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The Untold Truth Of Marvel's Madame Web

The superhero clairvoyant known as Madame Web debuted in "The Amazing Spider-Man" #210, hitting the stands in August 1980. Not a villain, but not quite a full-fledged hero either, she appears sporadically throughout Spider-Man's adventures as a key ally to the wall-crawler, who helps him with her visions of the future. In their first encounter, Peter Parker meets Madame Web as a street corner medium. His friend Debbie Whitman swears by her, but he thinks of her as little more than a huckster. But soon Peter comes to believe — and trust — in her extraordinary perceptions of reality. 

Madame Web appears in the form of an elderly blindfolded woman confined to an unusual type of wheelchair and seems more like a mystical sage than a super-powered do-gooder. While her abilities in the comics have mostly revolved around incredible mental and quasi-spiritual gifts, her appearances elsewhere have shown her to have a connection to the multiverse, with an ability to perceive and open doorways to alternate realities.

The multiverse has recently taken the spotlight in the MCU with "Loki" and "Spider-Man: No Way Home," so it makes sense that Sony would want to introduce Madame Web to their own growing film universe that already includes Spider-Man, Venom, and Morbius. The casting of the youthful Dakota Johnson, however, has some fans scratching their heads. Will they be entirely reimagining the character for the movies? Read on to discover more about Madame Web, and you may begin to understand what the big screen could have in store for her.

Differently-abled origins

Little is known of Madame Web's early days, but what we do know is that she was born Cassandra Webb in Salem, Oregon. But far from the powerful being she would one day become, Cassandra was born afflicted with a disease called myasthenia gravis, a neurological disorder that left her unable to walk. So, for most of her life, she has been confined to a wheelchair or some form of a device that aids in her locomotion. Later, when she takes on her Madame Web persona, she uses a unique chair that was specially designed and built by her late husband Jonathan.

Madame Web also sports a signature blindfold, and it's no fashion statement: Cassandra Webb was born without sight. Unable to see or walk, Web spends her lifetime finely honing her super-powered abilities to compensate for her lack of sight, ultimately never lamenting what others see as deficiencies. But thanks to her advanced wheelchair — which often takes the visual form of a robot spider web — she is also equipped with a variety of cybernetic tools, including several robotic arms that can assist and defend her when needed. Nevertheless, without this device, which also acts as an advanced life support system that she needs to survive, Web is exceptionally weak physically. It is thanks to her precognitive powers that Webb is able to learn Spider-Man's identity, and she becomes one of the few individuals to know that he is actually Daily Bugle photographer Peter Parker.

She has some serious powers

Contrary to what her superhero alias might suggest, Madame Web does not spin spiderwebs or crawl on walls like Spider-Man, nor shoot "stinger" blasts like Spider-Woman. Despite the moniker, Cassandra Webb is actually a mutant. She is one of the Marvel Universe's more powerful psychics and telepaths, even though she is far more connected to Peter Parker and the family of spider characters than the X-Men. While she has many incredible powers like telepathy, her most powerful ability may actually be her clairvoyance and prescience: her ability to see into the future and sense the fate of others. Her precognition has always allowed her to stay one step ahead of her adversaries, while also making her a valuable ally to Spider-Man. 

Also gifted with the ability to achieve astral projection, Madame Web is able to send her "spirit" to others from great distances. These powers have made her an ever-present figure in Spider-Man's corner of the Marvel universe. She is able to feel the actions of others from far away, and help guide them to the right courses of action.

She's aided Spider-Man repeatedly

Using her incredible mutant powers of precognition and telepathy, Cassandra Webb set up shop as a psychic and clairvoyant medium under the name Madame Web. It is in this role that she first comes into contact with Spider-Man, when he visits her with the hope of finding clues that will lead him to a kidnap victim. During this encounter, Webb informs him that she knows of his dual identity, which convinces him that she is more than just a street corner charlatan. Now a trusted ally, Madame Web will come to Spider-Man's aid on more than one occasion. 

