Dragging? Complaining? Here's something kinda entertaining! Mr. Silver Age rips the lid off a little-known fact (and that had to hurt) in his column from CBG #1492 (June 28, 2002):

Spider-Man's 'secret' identity

The web-slinger wasn't the greatest at keeping his biggest secret

Dear Mr. Silver Age,

Spider-Man has always been very good about hiding his secret identity, to protect his loved ones from his dastardly villains. Does anyone know his secret?

Ralph D.

Central City

Mr. Silver Age says: Only about a million people, Ralph. Or, at least, they should know it, considering how bad Peter Parker was at keeping it a secret. And when people weren't stumbling onto it on their own, Pete was virtually shouting it from the rooftops. Somehow, it never seemed to do him as much harm as you'd think-well, except maybe with that Goblin guy.

Early on, Peter went out of his way to make sure nobody suspected him, even opining to his high school classmates in Amazing Spider-Man #5 (Oct 63) that J. Jonah Jameson made a lot of sense with his rants against Spidey.

But Parker nearly gave the game away when he tired of taking Flash Thompson's guff and agreed to box him in the gym in ASM #8 (Jan 64). Even though Parker barely tapped the star football player, Flash went flying out of the ring. Flash told the stunned crowd that he was just joking around, but he knew better-and he never figured out how Parker pulled off that feat of strength. Flash never was mistaken for Sherlock Holmes.

Peter's worst fear came to pass early in his career when he was "Unmasked by Dr. Octopus!" in ASM #12 (May 64) after being beaten by his arch foe. Weak from a virus (and still inexperienced), Spidey was easily overcome by Ock's arms, after which the Doc ripped off the hero's mask to reveal Pete's pasty mug.

Naturally, Betty Brant and Jameson were standing right there to make a quick identification. Otherwise, what are the chances that the person under the mask could be identified by people standing around? Well, actually, in the Silver Age, pretty good.

Fortunately, Betty and Jonah both assumed Parker was play-acting, and the quickness of Doc Ock's victory confirmed that suspicion to both Ock and them.

Aunt May, apparently distracted by looking for her wheatcake recipe, didn't get any wiser after the police delivered Petey's Spidey costume to the house the next day. Frankly, considering the number of times her nephew got beat up and left his costume laying around, it's amazing it took May 40 years to figure it out.

One year later, Jameson actually was the guy who prevented the world from learning the secret when "Spider-Man Goes Mad!" in ASM #24 (May 65). Mysterio had tricked the wall-crawler into thinking he was going insane, leading Spidey to pay attention to a psychiatrist who had publicized his opinion that the web-slinger was just this side of a mental breakdown.

When Spidey began hallucinating, he went to see the doc (who was really Mysterio, natch), who gained Spidey's confidence.

But just as the faux shrink convinced the wall-crawler to confide his secret identity as a show of trust, Jameson barged in to say he'd discovered the doctor was a fraud. That brought Spidey back to his senses, and the scheme quickly unraveled.

J.J.J. made up for his inadvertent help in the next issue, when Spidey was "Captured By J. Jonah Jameson!" Spencer Smythe brought his first spider-hunter robot to The Bugle and put on a demonstration for Jameson by having Parker hold a spider to show how sensitive the robot was to detecting a spider's presence.

Naturally, the robot captured Peter rather than the spider he was holding, and naturally, everyone wrote it off to the robot having a few bugs in its system.

Later, when Jameson decided to work with Smythe, the robot tracked down Parker at high school, and he had to make a run for it, barely getting into his Spidey suit before the robot caught up to him. Had the robot captured Parker a second time, even Jonah might've started to wonder.

Things didn't go a whole lot better in the next issue, after Aunt May took away his spider-costume (long story). Peter bought another one at a costume shop, but it was too stretchy and kept falling down.

That poor craftsmanship probably aided The Crime-Master when he shot Spidey with his gas gun. The fumes clung to his mask, making it so hard to breath that C-M was able to knock Spidey off the roof.

The web-slinger finally ripped the mask off, giving us a scene of Peter Parker in his spider-suit shooting out webs to save himself. Anyone looking out their window would've known the secret right then-assuming, of course, they could see his face and they knew PP when they saw him. What are the chances of that?

