Spider-Man facts you may not know

When teenage nerd Peter Parker is bitten by a radioactive spider, he gains a weird selection of arachnid powers and spends the rest of his days balancing vigilante crimefighting against leading a normal life. Except it's never really been that simple for our friendly, neighborhood Spider-Man, and his history is fraught with so many twists and turns that it's not easy to keep track of his tangled web. Here's a whole mess of facts that you probably didn't know about the world's most beloved wall-crawler.

A true original?

In 1954, legendary Halloween costume manufacturer Ben Cooper Inc. began selling a "Spider Man" outfit. The kid-sized duds were little more than a yellow ensemble covered with drawings of webs, and the words "Spider Man" written across the forehead, giving the overall impression of a poorly-dressed idiot who'd recently escaped from a basement or something.

Years later, a more familiar Spider-Man made his debut in 1962's Amazing Fantasy #15, the final issue of a doomed Marvel Comics anthology series. While Cooper's earlier Spider Man may seem like a huge coincidence, the case is complicated by rumors that Jack Kirby, the original artist for Spider-Man (before Steve Ditko took over) was working for Ben Cooper at the time, as both Cooper and Marvel were located in Manhattan, and Kirby's work was pretty diverse. Newsarama explored the case and got a terse reply from Ditko and silence from Marvel, which definitely sets our spider-senses tingling.

Spider origins redux

Artist Jack Kirby had his hands in the creation of just about every major comic character you've ever heard of. While the first appearance of Spider-Man was written by Stan Lee and drawn by Steve Ditko, Lee originally had Kirby draw the first five pages of Spidey's debut. The pages didn't hit the mark and were scrapped. For the final version, Lee's original plot and Kirby's costume designs were changed, and Kirby ultimately only drew the cover of Amazing Fantasy #15.

Unfortunately, this didn't stop Kirby's heirs from trying to claim remuneration for Marvel's use of Spider-Man in 2009. Even Lee, Kirby's everlasting partner in mighty Marvel creativity, denied the Kirby family's claim. According to Deadline, the suit was settled on undisclosed terms in 2014, which is even more suspicious than Norman Osborn's crazy cornrows.

20 Ingram Street

Over the course of 1989's Amazing Spider-Man #316 and 317, readers were shown two halves of a change-of-address form filled out by Peter Parker, and only curious readers who assembled them saw that the Parkers were now living at 20 Ingram Street in Forest Hills, NY. Whether or not this was an Easter egg planted by writer David Michelinie or artist Todd McFarlane is unknown, but as of 1974, there really was a family named Parker at that address, who soon began receiving mail addressed to the fictional Peter. When the New York Times explored the story in 2002, they also discovered that 19 Ingram Street was home to a family named Osborne—just one letter off from Spider-Man's arch-nemesis, Norman Osborn.

Back in black

When he's not wearing his red-and-blue duds, Spider-Man is known for wearing a stealthy and slimming black, which he found in an alien vending machine during 1984's Secret Wars arc and decided to slap on his body. What readers might not know is that the black costume wasn't an original idea from the House of Marvel, but an idea sent in by a fan for a contest in 1982.

While Randy Schueller's costume idea involved underarm webbing and a red logo, the similarities to the official Black suit remain. Schueller was paid for his idea: $220 dollars, which would be about $550 today. Schueller's other ideas would later be incorporated into additional Spidey costume ideas: unstable molecules and thought control were both used by Spidey's Future Foundation and Iron Spider costumes respectively, but Schueller was never given any actual credit, according to his own post on Comic Book Resources.

Center of the web

Comics fans might not think about it much, but Spider-Man is the absolute center of the Marvel multiverse. Even though heroes like Captain America and Iron Man get top billing, there are more versions of Spider-Man across the multiverse than any other hero, and any time we visit another reality, Spider-Man is so iconic and consistent that he's always there, and generally used as a compass to differentiate the different planes of existence. While the main Marvel continuity, Earth-616, has its own fair share of Spideys, there are literally hundreds of alternates, including Spider-Ham of Earth-8311, the flaming skull-headed Ghost Spider of Earth-11638… and a whole lot of dead Spider-Men, since Peter seems to get caught in the ol' bug zapper of life pretty often.

Radioactive Peter

In one of these alternate realities, set in the distant future, a 70-year old Spider-Man comes out of retirement to fight a totalitarian New York City government. In a battle with the Sinister Six, Doctor Octopus commands his tentacles, which are now posthumously carrying around his corpse, to exhume Spidey's ex-wife Mary Jane from her grave. Peter has a total breakdown and admits that MJ died of cancer due to exposure to Spider-Man's own radioactive body. It's a weird vision of a distant future that will never happen to our beloved, and kinda gross, Spidey.

