One of Marvel Comics’ premiere superheroes, the amazing Spider-Man has been the product of many changes over his life. Though a loveable crime-fighter, Peter Parker and his heroic alias constantly find himself seemingly at odds against the whole world. Things have a way of not working out for Spider-Man. Oftentimes he blames, what he calls, the Parker Luck, which is just another way of him believing the universe is conspiring against him to make Spidey’s life as miserable as possible.
In spite of all the hardship he endures Spider-Man never backs down in the face of adversity. If anything, it only makes him more tenacious and determined. Spider-Man will never surrender, nor will he give in to the darkness that sometimes surrounds him. Except for those moments when he does. The Multiverse is broad and varied and comes with multiple versions of the same individual. Spider-Man is one of these persons. For every good and heroic Spider-man, there are also dark, brooding, and even evil forms waiting in murkier worlds; a few of them even exist in Spider-Man’s own reality. Today at CBR we’re looking at 15 dark versions of Spider-Man and listing out who’s the weakest and strongest of all these gloomy iterations.
If there’s one symbiote worse than Venom, it’s Carnage. Born from a sliver of Venom, Carnage proved stronger than the combined strength of Spider-Man and Venom. While in the comics Spider-Man never merged with the insane alien, things played out a tad differently in the fifth season of the 1998 Spider-Man: The Animated Series. In the episode “Spider Wars Part 1: I Really Really Hate Clones” Spider-Carnage was introduced. On this world, the death of both Uncle Ben and Aunt May turned Spider-Man into a killer.
He then bonded with the Carnage symbiote to become Spider-Carnage.
Significantly stronger than Spider-Man, Spidey needed a team of versions of himself from different realities to beat his evil, self. They failed, and it required an Uncle Ben from another reality to convince Spider-Carnage to destroy himself.
WEAKER: LAST STAND SPIDER-MAN
Sometimes it’s for the best not to know too much about your future. That certainly was the case when Spider-Man visited an alternate future. Known as “Spider-Man: Last Stand”, this timeline realized an older Spider-Man who had gone down a dark path; one filled with lots and lots of murder. First seen in 2008’s Amazing Spider-Man #58, this Spider-Man had decided enough was enough and figured to kill all his enemies. Of course local law enforcement is none too happy.
As an old man, Spider-Man was hunted by the NYPD for charges of manslaughter. Now weaker than when he was in his prime, the aged Spider-Man commits “suicide by cop”; he fights an overwhelming force of police and lets them kill him. It was a pretty dark sight, and one the younger Spider-Man was mortified to have witnessed.
One of the few remnants from the atrocious “Clone Saga” in the ‘90s, Spider-Man’s clone Kaine proved that you can still be a superhero, despite being a copy of someone else. Initially, Kaine was a rejected Spider-Clone who went bad. He’d serve as a constant threat and annoyance to both Peter Parker and Ben Reilly. Mysterious and enigmatic, his motives were unclear; he was everything from an anti-hero to straight up villain throughout the “Clone Saga”.
In recent years, Kaine has returned and with Peter Parker’s sense of responsibility ingrained in him, he’s reluctantly tried his hand at being a hero.
He’s experienced a few missteps along the way, but that hasn’t prevented him from trying to atone for past wrongs. Kaine was and is stronger than either Ben or Peter and has a few additional powers, like burning people’s faces with a touch, which his counterparts do not possess.
WEAKER: SPIDER-MAN NOIR
In the universe referred to as “Marvel Noir”, the counterparts to the superheroes we know exist in the ’20s and ’30s. The Spider-Man in this universe grew up in the Great Depression. Peter Parker is still raised by his Aunt May and Uncle Ben, the latter of which is an activist for poorly treated workers. Unfortunately, this gets Ben some undue attention from evil businessmen and he’s killed.
As for Peter, after venturing into a to a warehouse, he uncovers a broken spider statue that unleashes a spider which bites him. After dreaming of a mystical “Spider God” Peter wakes up and discovers he has spider powers. Though he has powers, Spider-Man Noir is distinctly weaker than the original Spider-Man. Rather than fighting up close and personal, he prefers to strike from the shadows and even use twin pistols to even the odds for himself.
Like many of Spider-Man’s villains, the Lizard represents science gone awry. Had things gone differently, perhaps Peter would’ve turned into a monster rather than a superhero. Curt Connors, who created a serum to regrow an arm he’d lost in war, instead turned into a humanoid reptile. In Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #39 the after effects of a previous attempt to cure the Lizard this time affects Spider-Man, rather than his friend.
