Author's Note: Face front, true believers! Today we bring you another scintillating tale, guaranteed to be packed with non-stop action and heart-racing drama for our favorite web-slinger! Excelsior!

But do bear in mind this story will be headed to slightly darker territory than the Spectacular Spider-Man cartoon. Nothing too extreme, but there will be some violent and some sexual parts to it. Also, this story is meant as my own personal interpretation of things, so it doesn't precisely follow what a Spectacular Spidey season 3 "really" would've been like. In particular, as the story progresses, some characters get shipped together who you might not expect. I realize that messing with shipping is some powerful juju and this fanfic isn't gonna please everyone, but I promise I'm putting tons of love and care into this story, so I sincerely hope you enjoy it.

Also, you might have noticed this story used to have a lot more chapters. I'm in the process of rewriting large portions, so the chapters will be reposted as I finish editing each story arc. To all the people who read and enjoyed the first draft, thank you for your patience. If anyone is interested in reading the original draft to see what's changed and whatnot, I've posted a link to a PDF of it on my Tumblr. I don't really use it much anymore, but it should be pretty easy to find if you just google "thebandragoness tumblr."

And one last heads up, this story is in a constant state of being edited by me, so large or small portions of it do have a tendency to change at random as I work to improve the quality of my writing. Constructive criticism is encouraged and appreciated. Thank you for reading!

Lesson 1: Literary Studies 101

"Man is not what he thinks he is. He is what he hides."

André Malraux

The man behind the counter gave him a dry stare. "Kid, look, I'm not stupid. I know what's going on here."

The kid shifted in place, pulling his hoodie tighter over his face. "What are you talking about? Nothing's going on here. I just want to buy this stuff." He held out the bag in his hand.

"Yeah," said the man – "Bruce," according to his name tag. "And you've wanted to buy that stuff every time you've come in here since last summer. The exact same chemicals in the exact same quantities every single freakin' time." He leaned in closer, eyes narrowing. "The only thing I don't get is what kind of drugs you could possibly be making that need a twenty-pound sack of liquid cement."

The boy looked at the sack resting by his foot. "Uh, no, it's nothing like that!" he said quickly. "See, I, uh, I'm a science geek, and I use the chemicals and stuff for a... a science fair project!"

The man raised an eyebrow. "A science fair project that's been going on nonstop all school year?"

There was a prolonged silence.

"Yes," said the boy.

"I can't believe he bought that! Sheesh, that's the last time I shop at Campbell's Chemistry Emporium."

Peter breathed a sigh of relief as he set the supplies down at his basement workstation. "Man, I bet it's crazy expensive everywhere else, though. Wonder if I could swipe some chemicals from the ESU lab...?" As he spoke, Peter set to work pouring vials of multicolored liquid together into a mixing bowl (Aunt May was out with Mrs. Watson. He'd have it washed and put back in no time). "Well, okay, I wouldn't steal if it was from the Connors, but they left town, and that Warren guy's a creep. He deserves to have a few chemicals stolen, doesn't he?" Next came time to pour in the liquid cement. "Ah, what are you saying, Pete? You're better than that."

Next came the eggbeaters for stirring (He'd wash those, too). "Can he cook? He can bake. He makes radioactive cake. Look out... here comes the Spider-Chef!"

Now for the hard part. Getting all that fluid into the tiny little capsules was tricky, but Peter had had plenty of practice.

"And... voila! Now all that's left is to give it a test run." The shooter snapped around his wrist with a pleasant click. Peter's eyes fell on an empty Coke can on the far side of the basement.

Thwip. Said can was now in his hand.

"And we've got webs." The dryer abruptly stopped humming. "Oh, and the costume's ready. We're in business."

Peter left the web-shooters on his work-table and ran for the laundry basket.

"Webs, check. Costume, check. Witty repertoire, check. Finally, the fun part of the day can start. I'll stop some petty thieves, get crucified by the media, fight for my life with animal-themed supervillains... It'll be a hoot!" Peter couldn't help but grin as he dug his mask out from the gigantic pile of identical blue t-shirts in the machine.

"Note to self – stop monologing out loud every time you're alone. It's starting to get weird."

