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Things About Spider-Man Comics You Only Notice As An Adult

Kids love Spider-Man, and with good reason. He's brave. He's relatable. He's funny. He's friendly, spectacular, and amazing. He's also pervy and unprofessional, and the world around him doesn't always make much sense.

If you want to keep your childhood memories of Spidey intact, bail out now. We won't blame you. But if you want to see Spider-Man for who he really is, warts and all, read on. Just be warned: without the veneer of nostalgia, you might not like what you see.

Peter Parker is a terrible journalist

Remember: as revealed in Sentry/Spider-Man, Peter Parker has a Pulitzer Prize, which he won for a photograph of the Sentry. They don't hand those out to just any old photographer: Peter, through his work with the Daily Bugle, is a photojournalist, and that means that he's expected to adhere to certain ethical standards. He doesn't. In fact, his entire career is a lie.

Think about it. While Peter tells J. Jonah Jameson that his photos of Spider-Man swinging through the city and fighting crime are candid, he often stages shots in order to get the best angle. He claims that he and Spider-Man are different people, but in reality, he's shooting selfies. Peter doesn't capture the news on film. He creates it, and then uses that to his financial advantage.

If the public ever found out (and, in Marvel's 2006 event series Civil War, they do), not only would the Daily Bugle's reputation as a legitimate press outlet—which, thanks to J. Jonah Jameson's anti-Spider-Man crusade, is largely built on Peter Parker's work—be absolutely shot, but Peter's transgressions are big enough that he could be in major hot water, legally speaking. As legal scholars note, Peter could easily be sued for "misrepresentation, fraud, [and] breach of contract," and wouldn't have much of a defense to fall back on. In other words, Peter Parker is a hack who shouldn't be allowed anywhere near a newsroom, much less receive the industry's highest possible award.

'Spider-sense' does not make any spider-sense

The radioactive spider bite gave Peter Parker spider powers. That's his whole gimmick, and for the most part, it checks out. Clinging to walls? Sure. Super-strength? Absolutely. Jumping extra high? According to science, Spider-Man doesn't jump high enough.

So where the heck did spider-sense come from? Spiders can sense movement in the air around them using small hairs scattered around their bodies, and they can track the vibrations in their webs to tell different types of insects apart. That means that Spider-Man should be able to identify nearby physical threats—say, an enemy that approaches from behind, or an incoming sucker punch.

But Peter's spider-sense does much, much more than that. It tells Peter when an enemy is in disguise, or if someone is lying. It guides him to hidden threats, like bombs or caches of weapons. It picks up specific radio frequencies, which Spider-Man relies on to make his spider-trackers so effective. Spider-sense is less of a biological function and more of a psychic power, and it's not anything like a real spider's abilities. Not even close.

Betty Brant likes 'em young

Peter Parker's first girlfriend wasn't Gwen Stacy or Mary Jane Watson. It was J. Jonah Jameson's attractive secretary, Betty Brant. That's right: in the early issues of Amazing Spider-Man, nerdy Peter Parker makes time with a hot older woman.

Too old, perhaps. As confirmed in Civil War #2, Peter was 15 when the radioactive spider bit him and gave him his powers. Even if you assume that lots of time passes between Spider-Man's debut in Amazing Fantasy #15 and those early issues of Amazing Spider-Man, he's still a year or so away from graduating high school when he and Betty become an item. Charitably, say he's 17. That's over New York state's age of consent, but still makes him a minor.

Meanwhile, Betty has a career, a car, and her own apartment. She's got enough money to put together stylish outfits. In Amazing Spider-Man #4, Betty refers to Peter as "JJ's young photographer," which implies that she's older than he is. Betty is an adult. Peter is not.

Once the romance grew serious, Stan Lee retconned Betty's age—in The Amazing Spider-Man #9, Betty says she dropped out of high school "a year ago" to find a job and help her brother settle his gambling debts—making her look less like a statutory rapist and more like a lovestruck teenager. But in those early issues, Betty is very clearly an older woman, and it's just a tiny bit icky.

Nobody gets Uncle Ben's catchphrase right, and it's not really Ben's anyway

You know Spider-Man's guiding principle. Everyone does. Go ahead and say it with us: "with great power, comes great responsibility."

Except that's not actually how it goes. In Amazing Fantasy #15, the actual quote reads, "With great power there must also come—great responsibility!" That doesn't flow off the tongue quite as well as the abbreviated version, of course, and it makes sense that future writers would condense it a little bit. After all, in comic books, words are at a premium.

