In Forest Hills, Queens, New York, Midtown High School student Peter Benjamin Parker is a science-whiz orphan living with his Uncle Benand Aunt May. As depicted in Amazing Fantasy #15 (August 1962), he is bitten by a radioactive spider (erroneously classified as an insect in the panel) at a science exhibit and “acquires the agility and proportionate strength of an arachnid“. Along with super strength, Parker gains the ability to adhere to walls and ceilings. Through his native knack for science, he develops a gadget that lets him fire adhesive webbing of his own design through small, wrist-mounted barrels. Initially seeking to capitalize on his new abilities, Parker dons a costume and, as “Spider-Man”, becomes a novelty television star. However, “He blithely ignores the chance to stop a fleeing thief, [and] his indifference ironically catches up with him when the same criminal later robs and kills his Uncle Ben.” Spider-Man tracks and subdues the killer and learns, in the story’s next-to-last caption, “With great power there must also come—great responsibility!”
Despite his superpowers, Parker struggles to help his widowed aunt pay rent, is taunted by his peers—particularly football star Flash Thompson—and, as Spider-Man, engenders the editorial wrath of newspaper publisher J. Jonah Jameson. As he battles his enemies for the first time, Parker finds juggling his personal life and costumed adventures difficult. In time, Peter graduates from high school,and enrolls at Empire State University (a fictional institution evoking the real-life Columbia University and New York University), where he meets roommate and best friend Harry Osborn, and girlfriend Gwen Stacy, and Aunt May introduces him to Mary Jane Watson.As Peter deals with Harry’s drug problems, and Harry’s father is revealed to be Spider-Man’s nemesis the Green Goblin, Peter even attempts to give up his costumed identity for a while. Gwen Stacy’s father, New York City Police detective captain George Stacy is accidentally killed during a battle between Spider-Man and Doctor Octopus (#90, November 1970).
In issue #121 (June 1973), the Green Goblin throws Gwen Stacy from a tower of either the Brooklyn Bridge (as depicted in the art) or the George Washington Bridge (as given in the text). She dies during Spider-Man’s rescue attempt; a note on the letters page of issue #125 states: “It saddens us to say that the whiplash effect she underwent when Spidey’s webbing stopped her so suddenly was, in fact, what killed her.” The following issue, the Goblin appears to kill himself accidentally in the ensuing battle with Spider-Man.
Working through his grief, Parker eventually develops tentative feelings toward Watson, and the two “become confidants rather than lovers”. A romantic relationship eventually develops, with Parker proposing to her in issue #182 (July 1978), and being turned down an issue later. Parker went on to graduate from college in issue #185, and becomes involved with the shy Debra Whitman and the extroverted, flirtatious costumed thief Felicia Hardy, the Black Cat, whom he meets in issue #194 (July 1979).
From 1984 to 1988, Spider-Man wore a black costume with a white spider design on his chest. The new costume originated in the Secret Wars limited series, on an alien planet where Spider-Man participates in a battle between Earth’s major superheroes and villains. He continues wearing the costume when he returns, starting in The Amazing Spider-Man #252. The change to a longstanding character’s design met with controversy, “with many hardcore comics fans decrying it as tantamount to sacrilege. Spider-Man’s traditional red and blue costume was iconic, they argued, on par with those of his D.C. rivals Superman and Batman.” The creators then revealed the costume was an alien symbiote which Spider-Man is able to reject after a difficult struggle, though the symbiote returns several times as Venom for revenge.
Parker proposes to Watson a second time in The Amazing Spider-Man #290 (July 1987), and she accepts two issues later, with the weddingtaking place in The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21 (1987). It was promoted with a real-life mock wedding using models, including Tara Shannon as Watson, with Stan Lee officiating at the June 5, 1987, event at Shea Stadium. However, David Michelinie, who scripted based on a plot by editor-in-chief Jim Shooter, said in 2007, “I didn’t think they actually should [have gotten] married. … I had actually planned another version, one that wasn’t used.”
In a controversial storyline, Peter becomes convinced that Ben Reilly, the Scarlet Spider (a clone of Peter created by his college professor Miles Warren) is the real Peter Parker, and that he, Peter, is the clone. Peter gives up the Spider-Man identity to Reilly for a time, until Reilly is killed by the returning Green Goblin and revealed to be the clone after all. In stories published in 2005 and 2006 (such as “The Other“), he develops additional spider-like abilities including biological web-shooters, toxic stingers that extend from his forearms, the ability to stick individuals to his back, enhanced Spider-sense and night vision, and increased strength and speed. Peter later becomes a member of the New Avengers, and reveals his civilian identity to the world, increasing his already numerous problems. His marriage to Mary Jane and public unmasking are later erased in another controversial storyline “One More Day“, in a Faustian bargain with the demon Mephisto that results in several other adjustments to the timeline, including the resurrection of Harry Osborn and the return of Spider-Man’s traditional tools and powers.
That storyline came at the behest of editor-in-chief Joe Quesada, who said, “Peter being single is an intrinsic part of the very foundation of the world of Spider-Man”. It caused unusual public friction between Quesada and writer J. Michael Straczynski, who “told Joe that I was going to take my name off the last two issues of the [story] arc” but was talked out of doing so. At issue with Straczynski’s climax to the arc.
Following the “reboot”, Parker’s identity was no longer known to the general public; however, he revealed it to other superheroes. and others have deduced it. Parker’s Aunt May marries J. Jonah Jameson’s father, Jay Jameson. Parker became an employee of the think-tank Horizon Labs. In issue #700, the dying supervillain Doctor Octopus swaps bodies with Parker, who remains as a presence in Doctor Octopus’s mind, prompting a two-year storyline in the series The Superior Spider-Man in which Peter Parker is absent and Doctor Octopus is Spider-Man. Peter eventually regains control of his body. Following Peter Parker’s return, The Amazing Spider-Man was relaunched in April 2014, with Peter Parker becoming a billionaire after the formation of Parker Industries. In December 2014, following the Death of Wolverine comic book, Spider-Man became the new headmaster of the Jean Grey School and began appearing more prominently in X-Men stories, taking Wolverine’s role in the comic Wolverine and the X-Men.