Last week, we brought you the definitive ranking of the most superior Spider-Men in Marvel’s comic books—but let’s be honest: who runs the Spider-world? Spider-Girls. In the years since Peter Parker first donned the Spider-mantle, leagues of legendary women have taken on Spider-heroics of their own, and now its their turn to be ranked.
A lot of the same rules apply as our Spider-Men list—characters who were alternate versions or people specifically meant to take on the Spider-Woman or Spider-Girl mantle, for good or evil purposes, so no Madame Web—expanded to include Spiders who were meant to work alongside their version of Spider-Man as heroes themselves, if not necessarily replace him as their world’s spider-hero. So, without further ado, here are the 22 best Spider-Women of the multiverse, ranked.
Oh, this poor version of Betty. A What If story that imagined J. Jonah Jameson’s secretary becoming a Spider-hero gave us perhaps one of the shortest spider-careers in comics. Betty, with Peter working with her to take photos, pretty much becomes Spider-Girl and then immediately quits after failing to stop the robber that kills Peter’s uncle. That’s it, no lesson about power and responsibility, nothing.
Also, that outfit is terrible.
May Porker never got as much love as the Spectacular Spider-Ham, but honestly, she did get the punnier name: Swiney-Girl. That’s pretty much all she got though.
The Ultimate Kitty was actually very briefly the Spider-Girl of her reality, after dating Peter Parker and the two weirdos decided their ideas of romantic nights out would involve fighting crime with each other. In order to help Peter retain his secret identity, Kitty decided she needed a mask and an alternate hero name aside from her X-Men duties, so she briefly became Spider-Girl... even if she didn’t like the name.
A very cutesy take on the classic Spider-Man story that unfortunately was just a one-hit wonder for a backup story in Spider-Verse, we might not have seen Penelope in action for very long, but we did get to see her in what might be just the most gosh-darn adorable Spider-costume ever.
Transformed into a literal Spider-Woman by Doctor Octopus, Charlotte found herself an unwilling slave to his will, forced to feed on human blood and track down her fellow Spider-Women and absorb their powers. She actually succeeded on de-powering them for a while, but was ultimately beaten by Spider-Man and the Spider-Women in a great big Spider-y teamup.
The daughter of Hawkeye and Peter Parker’s youngest child Tonya in the grim Old Man Logan future, Ashley actually ended up going rogue on her family when, after being kidnapped by the Kingpin, she murdered him and took over his territory as the ruler of Hammer Falls. Also, before Spider-Verse rebranded her as simply “Spider-Woman,” Ashley was known as “Spider-Bitch.” Oh, comic books.
The MJ of Marvel’s Mangaverse, like the equivalent of Peter Parker she was also a ninja in the Spider-clan, and actually his apprentice in the wake of Uncle Ben’s death, training her to be a Spider-ninja-warrior as powerful as he is.
Another What If Spider-Hero, this time it’s Aunt May who gets to take the spotlight as the webslinging hero. She made a brief return in Spider-Verse where her attempt at a noble sacrifice to the Inheritors hunting down Spider-heroes is interrupted by the arrival of a team of multiversal Spiders, but honestly, aside from her hilariously grandma-ish costume, the best thing she had going for her was her hero name: Spider-Ma’am. That’s good pun work.
Another one-shot Spider-Verse wonder, Peni was not your typical Spider-Woman. In fact, she didn’t really have Spider powers: she was the human pilot of a futuristic mecha suit called the SP//dr suit, a legacy passed down to her by her father. Even then, she still had to be bitten by a radioactive spider to use it, because that’s universal law of becoming a spider-hero at this point.
A hero from an alternate 19th century, May was an adventurer and New York socialite that invented steam-powered technologies that let her protect her city as the Lady Spider, who flits around with mechanical Spider-arms. Without powers of her own, she technically isn’t part of the mystical Spider-hero pantheon, but May was still willing to endanger her life and help her fellow spiders during the events of Spider-Verse.
The Mary Jane of a universe where Marvel executives decided not to annul her marriage to Peter through a literal deal with the devil, this MJ swings into battle alongside her husband and daughter as Spinneret, even though she doesn’t have powers of her own—in fact, her suit taps into Peter’s abilities and siphons them off, granting her his abilities as well for the ultimate husband/wife symbiotic ass-kicking.
An alternate version of a Spider-Girl we’ll meet a little later on this list, May’s standout difference to her Spider-Girl counterpart of another Earth is that her father was Ben Reilly, rather than Peter Parker. Although not much differed for her personality and background-wise, she did go on a much different path to her alt-reality self: she is ultimately recruited as the Spider-Girl of the Heralds, a trans-dimensional group of reality-hopping superheroes tasked with safeguarding all existence from the Celestials.
Poor Mattie Franklin. First introduced as a Spider-Man superfan who, having gained powers of her own in a sinister ritual, decided to take on the Spider-Woman mantle when Peter took a break from superheroics, she eventually was granted the title of Spider-Woman after helping beat Charlotte Witter.
Mattie then promptly vanished for a few years, then showed up in Alias as a drugged up pawn being harvested for the power-enhancing mutant growth hormone drug, was used again as part of the Loners (a support group of ex-heroes who swore off using their powers), and then ruthlessly murdered by Sasha Kravinoff as part of a blood sacrifice to resurrect her son during a storyline called Grim Hunt.