The cruelest revenge

Spider-Man has probably had the roughest life of any superhero; he doesn't have Batman's wealth, and he doesn't have Superman's strength, but he accomplishes pretty much the same heroic stuff. But the very worst thing that ever happened to Spider-Man was being cheated on by his girlfriend, Gwen Stacy, with his arch-nemesis, Norman Osborn, a.k.a. the Green Goblin. While this was never spoken of during Gwen's life, the 1999 storyline Sins Past revealed the ultimate betrayal: Gwen had kept her terrible goblin babies secret, and because of their unique DNA, they aged rapidly and came after Peter Parker, 'cause that's what goblins do. Everyone, Peter Parker and comic readers included, hated the whole thing.

Spider-Magic

Everyone knows that Spider-Man's powers are purely scientific in nature, because being bit by a radioactive animal automatically transfers its powers to you. That's just basic biology. Except in 2001, the arrival of a character named Ezekiel revealed that Spidey's superhuman abilities were actually kinda magic, and that fateful radioactive spider bit Peter Parker on purpose, because of cosmic mystical machinations. It's a bit like the midichlorians of the Marvel Universe, but it also kinda explains why most of Spidey's bad guys are animal-themed.

Deal with the Devil

The apex of weird Spider-Man storylines is Peter Parker's deal with the devil, Mephisto. In exchange for the survival of his dear, decrepit, nearly-deceased-anyway Aunt May, Spidey would give up his marriage and future kids with Mary Jane, forcing him straight back into the friend zone. Spidey's reason for taking this deal? Peter's Aunt May was hovering between life and death because she'd been put in danger after he revealed his secret identity during Civil War, and he'd come to the sensible conclusion that taking off his mask in front of the world had been a big mistake. In return for Peter sacrificing his life with Mary Jane, Mephisto made the world forget he was Spider-Man, thus protecting his loved ones from the line of supervillain fire.

Crossover madness

Spidey is a guy who gets around in some pretty weird places. In 1978, Peter and Mary Jane attend a taping of Saturday Night Live, and a mix-up between villain Silver Samurai and John Belushi's samurai character causes an issue-long ruckus featuring the entire 1978 SNL cast. In 1993, Marvel had the rights to publish a comic series based on Ren & Stimpy, so Spider-Man ended up battling Powdered Toast Man in those pages—and getting one-punched through a wall by the bread-headed hero. And in 2009, Spider-Man rescues none other than Barack Obama from Chameleon, who decides to impersonate the president-elect moments before the inauguration. And that's truly only the tip of the weird-berg.

So many spiders

At one point in Marvel's history, Spider-Man was so popular that he starred in four books at once, making it nearly impossible to keep track of his adventures (or even take a nap). All of it came to a head when Norman Osborn framed Spider-Man for murder, forcing Parker to drop his heroic persona and take on a different heroic mantle…or four. As Hornet and Prodigy, Peter continued his heroics, and as Dusk and Ricochet, he was able to infiltrate New York's criminal underworld to find the real murderer. Spidey was able to drop his alternate identities, but they were later taken up by a group called the Slingers, who were quickly beaten by the New Warriors in a game of basketball and pretty much never seen again.

Mary Jane is not my lover

At some point during the 1990s, pop star Michael Jackson made moves to try and purchase Marvel Comics, only because he wanted to play a heroic character when it came time to make some Marvel movies. It was revealed in 2011 that Jackson petitioned X-Men's producers for the role of Professor X, for reasons that are now a complete mystery to all humanity, but Stan Lee's recollection was different. In their personal conversations, Jackson revealed to Lee that he really wanted to play Spider-Man, though Tobey Maguire eventually got the role, probably saving the Marvel movie universe as we know it.

Trailer trashed

Speaking of the original 2002 Spider-Man, the film's original theatrical trailer had to be completely pulled and scrapped after the events of 9/11, due to the fact that the entire thing hinged upon a helicopter being caught on a web between the Twin Towers. Since the terrorist attacks happened after much of filming was completed, but before the film's theatrical release, the Towers were cut from a handful of scenes. The replacement trailer featured Spider-Man perching on an American flag instead.

King of the world

Prior to Sam Raimi's Spider-Man, director James Cameron took a crack at writing a script for the web-head, but because of a ton of legal and contractual problems, the film never moved beyond a basic treatment. Attached names included Leonardo DiCaprio as Spider-Man and Arnold Schwarzenegger as Doctor Octopus, with other appearances by villains Electro and Sandman. With Spider-Man yanked from his grasp, Cameron went on to write Titanic instead, making sure that the world got its much-needed dose of DiCaprio anyhow.

