How Was Spider-Man: No Way Home’s Spell Originally Broken in the Marvel Universe?

Today, we look at how the spell that erased Spider-Man’s identity from the rest of the world was broken in the Marvel Universe.

This is “Never Gonna Be the Same Again,” a feature where I look at how bold, seemingly “permanent” changes were ultimately reversed. This is not a criticism, mind you, as obviously things are always going to eventually return to “normal.” That’s just how superhero comic books work. It’s just fun to see how some of these rather major changes are reversed. This is differentiated from “Abandoned Love,” which is when a new writer comes in and drops the plot of the previous writer. Here, we’re talking about the writer who came up with the idea being the same one who resolved the change. This is also differentiated from “Death is Not the End,” which is about how “dead” characters came back to life, since this is about stuff other than death.

As you may have noticed by now, the upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe film, Spider-Man: No Way Home, involves Doctor Strange trying to cast a spell to make the whole world forget Spider-Man’s secret identity, but things go haywire. This could be a “Written in the Book” about how a similar scene was done in the comics, but I think it’s more interesting to show how that same identity spell was BROKEN in the comics!

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In the year or so before Civil War, Spider-Man joined the New Avengers and began to both live at Avengers Tower with his wife, Mary Jane, and his aunt, May Parker. Peter then went to work for Iron Man. Peter was so close to Iron Man that when Iron Man got involved in the United States government’s attempts to regulate superhero registration, Spider-Man went along for the ride. Iron Man was able to deter the government for a while, but then the New Warriors blew up in a fight with supervillains in Stamford, CT near a school and a bunch of innocent people died, including a bunch of kids.

So the government established the Superhuman Registration Act and Iron Man decided that he was going to back it (as better that he do it and control it than let other people take control of it). Spider-Man went along for the ride once again and so, during Civil War #2 (by Mark Millar, Steve McNiven and Dexter Vines), Spider-Man decided to prove that he was all the way in on Iron Man’s plan (Peter felt a lot of pride in Tony being his mentor) by revealing his secret identity to the world….

and he really did do it, to J. Jonah Jameson’s shock…

The problem is that Spider-Man then began to realize that he did not actually BELIEVE in Iron Man’s position. So he decided to split from Iron Man. Of course, this was way too late for him to do this, because he had, you know, revealed his secret identity to the world. Spider-Man went on the run with his wife and his aunt. He was now hunted by both the government and all of his old foes who now knew his secret identity. It took a turn for the worse when Kingpin ordered Spider-Man assassinated. This being Spider-Man, though, his Spider-Sense caused him to move out of the way of the bullet and it instead hit Aunt May. It fatally wounded her.

Spider-Man was distraught. This was a dude who is all about guilt and now he feels like he was responsible for Aunt May’s impending death! So Mephisto offered Spider-Man a deal – he would cure Aunt May if Spider-Man would surrender his marriage to Mary Jane. Mary Jane said that they had to do it, because she knew Peter and she knew he would never forgive himself for May’s death. So they gave up their marriage and Aunt May was saved.

However, his identity was still public knowledge.

In Amazing Spider-Man #641 (by Joe Quesada and Paolo Rivera), Doctor Strange, Tony Stark and Reed Richards got together and came up with a scientific/magic solution to erase Spider-Man’s secret identity from the rest of the world…

Strange and Reed Richards convinced Tony to allow his Extremis to be used to take care of all of the technology out there that had information on Spider-Man’s identity…

In the end, Spider-Man couldn’t allow Mary Jane to forget…

So, Spider-Man’s secret identity was now hidden from the world (except Mary Jane still knew, although she crushed Peter by noting that she would have preferred had she NOT remembered).

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Soon after, Spider-Man, now on the run with the rest of the heroes who opposed the Registration Act (and then, once Iron Man, the prime mover of the Act, was replaced by Norman Obsorn as the head of SHIELD, then they were on the run from Osborn), was pressured by his Avengers teammates in New Avengers #51 (by Brian Michael Bendis, Billy Tan, Matt Banning and Justin Ponsor) to reveal his identity to them if they were all going to be on the run together (this is especially notable after the Skrull invasion of around the same time – it was hard for people to trust each other).

So Spider-Man revealed his identity to his teamamtes, including some people (Mockingbird) who he wasn’t even all that close to at the time….

Soon after, we saw the specifics of Doctor Strange’s spell when Peter was unmasked in front of the Fantastic Four in Amazing Spider-Man #590 (by Dan Slott, Barry Kitson, Mark Farmer and Dean White) and they could still not see his face.

As it turned out, Spidey had to actively choose to reveal his identity to people for them to perceive his true identity (and then, if they knew it already, they would regain their memories of having previously known it). So, in Amazing Spider-Man #591, he did just that…

During the “Spider-Island” crossover, when all the citizens of Manhattan gained Spider-powers, Peter exhorted everyone into action by giving a big speech in August 2011‘s Amazing Spider-Man #668 (by Dan Slott, Humberto Ramos, Victor Olazaba and Edgar Delgado)…

The trick, though, was that now that he had technically revealed his identity, he lost the magical protections that Doctor Strange had put into place, so people could once again figure out Spider-Man’s identity.

If you have a suggestion for a future Never Gonna Be the Same Again, drop me a line at

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from Ultimate Comic Blog

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