Ultimate Jessica Drew was actually a clone of Peter Parker, first created by Dr. Octopus at the behest of the CIA and FBI, but she managed to escape the facility she was grown in and eventually became the Spider-Woman of the Ultimate universe, a close ally of first Peter Parker and then Miles Morales after Peter’s death. Jessica held not one, but two important mantles as a hero, also becoming the Black Widow of the Ultimate universe, after Ultimate Natalia Romanova was revealed as a traitor and killed. Sadly, Jess didn’t survive the events of the Ultimate universe’s destruction during Secret Wars, perishing alongside her reality.
The Spider-Woman of a world infected by the infamous Legacy virus, Mary Jane’s life and planet was saved by the arrival of the multiverse superteam the Exiles, leading to her playing a major part in rebuilding the world as Spider-Woman. MJ was also notable as a rare LGBTQ character, and even had a brief relationship with Exiles member Sunfire, but after her intitial string of appearances she went unused until Spider-Verse unceremoniously killed her off in a single, dialogue-less panel.
The daughter of Peter and Mary Jane in Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows, Annie develops her powers at a very young age, being forced to keep them hidden in a version of Earth ruled over by Regent and where powers were banned. Eventually Regent’s rule was toppled thanks to Peter Parker’s return as Spider-Man, and Annie decided to use her powers for good alongside her father as Spiderling.
The second Spider-Woman in Marvel’s canon, Julia Carpenter was tricked into becoming a superhero after being signed up for an experimental study that was actually a front for a shadowy government group. Spending most of her early career as a freelance hero working alongside everyone from Spidey to the Avengers, Julia lost her powers during Charlotte Witter’s assault on the Spider-Women, leading to her quitting superheroics to raise her daughter.
Her powers were eventually restored, and Julia returned under the alias Arachne, but after the original Madame Web died during the Grim Hunt storyline, Julia was granted her powers and connection to the web of fate, becoming the next Madame Web while passing on her costume and Spider-hero role to Anya Corazon.
The breakout star of Spider-Verse, this Gwen Stacy (from a world where not only was she bitten by the radioactive spider, but where Peter Parker died attempting to become a hero like her, accidentally turning himself into the Lizard) was at first only designed to appear in a one-shot spinoff and the wider event itself.
But thanks to an absolutely fantastic costume design, fans went nuts for her, leading to this Spider-Woman—better known to her fans as Spider-Gwen—becoming one of Marvel’s most popular new characters of the last few years, guest-starring in several comic series as well as getting her own ongoing. It helps that this Gwen is a stylish, snarky take on the Spider-world, but really, she’s a great example of just how much a good costume can elevate a superhero too.
The Spider-Girl of the main marvel universe, Anya was first introduced as using the superhero name Araña, an exoskeleton-wearing hunter for a mystical society that saved her life. Although not technically part of the Spider-hero dynasty, Anya would be drawn in during the events of the Grim Hunt, which saw Julia Carpenter (more on her in a bit) take on the duties of Madame Web and pass on both her old costume and the Spider-Girl title to Anya.
Although Anya’s not seen much play since then, she was an important part of Spider-Verse, and eventually stayed behind as part of Spider-UK’s Web Warrior team, safeguarding the multiverse and the web of fate for all her fellow Spider-heroes.
When Cindy Moon was first introduced in Spider-Verse—a girl who just happened to also be bitten by the same spider as Peter seconds after, and locked away in a vault for years and years to keep anyone unaware of her existence—fans were skeptical. Then, through some spider-pheromone-power nonsense, she and Peter couldn’t stop making out with each other, and fans were even more skeptical.
But since the early days of Spider-Verse, Cindy—taking on the name Silk in her own recently-ended series—has evolved into much more than a contrived, spider-sex-mad plot device. While retaining a bouncy, snappy snark that’s almost mandatory for Spider-heroes as she fought crime, Cindy’s solo series also provided an emotional, touching glimpse into how people cope with trauma, giving us a much more nuanced and measured character than many people expected coming out of her debut.
Even today in an age when Marvel has begin pushing a more diverse linup of female-lead books, Spider-Girl still stands as one of their most successful, longest-running series starring a female character. The daughter of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson in the ‘MC2’ realm, May—also known as Mayday—developed similar powers to her father’s at the age of 15, leading her to carry on his legacy after his retirement as the Spider of her universe.
Her introduction quickly lead to her becoming a cult favorite among fans, and although she’s slipped into obscurity a little lately (her most preeminent role being in Spider-Verse, which saw her rename herself Spider-Woman in the wake of her parents’ death) she still remains one of the best and direct examples of continuing Peter Parker’s legacy in the comics.
There could only be one at the top of the list, and it’s the one that really started it all. Created in a quick rush so Marvel could squat on the name to avoid rivals capitalizing on Spider-Man’s success, Jessica Drew’s story as Spider-Woman has seen her grow into a role and character that makes her so much more than the “female Spider-Man” her name might imply.
Hell, she’s always been her own damn hero—over the years since her debut, Jessica has has been a super spy, an Agent of SHIELD, an Avenger, a private investigator, and many other things, but most importantly, she’s never been in Peter Parker’s shadow, willingly far removed from the world of Spiders to do her own thing. She’s always been a kickass, witty hero that’s every-bit deserving of Spider-praise as her distant friend Peter.