Marvel Wanted To Turn Spider-Man Into A Gritty Adulterer
Your (assuming you live in Queens, NYC) Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man has had some pretty dark stories over the years, like the one where he sells his marriage to the devil, the one where he turns into a giant spider, dies, and gives birth to himself, or the one where he kills Mary Jane with his radioactive spunk. And yet, despite all the tragedies in his life, he's still a relatively happy-go-lucky guy who goes out of his way to brighten his enemies' days with his little jokes and gags (hope they appreciate the effort).
Well, in the '80s, Marvel planned to change that via a story that would have left Spider-Man as a more violent, more traumatized, and more adulterous hero who almost lets a criminal die because he has the hots for the guy's wife, seen here in some preview panels:
Spider-Man: The Gilded Cage was pitched sometime in the early '80s by writer/artist Bob Layton and approved by Marvel's Dictator-in-Chief, Jim Shooter. In this very special graphic novel, Spidey stops the assassination of a mob wife named Carla DelVeccio but runs out of web fluid at the worst possible moment and ends up eating nine bullets from a machine gun. Carla, feeling somewhat responsible, takes the half-dead Spidey to a mob doctor who saves his life. She then spends the next weeks taking care of a badly hurt Peter Parker in her giant mansion while her husband, who she hasn't seen in years, is outside the country. Naturally, they get to know each other and ... *cue Spider-Man theme remade in porno grooves*
Peter goes from a coma to a wheelchair to full health with remarkable speed, but he's so traumatized by the shooting that he decides to give up being a superhero and stay at the mafia palace indefinitely. Carla comforts him when he has nightmares and assists him with his physical therapy, and eventually, he pays her back by helping her out with her "loneliness" problem (presumably, he didn't run out of fluids this time). As far as we know, this scene was never drawn, but below is a recreation using parade floats:
Soon, the two profess their undying love for each other -- until Carla gets a phone call saying that her husband is in town and dumps Pete right away. Pete tries to go back to being Spider-Man, but he freezes when some kid pulls a gun on him and almost dies within like 15 minutes of putting on the suit again. Meanwhile, Carla learns that there's a hit on her husband and begs the Amazing Spider-Man to save him ... but Pete doesn't wanna. He's willing to let the guy die if that increases his chances of getting in Carla's panties again. Our hero only agrees to help when Carla says she doesn't want to be with him, but he makes sure to drop an F-bomb in there to make it clear that he's doing this under protest (and, also, that Marvel Comics Ain't Just For Kids No More).
So, Spidey saves the mob boss, but he's "more reckless and more violent than we've ever seen him" and beats up "a (poop) load of assassins" with "explosive fury." Later, he stands outside Carla's mansion, and when she asks him if he's gonna come in, he says (please read in a muffled Humphrey Bogart voice): "This is the side I belong on. I forgot, that with great power, comes great responsibility. I may die out here ... but I can also live out here too. That is something, my darling, that you will never know." THE END.
Originally, Layton was going to draw the comic himself, but "in order to give the book the maximum amount of impact and attention," he managed to convince two of Marvel's most in-demand artists (Paul Smith and Barry Windsor-Smith) to take over. Except they were so in-demand that work on this project was very slow, and only 20 pages had been drawn by 1987 when Jim Shooter was toppled and Marvel went through a regime change. At that point, the new Editor-in-Chief decided to cancel the comic because it "was far too life-altering for the character." It's unclear if he objected to the ultra-violence, the PTSD, the F-words, the fornication, or all of the above.
It's too bad that no one at Marvel suggested simply changing the main character to someone with a less kid-friendly image, like Iron Fist or Howard the Duck, because the existing art pages are pretty great, and it's sad that they went to waste. And, who knows, maybe in the timeline where this comic came out, and Spidey is known for romancing mafia women, Martin Scorsese is the biggest Marvel fan ever.
Top image: Marvel Comics