In every way that matters, Aunt May and Uncle Ben are the parents of Spider-Man. While they might not be his biological parents, they raised Peter Parker as their own son and taught him invaluable lessons about power and responsibility.
However, their presence still raises some questions about Peter Parker’s birth parents. These questions have been answered differently across Spider-Man’s comic book and movie adventures. What really happened to Peter’s birth parents, and what kept them from actually being a part of his life in some of their most notable storylines.
How Did Spider-Man’s Parents Die in the Mainstream Marvel Universe?
In the core Marvel Universe, Richard Parker was Ben Parker’s younger brother and a decorated veteran. After being recruited to the CIA following his time in the Army, Richard met and fell in love with Mary Fitzpatrick, a CIA translator and data analyst.
The pair were soon married, eventually becoming partners as they traveled the world and dealt with threats to national safety. In Roger Stern and John Romita’s Untold tales of Spider-Man #-1, they even saved Wolverine while serving overseas, who revealed that Mary was pregnant with their first child. This would be their son Peter, who would eventually be joined by their daughter Teresa.
But not long after Teresa’s birth, the pair were confronted by Albert Malik, the third Red Skull. While infiltrating his operation posing as double agents, they were discovered and had their plane sabotaged, seemingly killing both of them in the crash.
Peter grew up with Ben and his wife May, while the younger Teresa remained a secret from their family and was adopted. Chameleon would eventually use Life Model Decoys of Spider-Man’s parents to target Peter and his family as part of a plan orchestrated by Harry Osborn during his time as the Green Goblin. However, they would eventually be discovered and — thanks partly to the LMD of Mary developing human emotions for the Parker family — were defeated before they could kill anyone.
In the Ultimate Marvel Universe, Richard Parker was a biologist instead of a secret agent.
He was scientific partners with Eddie Brock Sr., with the pair working together on a possible cure-all in the form of a biological suit that could bond and repair a host body.
However, Richard feared the dangerous potential of the suit if left in the hands of people like Bolivar Trask and left audio recordings for Peter to find that describe the development of the suit and his fears over it. Richard and Brock had a falling out over the issue but were still on a plane together with their wives when an accident brought the plane down and killed everyone on board in Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley’s Ultimate Spider-Man #33.
This severely affected the six-year-old Peter Parker (who was taken in by his aunt and uncle), as well as his slightly older friend Eddie Brock, Jr. Meanwhile, their work would eventually become the beginnings of the Ultimate Universe of the Venom symbiote, which became a consistent thorn in Spider-Man’s side. Richard Parker briefly seemed to return down the line, believing himself to be the only survivor of the crash.
However, it’s revealed that he’s actually just a clone of Peter Parker that was aging too fast. The clone soon perished, although his dying wish was to extend his love for Peter and their shared “family.”
It’s revealed that some of Richard’s work had been on genetically engineered spiders, which is why Peter was the only person the spiders were able to affect. In a deleted scene from the end of the film, an older version of Richard visits Peter while he’s dealing with the death of Gwen Stacy, revealing he survived the crash and has been trying to keep his discoveries from falling into the hands of OsCorp.
However, this last sequence isn’t canon with the rest of the film, and the world that this film set up was effectively superseded by the Marvel Cinematic Universe version of Spider-Man.