Spider-Man traditionally likes to blame all the bad things that happen to him on something called the "old Parker luck." That’s convenient for Peter, but we have a better name for it: karma. From his days as a beleaguered high school student all the way through his more recent stint as a high-powered CEO, there are a number of constants in Peter Parker’s life that include troubled relationships, supervillains, and a knack for making the worst possible decisions.
Honestly, Spider-Man doesn’t even have it that bad. He has family and friends who love him (even if they do have a habit of winding up dead). He married a supermodel. He ran a billion-dollar company, joined the Avengers, and has millions of fans all over the world. Stop whining, Peter: everything bad that happens to you is your own darn fault, and you deserve every second of it. Here’s why.
He let the robber go
Over time, pre-spider-bite Peter Parker has become known as sort of a loveable loser, but if you go back and re-read Amazing Fantasy #15, he’s actually just a run of the mill jerk. Yes, old Puny Parker gets more than his fair share of abuse from Flash Thompson and Midtown High’s ruling elite, but his sinister response to their taunts — "Some day I’ll show them! Some day they’ll be sorry! Sorry that they laughed at me!" — is more reminiscent of a budding psychopath than a soon-to-be hero.
Peter’s revenge fantasies don’t end when he acquires superpowers, either ("So, they laughed at me for being a bookworm, eh?" he muses, while testing his brand-new web-shooters), and so it’s not surprising that he turns to professional wrestling almost immediately, where he can earn money by beating people up. Really, the only people Peter shows any kind of affection towards are Aunt May and Uncle Ben — and even then, he only expresses his love after the couple buy him a new microscope.
And then Peter refuses to stop the thief in the television station, and we all know what happens next. With Uncle Ben dead at the robber’s hands, Peter grows up fast, and while he probably needed a tragedy of that magnitude to bring him to his senses, his later acts of heroism don’t excuse his shoddy behavior. Thankfully, Peter knows that, too, which is why he’ll be guilty about Ben’s demise until the end of his days.
He punched a woman to death
It’s hard to think of two Marvel characters who are more popular than Wolverine and Spider-Man, so you’d think that their ’80s team-up, Spider-Man Versus Wolverine, would be pure fan service, and not a grim action story that ends with Spider-Man beating a woman to death.
Surprise! It’s the latter. After Spider-Man fails to stop the assassination of a few former KGB operatives, Peter Parker decides to give up the web-slinging life for good and heads to Germany with fellow Daily Bugle reporter Ned Leeds to chase a story. Meanwhile, Wolverine hears about the murders and immediately identifies the killer as Charlie, one of his old mercenary buddies (and, possibly, an ex-flame). In Germany, Wolverine discovers Peter’s identity by smelling him out, then sends Parker home — which would’ve worked if Ned Leeds hadn’t been murdered in their shared hotel room.
Wolverine and Spider-Man track down Charlie separately, and then join forces to find her again after she escapes a KGB-sanctioned hit. Eventually, Wolverine meets up with Charlie in a cemetery, where she asks Wolverine to kill her before the KGB can. Spider-Man misreads the situation and attacks Wolverine, and accidentally punches Charlie in the brawl that follows. Unfortunately, Spider-Man has super-strength, and while Wolverine could’ve survived the blow, Charlie doesn’t.
There’s one silver lining for Spider-Man, however: J. Jonah Jameson is so happy with the pictures Parker took that he actually gives Peter a compliment. That never happens.
He joined the mob
In Amazing Spider-Man vol. 2 #51, a green-skinned menace named Digger starts stalking a bunch of New York’s old mob hideouts — and murdering the gangsters he finds inside. That puts a local don, Mr. Forelli, into a panic. Thankfully, he has a solution: hire Spider-Man to work as his bodyguard.
Spider-Man turns Forelli down, citing moral reasons — because, y’know, Forelli is behind the bulk of the city’s sex trafficking and drug dealing operations — until Forelli offers to pay Spider-Man $10,000 a day (plus expenses), at which point Peter Parker folds immediately and starts working for the mob.
Now, technically, Forelli doesn’t ask Spider-Man to do anything against the law, but defending Forelli so he can keep running his illegal smuggling enterprise is suspect enough, as Mary Jane rightly observes. Still, Peter Parker quickly settles into the jet-setting life of a professional criminal. Along the way, he discovers that Digger is actually a composite of 13 gangsters Forelli killed back in the ’50s, whose bodies were buried in a chemical dump before a gamma bomb fused them together and brought them all back to life.
Spider-Man promises to stop Digger, but raises the rate to $12,000 a day. Before long, Digger attacks, but the gamma radiation that melded all the corpses together begins to wear out, and Spider-Man battles him until he literally falls into pieces. After the job is finished, Spider-Man hands over a tape full of evidence to the NYPD. Forelli is arrested, and Parker keeps the money.