Thwip. Thwip. A "Wahoo!" escaped Spidey's mouth as he came off the arc of his swing. This was the best – the pleasant March air, the wind in his spandex... It felt like he belonged up here, dancing between buildings, rushing past rooftops-

Ah, there we go. Now he was monologing in his head like he was supposed to.

Spidey stuck himself to a skyscraper so he could get a better look at the streets below. Hmm... no crime as far as he could see. Definitely not any thematically appropriate mega-criminals swearing vengeance on him. In fact, the streets were cleaner than they'd ever been. With the feds still breathing down Tombstone's neck, the Big Man's whole operation was frozen with fear, and there hadn't really been any more supervillains since Gobbie blew himself up.

So the head of Oscorp dies, and suddenly all the mysterious new supervillains stop appearing? Probably just a coincidence. Yeah.

Well, it'd been twenty minutes and the Lizard hadn't burst out of nowhere to eat everyone. This was boring. Spidey was hanging up the costume for the morning.

Wait, was that a purse snatcher?! No, no, looked like that was the lady's nephew helping her cross the street. Ugh. Lame. Was it wrong that Spidey was starting to miss Doctor Octopus?

The halls of Midtown Magnet were eerily empty. Huh. So that's what it was like to get to school before the bell rang. Well, Flash and his cronies were still lurking the halls as usual, but honestly, ever since he'd hooked up with that Sha Shan girl, Flash had mellowed out quite a bit. It'd reached the point where Peter actually didn't impulsively cringe every time Flash came near.

Peter leaned back against his locker and checked his phone. It was an older model – the nicest the Parker family fortune could afford. Well, actually, he did have one of those newfangled Osberries, but Peter had left that buried in his closet somewhere seeing as it had Norman-germs all over it. As a rule of thumb, superheroes shouldn't use any gadgets that were given to them by their arch-nemeses.

Peter strained to read his phone's cracked screen. To the surprise of no one, Gwen hadn't returned his texts. No word from her since the funeral. And their internships at the lab had turned into a contest to see which of them could go the longest without breaking the dead silence. Great. You confess your love for someone who can't break up with her boyfriend out of pity, and suddenly everything's all awkward between you. Relationship drama? Just another Thursday in the life of Peter Parker, teen heartthrob.

"Ugh, get a look at that weirdo!"

A shrill noise hit Peter's ears, shaking him from his thoughts. That would be Sally Avril. Her voice could pierce the Rhino's hull. Peter glanced over at Flash's gang, who seemed to be moving away from the outdoor picnic area. Out of equal parts boredom and curiosity, Peter headed outside to see what all the commotion was about.

Sitting at the picnic table was a girl Peter has never seen before, and from the looks of things, more than a few students were starting to make a wide radius around her while whispering and giving her funny looks. That might have been because the girl was surrounded by a pack of animals. There was a dog on her lap, birds on her shoulders... Even Midtown's resident stray cat was cuddling up against her legs and purring, and that cat bolted at the sight of people.

The girl didn't look particularly bothered, but being a lonely weird kid who attracts negative attention was a situation Peter could empathize with, so he approached her. The presence of Puny Parker seemed to cancel out the girl's own weirdness – The bystanders lost interest and carried on with their lives.

"Uh, hey, there," Peter began. "What's with all the animals?"

The girl looked up at him and smiled. She had messy, dark hair, and she wore plain jeans and a wrinkled t-shirt that looked like it'd been slept in. Peter got the impression she wouldn't have been considered super normal even without the animals.

Before the girl could answer, the dog pounced on Peter. Luckily, it was more of a "I want you to pet me!" pounce than an "I want to kill you!" pounce. Didn't even set off his spider-sense.

"He says he likes you," the girl chuckled.

"What's his name?" Peter asked, scratching the dog's ears.

"Sweaty Meatsmell," said the girl. "Well, that's what he named himself, anyways."

Oooookaaaay, Peter was starting to see why people were calling her weird.

"Right. So..." Peter fought to look casual. "Haven't seen you around before."

"I'm new."

"What did you say your name was?"

"Sophia." The girl extended a hand to shake.

"Peter." The handshake was accepted.

"Oh, I already know who you are." Sophia smirked at him. "You're Spider-Man."

Remember how Peter was fighting to look casual? Yeah. "WHAT NO I'M NOT- I mean, uh-!" He cleared his throat. "What makes you say that?"