Oh, and by the way, while that's a quote commonly attributed to Uncle Ben (and one that he actually says in the various movies), Ben never utters those words in Amazing Fantasy #15. In fact, in Spider-Man's origin story, Uncle Ben only has two lines: he wakes Peter up for school, and comments on how Peter is getting too big to out-wrestle thanks to Aunt May's fat-filled wheatcakes. No, the axiom by which Spider-Man lives his life first appears courtesy of Amazing Fantasy #15's unnamed narrator, who utters the line as Spider-Man tearfully wanders off into the night, still mourning his (very quiet) uncle's death.

Peter Parker is quite the ladies' man

Stan Lee and Steve Ditko would have you believe that Peter "Puny" Parker is a poor, beleaguered nerd. Don't believe them. While he's got the requisite glasses and the fashion sense to match—seriously, what 15-year-old wears a tie to school?—Peter is a total stud, and beautiful ladies can't get enough of him.

Even before John Romita transformed Peter Parker from a gangly teenager into a handsome college student, attractive women practically threw themselves at the ol' webslinger. Betty Brant comes on to him. Liz Allen, the most popular girl at Midtown High, asks him out in The Amazing Spider-Man #5, and confesses that she has feelings for him in The Amazing Spider-Man #28. Peter's first serious girlfriend, the sweet and intelligent Gwen Stacy, is a stone cold fox. His wife, Mary Jane Watson, is an honest-to-god supermodel.

It doesn't end there. The Black Cat may not care much for the man under the mask, but she's way into those red-and-blue duds. Spider-Man has swapped spit with Silver Sable, Sin, and Debra Whitman. He caught the eye of doomed police officer Jean Dewolff, Glory Grant, and Gwen Stacy's cousin, Jill. It goes on and on. Clearly, that radioactive arachnid didn't just give Peter the powers of a spider—it also made him irresistible to women. It's the only logical explanation.

Aunt May did not age well

Aunt May looks like she's in her 80s. She acts even older. She's in and out of the hospital all the time, and relies on lifesaving medication just to make it through the day. She can barely take care of herself, forcing Peter Parker to work more or less as May's full-time nurse, in addition to his school work, his job, and his crimefighting responsibilities. She's got one foot in death's door at all times.

But, realistically, if Peter Parker is a teenager when he becomes Spider-Man, May can't be that old. She met Ben Parker in high school, so they must be about the same age. As depicted in The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #5, which reveals that Richard and Mary Parker were spies killed by the Red Skull, Peter Parker's parents can't be older than 40—and even that's stretching it. If Ben is, say, 20 years older than his brother (unlikely, but it could happen), that'd only make the couple around 60 when they adopted Peter.

And yet, during the flashbacks in The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #5, Aunt May already looks like a wizened old hag. By the time Peter is a teenager, she looks positively ancient. Given that Peter seems to be aging gracefully, May's ungracious slide into senility must be the result of those Reilly genes (on the plus side, this means Marisa Tomei isn't too young to play Aunt May—it's the comic that doesn't make any sense).

There are many nude photos of Mary Jane Watson out there

In addition to a superhero and a chick magnet, Peter Parker is a scientific genius, and it's amazing that he spent so long scraping together cash as a freelance photographer when he could've been making millions in the private sector (or at least eking out a living as a university professor). But maybe there's a good reason. Maybe he likes taking photos. As in, really, really, really likes it.

As a married couple, Mary Jane Watson and Peter Parker got up to some pretty kinky stuff (remember when they used Peter's webbing for some light BDSM? Congratulations, now you'll never be able to forget it), but there's no sexual activity—aside from actual sex, of course—that they engaged in quite as often as taking naughty photographs. In Spectacular Spider-Man #134, Mary Jane takes some sexy shots to convince Peter to become a fashion photographer, while Peter crawls on the wall and pulls her to the ceiling for some adult recreation—leaving the automatic camera running.

There's more. In The Amazing Spider-Man #300, Peter and MJ break in their new apartment and relieve some Venom-induced stress by taking some snaps for their "private collection." In The Sensational Spider-Man #20, Peter takes his mind off a string of recent failures by putting his "photographic talents" to use in the bedroom. Everyone has their fetishes, of course, and in the days before the cloud, there's no harm in some playful photos shared between two adults. We just can't figure out why Mary Jane, a professional model, would be so eager to jump back in front of the camera during her spare time. After all, it's not like a plumber comes home from work and lays pipes for fun.

