Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can. Everybody knows this basic skillset that’s apart of Spider-Man’s abilities, but how liberal can the “does whatever a spider can” be taken? In the larger scope of superheroes, Spider-Man is arguably one of the simpler characters that are out there. His Everyman aspect is one of the big reasons why the character has been so popular and relatable ever since his creation. There’s a reason why the character keeps getting second chances at movie franchises. People need to have Spider-Man in the public consciousness. For the most part that’s been the case with the character and there’s always been some iteration of the character that’s been running, whether it was a comic, animated series, or movie.
SCREENRANT VIDEO OF THE DAY
As a result of this, Spider-Man’s history and his abilities are fairly fresh with the public. People know that Spider-Man can shoot out webs. They know that he has a Spider-Sense. They also know that he lost his Uncle Ben and that with great power comes great responsibility. While Peter Parker and Spider-Man are one of the better-known superheroes that are out there, there are still a number of abilities and details about the character that largely are unknown. And despite the variety of his powers, Spider-Man’s weaknesses have plagued him in surprising ways over the years too.
Updated Dec. 2, 2021 by George Chrysostomou: As Spider-Man returns to the screen in Spider-Man: No Way Home, his strengths and weaknesses will be absolutely crucial in his battle against the threats of the Multiverse. Though Spider-Man’s weaknesses aren’t nonexistent, he has a startling range of powerful abilities which will aid him when Peter’s back is up against the wall.
- 1 Spider-Man’s Powers
- 2 Spider-Man’s Weaknesses
Peter Parker’s spider skills typically stay limited to the more superficial aspects of the spider. When Miles Morales was in development, the writers tried to stray a little more outside of the box in terms of Miles’ spider abilities. It’d be sacrilege if Miles’ take on Spider-Man didn’t include webbing of some sort, but it’s nice to see the character attempt to stand out on his own more. Right from the start audiences were on board with Miles’ new take on Spidey, but it’s still important that he feel distinct and not just a shadow of another character.
Accordingly, Miles Morales has some very creative abilities that are specific to his tenure as Spider-Man. One of these skills is that Miles actually has advanced camouflage abilities that allow him to completely recede into his surroundings, like the very best of predatory spiders. Miles develops this unique trait when Norman Osborn attempts to make more spiders in an attempt to replicate Peter’s powers. Things don’t go according to plan, but what happens instead is that these new spiders and experiments combine together and result in Miles gaining new abilities, like camouflage. Miles’ camouflage ability makes him much more of a stealth superhero than Peter Parker, which works in its own way.
Night Vision And “Accelerated Vision”
Spider-Man: The Other is definitely one of the weirder additions to the Spider-Man canon. It introduces the nebulous concept of The Great Web and a whole slew of alternate Spider-Man, but Peter Parker also walks away from the incident with a new skill in tow. It just happens to be a rather pointless one. Parker’s skills advance to a degree here where he’s left with a highly developed night vision. This never really comes into play after the fact, but it’s just meant to be assumed that Parker now has a more advanced hold on the situation when the lights are out. He might not publicize this strength, but it’s still a skill that’s a result of Parker’s spider abilities.
On the topic of advanced eye skills for Spider-Man, Miguel O’Hara from Spider-Man 2099 also has an advanced, accelerated, vision that goes much further than Parker no longer needing to wear glasses. Miguel’s vision gets such a boost that he can actually see miles ahead and he can refine his ocular skills, almost as if he’s wearing binoculars. This is definitely a more extreme take than Peter Parker’s abilities, but it is the future for Miguel, after all.
There are certain spider skills that are in Peter Parker’s repertoire that get a lot of attention in the Spider-Man lore. Everyone loves to focus on Spider-Man’s webbing or his Spider-sense, but a lot of that has to do with the fact that they’re such visual powers that are easy to show off in a flashy way. Spider-Man also has a whole lot of other basic skills that never get focused on because they’re fairly insignificant in a comics sense, but in real life would still be a big deal.