Sophia shoved her cell phone into his face. Onscreen was a blurry video of Peter's favorite slimy black supervillain waving at the camera and yelling, "Hey, reporters! Over here! We've got some breaking news for you! Peter Parker is Spider-Man!"

"Oh yeah. That." Peter's heart wasn't racing quite as quickly anymore. "Look, Venom – err, the black Spider-Man – is a crazy supervillain. He just thought I was Spidey cuz I take pictures of the Web-Head for the Bugle, and there was this stupid rumor after I dressed as him for Halloween. The Bugle published this big front page story proving Venom wrong. Didn't you read it?"

"I did," nodded Sophia. "I didn't believe it, though."

"Of course you didn't..."

"You've got a huge following on the internet." As she spoke, Sophia thumbed through her phone. "That Venom video's all over Youtube. Here, someone did a ten minute dance remix-"

"No, no, I'm good, thanks!" said Peter, recoiling. "Sophia, look, the last time that Spider-Man rumor was a thing, I was hounded by reporters, like, everywhere I went. I swear I'm not Spider-Man. Could you please not make a big deal about this?"

"Whatever you say, Spider-Man," smirked Sophia, trading glances with one of her pigeons. "But if you weren't Spider-Man, how would you take all those pictures of him?"

Peter stifled a groan. "He rings my cell before he does anything cool. Dude's a total glory hound."

"Uh huh." Sophia made a show of rolling her eyes.

"Look, here, I can prove I'm not Spider-Man!" Suddenly, Peter shoved his wrists in Sophia's face, then pressed his middle and ring fingers against his palms. Nothing happened. "There. If I was Spidey, you'd be covered in webs right now."

Phew, that was a close one. Good thing the general public had no idea Peter's webs weren't organic. Which was great because that would be gross. But also a lot cheaper... Okay, organic web-shooters wouldn't be so bad.

"Hmm." Sophia looked thoughtful for a moment. "That would be pretty convincing..." She gestured to one of her pigeons. "...if Tailfeathers hadn't seen you changing out of your costume behind the trash can."

"What, so I'm supposed to believe you can talk to animals?" said the boy with the proportional strength of a spider who could stick to walls and had precognitive senses.

"Believe whatever you want," shrugged Sophia. "So, uh, by the by, Liz Allan broke up with you, right?"

Peter made a pouty face. "I broke up with her."

"Whatever. You're single now, right?"

"You're not using my Spider-Man-ness to blackmail me into dating you, are you?"


The bell chose that exact moment to ring.

"Ah! I'm gonna be late!" Peter bolted for the doors with surprising speed. "We're finishing this conversation later!"

"I look forward to it!" she called after him.

And with that, he disappeared into the school hallways, leaving Sophia far behind. So now Peter could add "crazy animal lady" to his ever-growing harem. Hurray.

The light turned green, opening the floodgates for New York's regular storm of high-speed traffic. Any sane person would've noticed the change and stopped at the edge of the crosswalk.

But six-year-olds weren't the sanest people ever.

Honk honk. "Ahh!"

Thwip. An elastic strand of sticky goodness sent the little girl flying back to the sidewalk.

"Hey, you!" A red-and-blue-clad hero landed at the girl's side. "You okay?"

"Thank you, Mr. Spider-Man!" The girl immediately threw her arms around his waist.

"Please, Mr. Spider-Man is my dad. Call me Spidey." Spider-Man knelt down to place a hand on her shoulder. "Didn't your mom ever tell you to look both ways before crossing the street?"

The girl shook her head. "She's not a very good mom."

"Um, okay, then." Spidey glanced around. There were plenty of onlookers, but none were running forward to claim the kid. "Say, where is your-?"

"Get your hands off my daughter!" She was, naturally, right behind him. The woman looked like a slightly younger Aunt May, only about a gazillion times less endearing.

"Hey, there you are," said Spider-Man. "Your kid was all alone-"

"I know all about you!" snapped the woman. "I read the Bugle!"

"Oh, well, then, clearly you're an enlightened individual."

"Get your hands off my daughter!"

Spidey threw his hands in the air and backed away. Just before swinging off, he traded glances with the little girl.

"I see what you mean, kid."

