SPOILER WARNING FOR SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME
Of all the many superheroic individuals to grace comic books and the silver screen over the past half-century, Spider-Man's secret identity has no doubt been the most closely guarded. Peter Parker’s desire to keep his wall-crawling side-gig under wraps - and thus protect his friends and family from peril - has often been a central theme to his stories, which is what makes it so disconcerting that he’s been outed to the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe by Mysterio as of Spider-Man: Far From Home.
Fortunately, this isn’t entirely new territory for the webslinger - it’s exactly what happened to Spider-Man in Civil War, one of the largest and most consequential crossovers to ever hit the pages of Marvel Comics. Taking a close look at how Spidey dealt with being exposed in the comics might give fans an idea of how he will handle it in the MCU - though at this point, it’s probably safer to expect the unexpected.
As the superhero Civil War approaches, Peter Parker is living his best life. Having just defeated the interdimensional vampire Morlun - an incident that saw Parker's demise and eventual resurrection with a bounty of new powers - Spider-Man settles down into a role with the mainstream Avengers unit, as well as a residency in Avengers Tower.
Parker is joined in Avengers Tower by his Aunt May and his wife, Mary Jane Parker, both of whom are well aware of his superheroic alter ego. In other words, everything is coming up great for Spidey, which means it is only a matter of time before the ol’ “Parker Luck” comes into effect and things take a turn for the worse.
The Marvel Comics Civil War erupts with the creation of the Superhuman Registration Act - a bill that calls for superheroes to either register their identities with a government agency or become outlaws. Iron Man supports the act, whereas Captain America defies it, and the rest of the heroes begin to split themselves into two warring factions.
Due to his burgeoning friendship with Tony Stark, Peter Parker initially finds himself on “Team Iron Man” - which proves a bit awkward when he realizes most of his pro-Registration compatriots have already revealed their secret identities to the public. Pressured by Stark, Parker eventually decides it would help the cause if he were to unmask, and he does so on live television, admitting to an audience of millions, “My name is Peter Parker and I’ve been Spider-Man since I was 15 years old.”
To say the reaction to Spider-Man unmasking on live television is mixed would be an understatement. While Peter Parker receives the full support of Mary Jane and Aunt May, others are far less enthused by the revelation. Several of Parker’s ex-girlfriends, including Liz Allan and the Black Cat, are enraged at never having been let in on the secret. Several notable villains immediately start cooking up various schemes for revenge.
Others, however, decide to show their support for the newly outed wall-crawler. One of Parker’s oldest friends, Betty Brant, stands up for his moral integrity. Flash Thompson, Parker’s high school antagonist turned casual friend, quickly reconciles his feelings and continues being one of Spider-Man’s loudest supporters.
No individual has a stronger reaction to Spider-Man’s unmasking than J. Jonah Jameson, the publisher of the Daily Bugle. Jameson has alternated between employing Parker as a photographer and unwittingly harassing him via headlines as Spider-Man, and this revelation leads Jameson to an astounding feeling of betrayal.
After collapsing when Parker reveals his identity on live television, Jameson quickly sets his sights on revenge. He attempts to sue Parker for fraud, but finds himself stymied by the amnesty that Parker gained for signing the Superhuman Registration Act. Jameson then resorts to more slanderous tactics, including paying a former co-worker of Parker’s to write an error-laden “tell-all” book about the wall-crawler.