So, to summarize: Spidey defended a murderer, stole his money, effectively killed over a dozen people (again), ratted out his boss, and got away scot-free. Honestly, if the whole crimefighting thing doesn’t work out, Parker has a pretty bright future ahead of him as a mafioso, as long as he can keep himself from screwing it up (which, let’s face it, he probably will).
He made out with his ex-girlfriend’s daughter
Most Spider-Man fans would like to forget the Sins Past storyline, in which Peter Parker learns that his girlfriend, Gwen Stacy, slept with his number one nemesis, Norman Osborne (also known as the Green Goblin) and gave birth to his twin children shortly before her demise. Most Spider-Man fans have forgotten the follow-up plotline, Sins Remembered, which sees Spidey traveling to France and teaming up with Gwen’s daughter, Sarah, who totally has the hots for him.
Exactly why this is creepy should be pretty clear, but just for fun, let’s break it down. To start with, Sarah looks almost exactly like Gwen, and Peter’s resulting confusion implies that Parker was less attracted to Gwen’s personality, and was more into her hot bod. Secondly, Sarah is actually younger than ten years old — she just ages faster than normal, thanks to the Green Goblin serum coursing through her blood — so she’s not an adult, even if she looks like one (she still sleeps with a teddy bear, for heaven’s sake) Finally, Sarah and her brother Gabriel grew up believing that Peter Parker was their father (and that he killed Gwen Stacy, which is sort of true), thanks to Norman, who wanted to turn the twins against Spider-Man — and, let’s face it, that is not a father-daughter type of kiss.
Anyway, there’s a lot of not-okay happening here, which makes Sarah and Peter’s spit-swapping session all kinds of weird. Sure, it’s Sarah and not Peter who makes the first move, but that doesn’t let Peter off the hook. Sarah spends most of their adventure flirting with Peter, and he doesn’t exactly tell her to back off. Besides, why would Peter lie and tell Mary Jane Watson — his wife — that he’s staying in a hotel, and not Sarah’s house, where she sleeps just a few rooms away, if he didn’t know that the whole thing was just kind of wrong?
He ate a supervillain
In Spider-Man: The Other, Peter Parker gets some bad news: he’s going to die, and nobody can stop it. Not his physician, Doctor Castillo, who first gives Peter his terminal diagnosis. Not Doctor Strange, who claims Peter’s illness is mystical and not physical in nature. And certainly not the vampiric spider-hunter Morlun, who returns from beyond the grave to beat Spider-Man within an inch of his life.
But it’s actually Morlun who comes out of the encounter worse for the wear. While Peter recovers in the hospital, his body undergoes a strange transformation. His eyes transform into bug-like spheres. His skin hardens, forming into a kind of exoskeleton. In short, Parker becomes more spider than man, and when Morlun shows up at the hospital to kill Mary Jane and feast on Parker’s remains, Spider-Man’s new, bestial instincts kick into full gear. A stinger emerges from Peter’s arm and pins Morlun to the ground, and then Peter bares his new fangs — oh, yeah, he grows those too — and he eats Morlun alive.
Morlun crumbles into dust as Parker’s body gives out, but it’s not really the end for either of them. Spider-Man ends up stuck in a cocoon and emerges a little while later with a whole bunch of new powers, while Morlun is resurrected by a group of cultists and returns to menace the multiverse in the dimension-hopping Spider-Verse storyline.
He supported Tony Stark during the superhero Civil War
The catchphrase for Marvel’s big Civil War event was "Whose side are you on?" but unless you’re a complete sociopath — or Peter Parker — it’s pretty clear that Tony Stark was the bad guy. Not only was Stark one of the biggest cheerleaders for the Superhuman Registration Act, which most people agreed was a pretty flagrant civil rights violation, but he created a psychopathic Thor clone, got Black Goliath and Captain America killed, and built a gulag in the Negative Zone where he locked up both heroes and villains who failed to go buy into S.H.I.E.L.D.’s agenda.
And, for some reason, Spider-Man doesn’t just go along with all of this, he actually supports Tony’s decision. At Stark’s behest, Parker unmasks on live television, exposing his identity to the world and becoming the poster boy for the Superhuman Registration Act in the process. Spider-Man’s decision kicks the Civil War into overdrive — it’s quite possible that all the bloodshed that follows could’ve been avoided if Peter had stuck to his guns — and it has a pretty devastating effect on the people around him, too.
