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Drawing Crazy Patterns – Spider-Man Unmasked!

In this feature, I spotlight five scenes/moments from within comic book stories that fit under a specific theme (basically, stuff that happens frequently in comics). Here is an archive of all the patterns we’ve spotlighted so far.

Today we take a look at times Spider-Man has been unmasked in public (and the corresponding way in which he was able to successfully hide his secret identity each time).

Enjoy!

The very first instance of this theme occurred in Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s Amazing Spider-Man #12, when Peter Parker fights Doctor Octopus while dealing with a very serious flu that makes him so weak that he can’t really compete with Doc Ock, leading to Doc Ock kicking his ass easily and pulling off his mask…

As you can see from above, since he did not really have superpowers at the time, it was simple to convince people that he was just a dumb kid trying to impersonate Spider-Man to be heroic.

Amazing Spider-Man #39 (by Stan Lee and John Romita) is a bit of a stretch, so I am including it here only because it was a memorable issue. So this installment you get SIX examples instead of just five! Wow, lucky you!

The Green Goblin captures Peter Parker while in his Peter Parker identity but pretty much reveals that he is Spider-Man in the battle. It is in the middle of Peter’s neighborhood, but it doesn’t look like anyone notices.

The next issue, it is resolved by the Green Goblin getting amnesia and forgetting Peter’s identity (for now).

I guess I could do a Drawing Crazy Patterns on people legitimately discovering Peter’s identity in the future!

Next up is Amazing Spider-Man #87, by Stan Lee, John Romita and Jim Mooney. In it, Spider-Man believes that he has lost his powers, so the only thing to do, of course, is to reveal his secret identity to his friends…

After doing so, he realizes his mistake and runs away. He then goes to the hospital to discover that once again, he has the flu (while you might ask, “REALLY, Spidey? The SAME thing that took your powers away last time and it didn’t occur to you?” but to be fair, Spidey’s brain was kind of addled FROM the flu, ya know?).

He then enlists the help of the Prowler to pretend to be Spider-Man to save his identity…

Next up is Amazing Spider-Man #105 (by Stan Lee, Gil Kane and Frank Giacoia), when Professor Smythe captures Peter changing from being Spider-Man on camera….

In the next issue (with Romita stepping in for Kane), Spidey has a pretty ludicrous plan…

And yet, when he puts it into action, it WORKS!

Luckily, Smythe was not big on thinking things over.

Next, in Amazing Spider-Man #151 by Len Wein, Ross Andru and John Romita, Spider-Man is photographed getting rid of the body of the Peter Parker clone…

J. Jonah Jameson eventually gets a hold of the pictures and in Amazing Spider-Man #169 (by Wein, Andru and Mike Esposito) tries to use them to prove that Peter Parker is Spider-Man (under the unusual “Peter is dead and Spidey is pretending to be him via a mask or whatever” theory). However, Spider-Man had come across the photos in Jameson’s office earlier so he was ready for Jameson when JJJ showed up to confront Peter…

Finally and perhaps most famously, in Civil War #2 (by Mark Millar, Steve McNiven and Dexter Vines), to show how much faith he has in the government’s new superhero registration program, Spider-Man unmasks to the public…

In Amazing Spider-Man #641 (by Joe Quesada and Paolo Rivera), we learn that Doctor Strange, Mister Fantastic and Iron Man (after Aunt May is nearly murdered as a result of Spider-Man’s identity being public knowledge) conspired to put together a techno-magical spell that would remove the memory of Spider-Man’s identity from everyone in the world…

Spidey later pulls Mary Jane in with him so she remembers too, only she gets pissed off when she realizes that she’d prefer NOT to know. This causes her to realize that she can’t be around Peter right now and they break up (hence the status quo at the beginning of Brand New Day).

35 Comments

I think the version in Mini Marvels was the best, personally. Simple and honest.

Certainly more credible than the last one on this list. :-)

Is it ever explained why Peter owns a giant stuffed dog?

I don’t recall offhand, Michael, but I suspect that there actually was an explanation in a previous issue.

Tony looks like a human condom in his Extremis undersheath. That is all :P

@Neil Kapit

“Iron Condom”
“Invincible Iron Condom.”

I can already see it now…

If I’m remembering right, Peter’s apartment had hardly anything in it, so his friends all chipped in with extra stuff they had at their places and decorated his apartment with them.