Spider-Man was still fuming as he sailed past the hotel districts. In fact, he was so wrapped up in his mental seething that it took him a minute to spot all the cracks on the sidewalk and graffiti on the walls.

"Uh… Where'd I end up this time?" Spider-Man perched himself on one such wall so he could survey his surroundings. That was the thing about Manhattan – Spider-Man knew it better than anyone else on the planet, yet there were still places new to him. He didn't have too much time for exploring today, though. The sun was starting to set.

"I wanna say the Queenboro Bridge is… thataways." He climbed to the roof, but the buildings here were too low, and the surrounding ones were too high, so Spidey wouldn't have been able to spot the bridge even if it was near.

This was what he deserved for web-swinging whilst spacing out, Spider-Man supposed. Man, that mother really had been a jerk to him, though. If the Web-Head hadn't been there, the street would've turned into a slasher flick.

"Eeeeeeeeeeigh!" A shrill scream sent pigeons scattering to the heavens.

"I'm here! I'm here! What's the trouble-?" Spider-Man dropped to the sidewalk, where a silky-haired, twenty-something woman was waiting for him.

Along with a veritable geyser of blood.

"Holy-! Hold still, I-I got this." Thwip. Spidey wasted no time sealing the wound with some multi-purpose web-fluid. "Can't promise this is the most, err, sanitary solution, but it should hold you until an ambulance gets here."

"Wow," the lady managed as she clutched her freshly-glued side. "You really saved my skin."

"It's what I do. No big deal." Spider-Man hated to be rude, but he was struggling to keep his eyes on the woman. See, a faint puddle of red had been creeping over the webbing on her torso, and truth be told, for all the experience Peter had in the hero business, there were some things he was still squeamish about. "So what happened?"

"Oh, some jerk just stabbed me." The woman's voice was a mite more nonchalant than Spidey woulda thought.

"What? Why would he-?"

"Sometimes guys get pissy when they think I've overcharging." The woman's eyes flickered to her tank top. "Now I'm gonna need a new shirt..."

"You could probably use one, anyways." Spider-Man was powerless to stop the words from spilling out. "You look like you've outgrown that one."

The remark prompted a fit of somewhat pained laughter. "You're funny. I like you." Spidey had been trying to look away, but those hazel eyes were dragging him in. "So… any way I can repay you for your services?"

"Um..." Behind his mask, Peter stared. He wet his throat. "Nope! I work for free." Thwip. "Now I'd better go chase that stab-happy friend of ours! Be sure to call an ambulance. Bye!" In seconds, he was swinging around the corner of an alley, freeing himself from her gaze.

Okay, violence wasn't the only thing Peter was squeamish about.

"Thsizzastckp," the man muttered.

"What?" asked the girl behind the counter.

The man sighed and poked his gun further out his jacket pocket. "This is a stickup," he said slower. "Gimme all your money. But, err, don't make a scene or nothin'."

"Y-Yes, sir!" The girl wasted no time emptying the contents of her cash register. The robber stuffed it into his jacket, then did his best to look casual as he exited the drug store.


"Ah, trying to do a stealth robbery, are we?" said a brightly-colored man dangling upside-down off a nearby lamp post. "That seems to be a popular Spidey-evasion method with the crooks these days. When they're not busy stabbing hookers, I mean – not that you'd know anything about that. Well, sorry to tell you this, but you've gotta get up pretty early in the morning to pull a fast one on your friendly neighborhood-"

Unfortunately, Spidey couldn't finish the quip because the thug made a run for it. Ugh, he hated when that happened. All that A-material wasted.

"Heavens to Betsy!" said Spider-Man, hopping after him. "The Sinister Six, I can handle, but I might have met my match with Generic Drug Store Robber Man." He smashed his middle and ring fingers into his palms.

A little too hard, apparently. There wasn't just a thwip There was an ear-splitting KER-SPLOOSH.

The dust cleared to reveal what looked like ground zero of a web fluid asteroid impact. There was webbing over the sidewalk, the shop windows – heck, it'd even trapped a few cars at the edge of the road. In fact, it'd trapped just about everything except the fleeing thug.

"What the-?" You couldn't really tell with the mask on, but Spider-Man's jaw was hanging open. "No. I must've mixed up the formula wrong." That's when he spotted the misshapen lumps under his gloves. "And now my web-shooters are broken."

