it died. But instead of figuring out her new abilities and becoming a superhero, Cindy has a whole lot more trouble getting control. After spending years locked up in a bunker to protect her from a spider-hunting baddie, Spider-Man finally rescued her (and they also shared a bit of a spider-centric love connection).
With Silk free, she’s now holding down her own solo ‘book to boot. She’s played a key role in the Spider-verse team-up stories, and has launched a very interesting story that has her tracking down her parents.
Spider-Man 2099, Miguel O’Hara
Marvel has been known to tell some far-future stories from time to time, and Miguel O’Hara’s Spider-Man 2099 has become one of the most popular. He was introduced in 1992, and has popped up quite a bit across the canon over the years. O’Hara is a brilliant geneticist who is attempting to recreate the powers of the original Spider-Man in the far future, and gains those fantastic abilities after an accident. Miguel has had his fair share of interesting stories over the years, from future-set tales exploring the future of the Marvel universe, to time-displaced stories that find Miguel forced to find his way in the present Marvel universe.
Miguel is leading his own rebooted series in the wake of Marvel’s All New, All Different relaunch than finds him trapped in the present. It’s a fascinating tale about how actions affect the future, and how a Spider-Man finds his place in a world that already has a few web-slingers flying around. He’s also the first Latino character to assume the role of Spider-Man, which in the early 1990’s, was a pretty big deal.
Scarlet Spider, Ben Reilly
First introduced back in 1975, Ben Reilly was the most genetically stable of the myriad clones of Spider-Man created by the Jackal (aka Professor Miles Warren). After being pitted against the real Spider-Man and losing the battle, Ben goes on an existentl journey to try and figure out what type of man he should be (and taking his new identity from Uncle Ben”and Aunt May’s maiden name).
Since he’s a clone of Peter Parker, Ben is led to become a hero, and takes on the mantle of the Scarlet Spider. He developed an uneasy alliance with Peter over the years, and eventually took up the mantle of Spider-Man himself for a while. Oh, and he also had a sweet outfit that was pure, ripped-shirt, 1990’s awesome.
Spider-Girl, May “Mayday” Parker
The alt-future daughter of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson, May “Mayday” Parker inherited spider powers from her dad when she reached her teenage years. Spider-Girl is an interesting character in her own right, telling a story set a few years in the alt-future of the “current” (at the time) Marvel universe of the late 1990’s. The MC2 universe was an interesting experiment for Marvel, and almost served as a precursor to the much more successful Ultimate universe a year or two later. Spider-Girl was the only breakout hit from the line, and her story was the sweet spot of classic Spider-Man stories with the added mix of telling those adventures from a strong, female perspective.
Spider-Woman, Jessica Drew
Spider-Woman has a long and checkered history in the Marvel Universe, and has been everything from a double Hydra agent, to a S.H.I.E.L.D. lackey, to a superhero. Jessica Drew gains her powers after being injected with an experimental spider blood serum to save her life (Also of note: The now-defunct Ultimate Spider-Woman was a clone of Peter Parker in that reality). Brian Michael Bendis brought her back to relevance in the modern era by adding her to his New Avengers roster, and the character has only gotten better since.
Nowadays, she can be found headlining her own ‘book from writer Dennis Hopeless. This version of Jessica is raising her baby, which adds a fascinating dimension to her superhero tale, while also serving as a private eye to make ends meet. It’s a smaller story, which is great, and a nice change of pace from the world-ending stakes she’s been facing in recent years. These days Jessica is fighting B-list baddies, fighting to retake alien hospitals from rogue Skrulls, and changing diapers. We wouldn’t have it any other way.
Spider-Gwen, Gwen Stacy
One of Marvel’s newest breakout characters, Spider-Gwen popped up in a one-off role and fans immediately fell in love with her. An alternate version of Gwen Stacy from a reality where Peter Parker dies (having never been Spider-Man), Gwen gains Spider powers and tries her hand at being a hero. She rocks, she rolls, and she stops the Bodega Bandit. But after being blamed for Peter’s death, her career gets off to a rocky start.
Her ongoing story is rollicking along in a solo book you should absolutely be reading. Gwen’s story has evolved into a rock and roll tale (she plays in the punk band The Mary Janes, heehee) of a young woman trying to make sense of a world that doesn’t trust her, all while mixing it up with fascinating alternate versions of Marvel heavy hitters. The coolest? Samantha Wilson, a black female version of Captain America. Who is awesome, by the way.
Miles Morales, Spider-Man
You could’ve probably guessed it: Miles Morales takes the No. 1 slot. A Brian Michael Bendis creation, Miles was introduced in the Ultimate universe back in 2011. He took up the mantle of Spider-Man in his own universe following Peter Parker’s death, and quickly grew into his own type of hero grappling with all the stuff a kid with superpowers might face — all while constantly being held up against the ideal that Peter Parker set. He also showed a new generation of real-life kids that it doesn’t matter what color the hero is under the mask, so long as he’s a good man trying to do right.
Miles’ story is a breath of fresh air for the Marvel line, and there’s a reason he’s pretty much the only Ultimate character to survive the universe’s destruction in Secret Wars and make the jump to the 616 continuity. Nowadays, Miles is holding down the Spider-Man title in New York while Peter keeps the peace across the globe. He’s a member of The Avengers, and most recently took on a critical role in the ongoing Secret Wars II event. Up next, he’ll be co-headlining Marvel’s Champions series. Not bad for a guy who's universe was erased from existence, right?