In "Amazing Spider-Man" #216, Spider-Man goes to Madame Web after discovering that politician Barney Wicker — officiator of an upcoming runner's marathon — is to be the target of an impending assassination attempt. Web helps Spidey thwart the assassins by giving him the location of the would-be killers, which allows Spider-Man to topple a water tower on them. Since then, she's helped Spidey commune with Aunt May while she lay in a coma, and aids the web-head when he faces off with Lizard and Vermin. Whenever Spider-Man needs a mutant psychic, Madame Web is there to lend a hand.

She's been aided by Spider-Man

It isn't always just Spider-Man coming to Madame Web when he needs a helping psychic hand, as the friendship between the pair works both ways. On several occasions, Madame Web is the one who seeks out the ol' wall-crawler when she needs an assist. In a storyline that spans the issues of "Amazing Spider-Man" #229 and #230, the mutant villains Black Tom Cassidy and Juggernaut target Madame Web for her incredible psychic powers, hoping to steal them for themselves. 

But her precognition alerts her to the attack and she is able to call Spider-Man for help, though Juggernaut still manages to get ahold of her. The red-domed X-villain unknowingly cuts her off from the life support system of her advanced wheelchair, assumes that she died, and then lets her go. Thanks to Juggernaut's witless mistake, Webb is able to be revived after being rushed to the hospital, where Spider-Man later visits her following this near-death encounter.

The Gathering of Five

In a key storyline in the adventures of Madame Web, a group of people, including Web, gather together for a ritual that involves the collection five arcane relics. Once they assemble together and perform this ritual, each member will be bestowed with one of five great and ancient gifts: knowledge, power, immortality, insanity, or death. 

However, when all is said and done, the gifts granted are not what they seem. The five are brought together by Norman Osborn, better known as the alter ego of Spider-Man villain the Green Goblin. The others assembled include a young woman named Martha Franklin, a man named Gregory Herd (the villain Override), and another man named Morris Maxwell. Cassandra Webb is granted immortality, while Martha "Mattie" Franklin is given "power" (and will later use it to become the superhero known as Spider-Woman). But this won't be the last time that Webb and Franklin cross paths...

She faced off against her own granddaughter

In a storyline that brought together multiple spider-themed heroes, Madame Web recruits the help of Jessica Drew and Julia Carpenter, who had both separately taken on the guise of Spider-Woman in the past. In addition, Mattie Franklin — now gifted with superpowers, thanks to the Gathering of Five — joins them to help Madame Web thwart her own granddaughter, Charlotte Witter (get it? Charlotte Webb?). Whitter is now also calling herself Spider-Woman, and has allied herself with infamous Spider-Man foe Doctor Octopus. 

With the help of Carpenter, Drew, Franklin, and Spider-Man, Madame Web is able to defeat her granddaughter Charlotte, who briefly stole her telepathic powers. In the end, the ordeal leaves Madame Web not just the victor, but also rejuvenated to a youthful state, while Charlotte is left comatose. The encounter also allows Madame Web to form a bond with Franklin, and she even becomes Franklin's mentor for a time during her adventures as the new Spider-Woman. 

She was killed by Kraven's family

In the "Grim Hunt" storyline that makes up the issues of "Amazing Spider-Man" #634 – #637, the family of Sergei Kravinoff gathers together in the hopes of resurrecting their dead kin, Kraven and his son Vladimir, to restore glory to their family name. Using Madame Web's stolen powers and sacrificing Mattie Franklin in a diabolical ritual, they are able to bring both back to the land of the living. But in a twist of fate, it is Peter Parker's clone, Kaine, who gets dragged into the ordeal and sacrificed to bring Sergei back to life. This disturbs the ritual and leaves Kraven unable to die, unless killed by Parker himself. 

Through a bizarre sequence of events that see the spider hero known as Julia Carpenter — who now possesses Madam Web's powers of clairvoyance — giving Spider-Man a glimpse of their fates, the wall-crawler is able to intervene and save the day. But in the ordeal, Sasha Kravinoff, furious at the failure of her plan, cuts Madame Web's throat and kills her. With Cassandra now dead, the former Spider-Woman Julia Carpenter abandons her old superhero identity and instead, takes on the persona of the new Madame Web. 

