We all know the classic Spider-Man story: a young high school student named Peter Parker from Queens is orphaned as a child after mysteriously losing his parents, raised by his aunt and uncle, and bitten by a radioactive spider that transforms him into the web-slinging Spider-Man. We’ve seen on several occasions how the loss of his Uncle Ben made the phrase “With great power comes great responsibility” a creed that Parker lives by for the duration of his career as Spider-Man.
What we don’t know is what happened to Parker’s parents. Who were they? How did they die? Over the course of Spider-Man’s history, Marvel has explored the death of Peter Parker’s parents in various storylines, and with each new artist and writer commissioned to carry on the Spider-Man legacy, a new perspective on the identity and death of Peter Parker’s parents has emerged.
Here’s a look at the various iterations of what happened to Peter’s parents.
The original story of Richard and Mary Parker
In the original Marvel Universe (which is seen to have started with Earth 616 of the Multiverse), Richard Parker was a CIA agent who fell in love with CIA data analyst and translator Mary Fitzpatrick. The couple got married and traveled the world as a spy team that dealt with threats to national security. During Roger Stern and John Romita’s run on the Untold Tales of Spider-Man series, Mary Parker is revealed to be pregnant with Peter while on a mission. Later on, the series also explored the idea that Peter was not an only child by introducing the birth of Peter’s younger sister, Teresa Parker.
The series also introduced Albert Malik, the third Red Skull. Assigned the mission to uncover his operations, Richard and Mary posed as double agents to infiltrate his organization, but were unfortunately discovered. Malik then sabotaged their plane and forced it to crash, apparently killing them both. The rest of the story plays out the same: Peter is taken in by Uncle Ben and Aunt May to be raised as their own son while Teresa is hidden away and raised in secret.
Ultimate Marvel Universe’s Richard and Mary Parker
When Marvel rebooted all of their characters in the all new Ultimate Marvel Universe, Peter Parker’s parents were given a brand new backstory. This time, Mary and Richard Parker were no longer spies, just regular citizens. Mary was a simple housewife and Richard…well…
In the Ultimate Marvel Universe, Richard Parker was a biologist who worked with fellow scientist, Eddie Brock Sr., on a biological suit that could bond and repair a host body, in essence curing one of all their ailments. Fearing the dangerous uses of the suit if left in the wrong hands, Richard left audio recordings for an older Peter to see down the line that explained the suit’s development and warnings of things to come if the suit was improperly used.
Then in Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley’s Ultimate Spider-Man #33, Richard and his wife were on a plane when a mysterious accident brought it down and killed everyone on board. Peter Parker was 6 years old when his parents died and he was taken in by his aunt and uncle. He grew up later to become Spider-Man and found out that the Venom Symbiote is basically the end product of the work that his father and Brock Sr. began long ago. Later, Peter is forced to face off against his former friend Eddie Brock Jr., son of Eddie Brock Sr., after he is possessed by the symbiote. This brings the legacy full circle, adding further layers to the conflict between Spider-Man and Venom.
Ultimate Origins: The Parkers are killed by the Hulk
During his time with Marvel Comics, Brian Michel Bendis explored the deaths of Peter Parker’s parents on more than a few occasions. One of the most interesting (and rather bizarre) backstories occurred in the prequel series Ultimate Origins, set 15 years in the past. In the story, Richard Parker is part of a brain trust that consists of Hank Pym, Bruce Banner, and Franklin Storm (father to Johnny and Susan Storm) and is tasked with recreating Project Rebirth⏤the super soldier program responsible for turning a puny Steve Rogers into Captain America. In this universe, Captain America wasn’t the only old super soldier around; Nick Fury had also been turned into a Super Soldier during his time in World War II.
Using a sample of Nick Fury’s blood, Pym and Banner decided to test their progress with Bruce as the willing subject. At the same time, Richard had gotten an unexpected visit from his wife Mary and their newborn son, Peter. Unfortunately, Pym and Bruce’s experiment goes awry when Bruce transforms into the Hulk for the first time and rampages through the building, accidentally killing Richard and Mary Parker.
Eventually, Nick Fury finds an infant Peter among the rubble and sends him off to live with his Uncle Ben and Aunt May. As far as backstories go, Bendis’ alternate version of the Parker’s death was so contradictory to a lot of the storylines in the Ultimate Marvel Universe that many fans choose to pretend it never happened.
The Amazing Spider-Man films
If you’ve seen Mark Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man films starring Andrew Garfield, then you know they briefly explore the story of Peter Parker’s parents using elements from the Ultimate Marvel Universe version of Spider-Man history. In the films, Richard Parker was a geneticist who worked with Norman Osborn to genetically engineer super spiders as a part of an experiment to enhance human DNA.
In the beginning of the first film, Richard and Mary Parker are dropping off a young Peter to the residence of Ben and Mary Parker before walking away in a hurry to (of course) get on a plane, leaving Peter to grow up always wondering about who they were as people. Richard Parker also leaves recordings for the older version of his son that explain his work and fears of what Oscorp’s true intentions are, prompting Peter to eventually search for connections between Oscorp and his parents’ deaths.
It’s in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 that we get to see what happened to Parker’s parents after they left their son. In the first five minutes of the film, we find the Parkers on the plane, worried about Peter and the reach of Oscorp. Richard is attempting to upload all of his research to an unknown location (we can assume it’s to the secret underground lab that Peter finds later in the film) when the “pilot” comes from the cockpit and attempts to kill the Parkers for the research, fatally stabbing Mary and wrestling with Richard as the plane is on a decline to Earth.
If you’ve seen the movie, then you know the rest: Richard fights off the assassin, finishes uploading the research, and goes down with the rest of the plane…supposedly. Though it is not officially part of the film’s story, a deleted scene from The Amazing Spider-Man 2 shows Richard Parker very much alive when he returns to console his son after Gwen’s death.
Whether or not we’ll ever see one or both of Peter Parker’s parents alive and well again in future Spidey films remains to be seen.