Spiders-Man, Spiders-Man, does whatever a oh God why is he eating that robber’s face? No, you’re not misremembering Marvel’s wall-crawling, box-office busting hero. Rather, Spiders-Man is a gloriously disturbing alternative take on the character. And with the movie’s reshoots adding more crossovers and cameos, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness absolutely needs to bring Spiders-Man to life.
Sure, What If…? has given us a glimpse of an alternative Spider-Man, as well as a watered-down version of the Marvel Zombies, but Spiders-Man might be a little too much for that series. However, from what we’ve seen so far, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is set to be much darker, a more fitting setting for his presence.
Because despite the name, Spiders-Man isn’t some giant man-sized spider – the ‘90s Spider-Man animated series already covered that ground. No, Spiders-Man is a colony of spiders that think they’re Peter Parker. Check out Marvel’s Vault of Spiders #2 if you don’t believe me.
Whereas the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Peter Parker (and many of his alternates) was bitten by a radioactive spider, this particular Parker fell into a tank of radioactive spiders and was devoured. The spiders absorbed his memories and, as a result, sort of think that they are Peter Parker.
Sort of? Yes, and that’s the truly horrifying thing about Spiders-Man. He is in real danger of losing himself, or rather – the Peter Parker he thinks he is. He’s appeared in the pages of Spider-Geddon, Vault of Spiders, and The Superior Spider-Man, so the way he’s written, and drawn, varies a little. But he’s a colony of spiders crammed into a costume, and the slightest tear in that costume will reveal the scuttling mass beneath.
On top of the nightmarish existential crisis that his “transformation” has led to (akin to Alec Holland in Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing run), his very creation has given the spiders a taste for human flesh. Sometimes this is played for comedy, but mostly it’s just horrifying. There’s a moment in Spider-Geddon when he considers devouring Miles Morales, and while he pulls himself back from the brink, it’s clear he’s teetering on the edge.
And then there’s Gwen Stacy. She’s alive in this given universe, and she knows exactly who Spider-Man is, or at least she thinks she does. Spiders-Man pushes her away, but not so much because he’s afraid of his enemies hurting her, as is the case with most Spider-Man incarnations. No, he’s acutely aware that if their “lips” touched, there’s a strong chance his spiders would crawl down her throat and devour her from the inside. And yet, she still believes there’s a chance of saving Peter, even though she’s seen that he’s nothing but spiders. The things we do in the name of love.
Despite his insistence on believing he’s Peter Parker, Spiders-Man has powers that can only be utilized by embracing his new existence. He’s capable of focusing his consciousness, or rather the copy of Peter Parker’s consciousness, into a single spider and infiltrating locations that even Spider-Man would find impossible to breach. But doing so denies the lie that he is still Parker.
It wouldn’t surprise me if writer Christos Gage came up with the name “Spiders-Man” first, then racked his brains for a concept to fit it. But the end result is a perfect, and perfectly chilling, blend of body horror, existential dread, and arachnophobia.
Spiders-Man is perfectly suited to Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and he would deserve more than a cameo if he were to appear. Given the events of Spider-Man: No Way Home, it seems entirely fitting that Evil Doctor Strange would have a Spiders-Man as an ally. Who knows – maybe Spiders-Man ate his reality’s Tony Stark?
And he could find character development in the same way the MCU Spider-Man has – through mentors. Perhaps working with the “real” Doctor Strange could set Spiders-Man on the right path. But what is the right path? To continue living Peter Parker’s stolen life as the best hero he can be, to pursue a new existence, or something in-between?
If Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is really going to explore the darker corners of the multiverse, there’s no better place to start. Because for a character like Spiders-Man, whose very existence is nightmare fuel, madness is never far away.