Great, now he'd have to catch the thug the boring way. Spider-Man sprinted after the guy… only to watch his target drop into an open manhole in the street.

"Aw, dude, come on!" Spidey knelt over it, peering at the murky goop below. "I just washed these tights! You really gonna make me chase you down there? Okay, y'know what, I'm done. I'm tattling on you to the cops. Pretty sure covering themselves in sewage is demanded by their Oath of Honor."

"Spider-Man!" Speak of the devil. Spidey spun around to find a pair of officers racing towards him – though they couldn't get too close unless they wanted their feet glued to the pavement by the mess Spider-Man had left behind. They were a weasel-faced man and a short-haired, darker-skinned woman. Spidey recognized them as Sergeants Carter and DeWolff.

"Hey, Web-Head." Carter grinned at the chaos. "Looks like you had a little too much fun, huh?"

DeWolff, however, was less enthused. "Isn't stopping petty thieves beneath you?" she spat. "The police could've handled this. You're just showing off! You didn't have to use this much webbing."

"My web-shooters broke!"

"What?" DeWolff looked lost. "Broke? Aren't your webs organic?"

"No, they're- Look, it's not important." Spidey buried his palm in his forehead. "Just let me clean up my mess-"

"If you're going to stick around, why not come with us to the station so we can ask you a few questions?" DeWolff stepped towards him.

"Oh, darn, I forgot to water my plants!" Spidey pounced into the air and fired a web... and then smacked into the pavement. Oh. Right.

Slowly, Spidey turned back to the officers. "No one. Say. Anything." He jumped on to the wall, sprinted up a building, and vanished over the rooftop.

Spider-Man wasn't hiding. He was just… loitering a bit until those cops left. Spidey dangled his legs over the edge of the rooftop, gazing up at the sunset over the Hudson.

He was lucky he didn't go blind – Out of nowhere, a brilliant orange streak shot across the sky.

"Huh? What?" Spidey sprang back, rubbing his eyes.

The cheers from below told all he needed to hear:

"It's HIM!"

"Ohmigod, ohmigod, JOHNNY STORM just flew past me!"

The whole street had gone berserk, filling the air with phones and white flashes. People were hoping to spice up their Facebook timelines with some blurry pics of the legendary Human Torch, fire-spewing hero extraordinaire, before he vanished on the horizon.

Yeah, that's right, Spider-Man wasn't the only superhero in Manhattan. He was just the only one who happened to be a poor person. See, ever since World War II, when technology had advanced to the point where gaining superpowers went from science fiction to science fact, throwing on a brightly-colored costume to fight crime had become something of a tradition among the superhuman community. Yes, yes, Spider-Man admitted it, he was riding the coattails of a fad. Well, his had originally been a wrestling costume, but he'd repurposed it once he'd learned what came with great power.

Spidey watched the orange streak draw near to one of the taller structures in Manhattan's skyline – the Baxter Building, home of the Fantastic Four, the superhero team of which Torch was member number… three? Two? Kinda hard to keep that straight when they all had the same number printed on their costumes. Phht, amateurs. What made local hero teams like them or the Avengers better than Spider-Man?

Next, Spidey's eyes traveled to the tower across from the Baxter Building. The one with the giant "A" on it. Man, these rich hero types loved labeling their buildings. They must've gotten confused easy.

Lastly, Spider-Man's eyes traveled to the misshapen, tumor-like lumps on his wrists beneath the spandex. What was he doing, lounging around grumbling about the veteran superheroes? It wasn't like they'd ever helped him a day in his life. Sure, most of the other heroes had already been around for a year or two before that fateful spider bite, but apparently all the animal-themed supervillains rampaging around the streets of Manhattan were beneath their notice. Well, who needed 'em? The Web-Head could manage perfectly fine on his own, thank you very much. What was all their money good for, anyways? Saving lives didn't cost anything!

Spider-Man stood up, turned towards Queens in the distance, fired a web-shooter… and then listened to the pathetic little spurt it made.

"Oh. Right."

The man had been pretty invested in reading the newspaper, but his attention was torn away when he noticed the person in the seat next to him was wearing a skintight red and blue suit.