Spandex sadness

Spider-Man's many portrayers have all had very different reactions to the tights. Newest actor Tom Holland's duds were designed for his stunt double, so when he put them on, they were a bit too baggy, bumming out Holland during his first time in the suit, according to Comic Book Movie. Tobey Maguire was pretty uncomfortable until the costume designers put in a bathroom portal, and despite bathroom breaks being a known problem for Spider-actors, the costume department again forgot to include a vital flap for Andrew Garfield, who only had the addition put in during his second outing as the character. Still, according to Geek Tyrant, Garfield was so taken by the fact that he got to play the iconic hero that he cried when he first put on the suit.

Turn off the dark

Spider-Man's films aren't the only times he's been made into a live-action hero. In 2010, director Julie Taymor brought Spidey to Broadway in a play so fraught with problems that it quickly became an unintentional comedy of errors, even with music by the members of U2. By opening day, the production had already cost $65 million, and not even Disney, who had recently purchased Marvel, had any interest in helping out. A disturbing number of actors and extras were injured during production due to the show's complex stunts, and at one point, Green Goblin became stuck on a wire over the audience, hanging there for a few minutes before the show could begin again. Not even the Clone Saga was this embarrassing.

Spider sentai

Broadway wasn't the only place to suffer from a misguided live-action Spider-Man. In 1978, Japanese production company Toei took note of Spidey's tight costume and likened him to their own skin-tight Tokusatsu heroes, like Kamen Rider. Japan's Spider-Man was given an origin not unlike DC's Green Lantern, when he's given a fancy device and powers by an alien from the planet Spider, who he finds in a crashed UFO called "Marveller." In true Japan form, Spidey also gets a transforming robot, which he uses to fight against Professor Monster. The show ran for 41 episodes, all with Marvel's approval, and amazing episode titles like "Becoming Splendid: To the Murderous Machine of Transformation," and "The Onion Silver Mask and the Boys' Detective Group."

Spider-Manimation

In 1992, Marvel and Saban had a huge hit with their X-Men animated series, so Marvel decided to build on this success by debuting Spider-Man in 1994. While Spidey's series was also an action-figure-spawning phenomenon, it was subject to completely absurd censorship. While it's reasonable to request that a kids' cartoon omit animated blood, it made less sense to forbid even the mention of blood—even in an episode where Morbius, the Living Vampire appears, and can no longer be called a vampire. Other rules included no breaking glass, no punching (except in limited circumstances), and no use of the word "sinister." This last one is especially odd, as Spidey's main villain collective is known as the Sinister Six, and Mr. Sinister was over on X-Men villaining it up on the reg. Sorry, kids, basic English vocabulary is too rough for your little pudding brains and bloodless bodies.

Spider-Man and His amazing bans

This wasn't the first time an animated Spidey ran into trouble, however. Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, a cartoon from 1981, only aired their Nazi-themed "Quest of the Red Skull" episode once before it was never shown in regular rotation again. Much of the episode was a pretty important history lesson for kids, but prominent display of swastikas was a bit too extreme for sensitive 1981 viewers. According to Comic Book Resources, the episode showed up at least two more times on TV, many years later, but was completely dropped from all rotations once Disney took over, leaving history to outdated public school textbooks.

Say No to bugs

Because Spidey is pretty much an everyday, average guy, he's been used countless times as a tool for educational purposes, from direct-to-VHS shorts about child abuse to full comic arcs about the dangers of drugs. When the U.S. Government approached Stan Lee to write an anti-drug story in 1971, he was all for it, according to the CBLDF, as long as it was a good story. Strangely enough, this was during a time when the Comics Code Authority also expressly forbade any mention of drugs whatsoever. After the story was shot down by the CCA, Lee made the difficult decision to run it anyway. It was so well-received that the CCA changed its own code, opening up comics to a much wider range of educational stories.

Oh baby

Spidey's strangest foray into educational materials was definitely "The Pull of the Prodigy," a 1976 story written by Ann Robinson for Planned Parenthood. In an amazingly surreal plot, the alien villain called Prodigy (no relation to Spider-Man's previously mentioned alter-alter-ego) uses the powers of alien persuasion to try to convince teenagers to make babies so that he'll have tons of minions to do his bidding. Part of the Prodigy's propaganda was to straight up say that diseases weren't possible and doin' it didn't really cause pregnancies. Of course, Spidey laments how tough his life is even without a rugrat, and defeats the Prodigy before it's too late. If anyone was poised to lecture kids about celibacy, it was nerdy Peter Parker.