Madame Web comes back from the dead

Some years after Madame Web's death at the hands of the Kravinoffs, fellow rogue The Jackal (who was then Ben Reilly, yet another clone of Peter Parker), begins to resurrect the dead. In a miniseries dedicated to Spider-Man villain The Prowler, Ben Reilly/Jackal focuses on those who had a connection to Peter Parker himself. So, he brings Gwen Stacy, Electro, The Lizard, the Rhino — and indeed Madame Web — back to life. Through the use of cloned bodies, Webb and the others are able to live yet again.

Once more, Julia Carpenter comes to Madame Web's aid as the pair team up to stop the Jackal from enacting the totality of his nefarious plans. But once the adventure is over, Madame Web's new cloned body begins to deteriorate, and she refuses to take the antidote that would keep her new form intact. So, for a second time, Madame Web loses her life, and is left to await a future return. Knowing Marvel, it won't be long before we see Madame Web turn up in the pages of "Spider-Man," especially if a new movie is indeed on its way.

She's appeared in animation

The 1994 "Spider-Man: The Animated Series" was known for its complex stories that were often adapted from hit comics. One storyline in the series' 3rd season saw Madame Web make her debut, beginning with the second episode, "Make a Wish." While Madame Web visually is a close match to her comic book counterpart — and was voiced by Stan Lee's real life wife Joan — here, she is an extra-dimensional being who lives outside of time. In the episode, Spider-Man is having a crisis of faith as he questions his role as a hero. It's Madame Web who sends him to visit a little girl who may be able to help.

But in a much bigger storyline, the animated Madame Web detects the existence of a Spider-Man in another reality, who threatens all of existence, and recruits different versions of Peter Parker from across the multiverse to stop him. An assistant to the Beyonder (who would orchestrate the massive "Secret Wars" storyline himself), Madame Web appears in eight episodes of the animated series and becomes one of the bigger allies to the wall-crawling hero. 

Additionally, the Julia Carpenter version of Madame Web shows up in the "Ultimate Spider-Man" episode "Agent Web" as an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., whose link to the so-called "web of reality" allows her to see into the future. She also appears in the episode "Return to the Spider-Verse," working alongside Dr. Strange and Iron Fist, as she helps Spider-Man hop through different realities.

She's appeared in video games

Comics and cartoons aren't the only place where Madame Web has made her presence felt. Despite being one of Spider-Man's lesser-known supporting characters in the comics as she's appeared in just a handful of storylines since her 1980 debut, Madame Web also appears in the 2010 Spider-Man console video game, "Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions." Her role in the game is no cameo or token appearance either, since she plays a critical part in the story that weaves its way through a number of alternate realities. In the game, Spider-Men from different universes team up to retrieve the pieces of an ancient splintered tablet and reassemble the relic to restore the balance among the multiverse.

As the first being to recognize that the multiple realities are in chaos, Madame Web sets out to unite different versions of Spider-Man and assigns each of them different missions that will restore the tablet and bring order to their universes. Often ranked among the best Spider-Man video games ever for its fun gameplay and variety of different characters, "Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions" is narratively as much a Madame Web game as it is a Spider-Man game.

There are many Madame Webs

With a movie in the works for Madame Web and Dakota Johnson rumored to be snagging the role, some might wonder how the actress could factor into the part of an elderly woman who is blind and confined to a technologically advanced wheelchair. But Cassandra Webb isn't the only person to hold the mantle of Madame Web, and there have been different versions of Webb herself in different comics.

On top of the 616 universe's Cassandra Webb, the former Spider-Woman Julia Carpenter has also used the name Madame Web, and has even been bestowed Cassandra's powers when she does so. In addition, Webb appears in the Ultimate Marvel comics, where she is a significantly younger woman and a psychologist, who is trying to manipulate Spider-Woman. In the brief alternate timeline of "House Of M," Madame Web is a psychologist and agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., while in the short-lived "Marvel Comics 2" universe from the early 2000s (itself an alternate future), her legacy is continued by a group of fanatics who worship her

A fifth version of Madame Web appears in the miniseries "Avataars: Covenant of the Shield" that takes Marvel heroes and reimagines them in a fantasy setting. This version of Webb is a god-like being and mythical spider-creature, who granted this universe's version of Spider-Man his superpowers.