The Real Reason Spider-Man Revealed His Secret Identity in Civil War

Peter Parker, revealed to the world as Spider-Man in Civil War #2.
Image: Steve McNiven, Dexter Vines, and Morry Hollowell (Marvel Comics)

A hero’s secret identity is one of the most enduring tropes of superheroic fiction—but there are perhaps few today for who it matters the most than Peter Parker, a character who’s duality has become one of his defining traits. So for him to reveal that in Civil War was a major deal...but a new book reveals that actually, that might not be the case.

Coming this fall from Insight Comics, Spider-Man: From Amazing to Spectacular: The Definitive Comic Art Collection lifts the lid on nearly sixty years of Spidey’s history as one of the most beloved superheroes ever made. Penned by ScreenCrush editor-in-chief Matt Singer, the book gathers not just iconic art from some of Spider-Man’s most influential artists—from Sara Pichelli to Mark Bagley, from Steve Ditko to both John Romita Sr. and his son, John Romita Jr.—but features new interviews with the creative teams that have come to shape Peter’s amazing, spectacular, sensational, and ultimate career.

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io9 is excited to reveal a juicy tidbit from one of those interviews in a set of new spreads from inside From Amazing to Spectacular.

The full cover for From Amazing to Spectacular.
Image: Andrew Robinson (Insight Comics)

The spreads focus on two major comic book events that impacted on Peter as a character: 2006's messy, dramatic epic Civil War, which saw the dire ramifications of Peter Parker revealing his secret identity to the world, and 2014's Spider-Verse, a much happier, nostalgia laden crossover of spider-characters that championed the enduring relatablity of Spider-Man, and laid the inspirational background for the oscar-award winning triumph that is Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

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Check out the spread for Spider-Verse first below, which also features some pretty amazing variant covers from over the years that take inspiration from the iconic final page of Amazing Spider-Man #50, a storyline better known as “Spider-Man No More!”

Image: Insight Comics
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Tthe more interesting reveal comes from Singer’s interview with Civil War scribe Mark Millar in the spread below, who reveals a much more controversial reason as to why the event exposed Peter’s tightly-kept secret on a scale never seen before in his history:

Image: Insight Comics
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Here’s the quote from Millar:

I don’t think this has ever been made public. I remember [Marvel editor] Tom Brevoort suggesting Spidey [reveal his identity] for the simple reason that his continuity was about to get a magical reboot a year later with One More Day, and so we could kind of do whatever we liked. It’s pretty funny because it seemed enormously bold, but of course Marvel had the cosmic reset button a year later planned, so it was every much a calculated risk.

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Yes—one of the most dramatic moments in Peter Parker’s history only came about because Marvel knew it was about to hit a reset button a year and a half later. That would come in the form of the still-controversial One More Day storyline, which saw Peter sacrifice his marriage to Mary Jane to not only put his identity back into the realm of shadows but save the life of his beloved Aunt May. He did it by literally making a deal with the devil, in a plotline that, even if these days has slowly but surely been chipped away at, is still one of the most controversial plot beats in the character’s history.

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These days, Peter’s identity is still mostly a secret in the comics—although recently some dramatically emotional reveals of it to certain characters have made the case for ways to handle Spider-Man’s greatest secret in ways that don’t need a future reset button in the form of Actual Satan. Considering Far From Home planned a similar life-changing event for the movie Peter Parker before...well, that whole imbroglio happened, it goes to show what just a vital storytelling tool Peter’s secret identity can be. Even if sometimes it’s just done because there’s an easy way out!

Spider-Man: From Amazing to Spectacular: The Definitive Comic Art Collection hits shelves October 15, and is available for pre-order now.

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About the author

James Whitbrook

James is a News Editor at io9. He wants pictures. Pictures of Spider-Man!