Spider-Man isn’t the only hero Peter Parker invented. When the Green Goblin frames him for murder Peter needs to become a whole new hero to stop him.
Every comic book fan already knows all about Spider-Man’s secret identity, but in the Marvel Universe, it’s a closely guarded secret. Keeping Spider-Man’s identity a mystery is so important that it took a satanic retcon in the form of One More Day to erase all memories of Peter Parker unmasking himself. Peter understands that being a hero is dangerous, so letting his enemies know who he really is could put his loved ones in grave danger. And so when Norman Osborn, arguably Spider-Man’s greatest enemy finally starts to use Peter’s dual personas against him, Peter fights back in the craziest way possible: by creating even more superhero identities for himself!
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Spider-Man: Identity Crisis is an oft-forgotten eight-issue Spider-Man story that ran in 1998 and illustrates just how important Peter Parker’s secret identity really is. After Norman Osborn pressured Daily Bugle owner J. Jonah Jameson into selling the newspaper to him in Spectacular Spider-Man #250, Osborn proceeds to use his position as Peter’s boss to torment him to no end. First, he hires another villain named the Trapster to frame Spider-Man for murder, then he baits him into attacking Norman while secretly filming him. With control of the media and video evidence, Norman manages to convince everyone that Spider-Man is a menace faster than Jameson ever could. Peter quickly realizes that this is a fight Spider-Man can’t win, so he decides to go undercover as not one, but four different people!
Peter begins dressing up as four new costumed heroes: The Hornet, Dusk, Prodigy, and Ricochet. Each persona pretends to be a brand new superpowered individual that just arrived in New York. Each identity also came with a brand new suit designed by Peter to hide his spider powers. Because Osborn was so focused on torturing Spider-Man he never paid much attention to these new superheroes, so Peter was now free to plot against Norman in secret. But, some people did notice that these new heroes were awfully similar to Spider-Man but the public quickly decided that there’s no way anyone would be crazy enough to invent so many new secret identities all at once.
Using his Dusk and Ricochet personas, Spider-Man infiltrates the criminal underworld and gathers evidence to prove that he was framed by the Trapster. After this, he has Prodigy use fake evidence to prove the Spider-Man who attacked Osborn on camera was also an imposter. With Osborn unable to counter Prodigy’s claims, Spider-Man is declared innocent of murder, and Norman is forced to abandon his plan to frame him. Peter then dons his regular Spider-Man costume, declaring that “Like it or not, Spider-Man is who I am!”
Although Spider-Man undoubtedly won this battle of wits with Norman Osborn, the evil businessman still found a way to come out on top. Osborn was able to use the Bugle to revise history and discredit the fact that he was once Green Goblin. Norman would eventually lose control of the Daily Bugle and his efforts to whitewash his past as the Green Goblin would help foreshadow Osborn’s later takeover of America in Dark Reign. And despite having an opportunity to use the Bugle to expose Spider-Man to the public the sadistic Osborn instead chooses to keep that secret to himself so that only he could leverage it against Peter.
Spider-Man: Identity Crisis didn’t have the lasting impact on Peter’s life like other Spider-Man stories did. The main consequences of the story were in Slingers, a short-lived comic about a group of people using the hero suits Spider-Man built to fight crime on their own. But if there’s one lesson that Peter Parker learned from this whole ordeal, it’s how dangerous being Spider-Man can be.
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