"Hey! Are you the real Spider-Man?"

"Uh huh," said the real Spider-Man.

"What are ya takin' the subway for? Why aren't you, y'know, web-swinging to wherever you wanna-?"

"This is so unfair!" Spidey threw his arms in the air. "Does the Human Torch ever run out of fire? Does Ant-Man ever run out of ants?"

"You ran outta webs?" His fellow passenger looked thoughtful. "Hey, I know! Next time, why don't you try loadin' up on carbs? Then maybe your body will produce more-?"


"Back so soon?" Bruce gave Peter another one of his dry stares. "Either you made a big sale, or you just couldn't help yourself and smoked the entire-"


"Ugh." The door creaked shut behind Peter. The last traces of daylight had faded by now, so the only illumination in here came from the living room's reading lamps. All these shadows no doubt elevated Peter's facial expression from scowling to bloodthirsty.

"Peter! Welcome back," said a voice from the opposite doorway. Aunt May was standing by her bedroom door in her nightgown, and no amount of shadows could make her face look anything but heartwarming. "Always good to see you here before curfew. How's your day been?"

Peter stood in place a moment. "Good. It was- It was, y'know, it was fine." He probably should've told her about how he'd run around all day being happy and productive and well-adjusted, but his brain was in no condition to be making crap up.

"Well, now that you're back, I need to be off to bed." Aunt May gave one last smile before drifting away into her room.

The moment she was gone, Peter collapsed onto the sofa. His eyes squeezed shut.

"Truth is, Aunt May, today's been kinda stressful." Peter's mouth formed the words, but his throat stayed still. "I saved a little girl from getting squished in traffic, and as a reward, her mom chewed me out, and then a hooker bled all over me, and I broke my web-shooters for the first time since I built them, so who knows how long it's gonna take to fix 'em? Oh, and then a crook got away and the cop was real snippy with me. See, because when I save people's lives, it's wrong because I can't afford a fancy tower headquarters, not like the illustrious Johnny Storm, see, because he can cash in on his heroism because he doesn't have to wear a mask because- because I guess he doesn't have an aunt with a weak heart or a best friend who'd go all Inigo Montoya if he learned the truth, and he can probably get whatever girl he wants just by telling her his name. Oh yeah, have I ever mentioned that before, Aunt May? Have I ever mentioned that I spend my free time dressing in a campy costume to fight crime? No? Well, gosh, I hope that doesn't stress you out or anything."

Peter forced himself to exhale as he sank into the cushions. Wasn't this a far cry from last summer? Back then, swinging and punching and wise-cracking had been the most fun thing ever. The loneliness part had really crept up on him, hadn't it? It was so surreal… Sometimes, Peter would swear the illusion was true, that Peter Parker and Spider-Man really were two different people.

He couldn't blame himself for feeling that way. Peter had literally never spoken to a soul about his masked exploits ever since the spider bite. Okay, besides Eddie Brock. Yeah, he'd make a great therapist for Peter.

Peter shook his head, causing the grizzled face of Captain Stacy to flash through it. Well, Peter didn't know for a fact if Gwen's dad knew his secret, but... come on. Come onnnn. But what was Peter supposed to do, go up to him after criminology and say, "Excuse me, Captain Stacy, I'm constantly battling supervillains and it's traumatized me. Can I cry on your shoulder?" Yeah, no. Really, there was no one Peter could turn to.

A pigeon darted past the window.

...No one at all.

Peter buried his head in his hands. And on top of everything else, now he wasn't just broke, he was double broke because his stupid shooters had busted and he'd wasted all his web-fluid. That shouldn't have been such a surprise. Those poor web-shooters had been working overtime since summer. They were bound to give way eventually, and really, better it happen against a random mook than a supervillain, right? And at least, with so little crime to fight lately, the web-explosion had made for some pictures Jameson would eat up. Peter could see the headlines already: "SPIDEY WEBS HIS PANTS."

Peter wondered if it'd be worth it to let the symbiote possess his brain just so he'd have unlimited webs.

"...believe it or not, the singer's baby was found driving the car for a fourth time. And now we bring you to an exclusive interview with the head of the Daily Bugle, Mr. J. Jonah Jameson."