Betty Brant knew Peter had some kind of secret, and she wanted to learn what it was before she decided whether to marry Ned Leeds. But in ASM #34 (Mar 66), she had a nightmare that the secret was too terrible to believe: Peter walked up the wall and ripped open his shirt Superman-style to reveal that he was Spider-Man! A way cool image, but Betty immediately woke up and convinced herself that no matter what the secret was, it couldn't be that bad. Yeah, maybe he was just a drug addict.

The feces really hit the ventilating device, as Reed Richards would say, in "How Green Was My Goblin!" in ASM #39 (Aug 66), when the Green Goblin came up with a cunning plan to defeat Spidey.

The story opened, as so many stories back then did, with Peter visiting Aunt May in the hospital. The doc informed Parker that May's latest operation had so weakened her that any sudden shock or excitement could prove fatal! So Peter vowed once again never to tell his aunt his terrible secret.

May has become remarkably stronger since then, a real testament to modern medicine, but her later recriminations toward Peter for keeping his secret to himself for so long are a little harder to accept if we remember her back in the hospital, clinging to life by a thread. And Mr. Silver Age does.

Of course, keeping his secret from her wasn't aided by the Goblin arranging to have Spidey hit with a gas bomb that removed his spider-sense while he was fighting some crooks. With his spider-sense on the blink, Peter didn't realize the Goblin was following him and watching him change into his civilian clothes.

But the Goblin didn't know Peter Parker from Steve Ditko, so he followed Parker to learn who he was. Pete nearly foiled him by heading to the Daily Bugle rather than going home, but The Goblin used a shogun mike to hear Jonah call Peter by name, and the jig was up.

"Alas, poor Spider-Man!" The Goblin chortled. "His precious identity is a secret no longer!" And then he ambushed Peter just outside his home, when Spidey was out of costume and deathly afraid that his sickly aunt would look out and see far too much for her own good.

Parker put up a courageous fight, taking on Gobby with just his reflexes and speed (since he didn't have his web shooters in place), but he was overwhelmed and carted off to The Goblin's HQ, his tattered clothes showing the Spidey costume underneath, in one of the coolest covers in Silver Age history.

Spidey's next big identity crisis occurred when he sprained his arm battling The Lizard in ASM #44 (Jan 67). A passing doctor taped it up for him, but Spidey refused to go with the doc for a full physical for fear his identity would be found out.

But a street full of people saw the scene and knew Spidey's arm was in bad shape. So when Mary Jane Watson called later that night to invite Petey to her dance performance the next day, Peter turned her down, for fear people would put two (sprained arms) and two (different people) together.

Spidey's sprained arm didn't keep him from going out web-swinging with it bandaged in place next issue to look for the Lizard, though, since Spidey was known to have a bum arm.

When Parker finally did have to show up, he explained his bandages as the result of a motorcycle accident. Flash taunted him by saying he just wanted them to think he was Spider-Man, so the possibility was on the table. But Peter was such an unlikely candidate that nobody took it seriously.

Things got a bit dicey a few issues later in ASM #46 when the shady character Patch decided to learn once and for all what the connection between Parker and Spider-Man was. He followed Peter, only to lose track of him when Spider-Man showed up.

Not being one of Pete's dim friends or employers, Patch immediately realized the obvious solution. But fortunately this time, Spidey's spider-sense was working like gang-busters, and he realized Patch was there.

So he held an argument with himself out of Patch's sight (but not earshot) and then created a Spider-dummy from his webbing to swing off into the night to throw Patch off the track. Clark Kent was watching somewhere, taking notes.

Patch wasn't thoroughly convinced, but he decided to believe his eyes and ears. Oh, if only Lois Lane were so easily swayed!

Peter didn't much care about his secret identity when he decided to be "Spider-Man No More!" in ASM #50 (Jul 67), another of the coolest covers ever. Overwhelmed by public sentiment against Spidey and beset by his usual bad luck, he threw away his costume and gave up the hero biz. The costume found its way into Jonah's hands, and he created a special display case for it in his office after showing it off on The Tonight Show.

Thus, when Peter had a change of heart, as he always does on these things, he decided to retrieve his costume rather than try to buy a replica or sew up a spare, approaches that hadn't worked too well in the past.

So he waited until dawn and climbed the wall of The Bugle's building as Peter Parker. He clambered in Jonah's window, put on his suit and awaited the arrival of his good buddy.