I much preferred Dan Slott’s clever and funny explanation from Avengers: The Initiative #7 that the Scarlet Spiders gave to the press to convince everyone that Peter Parker wasn’t Spider-Man. Worked perfectly to restore his secret idnetity without resorting to a bunch of magical mumbo jumbo.

Doesn’t count really, but in Spider-Island he broadcasts un-costumed live to New York while using spider-powers. Clearly everyone else has powers too, but it’s Peter-without-mask-showing-spider-powers so reasonably close. (It’s also why the part of Strange’s spell that prevents people working out he’s spider-man doesn’t work now, as he publically declared he has spider-powers and so anyone now can work out he’s Spider-Man)

I remember most of these pretty well, but I don’t recall who actually took the pictures of Petey carrying the clone… The Jackal? Another clone?
And how did Pete manage to have photoshopped (I realize there was no photoshop then) versions of the incriminating pics. that “proved” they weren’t legit.
Can anyone help?

Peter should prepare a few stunts in which he rips off his mask and reveals himself to be…J. Jonah Jameson, Johnny Storm, or anybody he’s not crazy about. Because any detective would look at all these revelations and say Peter has to be Spider-Man.

There’s a later issue of either Amazing or Spectacular where Peter dumps the giant dog on the street after it’s been burned, and Len Wein comes by and picks it up, delighted with his new find. The explanation was that Wein gave Peter the dog, so it was right that he should have it. That always pleased me.

Sorry to be vague on the issue numbers and such, but it was awhile back.

This reminded me of the Spider-Man movies. He couldn’t go 5 minutes without revealing his identity to everybody he could.

In giant size spidy 4, with the punisher, spidy is unmasked as well, but, the punisher had thought of the possibility, and had Peter use stage make up to alter his look, so the photos snapped would do no good.That may have fit in here as well.

And how did Pete manage to have photoshopped (I realize there was no photoshop then) versions of the incriminating pics. that “proved” they weren’t legit.
Can anyone help?

Sorry, I meant to mention it. I edited the piece to explain that Peter had come across the photos in Jameson’s office, so he was ready for when JJJ came to confront him.

Spidey unmasking was the only good thing to come out of Civil War. So of course they negated it at the first opportunity.

Also, it seems pretty out of character for MJ to be mad about knowing his identity to the point of breaking up with him, considering she figured it out by herself all those years ago and it didn’t slow down their relationship any.

I never read that issue, but was it addressed why people who knew before the unmasking forgot, since Reed says that’s the specific event they’re making people forget? Seems like a big oversight otherwise.

@Toozin: Right?
That year (or so) of Spidey unmasked stories were a blast. I’d have liked to see more stories during that period. But we all knew it was going to come to an end. The only questions being, “How?” and “How long?”.

@Toozin: The story that excerpt was taken from, “One Moment in Time”, was complete character assassination for Mary Jane as she did a number of uncharacteristic things in the story like tell Peter she wasn’t strong enough to be with him because he was Spider-Man. It was just extremely clumsy reasoning for Peter and MJ’s separation post One More Day.

Also, it seems pretty out of character for MJ to be mad about knowing his identity to the point of breaking up with him, considering she figured it out by herself all those years ago and it didn’t slow down their relationship any.

She was just on the run being hunted and saw Aunt May get shot in front of her. There’s literally still blood on the floor. She obviously was not in the best state of mind.

I never read that issue, but was it addressed why people who knew before the unmasking forgot, since Reed says that’s the specific event they’re making people forget? Seems like a big oversight otherwise.

Anyone who was not in the protective shielding forgot Spider-Man’s secret identity and would be blocked from even attempting to figure it out (in the case of guys like Daredevil and Wolverine). Recently, Spider-Man violated the spell by declaring his identity to the world (inadvertently). So now his ID is open game for people to learn again.

@VanGoghX: Harry took the pictures and mailed them while under hypnosis by his psychiatrist, Bart Hamilton.

“Is it ever explained why Peter owns a giant stuffed dog?”

I think a friend gave it to him as a housewarming present and he could never find an excuse to get rid of it until the fire.

There was also an issue where someone took a photo of Peter unmasking (it had a photo cover, as I recall), but Spidey got the photo back. Although the guy still knew what Spidey looked like without his mask, he realized that the odds of finding that face again in a city of millions were unlikely, just like in #106 when one crook says, “He looks like any of a million guys! We still wouldn’t know who he is.”

