On June 2, 2023, the smash hit film Spider-Man Across the Spider-Verse hit theaters and introduced audiences worldwide to a concept known as Canon Events. Canon Events in this movie are described as events that happen to Spider-Man in every single universe with only slight variations. While it’s pretty obvious that the sequel will reveal that the concept of Canon Events isn’t real, I thought it’d be fun to look over the history of various Spider-People and figure out what stories might count as a Canon Event.
Let’s go over the Canon Events listed in the film first so there is no confusion. According to the movie the following events happen as part of every Spider’s story.
- They will be bit by a radioactive spider to receive their powers
- A loved one will die in their arms to teach them a lesson about great power and responsibility
- Gwen Stacy or an equivalent in their universe will be thrown off a high place and die
- A police captain close to Spider-Man will die during a battle with an arch nemesis
- The Venom symbiote arc or an equivalent to it will occur
- They will be covered in heavy machinery that they must push off of them in order to survive, similar to the classic Spider-Man story “If This be my Destiny”
- They will throw their costume into the trash during an emotional moment where they temporarily quit being Spider-Man.
Now it goes without saying that none of these apply to each and every Spider-Man, heck, most of them don’t even apply to Miguel O’Hara, the man explaining them. However they do happen to a lot of Spider-Men and as such I will base this article on that criteria. I’ll look over events that happen to a lot of the Spider-Men, explain what the event is and the effect it has on the character, and talk about each Spider-Person it happened to.
I’m only going to be covering big events that can actually affect a Spider’s life in a large way for the record. This article would become absolutely bloated if I mentioned details like how every Spider-Person has met a version of Electro. I will mention a few villains who affected Spider-Man’s life in a major way but I’ll try my best to be compact.
Let’s begin this list with an event that was large in 616 Peter Parker’s life but small in nearly everyone else’s
An Unwanted Body Swap
In what is considered one of the absolute worst parts of Brian Michael Bendis’ run on Ultimate Spider-Man, there was a two issue storyline in 2004 where Peter Parker swapped bodies with Wolverine. Wolverine would proceed to mess up Peter’s relationships with those around him while Peter would go through the agony of being Wolverine for a day. These two issues, despite their quality, would start a trend where nearly every Spider-Man would get involved in a body swap at one point or another in their lives.
The second case of a Spider-Person getting their body swapped happened in 2008 on the pages of Amazing Spider-Girl #25. In this issue Ana Corazon steals the body of Mayday Parker in order to get close to the villain known as The Black Tarantula. Ana had actually intended to simply possess Mayday’s body, but through the help of Aunt May’s ghost of all people, Mayday was able to take Ana’s body herself temporarily. This body swap lasts for three issues as Mayday has to fight both Ana and the Black Tarantula to regain her own.
A third Spider-Man swapping bodies with someone against their will happened in the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon that aired on Disney XD in 2012. Just like in the comic of the same name, Peter gets his body swapped with Wolverine here and shenanigans ensue.
Then the fourth example of a Spider-Man being involved in a body swap is easily the one with the most consequences as 616 Peter Parker famously had his body stolen by Doctor Octopus for nearly a year in the 2013 Superior Spider-Man run. Doctor Octopus spent this year in Peter’s body improving his life in some ways and ruining it in other ways. Eventually Peter would regain his body when Otto realized he couldn’t be a superior hero like he wanted and passed the reigns of being Spider-Man back to Peter. This storyline had many long running consequences such as Peter no longer being part of the Avengers like he has been for years and making Peter the CEO of a company called Parker Industries.
After his body swap with Doctor Octopus, Peter had a chip installed in his brain to hopefully prevent future body swaps. Unfortunately for him it didn’t quite work as one time he got his body swapped with Ms. Marvel in the 2019 run of Marvel Team Up. Peter and Kamala weren’t able to swap back for nearly three issues as while the chip messed up by letting them swap bodies in the first place, it did begin to work afterward so they couldn’t swap back.
The fifth Spider-Person to swap bodies was the ever popular Spider-Gwen. In the 2016 Annual issue of All New Wolverine, Gwen got her body swapped with Laura Kinney Wolverine by complete accident. A villain had intended to swap the bodies of Logan Wolverine and Spider-Man but because they got the wrong address Laura was the Wolverine targeted by accident. By the end of the issue the problem is resolved with an apology for the misunderstanding.
The most recent example of a Spider-Person getting involved in a body swap that I am aware of was in 2019’s Spider-Man Life Story. The premise of this comic is imagining a world where Spider-Man issues all took place in the year they were released, with time flowing naturally and characters aging as a result. Because of this, in the world of Life Story Doctor Octopus doesn’t steal the body of Peter Parker but rather the one of Miles Morales. Because this body swap is part of the climax of Life Story, I won’t go into detail other than saying that just like the main universe, this Otto was given the choice to become a hero in the end.