Peter almost gave the game away himself, again to a dastardly foe, when he lost his memory and joined up with Doc Ock in ASM #56 (Jan  68). Ock convinced Spidey that he wore the mask because the wall-crawler was his partner in crime. But he goofed up when he demanded that Spidey remove his mask back at their HQ. "I want to see who you are!" Octavius bellowed.

"You mean...you don't know?" Spidey replied, puzzled. Then he realized that they at least weren't trustworthy partners if Ock didn't know who he was, so he refused to take it off, and they began to brawl.

When they calmed down, Octopus decided not to push the issue, since he didn't really care who Spidey was under the mask (and he probably wouldn't know him anyway).

Ock as usual was wrong, since he would've seen the same face he'd unmasked back in ASM #12. That would've been a handy bit of news when Ock later rented a room from Aunt May, but that's another story altogether.

Ka-Zar almost figured out the deal after he helped Spidey recover his memory in issue #58. He happened to run into Parker while walking down the street and thought he sensed a familiar figure. "It seems I was mistaken," he said as he and Zabu strolled past Pete. "Though it's most passing strange, for the aura of Spider-Man is not easily forgot!"

It didn't fool Zabu, you can be sure, but he apparently decided to let Peter keep his rather badly worn secret from Mr. Zar. (Ka probably figured it out in ASM #104, when Peter, Gwen and Jameson visited The Savage Land and Spidey showed up).

Spidey's secret again was in jeopardy when The Vulture beat him in a battle and left him unconscious in the middle of a crowded street in ASM #65 (Oct 68).

Naturally, virtually everyone Spidey knew was standing around watching. What are the chances? Jameson demanded that the ambulance crew remove the spider-mask to reveal who this guy was, but Captain Stacy thwarted him, telling Jameson that Spider-Man had the right to remain masked.

I'm not completely sure where they wrote that in the Constitution, but I'm sure it's there somewhere. The Bill of Rights rules!

Spidey was taken to a prison hospital, where he was held on some nebulous charge or another and put under 24-hour guard. The guards were tempted to remove Spidey's mask, but the police commissioner ordered that it be kept in place until he could check with the city's legal department to be sure taking it off wouldn't hurt their potential for conviction.

Of course, letting Spidey regain his strength hurt that potential far worse, because he woke up and got the heck outta Dodge, staying only long enough to stop a prison riot. What a guy.

Spidey nearly gave away his identity to another truly sensitive villain when he ran into (literally) The Kingpin in ASM #68 when Kingy was searching for the stone tablet that began one of Spidey's greatest epics.

The Kingpin happened to run past Parker while hunting down the tablet on campus, pushing him out of the way. "Strange!" The Kingpin thought. "For a moment there...I got a feeling of power...of raw strength...far more than I'd expect from a callow, cowering student!"

He'd apparently learned a lot about sensitive touch from hanging around with Daredevil so much. Good thing Peter didn't have any stray webbing on his sweater.

Parker also gave up the secret when he was distracted in ASM #78 (Nov 69). Worried that Gwen was cheating on him with Flash Thompson, he wasn't paying attention when two guys mugged him. Without thinking, he slammed them up against the wall with just a brush of his arm, making it clear he was more than he appeared.

In a strange twist of fate this time, none of his friends were standing nearby to watch, and the muggers were in no shape to remember his face.

In the next issue, Peter nearly went toe to toe with The Prowler in Jameson's office when The Prowler tried to rob Jameson's office. But when Jonah showed up, Peter realized that he couldn't charge into battle or it'd be too suspicious.

So he threw himself out of the window and used his spider-powers to reach the ground safely, where he could change to Super-er, I mean Spider-Man. Fortunately, none of his friends was standing around watching.

The pressure finally got to be too much for Peter in "Unmasked At Last!" in ASM #87 (Aug 70). Becoming weaker and weaker for unknown reasons, he began to do irrational things, including almost robbing a jewelry store.

Worried about Gwen and nearly delirious, he went to the Stacy's house, where the gang was gathered (of course). There, spider-mask in hand, he told them his secret and apologized for all the trouble he'd caused.

The gang remembered that earlier unmasking by Doc Ock and realized that maybe it hadn't been an act that time.

"Wow Gwendy-You sure can pick 'em!" Mary Jane purred. "He's either a masked menace-or a psycho case! Take your pick!" And sure enough, MJ later did.

