The horrible truth about Spiderman

I was on a panel a few weeks ago discussing mutations, and what they can and cannot do.  Spider-man was one of the topics, because the sad truth is that the Comics industry has conspired in a G-rated cover-up to hide his terrible, terrible affliction.

Spider-man’s spider webbing talent isn’t what you think it is.  Sure, male spiders do have special appendages on the front of their bodies–they are really noticeable ”boxing gloves.”  They actually can be up to 20% of a male spider’s body weight.

Those are not, however, what spiders shoot silk or webbing out of.  These pedipalps have one function. SEX.

That white, sticky stuff Peter Parker is shooting out of his wrist? Um. Yeah.

frame from amazing spiderman #503
This is what guys discovering they are covered with spider jizz look like.

There is a reason that people freak out when he shoots a big blop of splooge at them.

See, spiders have a very odd reproductive system. Male spiders don’t have a penis.  (I don’t know if a side effect of Mr. Parker’s radioactive spider bite was his penis falling off, but that might explain his perpetual whiny attitude.  Even if if he did manage to initially retain his penis, it probably broke off later during mating with Mary Jane.)

Pedipalps are modified appendages at the front of a male spider.  They use these to insert sperm into a female’s body.   To get the sperm out of his gonads in the rear, a male spider creates something called a “sperm web” that he limbos underneath and deposits sperm onto.

He then turns around and “loads” the sperm into his pedipalps, and sets off to find a female and hook up.  Pedipalps are the spider equivalent of a turkey baster.

Don’t see the parallel? Let’s review how Mr. Parker’s “slingers” work.  His arms are modified appendages at the front of his body. He has to “load them” with “fresh wet-fluid.”


“But, Bug Girl!” You say. “You don’t understand the story!” Ok, let’s suppose, for your collective mental sanity, that Mr. Parker is actually shooting spider silk, not nocturnal emissions, at villains.

The business end of a spiderSpider silk glands are located anterior to the anus, and posterior to the gonads.  If the radioactive spider had actually given Peter Parker silk glands? He would shoot webbing out of his taint.

Is that….an improvement?  I can certainly see why Spider-man would prefer to gather up the silk and dispense it from a gizmo on his arm, rather than have a little flap in the back of his leotard.

If you would like to look at male spider pedipalps in action, check out this video.  The naughty part begins at 2:35 — note that it really is very much like a turkey baster in function!

Photo at top from Wikimedia Commons (and worth looking at for the full size version!)


Bug_girl has a PhD in Entomology, and is a pointy-headed former academic living in Ohio. She is obsessed with insects, but otherwise perfectly normal. Really! If you want a daily stream of cool info about bugs, follow her Facebook page or find her on Twitter.

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  1. Doesn’t seem as bad as what Aquaman has to go through.

    Least now we know where he gets his web fluid from.
    That would look really weird to anyone else, though!

  2. Is it true, though, that spiders do have a supernatural, ill-defined “spider sense” that warns them about danger just before it happens?

  3. Really interesting article (although the “I don’t know if a side effect of Mr. Parker’s radioactive spider bite was his penis falling off, but that might explain his perpetual whiny attitude” seemed inappropriate to me).

  4. So do you think Aunt May is relieved or worried that he rather suddenly stopped filling his bedroom waste bin with wadded-up tissues?

  5. Nerd Nitpicking Police here to be a party pooper.

    In the original comics series as well as the latest Amazing Spiderman movie, Peter Parker’s mutation does not allow him to shoot webbing (or sperm, as this funny article implies). Peter Parker invents a web shooter gadget to do that.

    One can be forgiven this mistake because in the wildly popular last trilogy of Spiderman movies, Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker DID develop that ability. This was a departure from the comic.

    I’m not sure about Ultimate Spiderman (the ‘remake’ line of comics that Marvel developped a few years back) though.

    1. Further nerd-picking…

      It’s capital-ess-pee-eye-dee-are-hyphen-capital-em-ay-en. Spider-Man.

      Ah, well…

      But yeah, they’re mechanical web-shooters in the comics. :)

      Still, very funny. (I always said Maguire should have been shooting them out his butt!)

    2. in Ultimate Spider-Man he also used web shooters. Also for anyone who hasn’t read that series, you should pick it up, it’s an awesome interpretation of the story.

    3. The hype around the latest Spidey movie got me thinking about the web shooting of the previous Spiderman reboot. After Maguire discovered that he could shoot webbing directly out of his hands, he immediately covered them with gloves (unless I’m misremembering the movie). I kept expecting him to jump off the roof of a building, throw out an arm to attempt shooting a web, only to enter into freefall while struggling with his sudden oversized bondage mitt.

  6. Gotta say this is obviously linkbait. You were trying to cash in on the whole “there’s a new Spider-Man movie” thing, but clearly referred to the mistaken mythology of the first series of film. Spider-Man in the comics (and the new film) made web shooters, not developed them.

    In any event, it’s not a fair comment to say “He’d be shooting web out of his taint! Hyuck hyuck!” because the point is he’s a spider MAN. He’s a mutant. He doesn’t develop every feature in the same way as the species he became more like.

    This article has no real value except to say two things: you know something about spiders, but nothing about Spider-Man.

    1. Actually, haven’t seen the movie, and honestly I don’t think there is much cash to be made with link-baiting for the search term “spiderman’s taint.”

      I was on a panel with PZ talking about mutations (see first link) and wanted to follow up on that.

      You might want to lighten up a bit about an imaginary dude in red spandex.

    2. He’s not a man, he’s a comic book character, therefore open to comic interpretation.

  7. Spider taint, spider taint, doing whatever a spider ain’t (because there’s no way I’m shooting webs out of my ass. No sir.)

  8. I actually always found the idea that Peter Parker developed a miracle fluid that does what his webshooters do and somehow remained a poor college student much less plausible than the idea that he grew webs out of his wrists. (caveat, Spiderman is my favorite comic book character ever)

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