For instance, spiders share a certain relationship with venom and toxins, so it makes sense that Spider-Man would also share some connection there, but he just never does anything with it. Spider-Man’s shown to be resistant to poison and other harmful chemicals on a number of occasions. This might not be a super crucial skill, but it still serves a purpose. Basically, if a villain ever tries to poison Peter Parker, they’re going to be out of luck. At the same time, if Mary Jane ever turns on Peter and tries to slip something into his coffee, he’ll never figure it out. Maybe this strength could even be used against Peter Parker if someone knew that Spider-Man held resistance to such basic poisons.
Spider-Man certainly has one of the more pleasant looks out of all of Marvel’s superheroes. For one, his costume is appealing and he doesn’t try to get too ambitious with any ugly accessories, but Peter also embodies the traits of a spider. He doesn’t actually look like one. It’d be a whole different story if Peter grew four more eyes or grew gross fur all over his body. Not only does Spider-Man keep his human physique, but he even gains abs. Spider-Man gets a pretty sweet deal in terms of his superhero transformation, but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t eventually change up his look a little bit.
There’s an unfortunate time period for Peter Parker where he temporarily develops razor-sharp stingers that can be used as a weapon. The stingers are located below his wrists and they’re even retractable and can inflict damage in a number of different ways. These stingers are sharp, but they’re also coated in a dangerous venom and can also be launched as projectiles. They make for an effective way to paralyze an opponent. While Peter might not turn these stingers into a common weapon that he uses, they are one of Kaine Parker’s regular attacks.
Control Of Spiders
The ability to control and summon spiders might seem like something that would be more appropriate in a horror comic, but it’s actually one of Spider-Man’s lesser-known skills. He just chooses not to play up the terrifying angle of this ability and uses it more in a “power of the many” sense, not because he wants to give his opponents nightmares for the rest of their lives. This skill likely came to be because somebody was thinking a little too hard over the fact that Ant-Man can control ants (and now the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl can also control squirrels). Writers likely believed that Spider-Man should be able to do the same thing with arachnids.
Curiously, it’s not the mainstream Spider-Man who possesses this skill, but rather Peter Parker’s evil clone, Kaine Parker. Kaine has an interesting arsenal of attacks up his web-shooting sleeve and this is definitely one of them. In the end, this actually sounds like something that would be a lot more in Venom or Carnage’s wheelhouse. They seem exactly like the sort of twisted villains that could get creative with some arachnid control. Sure, Kaine Parker is considerably wicked and makes for a commendable villain, but it still feels like this ability is more of a missed opportunity than a skill that will one day come back in a big way.
It’s one thing when Spider-Man develops stingers, but fangs are a whole other issue. Once again, this pointy addition to Spider-Man’s anatomy surely had to do with the fact that one day somebody was staring a little too hard at a spider and then thought, “Hey, Peter Parker doesn’t have any fangs.” The controversial Spider-Man: The Other is responsible for Peter’s dental reconfiguration. He grows a mouth full of fangs and he even puts them to use when he, unfortunately, bites Morlum. Morbius would certainly be proud of his web-slinging rival.
Thankfully for Peter’s sake, the fangs aren’t permanent. They might be a little difficult to explain to the Daily Bugle, but they’d at least be easier to hide than those four extra arms that Peter temporarily grows. Additionally, Spider-Man 2099’s Miguel O’Hara also happens to have fangs from a result of the spider DNA that gets spliced with his own. Spider DNA is apparently a tricky thing, but fangs at least suit Miguel’s ornery exterior more than they match Peter’s wholesome look. It’s fairly common for re-designs of classic characters to feature radical new details like this, so Miguel’s fangs aren’t the biggest surprise. At least we’re still not at the point where some new Spider-Man actually has to eat flies and insects to survive.