With the body swaps explained, let’s move on to a more serious Canon Event that stems from a universally hated storyline.
A Deal With the Devil
In September of 2007, Marvel released the Spider-Man storyline One More Day. This storyline gave the character a soft reboot that would undo many events of the character’s history, bring back characters such as Harry Osborn, and of course undid the marriage of Peter Parker and Mary Jane. This was all accomplished via Peter making a deal with Mephisto, the devil of the Marvel Universe, in exchange for Mephisto saving the life of Aunt May.
One More Day is one of the most hated storylines in Marvel history and because of that, it is also one of the most well known. As such we are now in a continuous loop of Marvel referencing this storyline repeatedly without actually undoing it because it is popular and gets people talking about Spider-Man. As such, a deal with the devil has appeared in several other Spider-Man storylines to the point where I would classify it as a Canon Event!
Most of these deals with the devil have happened in Marvel’s mainline 616 Universe. Mephisto of the main Marvel universe gets a sick joy out of messing with Spider-Men in particular such as the time in 2019 where he made a deal with Miles Morales. In the issues 3 and 4 of Champions, Ms. Marvel gets killed in a fight while Miles is busy saving some civilians from collapsing rubble. While Miles is filled with grief, Mephisto appears before him and offers to send Miles back in time a few minutes so he can save her. Dooming Miles to forever deal with knowing that he because he saved Ms. Marvel there were civilian casualties he could have prevented.
Also in 2019, Mephisto had decided to pay a visit to the Superior Spider-Man. For those who don’t know, after giving Peter his body back, Doctor Octopus copied his mind into a young clone body and remained a hero for a good few years. That was until he was confronted with a threat he had no chance of defeating on his own: Spiders-Man! Oh, and Norman Osborn was there as well. In exchange for defeating these two villains, Mephisto takes away all the character development that Otto received in both Superior Spider-Man runs. This is honestly one of the worst Spider-Man stories of all time. I find it worse than the original deal with the devil that Peter Parker made.
Mephisto must have been working overtime in 2019 because he also paid a visit to Ben Reilly, the Scarlet Spider. The deal here was that if Ben Reilly killed the Midnight Sons then Mephisto would save his soul and make him a hero. Ben accepts at first however he later refuses to kill the Midnight Sons, thus making this less a deal with the devil and more an attempted deal.
While only the Spider-Men of the mainline universe have made deals with the literal devil, it isn’t uncommon to see various alternate universe Spider-People make metaphorical deals with the devil. Deals where in exchange for something you can get from no one else to turn to the most morally decrepit person you know. Such as in the 2016 Spider-Gwen series where Gwen had to make a deal with Matt Murdock, the Kingpin. The deal here was that Murdock would help Gwen’s dad get out of prison in exchange for Gwen doing whatever the Kingpin says. While Murdock isn’t the literal devil the comic uses various imagery to evoke the same feels as a character making a devilish deal.
If we were to instead stretch the definition of deal with the devil to be deals with evil supernatural beings then Spider-Man Noir is the king of deals with the devil. One of the big things that separates Noir from the other Spider-People is that he got his powers from an evil spider god. Noir doesn’t usually suffer from this deal other than seeing this being in his dreams as well as being told by this god that it will never allow him to die.
Well that was a depressing Canon Event. So how about we talk about a more light hearted one that we all enjoy seeing
A Rivalry with J Jonah Jameson
J Jonah Jameson is one of the most iconic comic characters ever. Ever since his first appearance in Spider-Man he has been one of the most beloved members of the supporting cast with his ever endearing rants about that wall crawling menace. Because of this, he has appeared in every adaptation of Spider-Man as well as practically every alternate universe featuring the character. It would be nigh impossible and a waste of time for me to list each and every appearance of J Jonah Jameson, so instead I’ll just go over some various fun facts about JJJ in the Spider-Verse.
Starting things off with a blink and you’ll miss it JJJ, we do know that a version of him exists in Peni Parker’s universe. While she is fighting against Morbius there are several television screens reporting on the news. One of these happens to be playing news from the Daily Bugle. Peni even comments that she’s tired of listening to that trash, implying that the typical Spider-Man and JJJ relationship exists in this universe.
Spider-Man Noir’s had its own version of Jameson, however we never actually got to meet him as before the story began he had been replaced by the Chameleon. Chameleon replacing Jameson is also a very frequently occurring in both the mainline 616 universe as well as in Ultimate Spider-Man.
Of course we can’t talk about Jonah without mentioning the quirk with him in film. In both the Sam Raimi Spider-Man films as well the MCU he is portrayed by J.K. Simmons, despite there being no relation between the characters and no other character in the MCU sharing an actor from the Raimi trilogy. This case of shared actors was later carried over to Across the Spider-Verse where they established that in most universes, J Jonah Jameson is J.K. Simmons.
