All The Comic Book Storylines That Inspired 'Spider-Man: No Way Home'

Three solo films and three team-up adventures into his stay in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the character of Spider-Man has taken a very different course to his current status quo than he did in the comic books, and yet he’s ended up in more or less the same place. While Spidey’s MCU outings have all been entirely original stories, the influence of the source material is still thematically clear throughout - and some Spider-Man comics have had an even more direct impact on the franchise.

The connections between Spidey’s MCU story beats and some of his most beloved - and controversial - Marvel Comics storylines of the past might not always be obvious, but they’re not hiding too far beneath the surface, either. In many ways, the way the MCU Peter Parker has interacted with his source material is emblematic of the relationship between Marvel Studios and Marvel Comics as a whole: a brand-new interpretation that maintains the emotional core of the character, much more so than a plot-based adaptation. 

  • The General Multiversal Concept Is Pure ‘Spider-Verse’

    One of the core concepts at play in Spider-Man: No Way Home is that of multiple Spider-Men from multiple universes coming together to fight some inter-dimensional problem, and it’s one that fans of the webslinger are already familiar with thanks to the runaway success of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. But both films took overall - if not specific - inspiration from the original Spider-Verse, which was a major comic book crossover.

    The first Spider-Verse - created primarily by Dan Slott and Olivier Coipel and running between late 2014 and early 2015 - saw the Peter Parker of Earth-616 drawn into a conflict with Morlun and the Inheritors, a family of inter-dimensional vampires who feast on those connected to the “Great Web of Life.” Though Spider-Man had defeated Morlun once before, to take on the whole family, he’d need the help of more than a dozen other Spider-Folks from his universe and several others, including the Japanese Spider-Man with the giant mech and a Cosmic Spider-Man with the power of the Uni-Force. There’s even mention of a couple of Spider-Men who look suspiciously like famous actors Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield. 

    The combined Spider-Army eventually won out over the Inheritors, trapping them on the radioactive world of Earth-3145... until they inevitably escaped for the Spider-Verse sequel, Spider-Geddon

  • Spidey Having His Identity Revealed And Going On The Run First Occurred In The Comic Book ‘Civil War’

    The first few anxious minutes of No Way Home feature Peter Parker on the run from the prying public as his secret identity is exposed for all to see. It’s a tense situation for him and his loved ones, but it’s something he’s dealt with before in the comic books - and that time, he did it by choice.

    During the Marvel Comics version of Civil War - published in 2006 and created primarily by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven - Spider-Man initially signed up for Team Iron Man, having recently developed a close friendship with Tony Stark. That led to Stark convincing Parker that the best thing he could do to support the Superhuman Registration Act was to make a show out of publicly revealing his identity - and so Spidey called a press conference and unmasked in front of a live TV audience.

    Among the more immediate consequences of the unmasking were J. Jonah Jameson suffering a heart attack and Aunt May getting shot by a Kingpin-hired assassin. It didn’t take long for Peter to get cold feet about both the identity reveal and the SRA, leading him to break from Iron Man and go on the run with Captain America’s underground rebellion. He would have to stay on the run until he managed to erase his alter ego from the public consciousness. 

  • Spider-Man Made A Deal With The Devil To Make Everyone Forget His Secret Identity In ‘One More Day’

    When Peter Parker had his identity revealed to the world in Far From Home and immediately lived to regret it in No Way Home, he turned to Doctor Strange to request a spell that would wipe his alter ego from the minds of the public. 

    But when he found himself in a similar predicament following the comic book Civil War, Spider-Man chose to accept help from a very different source: the devil himself!

    The controversial events of One More Day, created by J. Michael Straczynski and Joe Quesada in 2007, shook the character of Spider-Man to his very core. Following Parker’s voluntary unmasking in Civil War and the shooting of Aunt May that ensued, a desperate webslinger visited every scientist and mystic the Marvel Universe had to offer, searching for a way to save May’s life - but came up short at every turn.

    Then Mephisto, Marvel’s darkest lord of the underworld, appeared and proposed a deal. He would restore Aunt May to health and remove the entire world’s knowledge of Spider-Man’s true identity - but only if Peter and Mary Jane gave up their marriage in return. 