Stronger Organic Webs
When dealing with Spider-Man, it all comes down to the web. If there was ever a competition between all of the different Spider characters that are out there, the strongest webbing would ultimately be the qualifying factor. Different takes on Spider-Man have decided to turn to different answers for Peter Parker’s webbing. Many versions see Peter’s webbing as an organic substance that he creates with his skills in science, which also means that it’s something that can run out. Meanwhile, others like to believe that Peter’s webbing comes right from out of his body and that it’s yet another ability that Peter gains from his radioactive spider bite. Whichever interpretation is taken, Peter’s webs are always a major aspect of the superhero’s powers.
Peter’s webbing gets an interesting upgrade during the Avengers: Disassembled storyline. It’s here that Peter transforms and gains the ability to produce and shoot webs out of his forearms that are much more powerful than his original web-shooters (they take a week to dissolve versus an hour, for instance). The biological change that Peter undergoes here is quite significant, but he’s definitely into the stronger projectile. Peter’s even able to completely web up one of Iron Man’s suits with this stronger webbing. Kaine Parker also seems to have this skill too, for what it’s worth.
Some of the adaptations of Spider-Man have gotten quite liberal with their changes. This can be difficult for some people to accept, but comics are also very much about change and acceptance. If there can be a female Thor and Iron Man, then Spider-Man should be able to go through some radical changes, too. Besides, what’s the point of creating a new version of a character if they’re just going to hide behind the constraints of the original character? Sometimes these sorts of risks can be a big failure, but they often result in some of the most interesting characters in comics.
For example, Spider-Girl, Anya Corazon, is a very atypical look at Spider-Man. The traditional costume is ditched in favor of a magical spider tattoo on Anya’s back that gives her the enhanced spider-like abilities that are her namesake. However, the tattoo also has the power to (somehow) create a blue exoskeleton around Anya. Anya has control over just how thick her exoskeleton is and how much it covers, but she can also make it become so strong that bullets are unable to penetrate it. Anya’s exoskeleton is pretty unconventional as far as the typical Spider-Man goes, but with recent costume changes like the Iron Spider taking place, the idea of a metal Spider-Man seems increasingly less ridiculous.
Mark of Kaine
Kaine Parker, Peter’s evil clone, has a number of vicious moves at his disposal, but the Mark of Kaine is the psycho’s signature attack. Any time a character decides to put their own name in one of their techniques, it should be a clear giveaway that the attack means business. What’s interesting about the Mark of Kaine is that it’s a skill that’s certainly within Peter’s reach. It makes use of all of the basic heightened spider skills that are in Peter’s possession, it’s just that Peter would never think of using his abilities in such a twisted way because he’s a good person. Kaine, on the other hand, is an evil, morally bankrupt version of Spider-Man. It only makes sense that he would be the one to think of such a twisted application of Peter’s spider-powers.
When it comes to the Mark of Kaine, Kaine controls the stickiness factor of his skin to the point that he’s able to burn scars into other people’s skin. This in itself is terrifying, but Kaine even takes this premise a little further and actually rips off people’s skin. It’s horrible to think of Peter’s powers being abused in this way and it really underlines the whole “with great power comes great responsibility” mantra.
The Way Of The Spider
Peter Parker is a fascinating character. Part of this is due to the fact that his human side is just as important as his superpowered alter ego. Peter deals with everyday problems like homework and relationship issues and he’s a popular hero because he’s well-rounded and aware of what’s really going on around him. Accordingly, Peter’s spider skills give him a ton of advantages in battle, but it can be easy to become dependent on those abilities and actually become weaker as a fighter. Superpowers are a great asset, but if they’re all a hero has, then they’re nothing without them.
Parker figures this out the hard way when he experiences a period where he actually loses his Spider-Senses. This is a dark time for Peter and it causes him to understand just how vulnerable he is without his superpowers. Peter decides that he needs to better his defenses as a response to all of this. Parker trains with martial arts legend Shang-Chi and he develops a specialized martial arts style known as “The Way of the Spider.” “The Way of the Spider” focuses on Peter’s skills and the results are quite the unique style of martial arts that effectively reflect a spider’s nature. As a result, Peter becomes much more effective in hand-to-hand combat (maybe close to Daredevil’s level) and these skills become a solid backup for when his Spider-Sense stops working.