Peter's attention was turned to the TV, which had been left on with the volume low. The face of the greatest human being in the whole world was plastered across the screen.

"So tell me, Mr. Jameson," said the news anchor, "why the vendetta against Spider-Man in particular? Why not one of New York's other superheroes?"

"The answer's simple, Trilby," said Jameson, looking quite pleased with himself. "The Wall-Crawler is the only big-name hero who wears a mask. What's he got to hide, huh? The people don't need to worship some vigilante who doesn't answer to anyone but himself. What New York needs is a higher caliber of hero. Someone selfless and brave. Someone like – picking at total random here – Colonel Jupiter. Now there was a superhero!" He glared into the camera, as if he was staring at Peter himself, and added, "At least until Spider-Man ruined him."

"That's it!" Peter grabbed the remote and smashed the power button. "You're welcome for saving your son from alien spores, you-" He proceeded to use a word the Comics Code wouldn't have approved of.

Peter buried his head in the couch cushions. This royally sucked. He had no (ANGST WARNING) money, no girlfriend, no- no uncle. His best friends were both insane and hated either Peter or Spider-Man or both. The public hated Spider-Man when he had done literally nothing but save lives his entire career. The Parker household was still paying the bills from Aunt May's heart attack. The Connors moved away, meaning Peter's internship at ESU was now being handled by that skeevy Warren guy. And thanks to Venom, Spider-Man's secret identity was all over the internet. In auto-tuned dance remix videos!

Peter groaned and rolled over on the couch cushions. Yay. Being Spider-Man was so much fun.

"Tell me there's something better..."

Had Peter kept the TV on, he would have caught the part where the news anchor said, "And here in the studio for our second exclusive interview, we have the little girl who, as seen in this dramatic cell phone footage, was seemingly almost abducted by Spider-Man until her mother scared the Wall-Crawler off."

The camera zoomed in on the girl's unfathomably innocent face.

"See? What I tell you?" came Jameson's voice from offscreen. "How much more proof do you need he's a menace?"

"How did it feel?" asked the anchor. "Were you scared?"

"No," the little girl said simply. "Spider-Man didn't try to a-duck me. I didn't look both ways before crossing the street, and I was gonna get hit by a car, and then Spider-Man saved me!"

"Hubba-wha?" came Jameson's voice again.

The little girl smiled into the camera, revealing a few missing teeth. "Thank you, Mr. Spider-Man."

No matter how the man's lungs screamed, he didn't dare slow his pace. He'd just been- and Spider-Man was- and there'd been webbing everywhere. It'd exploded! He didn't know Spider-Man's webs could do that!

Mind racing, the thug dived into the only available hiding spot – an open manhole. It was rancid in here, but surprisingly spacious.

"Aw, dude, come on!" came his pursuer's voice from the surface. "I just washed these tights! You really gonna make me chase you down there? Okay, y'know what, I'm done. I'm tattling on you to the cops." His voice grew fainter and fainter. "Pretty sure covering themselves in sewage is demanded by their Oath of Honor..."

But even with Spider-Man gone, still the man did not relax. He continued his trek through the sewers in silence, doing his best not to think about all those stories of alligators living down here… or the pictures of the giant lizard monster he'd seen in the paper that one time.

The man rounded the corner- "Gah!" -and was met with something big and green staring at him. The man fell on his butt, getting his only good jeans soaked.

After a horrifying second, though, he realized this wasn't the face of a lizard. It was… a mask. One of several green masks spread out on some kinda work bench, along with purple hoods. And beside them were metallic racks containing rows of round orange thingies, like miniature basket balls. And on the ground beside them were these, like, giant robot bats.

Wait. The man had seen pictures of these in the paper, too.

"See, boss, it's all right where I said it was!" The man ushered a second man into the hideout – one wearing a heavy (but highly fashionable) overcoat. "This must be, like, the Green Goblin's secret lair or somethin'."

"Yes," said the second man. "There's no question of that. You've done well."

"Aw, gee, thanks, boss."

The second man inspected one of the metal racks. "Hmm. This little find will have to remain between the two of us."

"You don't gotta worry 'bout that, boss. I won't tell nobody.

"Yes," said the second man. "I know you won't."

The last thing the first man saw was something round and orange flying at his face. The last thing he heard was an explosion that sounded like laughter.