    The couple hemmed and hawed over the decision, but ultimately decided to go through with it. In a flash, the world forgot that Peter Parker was Spider-Man, and Peter and Mary Jane forgot they had ever been married, instead remembering a heart-rending breakup.

    It would later be revealed that Mephisto’s true aim was to prevent the birth of Peter and Mary Jane’s daughter, a future Spider-Woman destined to one day defeat the dark lord once and for all. Thankfully, subsequent happenings have brought Peter and Mary Jane back together anyway. 

  • Mephisto Rewrote Reality So That Spidey Remembered Doctor Strange Doing The Identity-Erasing Spell In ‘One Moment in Time’

    While it was Mephisto who erased the world's knowledge of Spider-Man's secret identity in One More Day - and not Stephen Strange as it is in No Way Home - Doctor Strange still got involved in a roundabout fashion.

    Part of the deal Peter and Mary Jane Parker struck with Mephisto involved neither of them remembering that they’d ever sold their marriage to the devil, and so reality had to be altered so that something else had happened to wipe the public’s memories. That alternate past was revealed in 2010’s One Moment in Time, created by Joe Quesada and Paolo Rivera for that express purpose.

    In the new Marvel Comics history, Peter had approached the trio of Strange, Reed Richards, and Tony Stark with a desperate plea to stuff his identity genie back in the bottle. The three worked together to blend magic and technology into a solution and managed - though not without cost.

    Parker’s recklessness - and the fact that Mary Jane had been continually targeted by assassins following his public unmasking - led to the dissolution of his engagement, bringing to bear the other side of Mephisto’s deal and setting him on a different path in life for a time. 

  • MJ Possibly Remembering Peter Parker Comes From An Abandoned ‘One More Day’ Story Beat

    There’s plenty of tragedy to be had in Spider-Man: No Way Home, but perhaps none greater than Michelle “MJ” Jones forgetting about Peter Parker just moments after she tells him that she loves him for the first time. The heartbreak is alleviated only slightly when the film’s final scene reveals that MJ is still wearing her broken black dahlia necklace post-memory wipe - a tantalizing hint that she might remember something, and a glimmer of hope that the two Strange-crossed lovers will find one another once again someday. 

    The notion of Peter and MJ forgetting their love for one another comes straight from the controversial comic One More Day, but the idea that MJ might have remembered anyway actually comes from an abandoned One More Day story beat. Just before the final deal is struck with Mephisto, Mary Jane whispered something indecipherable in the dark lord’s ear, and he agreed to whatever it was. Eagle-eyed fans zoomed in on the distorted whisper-text enough to figure out that it said “You will make me remember everything.”

    Of course, an unscrambled word balloon isn’t exactly canon, and the 2010 follow-up One Moment in Time later revealed that Mary Jane had officially whispered “I know Peter. He will never make this deal with you. Never. Ever - unless - I ask him to. But if I do, this is the end of it - you will leave him alone for the rest of his days.”

    Later circumstances would bring Peter and Mary Jane back together in the romantic sense, anyway, though neither has yet to remember the existence of their deal with Mephisto. 

  • Ned Leeds’s Worries About Becoming A Supervillain Are Well-Founded Based On His Comic Book History

    There’s a comedic bit in No Way Home in which Ned Leeds asks the Tobey Maguire version of Spider-Man if he had a best friend, and learns of the heartbreaking tale of Harry Osborn. Later, Ned awkwardly pledges that he will never turn evil or try to murder his Peter Parker, and the audience chuckles - but to veteran comic book readers, the subject of Ned potentially breaking bad is no laughing matter.

    A cursory glance at a wiki article might lead one to believe that the comic book Ned Leeds was secretly the Hobgoblin, but the full truth is a little more complicated than that. The reality is that Ned was framed by the real Hobgoblin and brainwashed into thinking he was the genuine article, all of which led to his murder in the landmark Spider-Man Versus Wolverine one-shot back in 1987, which was created by Jim Owsley and Mark Bright.

    It would take more than a decade for the whole thread to be unraveled for both Spider-Man and the reading public, via 1997’s Spider-Man: Hobgoblin Lives!, created by Roger Stern and Ron Frenz. That series made it retroactively clear that Ned was never intentionally the Hobgoblin and was in fact entirely innocent - but he was still slain, so it didn’t make much of a difference.