Regenerative Web Cocoon Hibernation Healing
After mastering simple webbing, it’s only logical that Peter would eventually get bored with this basic skill and attempt to push it to ambitious new places. Webbing can get Peter around and it’s handy at stopping criminals, but what if Peter were to turn the ability back on himself? The idea of using webbing to produce a “web cocoon” of sorts seems pretty outrageous, but Peter often envelops criminals in webbing while he waits for the police to apprehend them. This isn’t that different of an idea, only in this circumstance that web cocoon is used as a hibernation tool for healing.
Peter only uses this skill once. When he takes on near-fatal damage in battle, he cocoons himself up in webbing in order to induce accelerated healing. This is a deeply useful power that Spider-Man has, but unfortunately, it seems like this healing web cocoon only works on Peter and not other individuals. The main reason for this is that while in hibernation, Peter actually sheds his damaged skin and then grows more. It’s unclear if Peter has a limit to how often he can perform this technique, but it’s comforting to know that a failsafe does exist if he’s ever in severe medical trouble.
Much like Miles Morales’ camouflage ability, his venom blast technique is something that’s unique to his interpretation of Spider-Man. However, while Morales’ camouflage skills are helpful in situations of surveillance, his venom blast is actually quite an effective offensive attack. The two skills complement each other rather nicely and it’s not unusual to see Miles use these techniques in tandem. It’s a very smart strategy to sneak up with the camouflage and then strike with the venom blast. When this happens, most of the time enemies don’t even know what hits them. It’s hard to say if even a Spider-Sense would be perceptive enough to catch this combo attack in time.
Morales’ venom blast allows him to inflict pain via small doses of his body’s natural electricity simply by touching someone. Morales is able to fluctuate the electric levels within his body in order to refine the severity of this attack. The venom blast can be a minor shock of pain or it can temporarily knock someone out depending on how Miles feels. It’s interesting to note that this ability finds a scientific route by playing with the natural electricity that exists in the human body, rather than Miles developing venom within his system that he can then weaponize. As crazy as it sounds, this ability “makes sense” and it’s a testament to the more grounded approach that’s taken with Miles Morales’ Spider-Man.
There was a time in the Marvel universe that the comics tried to play with the idea of a Captain Universe. If Captain America was a hit, then wouldn’t a captain of the entire universe be even more successful? The original idea with Captain Universe is that the superhero would be a different everyday person in each issue. The Uni-Power that bestows Captain Universe with his extreme skills temporarily hopped around to average people and explored superhero stories from that perspective. Eventually, Marvel caved and decided that it would be better if the Uni-Power possessed big-name superheroes. Lo and behold, Spider-Man eventually got to experience the honor.
Spider-Man has experienced certain power boosts in the past, like his time when bonded with the black symbiote, but the Uni-Power is on a whole other level. When Spider-Man becomes the new resident Captain Universe, he gains the ability to fly, shoot out energy, and can even break down matter to its molecular level and re-shape it. He’s basically at Infinity Gauntlet-levels of power. Spider-Man still has his web abilities at this point, but why bother when he can literally turn people into webbing? On top of all of that, he also gets a very cool costume change, and isn’t fashion what it’s really all about?
Water might not seem like that big of a threat to Spider-Man— that is unless he’s locked in a fight against a villain like Hydro-Man— but it has a surprising way of robbing the superhero of one of his most crucial skills. In Amazing Spider-Man #141, Spider-Man goes through a lake (in the Spider-Mobile, no less) and when he gets out he comes to the sad realization that his web-shooters no longer work. Obviously, this turns into a huge problem for Spider-Man in this comic and he’s left to use his other skills to solve his problems during his web-less time.
Peter Parker’s web shooter technology is so sophisticated that it seems like something such as water resistance would be built right in, but apparently, this is not the case. It’s unclear if this oversight is a sign of Peter’s child-like naivety and he simply didn’t consider the fact that he might get wet, or if he put this into consideration and just wasn’t able to figure out a way to make the tech work once it’s been in water. This doesn’t become a constant problem for Parker, and maybe it’s because he improves upon his web-shooters after this experience, but if a villain ever needs an advantage on the guy it won’t hurt to throw a bucket of water at his wrists.