Parker transforms into the humanoid hybrid Spider-Lizard and causes chaos all over the city.
More powerful and vicious than ever before, the police can’t stop him, leaving it to Connors to track down and give the antidote to Parker, changing him back to Spider-Man. As a result, this offers Connors a form of redemption for all the trouble he caused while he was the Lizard.
WEAKER: SPIDER-MAN REIGN
The Spider-Man: Reign limited series was Marvel’s attempt to do for Spider-Man what the Dark Knight Returns did for Batman decades earlier. It hinges on the fact that audiences already know how awful and miserable Peter Parker’s life can be; Reign compounded on and expanded that theme. As a result, readers got a soul-crushing story about an aged Spider-Man, tormented over the death of his wife Mary Jane on account of his partly being responsible for her demise.
The only reason this older, and weaker Peter, went back into crime-fighting, was by realizing the world still needed him. With New York under control of the Sinister Six, someone had to stand up for what was right. Confronting the tragedies of his past, Peter’s able to defeat his foes.
STRONGER: SPIDER-MAN DOPPELGANGER
Back in 1992’s Infinity War, the supervillain Magus created an army of doppelgangers of superheroes. One such doppelganger was a copy of Spider-Man. This version of Spider-Man was about as lethal and mad as they came. A monster with six arms, the Spider-Man Doppelganger, also had razor-sharp webs and claws. Though it lacked any of Peter’s intelligence, it more than made up for it with its lethality and superior physical strength. Whenever Spider-Man faced his evil doppelganger, it was everything he could do to stay one step ahead.
Though the Doppelganger was killed during Infinity War, Demogoblin later resurrected him.
Now back in the game, the Doppelganger teamed up with Carnage, Shriek, and other bad guys during the “Maximum Carnage” event. Carnage and Shriek played the part of his psychopathic “parents,” constantly instructing him to commit murder. The Doppelganger was horrifying and nightmarish, and Spider-Man feared fighting him.
WEAKER: BLOOD SPIDER
Spider-Man is no stranger to battling evil versions of himself. Heck, he’s battled, various iterations of Venom, he’s fought Carnage, evil clones, and the list goes on. So when the duplicitous mercenary Taskmaster dressed up one of his students to resemble the web-slinging hero, Spidey wasn’t terribly surprised.
Known as Blood Spider, there isn’t much known of his history, except that he was part of Taskmaster’s evil version of the Avengers. Despite the training he received, Blood Spider just couldn’t compare in strength and speed to Spider-Man. He was even outfitted with a set of mechanical arms in hopes that it would turn the tide of the battle to his favor, but that didn’t work and he was beaten quickly. The last time anyone saw Blood Spider, he was trying to take on Venom, and you can imagine how that went.
STRONGER: GHOST SPIDER
Ghost Rider and Spider-Man rarely interact, and when they do, it’s a fracas. The idea then, of the two merging into one being is as ridiculous as it is metal. In one universe, Uncle Ben did not die. He helped his nephew become rich by way of being in charge of Parker Technologies.
Unfortunately this Spider-man grew power hungry and started messing with the multiverse by steal and absorbing the powers of other Spider-Men.
The main Spider-Man meets him and accidentally ends up putting the evil Spider-Man into a coma. Though his body is in a coma, his spirit goes to Hell. Yet Sorcerer Supreme Bruce Banner gives him a second chance at life, but bringing back his spirit and granting him the powers of the Ghost Rider. With the combined powers of the Spirit of Vengeance and Spidey, you can bet Ghost Spider was insanely powerful.
WEAKER: SCARLET SPIDERS
Following Marvel’s “Civil War”, the Marvel U went through a new status quo. Tony Stark and company founded the Avengers Initiative to train young heroes and mold them into responsible superheroes. Among these, were the mysterious Scarlet Spiders. They were three secretive men who wore the red and gold Spider Armor that Tony had originally given to Peter. Doubt was cast on them when the Scarlet Spiders lied and said Peter used to be one of them; this made people question whether Peter was really the true Spider-Man.
