What Marvel Superheroes remember about Spider-Man’s secret identity

Today, we look at how Marvel never really managed to explain the consequences of a spell that erased Spider-Man’s secret identity from the world.

In Left Unresolved, I focus on story lines that have been left unresolved.

For a year or so before the Civil War, Spider-Man joined the New Avengers and both began living in the Avengers Tower with his wife, Mary Jane, and his aunt, May Parker, when May’s house was destroyed. They moved in Fantastic Spider-Man # 519 (by J. Michael Straczynski, Mike Deodato and Joe Pimentel) …

When they moved in, May and Edwin Jarvis started flirting and eventually they started dating …

Peter then went to work for Iron Man. Peter was so close to Iron Man that when Iron Man became involved in the US government’s attempt to regulate superhero registration, Spider-Man took part in the trip. Iron Man was able to deter the government for a while, but then the New Warriors blew up in a fight with supervillains in Stamford, CT near a school, and a bunch of innocent people died, including a bunch of kids.

So the government established the Superhuman Registration Act, and Iron Man decided he would support it (it’s better that he does and controls it than let others take control of it). Spider-Man took the ride again and saw along the way Civil war # 2 (by Mark Millar, Steve McNiven and Dexter Vines) Spider-Man decided to prove he was completely on Iron Man’s plan (Peter felt a great pride that Tony was his mentor) by revealing his secret identity to the world….

and he really did, to the shock of J. Jonah Jameson …

The problem is that Spider-Man then began to realize that he did not actually believe in Iron Man’s position. So he decided to divorce Iron Man. Of course, it was far too late for him to do this, for he had, you know, revealed his secret identity to the world. Spider-Man went on the run with his wife and aunt. He was now being chased by both the government and all his old enemies, who now knew his secret identity. It took a turn for the worse when Kingpin ordered Spider-Man murdered Fantastic Spider-Man # 540 (by J. Michael Straczynski, Ron Garney, Bill Reinhold and Matt Milla). This is Spider-Man, but his Spider-Sense made him move out of the way of the bullet, and it hit Aunt May instead.

It hurt her fatally.


Spider-Man was desperate. This was a guy who’s about guilt, and now he feels like he was responsible for Aunt May’s impending death! So Mephisto offered Spider-Man a deal – he would cure Aunt May if Spider-Man would surrender her marriage to Mary Jane. Mary Jane said they had to do it because she knew Peter and she knew he would never forgive himself for May’s death. So they gave up their marriage and Aunt May was saved.

Now Peter May’s life is saved with super CPR Fantastic Spider-Man # 639 (by Joe Quesada and Paolo Rivera) …

The doctor later said that it was basically “love” that saved her …

But his identity was still publicly known.

IN Fantastic Spider-Man # 641 (by Quesada and Rivera), Doctor Strange, Tony Stark and Reed Richards came together and came up with a scientific / magical solution to erase Spider-Man’s secret identity from the rest of the world …

Strange and Reed Richards convinced Tony to allow his Extremis to be used to take care of all the technology out there that had information about Spider-Man’s identity …

In the end, Spider-Man could not allow Mary Jane to forget …

So Spider-Man’s secret identity was now hidden from the world (except Mary Jane still knew it, though she crushed Peter by noticing that she would have preferred it if she had NOT remembered it).

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Shortly afterwards, Spider-Man, now on the run with the rest of the heroes who opposed the Registration Act (and then, when Iron Man, the primus engine of the law, was replaced by Norman Obsorn as head of SHIELD, was on the run from Osborn ), was pushed in by his Avengers teammates New Avengers # 51 (by Brian Michael Bendis, Billy Tan, Matt Banning and Justin Ponsor) to reveal his identity to them should they all be on the run together (this is especially notable after the Skrull invasion around the same time – it was hard for people to trust each other).

So Spider-Man revealed his identity to his teammates, including some people (Mockingbird), that he was not even that close to at the time …

That revelation, however, looked like they all just learned it for the first time, right?

Shortly after, we saw the details of Doctor Strange’s magic when Peter was revealed in front of the Fantastic Four in Fantastic Spider-Man # 590 (by Dan Slott, Barry Kitson, Mark Farmer and Dean White) and they still could not see his face.

As it turned out, Spidey had to actively choose to reveal his identity to people so that they could perceive his true identity (and then, if they already knew it, they would regain their memories of having known it before). So in Fantastic Spider-Man # 591, he did just that …

So here the Fantastic Four regained all their memories of Peter from BEFORE the spell was created.

Okay, so what about the rest of the world?

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After the enchantment is cast, Peter returns to visit Aunt May, and why is she in the hospital now? Why was she shot?

In fact, Marvel never specifically revealed what happened to reality because of the spell. For example, what about all the newspapers that covered Spider-Man’s advertising? Were they just like NOT written? One of Peter’s ex-girlfriends wrote a book about him, as seen in The friendly Spider-Man neighborhood # 14 (by Peter David, Scot Eaton and John Dell) …

Was that book not published? What does she remember about the period in her life when she wrote a book about her ex-boyfriend and it does not exist now? It had been over a decade and Marvel does not seem to be particularly interested in ever answering this question.

The closest we have come was in Fantastic Spider-Man (2015 series) # 14 (by Dan Slott, Christos N. Gage, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Cam Smith and Marte Gracia), where Tony revealed what he remembered from when Peter lived in the Avengers Tower …

And now Tony AND Jarvis both remember that Peter, Mary Jane and Aunt May moved into the Avengers Tower to … uhmmm … help with Spider-Man’s gadgets?

It’s not a whole lot, but I think it probably suggests that reality WAS changed in a way to try to fill as many gaps as possible, while keeping in mind that Peter’s secret identity was not known.

So I guess another story was the best news for the days when Spider-Man revealed his secret identity? I really do not know, and therefore it is in the “Left unresolved”.

If anyone has a suggestion for a future release of Left Unresolved, please send me a line at brianc@cbr.com!

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