This is an unusual weakness for Peter Parker, but it’s kind of hard to deny that the guy loses his memory a lot. Maybe he’s just got a vulnerable brain or it’s some sort of chemical thing within him, but Parker seems to be particularly prone to this comics trope. Parker undergoing some kind of amnesia comes up in not only the comics, but also in the ‘90s animated series and other adaptations, too. Things like amnesia make for a helpful soft reset of a series, but Parker always eventually regains his senses and remembers who he is.
Maybe Parker could try to talk this out with Matt Murdock, because Daredevil is another Marvel hero who also forgets who he is more often than he should. Maybe they could form a support group. Parker is awfully susceptible to amnesia, but in The Superior Spider-Man, Doctor Octopus also wipes Parker’s mind before he swaps it with his own and gains possession of Spider-Man’s body. It definitely makes for a complicated situation, and the fact that Doc Ock wipes Peter’s brain again probably doesn’t improve its fragile state very much. It’s taken a lot of abuse through the years. It’s a wonder that his Spider-sense is still so alert.
One of Spider-Man’s greatest assets is his precognitive alarm system, the Spider-Sense. Practically every iteration of the Spider-Man character has this ability and that really speaks to how important it is to the superhero. There are countless situations where without a Spider-Sense, Peter Parker, or any of the other Spider heroes, would have absolutely met their ends. With that said, it would obviously be a huge disadvantage if there was a way to disable this Spider-Sense or at least mess with it in some way. It can even be enough to take out Spider-Man because he’s not used to being stripped of this skill.
It turns out that there are certain drugs and chemicals that can cause the Spider-Sense to go wonky. This is definitely the way for humans to get the advantage and surprise Peter. Furthermore, the Spider-Sense is also ineffective against special substances that it can’t register as a threat, such as symbiotes. Accordingly, villains like Venom, Carnage, Toxin, or even Peter Parker clones don’t trigger the Spider-Sense, which is a definite disadvantage. This might seem like a unique situation that wouldn’t come up very often, but symbiotes often love to team up together. If Venom, Carnage, and Toxin all tag-teamed Spider-Man, his Spider-Sense wouldn’t register any of it and they’d likely surprise him resulting in one of Spider-Man’s weaknesses becoming a major threat.
The symbiote lore in Spider-Man started from a very simple place, but it’s been fascinating to watch it explode through the decades. What began as a single symbiote antagonist who would square off against Spider-Man would turn into a whole family of symbiote characters, with villains becoming anti-heroes and gaining their own symbiote suits. The comics even take a detour to the Planet of the Symbiotes at one point when symbiote fever hit its apex. The mass acceptance of this aspect from Spider-Man is certainly exciting, but it only makes sense that at a certain point, Peter Parker would become extremely susceptible to one of these new symbiotes.
Anti-Venom becomes the new alter ego of Eddie Brock after his days of Venom are behind him. Anti-Venom has proven to be Spider-Man’s weakness whenever he’s close by due to the way that it affects the radiation poison that’s in Peter’s blood. Anti-Venom is actually thought to be a “cure” of sorts to Peter Parker’s radioactive blood, but while it can’t remove the radiation entirely, it does still dampen his abilities. In this state, Spider-Man is even unable to use his web techniques against Anti-Venom. Furthermore, if any other villain wanted to team up with Anti-Venom, they’d have an extreme advantage against Spider-Man because his presence would rob him of his abilities.
This might seem like an unusual inclusion on here, and in fact, many would likely argue that it’s actually one of Peter Parker’s greatest skills. There are many other superheroes out there who would love to have Parker’s humanity and positive attitude about life. Saving the world can take its toll, but for the most part, Peter is able to constantly hold his chin up and power through. At the same time, the fact that Peter is one of the more human superheroes who is out there means that certain elements are going to cripple him in battle in a way that they wouldn’t hurt other less-human heroes.