To figure out who’s the unknown guy under Spidey’s mask, use face-recognition software.

@Pat: Ah, yes. The third Goblin. It’s all coming back to me now! (I suspect Hamilton hypnotized me to forget as well!)

The Invincible Iron Condom: The only armor you need to repulsor away VD.

I hate to say this, but the Civil War Unmasking ruined Spider-man for me. Seriously. They had just done some story where he came back to life and had a about five new things happening to him every month or two. Then they do this, now only did they have no idea what do with it and weren’t going to attempt to make it a big event or even sell it potential new readers. If It was the worst thing I’d ever seen in a comic. Spider-man was already being stripped of everything that made him great, and changing him into a bizarre magical Spider-man is another thing that made this Unmasking totally worthless. When you change your character completely, it’s makes no sense to do that one thing your not supposed to do. It’s impossible for me to read Spider-man comics unless he’s in another title I already read and maybe Joe Mad is drawing again. It’s sad from my point of view. I think of all the sales they could of gotten out of it and potential new readers. Sad.

I remember watching an episode of an earlier Spider-Man cartoon where Peter was at the beach and the Sandman was hiding in the sand and found out Pete was Spidey. Can’t remember how Peter got out of that one, though.

DIdnt Firestar convince Flash Thompson to dressup like Spiderman, and when the Sandman saw it he belived they where two different people afterall.

Are there enough examples of Peter losing his powers when he has the flu to use that for this column?

I don’t believe so. Perhaps I am missing out on some, though.

I thought you might cover the time Spider-Man unmasked himself to Deb Whitman (Spectacular Spider-Man #74). Deb is convinced that Peter Parker is Spider-Man and starts to have a mental breakdown. Peter unmasks himself to her trying to bring her back to reality, and she snaps out of her craziness realizing that it was absurd of her to think Peter could be Spider-man.

I thought you might cover the time Spider-Man unmasked himself to Deb Whitman (Spectacular Spider-Man #74). Deb is convinced that Peter Parker is Spider-Man and starts to have a mental breakdown. Peter unmasks himself to her trying to bring her back to reality, and she snaps out of her craziness realizing that it was absurd of her to think Peter could be Spider-man.

I considered it, but it didn’t really seem to fit in with the public discovering it, ya know? Since it was intentional and intended to trick her.

Smythe has met Peter Parker several times, but I guess it wasn’t in a while, Parker doesn’t seem to have a very distinctive face, and Smythe has gone insane by this point anyway.

I miss the old Smythe in his first two appearances in which he is a normal person who builds an invention that is used to try to trap Spider-Man, but is not a criminal and seems to think of it as a casual lark. This is probably a cliche villain in and of itself, but it seems unique for Spider-Man’s rogues gallery.

One Moment In Time is the worst thing ever.

Yo, check it: “It’s only after a long talk with my wife and family that I’ve decided to take this step.”

So, say, if it were retconned so that he no longer had a wife, maybe he wouldn’t have taken that step? And he would still have his secret identity intact?

Why did we have to overcomplicate that five ways from Sunday just so Joe Quesada could write the worst Spider-Man story since OMD?

“You may have beaten me again, you web-spinning spastic, but two strikes don’t knock me out! When next we meet, it will be for the last time. See you this winter…. — The Flu”

The thing that gets me is that after all the unmaskings, explanations, identity revealed, explanations, you’d think people would be more suspect after the same person keeps getting identified as Spiderman over and over again. “Oh, Peter’s Spiderman…….. Oh, no he’s not……… Hey Peter’s Spiderman……….. Oh no he’s not……..Oh it turns out he really was Spiderman all this time…… Oh I guess by that explanation he isn’t after all……” After a couple of times you’d stop believing the excuses or at the very least he’d still be everyone’s number one suspect, and they’d be even more suspicious (after all the unmaskings) when he disappears just before Spiderman shows up. Same with Daredevil, with all the accusations thrown out that MM was DD, and then it was revealed, but he fakes his death, then MM comes back, but explains that he actually wasn’t DD (when the red DD that everyone thought was MM replaces the yellow DD that everyone thought was a new DD when the MM/DD died). It’s like after that many accusations and reveals on that one single person and no one else, that again he would at least be the top of everyone’s suspicions.

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