This time though, it turned out Spidey had nothing life-threatening after all, except maybe for a big mouth. He just had the flu. The flu! He nearly robbed a jewelry store because he had the flu! Don't worry, that plot point has been honored with a highly deserved (if not coveted) Mopee Award.

Pete wiggled out of his identity troubles with help from the aforementioned Prowler, in a way that Superman would've been proud to have thought up himself--and often did.

Ironically, two issues later, Peter learned that someone had known his identity for quite some time but had never revealed it to anyone, even Parker. That was discovered in the classic ASM #90, when Capt. Stacy died, telling Spider-Man to take good care of Gwen and calling him Peter.

Parker didn't do such a good job of that taking-care-of-Gwen thing, but the captain's revelation still was one of the most dramatic moments in the Silver age.

Amazingly enough, Peter's identity problems only got worse after the Silver Age ended. I can't go into all the details of who learned what when (in part because I don't know them), but Spidey unmasked for Felicia Hardy, a.k.a. The Black Cat, in Spectacular Spider-Man #86; Eddie Brock a.k.a.Venom learned the secret from the sentient black Spidey suit he stole; and The Puma knew it  for awhile as well.

Spidey also revealed his secret to "The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man!" in ASM #248 (Jan 84), in one of the fondest-remembered stories of Spidey's career. But that was a short-term deal.

And way, way, way too late, in ASM #259 (Dec 84), we learned that MJ had known the truth for many years, since before she'd even freaking met Peter. But that was long after the Silver Age ended, long after those stories were told, and I just don't buy that retcon at that late date. I say she just made that up to seem cool. You know how MJ can be.

And, of course, we also were shocked when we learned that Aunt May had long known of Peter's secret. I'm not talking about the recent revelation but the one May made just before she died and was buried in ASM #400 (Apr 95). It's easy to remember that issue, because it had that jazzy heavy-stock, die-cut tombstone cover. Ah, the good old days. 

All that was topped when Spidey revealed his identity to the world after joining the Avengers, a plot point set up specifically to be reversed by Mephisto in The Storyline That Must Not Be Named. After that happened, it's hard to say who remembered what (or whether Patch ever existed). Doc Ock certainly learned it when he took over Spidey's body and eliminated Parker. But that's a story for Mr. Current Age to tell.

-- MSA

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One thing I've noticed about the movies is that no one keeps a mask on that long. All of the Spiderman movies had Peter taking the mask off during the actions scenes or having it taken off and in the Avengers Cap lost his mask.

I think secret identities meant more in the SA then they do now. Now writers don't seem to like them much.

Cap revealed his identity at one point in SA, which he came to learn wasn't such a great idea and took it back. I'm not sure how much of a secret it is, or even was back then. The "government" obviously knew who he was, going back to the 1940s, and we know how well they keep secrets.

The movies is a separate case, as they want to show the face of the guy they're paying big bucks to front their movie. Otherwise, it could be a stunt double for most of the movie. But it does make it tough for a guy like Spidey with his full-face mask. His gets pulled off an awful lot and not replaced too fast for a guy who supposedly cares about that.

Batman keeps his on, but we can see that's the star underneath it. And we get the in-helmet view of Tony Stark in the IM movies, so he's covered. GL wore his, for what it was worth.

I agree that today, secret identities don't seem to matter as much. They don't spend much time in them, much less worrying about them. I think that takes the heroes further away from us more and makes it harder to relate to them, but that probably slows down the action--and artists would rather draw pages with the super-hero to make the pages sell better.

-- MSA

Mr. Silver Age said:

And way, way, way too late, in ASM #259 (Dec 84), we learned that MJ had known the truth for many years, since before she'd even freaking met Peter. But that was long after the Silver Age ended, long after those stories were told, and I just don't buy that retcon at that late date. I say she just made that up to seem cool. You know how MJ can be.

I like the way you think. I'll adopt that for my personal continuity.

Yea, I figured that was part of the reason. In the first Spiderman movie in the last battle Pete took the mask off himself. Can't really fault them for that in a way. The lack of it though does sort of emphasize that the superheroes don't want to be part of the regular guys live anymore. I think this is really seen in marvel where being a superhero is considered a career more than it is a noble calling. Carol Danvers is the best example I can think of in this case. With Peter keeping that id secret was one of the things that did make his life so interesting and complicated, being split between using his powers responsibly and his responsibilities to his aunt and friends, or just making the decision whether or not he should stay home and study or go webslinging. He couldn't explain to his professors that he didn't study because he was fighting crime. Of course he's dead now and Slott says he'll never be back so I doubt we'll ever see this type of story again.

