Even in the age of superhero movies, comic books are still insular and difficult for civilians to get into. But after Marvel’s mega-successful Captain America: Civil War, the debut of Tom Holland’s Spider-Man may have inspired some to hit up a comics store and peruse the shelves for Spidey issues. Those casual fans might become overwhelmed with Marvel’s different, freaky-looking Spider-Men, and Spider-Woman, and Spider-Gwen, and Spider-Ham. So what the hell is going on?
Take this new kid, Miles Morales. Who is he? And who is the blonde girl in a white hoodie? Who’s the one with a bandana? Is that Johnny Rotten? Who are these freaks? It’s enough to make the average reader run.
First off, relax. It’s just comics, right? Peter Parker is still Spider-Man, still swinging around New York as always in The Amazing Spider-Man currently written by Dan Slott. But throughout Marvel’s history, different individuals have taken up the “with great power, comes great responsibility” mantle and have kicked butt as Spider-Man, or -Girl, or -Woman, or -UK, or -Ham, in alternate realities. In 2014, all the Spider-People teamed up against a major threat in the crossover Spider-Verse written by Slott. It was dope.
After Spider-Verse, some Spideys became more popular than others, so Marvel began new books starring some of their breakout characters. If you’re curious about who’s who under those big spider eyes on the shelf, then look no further: we’ve got you covered. In synthetic webs.
Arguably the most popular character following Spider-Verse, Spider-Gwen is Gwen Stacy, Peter Parker’s first love bit by the radioactive spider instead of Pete. Gwen swings around New York (in alternate Earth-65) as “Spider-Woman”, sporting web shooters gifted from the retired Wasp, Janet van Dyne.
Echoing how Peter Parker was torn over Gwen’s death, Gwen mourns for Pete when he turned into the fugitive monster Lizard and died from their battle at the Midtown High senior prom.
Currently written by Jason Latour, Spider-Gwen Vol. 1 began in February 2015 with Vol. 2 beginning after Secret Wars in October. It is one of Marvel’s most popular titles on shelves right now.
Spider-Woman (Jessica Drew)
Spider-Woman is not new. She’s actually been in the Marvel Universe since 1977 and at times has fought as an Avenger. But Spider-Verse reinvigorated interest in Jessica Drew, where she got a new solo series with writer Dennis Hopeless at the helm. She also got a new costume change, the first since the ‘70s, and is also pregnant. It’s a fun book that subverts typical superhero tropes and you should really read it.
During Spider-Verse, five Spider-Men find that they kinda like how they all kick butt together and decide to rally up as the Web Warriors, a moniker borrowed from the Ultimate Spider-Man TV series that aired during Spider-Verse. Housed on Earth-001, the Web Warriors written by Mike Costa are: Spider-Gwen, Spider-Man Noir, Spider-Man India, Spider-UK, and Spider-Ham. Yes, Spider-Ham.
An anthropomorphic parody of Spider-Man, Peter Porker, a.k.a. Spider-Ham, has been seriously incorporated into the Marvel Universe (while still being fun). Created by Tom DeFalco and Mark Armstrong in 1983’s Marvel Tails, the series spoofed the Marvel superheroes into farm animals but Spider-Ham lived past his peers like Deerdevil and Goose Rider and swung into Spider-Verse and then into Web Warriors.
A gun-toting vigilante from the Great Depression, the charcoal-colored Spider-Man is still Peter Parker bit by a spider but from an alternate dimension set in 1933 and created by David Hine, Fabrice Sapolsky, and Carmine Di Giandomenico. Spider-Man Noir maintains all the powers as Spider-Man except for the ability to cling to walls, forcing him to rely on his acrobatics.
In 2004, Marvel pursued an idea first explored between Bollywood director Satyaji Ray and Stan Lee. Spider-Man India, written by Sharad Devarajan, Devarajan￼￼ Suresh Seetharaman, and Jeevan J. Kang, sees Pavitr Prabhakar of Earth-50101 moving to Mumbai with his Aunt Maya and Uncle Bhim. Pavitr inherits the powers of a spider from a mystical yogi and uses it to fight a local crime lord who becomes possessed by a demon seeking to invade Earth.
A rookie member of the multi-dimensional Captain Britain Corps, Spider-UK is the broad-shouldered, square-jawed William Braddock who made his debut in Spider-Verse and now leads the Web Warriors. He was the first to learn about the threat of Morlun and his “Great Hunt” for the spiders, and rallies all the Spideys together to stave off annihilation.
With the new millennium dawning at the beginning of the 1990s, Marvel unleashed the Spider-Man of the year 2099 in Peter David and Rick Leonardi’s 1992 series Spider-Man 2099. The half-Irish, half-Mexican Miguel O’Hara is a vigilante superhero with poisonous talons, a near-indestructible costume, and a genius-level intellect.
Spider-Man 2099 is a cult fan-favorite character whose popularity endured long after his original books ended. He appeared in the crossover video games Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions and Spider-Man: Edge of Time before making his big return in comics through Spider-Verse. His new series is written by Peter David once again with Will Sliney as series artist.
You may have heard of Miles Morales. In 2011, Marvel made headlines when it introduced Miles Morales, a Black Hispanic teenager, as Marvel’s new Ultimate Spider-Man who lived in the separate Ultimate universe (Earth-1610) until the events of 2015’s Secret Wars changed everything.
Insanely popular not only because of his diverse presence but his really good, universally-relatable storylines, Miles Morales as Spider-Man is a modern icon in comic book fandom. He’s currently a full-fledged Avenger (alongside another neo-icon, Kamala Khan, a.k.a. Ms. Marvel) in Mark Waid’s All-New, All-Different Avengers but swings in his own series, Spider-Man, from Brian Michael Bendis.
Unlike most of the aforementioned Spideys, Cindy Moon lives in the same Earth as the Peter Parker you know and love. But on the same day Peter was bit by a spider, the creepy crawler also went over and snacked on Cindy, granting her similar superpowers to Spider-Man except with remarkably stronger webbing.
But while Peter got to grow up in front of the world as Spidey, Cindy was locked away by the elusive businessman Ezekiel Sims who offered to help Cindy hone her skills. She did just that, but was kept from the world and her family. Ten years later, Cindy was let loose just in time for Spider-Verse. She got her own series written by Robbie Thomson afterwards and into 2015’s Secret Wars. Now, she’s undercover working as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent in exchange for finding her missing family.