There are quite a few instances where “normal” occurrences get the better of Spider-Man. Elements like high frequencies, the common cold, overthinking, being a hypochondriac, or even having a job and bills to pay and an aunt to look after are constantly a source of stress for Peter. There are plenty of super-powered entities that cause Spider-Man problems, but in many ways, these human elements and his ties to them are just as much a weakness as anything else. One of the best things about Spider-Man is that he would never trade his humanity away in order to become stronger, so this one particular Spider-Man weakness also really speaks to the character’s will.
This is the big one. Ethyl chloride is essentially Spider-Man’s Kryptonite and it renders anyone’s spider-powers null and void. This makes ethyl chloride extremely powerful against Spider-Man, but this chemical cocktail doesn’t have nearly the same reputation as Superman’s Kryptonite. Superman’s weakness is practically as well known as he is and it’s something that turns up in many of his stories. However, ethyl chloride isn’t apparent to the general public at all and it’s certainly not something that pops up in any of the Spider-Man feature movies.
The big reason why it doesn’t show up much is that ethyl chloride is considered to be so supremely powerful against Spider-Man that there was basically a moratorium placed on the substance. It was becoming too easy to take Spidey out with the chemical and thus writers needed to push themselves harder and not use it as a crutch. The roots of ethyl chloride go back to Spider-Man’s resident mad scientist, Spencer Smythe. Smythe stocks his infamous Spider-Slayers with ethyl chloride and they become a major threat to Spider-Man as a result. Thankfully, Smythe doesn’t blab too much about his secret, so it’s easy to keep the chemical under wraps. It’s a real shame that Smythe never tried to sell off his recipe to the Sinister Six or some other evil organization, though, because he could have made bank thanks to this bizarre Spider-Man weakness.
There are a lot of questionable vehicles throughout the history of superheroes, but Spider-Man’s regrettable Spider-Mobile is definitely in the running for one of the worst. This thing is just a disaster from top to bottom. It’s also a real eyesore. Characters within the comic even tell Spider-Man that it’s an ugly vehicle. They can’t contain their hatred for this monstrosity. Furthermore, why does Peter Parker even have a Spider-Mobile? It’s completely unnecessary. It makes sense for someone like Batman to have a vehicle to get around, but Spider-Man can efficiently web through the city at a much quicker pace. It really feels like Spider-Man just saw some of the other heroes who have fancy vehicles and he wanted to fit in too, so he joined the party.
The Spider-Mobile is one of the strangest vehicles from Marvel Comics. It’s a fairly ineffective means of transportation, so its existence and the fact that Spider-Man does use it make it a weakness. On top of all that, Peter Parker isn’t even a good driver — Peter’s poor driving skills are even on display in Spider-Man: Homecoming — but he’s is actually good in the air, so it makes no sense for him to turn to this clunky Jeep when he’s not swinging around. For what it’s worth, the Spider-Mobile can shoot webs and climb walls too, but it’s still just a car and a major Spider-Man weakness.
NEXT: 10 Things Only Comic Book Fans Know About Black Cat
Doctor Strange’s No Way Home Spell Solves Thanos’ Threat In Fan Art
About The Author
(383 Articles Published)
Daniel Kurland is a freelance writer, comedian, and critic, who lives in the cultural mosaic that is Brooklyn, New York. Daniel’s work can be read on ScreenRant, Splitsider, Bloody Disgusting, Den of Geek, and across the Internet. He recently completed work on a noir anthology graphic novel titled, “Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Noir: A Rag of Bizarre Noir and Hard Boiled Tales” and he’s currently toiling away on his first novel.
Daniel knows that “Psycho II” is better than the original, that the finale of “How I Met Your Mother” doesn’t deserve the hate that it receives, and that Garth Ennis’ run of “Animal Man” may be the best superhero story of all time. He’s a fan of white grape juice and appreciates a good Fuji apple.
The owls are not what they seem.
More From Daniel Kurland