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A Brief Comic-Book History Of Spider-Man And The Avengers

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After years of rumours – which intensified in the last few months – Sony and Marvel announced late on Monday that Spider-Man would finally be able to appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe thanks to an unusual two-studio deal. While Sony keeps overall control of Spidey, Disney / Marvel will be partners in shepherding future Spider-Man movies and will themselves be allowed to put the web head on screen, most likely starting with Captain America: Civil War next year. As he faces a new future, the time is clearly ripe to take a peek at Spidey’s past with the Avengers and look at a few notable stories...

1. Earliest Official Team-Up

This one is difficult to pin down properly, since Peter Parker had crossed paths with various separate members of The Avengers long before he helped out the team proper. But he first graced the pages of the Avengers comic in December 1964, in an issue that announces his co-starring status on the cover. He assists the assembled heroes in taking down a Spider-Man robot sent from the future by the power-hungry Kang the Conqueror. Spidey asks to join Tony Stark and co., but is denied admission. Cue the sad trombone!

2. An Offer To Join

He might have been disappointed at the rejection following their first mission together, but Parker got his chance in “…To Become An Avenger!” a story in 1966’s The Amazing Spider-Man Annual 3, when Cap, Iron Man and the rest decide to test him to find out if he’s worthy of joining the team. Unfortunately, it does not go well. Confusion over how to administer the test leads to Spider-Man getting angry and fighting the Avengers, notably The Hulk. One battle around gamma rays later and the big green guy briefly turns back into Bruce Banner. Worried that he’ll lead Hulk to his doom, Peter decides it’s for the best he doesn’t sign up. Best bit? His description of Thor as “Goldilocks.” Someone get that into an MCU movie, stat!

3. Spider-Man Vs. Thanos

Despite Thanos’s near god-like abilities, Spider-Man famously helped foil one of his evil schemes in a Marvel Two-In-One-Annual published in December 1977. Teaming up with The Thing, Spidey heads into space and frees the Avengers and Captain Marvel, who have all been captured by the purple one and held in stasis. With Cap and company released, the heroes take on Thanos, struggling until the soul of Adam Warlock – a Guardians Of The Galaxy character to be – is freed from the Soul Infinity Gem, and turns Thanos into rock, leaving him trapped in a living hell. This is the sort of storyline you’ll probably have to wait until 2030 to see on screen.

1. So Close. And Yet…

Writer Roger Stern, who had experience with both The Amazing Spider-Man and The Avengers, was entrusted with a storyline in the mid-1980s that saw the web head come achingly close to joining the team. With Peter Parker seemingly ready to be a team player, he’s labelled a “trainee” and is denied full membership thanks to a government loophole. Mean. It doesn’t stop him from using his powers and keen brain to help them take down the Lava Men, Rhino and Electro, even if it does demonstrate why he doesn’t really play well with others.

2. Spidey’s Big Chance

Fast forward to 2004 and Spidey’s again working alongside members of The Avengers, albeit in a time when the team has been disbanded (this happens from time to time). A prison breakout at the supervillain-holding facility known as 'The Raft' orchestrated by Electro sends members of the team (including Captain America) into action. Spidey tags along and is eventually offered membership of a freshly reconstituted Avengers, something he declines at first. We don’t blame him, given their history.

3. Ultimate Six

Brian Michael Bendis’ seven-part miniseries set within the Ultimate Universe saw Spidey And The Ultimates (another name for The Avengers) tackling the Sinister Six (Norman Osborn, Kraven The Hunter, Electro, Sandman, Doctor Octopus and, briefly under duress, Peter Parker himself) who have cooked up a plan to take over the White House. Spider-Man isn’t a direct team member here, but he does provide invaluable assistance to the likes of Nick Fury, Cap, Wasp, Ant-Man, Thor, Black Widow and Iron Man.

1. Spider-Island

2011’s Dan Slott-penned tale hinges on a plan by Spider-villain The Jackal, who has found a way to give everyone in Manhattan the Spider-Man powers as a prelude to turning them all into spider monsters. As it turns out, one of the primary arachnid beasts is Steve 'Captain America' Rogers, who has been enslaved by his old World War II foe the Spider-Queen. The Avengers need Spider-Man’s help to take down the threat in the sort of ambitious story you can probably only get away with in the pages of the comics.

2. Civil War

It seems certain that Spider-Man will make his first appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Captain America: Civil War, which loosely adapts a much-debated 2006 storyline from the Marvel pages. Written by Mark Millar and pencilled by Steve McNiven, the original seven-part miniseries has massive ramifications for the wider Marvel universe. We explored the background and potential film version more thoroughly here, but to boil it down to basics, it sees the heroes taking sides over a governmental demand for superheroes to register their identities and submit to regulations. Tony Stark is among those who support the move, while Captain America speaks out strongly against it. Stark convinces Spidey to reveal his identity and initially goes along with the pro side, before eventually siding with Cap. It’ll be interesting to see where Spider-Man stands in the film universe.

3. Infinity War

Here, Thanos is fully in charge of the Infinity Gauntlet, an object which brings together all the Infinity Gems and gives him almost unstoppable pow. So a huge swathe of the Marvel universe heroes must unite to battle him in a 1991 run of the comics called, as you might guess, The Infinity Gauntlet. Spider-Man joins with those characters still alive after Thanos uses the gauntlet to wipe out half the sentient life in the universe, all because he has the hots for a particularly beautiful personification of death (what, doesn’t she like flowers and chocolates?). Disney/Marvel is planning the Avengers: Infinity War films for 2018 and 2019 and with Spider-Man now able to show up in the MCU, expect him to be a big part of the coming conflict, especially if the line-up of the Avengers shifts between this year’s Age Of Ultron and the first Infinity War title. We wrote more about the Infinity Gauntlet story here, which is well worth your time.