That was a relatively simple Canon Event so let’s now talk about one that is far too complicated to explain in this style of article.
The Clone Saga
Okay so, back in 1975 there was a short Spider-Man storyline where Peter had to fight a clone of himself. Then in the 80s Marvel decided to have another storyline about how cloning was far too unscientific for Spider-Man and that there was no actual clones in that storyline. Then in the 90s they changed their mind and brought back the clone of Spider-Man as his own character called Ben Reilly.
This was the beginning of one of the longest and most convoluted Spider-Man storylines of all time as Marvel editorial couldn’t make up their mind over which Spider-Man was the clone and whether or not they wanted to retire Peter Parker or not. This storyline would thus be dubbed the Clone Saga and would be referenced by Marvel far too many times over the next few decades.
I cannot go over all the Clone Sagas. In the medium of comics alone there have been 9 storylines that I would classify as Spider-Man clone sagas. That number could potentially be even higher as I know that cartoons such as the 2017 Spider-Man cartoon have done their own clone sagas.
So to keep this simple I’ll just list the various Spider-People who have had their own clone sagas. 616 Peter Parker l had FOUR of them if we include the original 70s storyline but he is not the only Peter Parker to have been cloned before as Ultimate Universe Peter Parker was cloned by Curt Connors and a scientist named Ben Reilly. This Ultimate Clone Saga actually resulted in the creation of the Ultimate Universe’s version of Jessica Drew.
Moving beyond Peter Parker related Clone Sagas, his future daughter Mayday Parker has also been cloned. One day another Mayday, now named April, showed up with her own Venom-like symbiote and needless to say things got weird in the Parker household fast. Things then got even weirder as GWEN REILLY showed up in Spectacular Spider-Girl!
The newer Spider-People of the 2010s haven’t been immune to clone sagas either as both Miles Morales Spider-Man and Spider-Gwen have gotten their own clone sagas in recent years. Heck, Gwen’s Clone Saga is going on right now in the comics.
It seems that many Spider-Man writers and fans are grasping for the opportunity to do the Clone Saga right while Marvel Editorial continues to stare confused years later, unable to comprehend that we enjoyed the idea of another Spider-Man and even a clone of him, but that the real problem was how the original storyline was handled.
Let’s close things off with a much simpler Canon Event.
The Vulture is Spider-Man’s First Villain
In Amazing Spider-Man issue #2 way back in 1963 we were introduced to Adrian Toomes, better known as The Vulture. After an encounter and fight with Spider-Man this villain is defeated and immortalized in comic book history as the first villain that Spider-Man fought (If we don’t count the Chameleon in issue 1). Because of this, its not uncommon for various adaptations and alternate universes to also introduce the Vulture as Spider-Man’s first antagonist.
The first example I can think of this happening was in Spider-Man 2099’s sixth issue back in 1992. Here Miguel O’Hara ends up fighting a futuristic cannibal anarchist version of the Vulture as his first antagonist. This version of the Vulture would later go on to be one of Miguel’s few recurring foes. Miguel had fought a few mercenaries before the Vulture, but the Vulture was his first foe that actually felt like a supervillain.
Spider-Man Noir would also face the Vulture as his first villain, however this version of the Vulture wasn’t a man who flew with metallic wings but rather an animalistic man who the mafia has eat people who know too much. Huh, that’s the second cannibal Vulture on this list.
When Doctor Octopus stole the body of Peter Parker and became the hero known as the Superior Spider-Man he naturally faced the Vulture as his first villain just as Peter had. To his horror he finds out that the main universe Vulture used child labor for his crimes and becomes enraged during their fight.
Finally, while Spider-Gwen faced the Lizard as her first villain in her backstory, the first villain we actually see her fight when she was given her own series was the Vulture. Cementing this antagonist as the first we can expect any alternate universe Spider-Man to fight.
This trend of the Vulture being the first villain extends even beyond the medium of comics. Cartoons such as Spectacular Spider-Man, movies such as Spider-Man Homecoming, and games such as the PS4 Spider-Man game all have the Vulture be the first foe that Spider-Man has faced
And there you have it folks. Five Spider-Man events that happen frequently enough that they would be considered Canon Events by the rules established in Across the Spider-Verse. This is far from all the Spider-Man events that could be considered common enough to be Canon Events of course. Many other commonly recurring stories like a friend of Spider-Man’s becoming the Green Goblin or the formation of the Sinister Six would also classify as this. It’s just that if I listed each and every thing that could be a Canon Event this article would never end.
Which means that I am giving you free reign to tell me what I missed. When I share this article on Reddit, Tumblr, Twitter, or wherever feel free to reply with Spider-Man events that you think would be Canon Events. I’ll be sure to read them all as closely as I have been reading Spider-Man.