Writer Dan Slott never used this particular subplot because “One More Day” retconned them. Even so, the Scarlet Spiders will forever remain an intriguing aspect of the Spider-Man mythos. Interestingly enough, the Spiders were clones of the hero MVP and had no Peter Parker DNA. And even with their fancy outfits, they still couldn’t hold a candle to the real Spider-Man.
STRONGER: THE OTHER
The storyline known as “The Other” introduced new lore to the Spider-Man mythos. Magic and mysticism would explain how Peter Parker became the inheritor of totemic spider power. Throughout the storyline, Peter believes he’ll die soon and decides to throw himself more into his crime fighting, when he eventually faces the magical totemic hunter, Morlun. At Morlun’s hands, Spider-Man is hospitalized, and Mary Jane rushes to meet him; Morlun arrives too.
He nearly kills MJ but driven by primordial power, Spider-Man saves his wife and kills Morlun before he himself passes away.
After seemingly perishing, Parker came back, bursting out of a cocoon and boasting new powers. Stronger than he used to be, Peter embraced the spider-side that he calls “the other.” Not to worry, he eventually became everybody’s friendly neighborhood Spider-Man again after a time.
Plenty of alternate Spider-Men have a penchant for eating folks and the villainous Pestilence is no exception. First appearing in Cable and Deadpool #15, it’s probably for everyone’s best interests that Pestilence Spider-Man appeared only once. In searching for Cable, Forge sent Deadpool through different alternate realities to track the missing X-Man. One of those worlds was a dystopian wasteland where the supervillain Apocalypse had conquered the world and changed four superheroes into his Horsemen. Along with Archangel and Cable, one of the other Horsemen was the universe’s Spider-Man.
Transformed into Pestilence, this Spider-Man now came with four arms, four legs and liked eating people. Despite having multiple limbs and being rather deadly, we never found out much more about Pestilence Spider-Man because Cannonball and Siryn chased him off. Suffice to say, it’s reassuring to believe the original Spider-Man is better and stronger.
STRONGER: ASSASSIN SPIDER-MAN
Spider-Man is one of the most moral superheroes in all of comic books. His colleagues have occasionally called him naïve, as the web-spinner prefers to see the best in people. There are lines he won’t cross and lines he won’t allow others to cross. So the idea of Spider-Man becoming an assassin is rather heartbreaking. In the comic What If? Spider-Man Versus Wolverine #1, we see a divergent timeline following the original Spider-Man versus Wolverine story.
After Spider-Man accidentally kills Wolverine’s former lover Charlie, he decides to remain in Russia.
While there, Spider-Man is trained by Nebo, the Rook, a spy of sorts, who teaches Peter to hone his spider-sense; it becomes impossible for anyone to even think about harming him, lest his danger sense be triggered. Spider-Man’s time in Russia changes him and he becomes a deadly assassin with no compunction about killing.
WEAKER: SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN
One of the most controversial Spider-Man stories occurred in 2013 when Peter Parker and Otto Octavius swapped bodies. Doctor Octopus was dying, so he devised a plan to hijack Parker’s body. His plan worked and Peter seemingly died with this consciousness trapped in Otto Octavius’s dead body. Able to access Parker’s memories, Octavius understood the hero’s motivations, and so he selfishly tried to outshine the original Spider-Man.
Becoming the Superior Spider-Man, Octavius took brutal and efficient methods when dealing with crime. It also seemed like he’d forever remain as the costumed hero, but vestiges of Peter’s consciousness still remained. These bits of Parker forced Octavius to question his brutal methods of crime fighting. Eventually, despite everything he’d done, Octavius realized Peter Parker is the “superior” man, and sacrifices himself so that Peter can regain control of his body.
STRONGER: ZOMBIE SPIDER-MAN
The Marvel Zombies universe is likely the darkest and most brutal reality in Marvel Comics. The Spider-Man of this universe, more specifically Earth-2149, was practically identical to the main continuity’s web slinger. That was until he became infected with a zombie virus. Spread by a zombie Sentry falling out of the sky, the rest of the world’s heroes were infected in short order. What were once Earth’s defenders became flesh-eating zombies with powers. Now a zombie, Spider-Man is practically immortal.
Once he acquires the Power Cosmic, he becomes more powerful than nearly every other iteration of the character.
Unlike most of the zombies however, Zombie Spider-Man still feels guilty for his actions, despite being a slave to the virus. It goes to show, that no matter what universe he’s in or how cannibalistic he becomes, Peter is forever haunted by a sense of responsibility.
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