Peter Parker is a college student for way too long

Peter is 15 years old, or freshman/sophomore age, in Amazing Fantasy #15, which was published in September, 1962. He graduates from high school in The Amazing Spider-Man #28, published in September, 1965. Assuming that Peter is about 18 when he heads off to college, that means he worked his way through high school in roughly real time—and in contrast, Peter's college career lasts nearly 13 real-life years. He enrolls in Empire State University in December 1965's The Amazing Spider-Man #34, and his graduation ceremony takes place in The Amazing Spider-Man #185, which is cover-dated October, 1978.

Compared to Peter's high school run, that's practically an eternity. Even going by comic book time, Peter's college career is very, very long. Over the course of Peter's college career, he discovers that his friend's father is a supervillain, falls in love with Gwen Stacy, quits and resumes his super-hero career, watches Doctor Octopus kill his girlfriend's father, travels to London, nearly loses Harry Osborn to a drug overdose, grows four extra arms, stops a couple of different gang wars, fights the Hulk, watches as the Green Goblin kills his girlfriend, fights a werewolf, falls in love with Mary Jane, spoils a wedding between Aunt May and Doctor Octopus, faces off against the Punisher, meets a clone of his dead girlfriend, attends Betty Brant's wedding, and proposes to MJ, who turns him down.

That's clearly more than four years worth of adventures, and it's not even counting all of the one-off battles with various supervillains, the day-to-day life drama, or anything that happened in Spider-Man's non-Amazing titles, like Marvel Team-Up or The Spectacular Spider-Man. And not only does Peter end up one gym credit short of a diploma when graduation rolls around—something he'll have to make up the following summer—but he immediately starts working towards a PhD he doesn't actually get until 2013.

Carnage looks awfully familiar

When you're a kid, Carnage seems like the coolest Spider-Man villain ever. He's like Venom, but faster, stronger, and even more hardcore. He's more than a match for the powers of Spider-Man, Venom, and the entire Fantastic Four combined. He has complete and total control over his symbiote host, and eats other symbiotes in order to boost his strength.

Take away the nostalgia-tinted lens, however, and Carnage starts to feel a little... warmed over. As a symbiote-based villain, he's just Venom, except even more so. In his civilian identity of Cletus Kasady, he resembles someone else: if the maniacal grin, the sharp cheekbones, the psychotic disregard for human life, and the complete and utter dedication to chaos remind you of a clown-themed villain over at Spider-Man's distinguished competition, you're not alone.

In 2007, Carnage co-creator Erik Larsen flat-out admitted that Cletus is a Joker knockoff in a post on the official Image Comics forum. "He was inspired by the Joker," Larsen says. "I basically drew the Joker and had him colored with regular skin and red hair." Larsen isn't the only one who thought Joker and Carnage shared some similarities, either: in 1995, J.M. DeMatteis and Mark Bagley produced Spider-Man and Batman, which saw the Clown Prince of Crime team up with the symbiote to wreak havoc in Gotham City (naturally, with both the Dark Knight and Spidey on the case, it doesn't end well for either).

Everybody around Peter Parker is evil

Many heroes have personal ties to their arch-nemeses, but Spider-Man takes things to a whole new level. Basically, anyone in Peter Parker's life who isn't dead (and a few who are) turns into a supervillain sooner or later.

There's Norman Osborn, of course, who happens to be both Peter's best friend's dad and the Green Goblin—and once Norman's out of the picture, Harry picks up the mantle and carries on the family legacy. The clone-obsessed Jackal is Peter's college professor, Miles Warren. The Molten Man is the stepbrother of Peter's high school crush, Liz Allan. Man-Wolf is Peter's boss' son, while J. Jonah Jameson himself has dabbled on the dark side by funding Spencer Smythe and the Spider-Slayers. Ned Leeds, one of Peter's co-workers at the Daily Bugle and his ex-girlfriend's husband, spent some time as the Hobgoblin. The Black Cat, Spider-Man's sometimes fling, fluctuates between respectable vigilante and flat-out crook.

And those are just the classics. More recently, a good friend of Aunt May's, the philanthropist Martin Li, turned out to be the evil Mr. Negative. Harry Osborn's fiancée, Lily Hollister, ultimately reveals herself as the goblin-themed villain Menace. They say you can't choose your family, but you can choose your friends. If that's really true, Peter, choose better.