As both Peter Parker and Spider-Man, his friends and family have always shaped Marvel’s most perennially popular protagonist. Many of Spider-Man’s greatest adventures have been infused with the additional drama directly derived from the presence of his loved ones. Some have been held captive by super villains, turned into were-creatures, beaten up, hospitalized, crippled, traumatized for life, turned into criminals, had their marriages dissolved and some have even made the ultimate sacrifice. No, not appearing in a Spidey book written by Todd McFarlane. I’m talking death, folks. Well, as dead as one can be in the today’s comic book marketplace.
No subset of Webhead’s cast of characters carries as much emphasis as the women in his life. While Puny Parker doesn’t do quite as well as Tony Stark, Matt Murdock or Bruce Wayne, his emo stylings have garnered him some positive earnings in the bank o’ love.
Please note some omissions from this list. I did not include Mary Jane and Peter’s child (they believed she was stillborn, but evidence suggests to the contrary) nor any of the numerous ladies Peter has dated since the reboot after One More Day.
#1) Aunt May – She’s Dying, Y’know. No, We Really Mean It This Time!
Aunt May has been one of the few constants in Peter’s life. After his parents passed away, Aunt May and Uncle Ben took their nephew into their home and raised him as their child. May has probably been put through the wringer more than any other Spider-Man primary character, save for perhaps the ones who have died. While doting over the vulnerability of young Peter, May had no idea that the young high school student was engaged in dangerous crime fighting. Dramatic highlights for Aunt May include being kidnapped, almost marrying Dr. Otto Octavious, learning Peter’s role as Spider-Man, mild heart attacks, hospitalization and being ‘fatally’ shot during the final stages of Civil War. Peter loves his aunt so much that his guilt over his responsibility for her death causes him to strike a deal with the devil. He’ll give up his marriage to Mary Jane Watson Parker if the perennially ill Aunt May’s life is spared. So much for that moral upbringing and that whole ‘with great power comes great responsibility.
#2) Mary Jane Watson-Parker – For Richer or Poorer, In Sickness &…Wait, What Were We Saying Again?
This fiery redhead has loved Peter longer than he probably ever knew. She was there to comfort him after Gwen Stacy’s tragic death (see next entry) and has stood by his side (for the most part) during all of his near-death battles and heroic exploits. Her love for her man was so strong, that she was willing to give up being his wife if it meant that Peter could have a chance at true happiness. Mary Jane ends up proving herself to be much more heroic than our titular character. Many longtime Spider-Man fans categorically disliked the dissolution of the Parker marriage during the infamous One More Day story arc. However, the resulting stories have injected Spidey’s stories with a new sense of adventure and energy. So, as it turns out…Pete’s own wife comes in 2nd place.
#3) Gwen Stacy – A Casualty of Love
Gwen was far too beautiful for Peter to ever consider dating. Luckily, Gwendolyn didn’t share that same perspective. She came on strong and the two developed a strong bond and eventually, love. For many years, readers of The Amazing Spider-Man watched Gwen Stacy become the gleam in young Peter’s eye. Issue #121 changed all of that, shocking readers across the glove with the Death of Gwen Stacy. Spider-Man’s nemesis, the Greet Goblin had kidnapped Gwen and taken her to the George Washington Bridge. Spidey arrives on the scene and after some fisticuffs, the Goblin swoops down on his glider, knocking Gwen out of Peter’s arms. Her unconscious form plummets several stories until Spider-Man catches her foot with a strand of webbing. All these years later we don’t know if it was the centrifugal force of the fall, maybe even the initial blow suffered from the Goblin’s glider, or if it was the negative effects of inertia on her body from the webbing, but the final result is her death. Her neck is broken and she dies immediately. This was a momentous event in the world of Marvel Comics. Long standing characters weren’t killed off on a whim as is the case in today’s publishing arena. Fans were shocked and Peter was never quite the same. Amazing Spider-Man 121 remains one of the highest valued issues from the Bronze Age of Spider-Man comics.
#4) Betty Brant – First Love
J. Jonah Jameson’s administrative assistant, Betty Brant is generally acknowledged as Peter’s first love. She eventually went on to marry fellow Daily Bugle employee Ned Leeds, which didn’t really work out too well for anyone involved. Leeds took on the role of the Hobgoblin for a bit and Betty found herself drawn to Flash Thompson.
#5) Felicia Hardy AKA the Black Cat – You Can Keep Your Mask On
Felicia Hardy was and continues to be a highly sexualized character in the Marvel Universe. For all intents and purposes, she is a near mirror image of DC’s own Catwoman. Felicia and Peter encounter a strong attraction for one another, eventually culminating in a prolonged romance. Peter insists that she play the straight and narrow and Felicia insists that she dates Spider-Man, not Peter Parker…especially during moments of, uh…’intimacy.’
#6) Sue Storm – Matriarch Of The Fantastic Four
If Peter has an affinity for any group of super powered individuals, it’s the Fantastic Four. Spider-Man has a longtime affiliation with the FF and they’ve shared many adventures together. With Sue’s standing as the matriarch of Marvel’s First Family, it’s only fitting that she be represented on this list.
#7) Liz Allan – His First Schoolboy Crush
Everyone remembers their first high school infatuation. Liz fills that role for Peter. She always went out of her way to chastise those who picked on Peter and she sensed a strength within him. Although she was in a high school romance with football star Flash Thompson, Liz eventually wound up marrying Harry Osborn.
#8) Angelica “Angel” Jones AKA Firestar – Made For TV
When I was a kid, there was nothing quite as exciting on Saturday morning television than Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends. I especially loved it when they featured cameos from other Marvel superheroes. I’m afraid to revisit my viewing experiences because I fear that the material may not quite hold up. Back in the early ‘80s, the producers of the show first introduced the character of Firestar. She proved to be such a popular creation, that she wound up crossing over into the world of comics. Firestar is a unique success story in that she started on TV and then went to comics, rather than the traditionally reversed path.