9. Aunt May
Aunt May, the dizzy, frail and perpetually worried foster mother of young Peter Parker, had to pop her geriatric clogs sooner or later. The woman who had cared for Spider Man since his earliest appearance in 1962’s Amazing Fantasy Issue 15, cooking him wheatcakes for breakfast and bringing him crackers and milk because he looked a little tired, had been teetering on the verge of death for decades. Peter had obsessively worried about her medical bills, about leaving her to live alone, about her bizarre romantic tryst with Doctor Octopus (no, really) and far more besides, for years.
In fact, by the time old Aunt May actually died, the characters’ roles had pretty much been reversed and poor old Peter spent more time worrying about May than she did about him. In the events leading up to 1995’s Amazing Spider Man issue 400, May slipped into a coma, fracturing the lives of Spidey’s entire supporting cast. Writer J.M DeMatteis and penciller Mark Bagley crafted a genuinely harrowing scene where Peter recalled May reading him Peter Pan as a child – and before he could finish the immortal line second star to the right and straight on until morning she was gone. A grieving Peter, who’se life had already been shattered by May’s sickness, simply collapsed over her body, weeping uncontrollably.
It was an intensely Human moment for a comic book about a guy that swings around New York City on a web and catches thieves, just like flies – and it was wholly relatable to anybody that has lost an elderly relative after worrying about them for years. Still, the fans intensely disliked Aunt May’s death. Maybe it was just too much reality for a fantasy medium. Comic book creators are still trying to get that balance right, even today… Unsurprisingly, May was brought back to life a few years later. In one of the hokiest (and by far the most tasteless) retcons in comics history, the long-dead Norman Osborn (AKA Green Goblin MK I) revealed that the last few years of Spidey’s life had been one long, insanely overcomplicated scheme and that the Aunt May that died was actually an actress, genetically altered to look like the real Aunt May. Or something. Sorry, what? I wasn’t listening…