Liz Allen, one of Peter’s oldest friends, abandons him as a result of his dishonesty, as does J. Jonah Jameson, Peter’s sometimes mentor. With Spider-Man’s identity exposed, Peter’s family is suddenly a target for supervillains everywhere, including the Kingpin, who puts out a hit on the whole Parker clan. Mary Jane survives the attack, but Aunt May doesn’t, and in order to save her life, Peter is forced to make one of the worst decisions of his life…
He made a deal with the devil
There’s nothing more dangerous than being one of Spider-Man’s lovers. Gwen Stacy? Tossed off a bridge by the Green Goblin. Betty Brandt? Discovered that her husband was a supervillain, and went crazy after he was murdered. Mary Jane Watson? Constantly lied to, gave birth to a stillborn baby, kidnapped by a stalker and presumed dead, and ultimately killed by… well, we’ll get to that.
See, no matter how hard they try, Spidey’s girlfriends can only hope to be the second-most important woman in Parker’s life. While his lady friends suffer and die, Peter will do almost anything for his dear Aunt May — and we mean anything. Sure, that hasn’t stopped May from dying a time or two (it’s comics, it happens), but if he can, Peter will do anything he can to keep her alive — even if that means throwing his other loved ones under the bus.
For example, in the aftermath of Spider-Man’s public unmasking, May gets caught in the crossfire when the Kingpin targets Peter’s family. As she hovers near death, Peter scours the globe for a way to save her, when he’s approached by Mephisto (who is, as far as Marvel Comics is concerned, literally the devil). Mephisto will save May and erase Spider-Man’s secret identity from the public record, but in return, Peter will have to give up his marriage.
And he does, thereby ruining his relationship with MJ and sacrificing their as-yet unborn daughter, who Mephisto uses to taunt Peter after he makes his decision. That’s not child murder exactly, but it’s awfully close, and putting aside the fact that Faustian bargains rarely work out well (seriously, kids, if you have the chance to deal with the devil, don’t do it), the One More Day storyline makes it very clear where Spider-Man’s priorities lie. If you’re not May, you don’t matter. Period.
He killed Mary Jane with his, ahem, fluids
Spider-Man: Reign, Kaare Andrews’ The Dark Knight Returns-inspired spin on the Spider-Man universe, takes place in an alternate future where super-powered crime is gone, an authoritarian government led by the mayor keeps New York City safe, and Peter Parker is a bumbling old man who can’t even hold a simple job at a florist, never mind fight off the despotic peacekeepers known as the Reign. It’s bad, and it gets even worse when J. Jonah Jameson shows up on Parker’s doorstep with a carefully preserved Spider-Man costume.
So what made Peter hang up his web-shooters? It wasn’t old age, and it wasn’t because he was unnecessary after the Reign took control, either. No, he resigned as Spider-Man after Mary Jane died from the cancer he gave her. See, MJ fell sick because Peter loved her — and by "loved," we mean "slept with." According to Reign, the radiation that gives Peter his powers spread from his blood to his other bodily fluids, and infected Mary Jane as she performed her regular marital duties.
He ruined Aunt May’s love life
Peter Parker cares about Aunt May more than anyone else, but selfishly, he wants her all to himself. At least, that’s what it looks like. Whenever May starts to get close to a man other than Peter, Spider-Man interferes and ruins everything.
Don’t believe us? Let’s take a look. First off, there’s May’s husband, Ben Parker — better known as Peter’s Uncle Ben — who dies after Spider-Man decides he can’t be bothered to stop a petty crook. Next, in Amazing Spider-Man #131, Spider-Man interrupts May’s wedding and leaves her groom to die in an explosion on "a crummy Canadian island" (to be fair, May’s beau is the villainous Doctor Otto "Octopus" Octavius, but still). Her third serious boyfriend, a gambler named Nathan Lubensky, passes away from a heart attack after Spider-Man ruins his get-rich-quick scheme and saves a casino owner named Raymond Trask from assassination at the hands of the Vulture, thereby putting May and Nathan in the villain’s crosshairs.
And that’s just the beginning. When May has a fling with Edwin Jarvis, the Avengers’ butler, Peter’s deal with Mephisto in One More Day wipes the relationship from existence. In the recent Clone Conspiracy arc, Peter refuses to let the mysterious medical company New U treat May’s third husband, J. Jonah Jameson’s father, for a mysterious disease. Eventually, Peter changes his mind, but by then it’s too late. Jay Jameson is dead.
That’s not a great track record, and what’s the common thread that connects the end of each and every relationship? Why, Spider-Man, of course. Still, May manages to get a modicum of revenge, although she doesn’t know it. When Peter and Doctor Octopus switch brains at the beginning of The Superior Spider-Man, their memories merge, giving Peter a first-hand perspective on some hot and heavy pre-wedding fooling around between Otto and the elderly May.
We say it again: yuck.