Spider-Man has hung up his webs plenty of times over the years, but how did Peter Parker first give up his wall-crawling identity?
Over the years, being Spider-Man has taken its toll on Peter Parker. The wall-crawler has hung up his web-shooters on more than one occasion. Yet Peter quit his job as Spider-Man far earlier in his career than some would suspect.
It could be argued that Peter first gave up web-slinging all the way back in The Amazing Spider-Man #3, by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, after suffering his first defeat by Doctor Octopus. While this battle did force Peter to question his identity as Spider-Man, he never officially called it quits. Rather, the web-head spent most of the issue ruminating on his defeat until he was inspired to get back in the game by the Human Torch. The first time Peter came close to truly giving up was in The Amazing Spider-Man #17, by Lee and Ditko. At this point, Peter was still in high school, struggling as both a hero and a student. Flash Thompson was constantly bullying Peter, his relationship with Betty Brant had its ups and downs and J. Jonah Jameson kept smearing Spider-Man’s name in the Daily Bugle.
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For a moment, the wall-crawler’s situation took a turn for the better, when Flash announced the opening of the “Spider-Man Fan Club.” The club desperately wanted Spider-Man to make an appearance at their first meeting. Eager for the good publicity, Peter dressed up to play the part of the web-slinging wonder. During the performance, however, the Green Goblin showed up, attempting to kill Spider-Man. A big fight broke out, leading the Human Torch to intervene. As the heroes fought off the Goblin, Peter overheard a phone call meant for him. A doctor was on the other line, saying that Aunt May had suffered a heart attack. Immediately, Peter ran away from the fight, desperate to reach his aunt.
After seeing Spider-Man run away, everyone labeled the web-slinger as a coward. Jameson had a field day with this event, taking the opportunity to shame Spider-Man publicly. Despite this bad press, Peter was more worried about Aunt May than anything else. The young wall-crawler felt guilty that he wasn’t taking better care of his ailing aunt. In an attempt to pay off Aunt May’s hospital bills, Peter tried selling his webbing to scientists and marketing his Spider-Man identity on trading cards. Unfortunately, no one was willing to buy the web-head’s gimmicks.
When Peter saw a robbery nearby, he almost stepped in to stop the criminals. Yet, with Aunt May to worry about, he couldn’t put himself in danger. Peter then did the unexpected: he called the police. Indeed, Peter had become so worried about Aunt May that he couldn’t allow himself to endanger his life any longer. Spider-Man looked back on his recent fight with the Sinister Six, thinking about how close to death he came. Villains like Electro or Mysterio could have finished him off at any moment.
The anxiety of these thoughts took over, especially later, when he encountered the Sandman. Flint Marko tried to fight Spider-Man, but the wall-crawler ran away again, scared of leaving Aunt May alone. Although everyone labeled Spider-Man a coward, Flash Thompson couldn’t believe it. In an attempt to clear his idol’s name, Flash dressed up as Spider-Man and took on a gang of crooks. Beaten senseless, Flash was only saved by the timely arrival of the police. With people suffering, his name tarnished and Aunt May dangerously ill, Peter was ready to give up his life as Spider-Man. Just after Peter threw his costume away, however Aunt May inspired him. Telling Peter not to worry about her, Aunt May insisted that the Parkers were tougher than they looked. May’s will to live led Peter to face his fears and become Spider-Man again.
Donning his webs once more, Spider-Man returned with a vengeance. The web-slinger tackled criminals with newfound vigor while handling his personal life as Peter Parker with a more positive attitude. After the Human Torch was captured by the Enforcers, Spider-Man went on the hunt for his fellow teenage hero. Finding the Torch in an old warehouse, the wall-crawler busted in, tackling the Sandman, the Enforcers and a whole host of criminals. During the fight, Spider-Man freed the Torch, and they defeated the whole gang together. While the Sandman almost got away, the heroes tired him out so much that he was easily caught by the police. From this point forwards, Spider-Man was back, unafraid to risk his life for others. If not for Aunt May’s strength and wisdom, Peter would’ve hung up his webs for good.
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