Mr. Silver Age said:

Cap revealed his identity at one point in SA, which he came to learn wasn't such a great idea and took it back. I'm not sure how much of a secret it is, or even was back then. The "government" obviously knew who he was, going back to the 1940s, and we know how well they keep secrets.

The movies is a separate case, as they want to show the face of the guy they're paying big bucks to front their movie. Otherwise, it could be a stunt double for most of the movie. But it does make it tough for a guy like Spidey with his full-face mask. His gets pulled off an awful lot and not replaced too fast for a guy who supposedly cares about that.

Batman keeps his on, but we can see that's the star underneath it. And we get the in-helmet view of Tony Stark in the IM movies, so he's covered. GL wore his, for what it was worth.

I agree that today, secret identities don't seem to matter as much. They don't spend much time in them, much less worrying about them. I think that takes the heroes further away from us more and makes it harder to relate to them, but that probably slows down the action--and artists would rather draw pages with the super-hero to make the pages sell better.

-- MSA

Of course he's dead now and Slott says he'll never be back so I doubt we'll ever see this type of story again.

LOL! You crack me up.

-- MSA



Mark S. Ogilvie said:

Yea, I figured that was part of the reason. In the first Spiderman movie in the last battle Pete took the mask off himself. Can't really fault them for that in a way. The lack of it though does sort of emphasize that the superheroes don't want to be part of the regular guys live anymore. I think this is really seen in marvel where being a superhero is considered a career more than it is a noble calling. Carol Danvers is the best example I can think of in this case. With Peter keeping that id secret was one of the things that did make his life so interesting and complicated, being split between using his powers responsibly and his responsibilities to his aunt and friends, or just making the decision whether or not he should stay home and study or go webslinging. He couldn't explain to his professors that he didn't study because he was fighting crime. Of course he's dead now and Slott says he'll never be back so I doubt we'll ever see this type of story again.

Dan Slott has never said that.  I know what you're trying to say, but there's no need to invent things.

I forgot to add the smily face. Sorry.

I do not however make things up.

http://www.hitfix.com/news/dan-slott-on-the-evolotion-of-superior-s...

And I've worked hard to get over my own personal revulsion at the way Slott's been treating fans who don't like Superior. It has not been easy and sometimes I forget little things like :)

Sorry.

OK, no problem.  I was at Fan Expo and that was a fun panel.  Both Slott and the audience were having fun.  I don't think anyone in the room was taking his "heel turn" seriously.  Slott's been the main Spider-writer for a few years now and, imo, obviously loves the Peter Parker character.

I get that you were just joking around, and apologies for being harsh instead of taking the comment in the manner you meant.

 

Back to Mr. S.A.'s column ..... excellent stuff, btw.....

When I began reading this, off the top of my head I immediately thought of ASM 12 and 87.  I didn't think about all of the other times but yeah, Pete was petty reckless with a secret that he thought would kill Aunt May.  George Stacy was not fooled and I can't imagine Joe Robertson ever was either.

In the late 80s it became ridiculous, not just Mary Jane (which flat out contradicted a ton of comics), but lots of other heroes as well, like DD and (of course) Wolverine.

The gang remembered that earlier unmasking by Doc Ock and realized that maybe it hadn't been an act that time.

Wasn't the gang in ASM #87 (Gwen, Mary Jane, Harry, and Captain Stacy) made up of characters who hadn't yet met Peter at that time. I think the earlier unmasking only had Jameson and Betty in attendance.

......he was overwhelmed and carted off to The Goblin's HQ, his tattered clothes showing the Spidey costume underneath, in one of the coolest covers in Silver Age history.

This cover from the Mysterio-as-psychiatrist story is one of my favorites.

I've been working on collecting ASM the hard way. Don't worry I do have MM ASM vol 1-2 because I do not see myself hitting the jackpot anytime soon and buying those issues. I will this year start reading my collecting and posting on the site. I'll pay attention to this topic and see how it flows over the course of 700 issues! Including annuals and other special issues I believe I lack under 200 issues now!

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