An age-old question for any superhero is the limitation of their abilities. Spider-Man is not exempt from this line of questioning, as his powers are among the most mysterious of them all. How does he stick to walls? How is he able to sense danger? The most common question though is how strong is Spider-Man? We know from his first appearance in Amazing Fantasy 15 that he, in his own words, has the very strength of a gigantic spider. We also know that he is able to crush a steel pipe as if it were paper. But is there a better way to measure the limits of his strength to something more comparable?
The story from Amazing Spider-Man 32 through 33 titled “Man on a Rampage” may be a good example of his limits. Spider-Man is desperate to recover some stolen serum that is needed to save his aunt May’s life. On the cover of issue 32 and on page 11 we see him rip apart a steel staircase that appeared to have been bolted to the ground. He also picks up and throws a car. A large car may weigh around 4,000 pounds or 2 tons (1,814kg) so we know he is at least that strong. But you probably already knew that, didn’t you? So how strong is Spider-Man when pushed to his limit?
The best indicator comes near the end of issue 33. At he is fighting Doc Ock Spider-Man topples the main support beam of the room causing units of cast iron in the upper level to collapse. On page 18 Spider-Man describes the largest iron unit as being so heavy that it must outweigh a locomotive. A locomotive, on the low side, weighs about 100 tons. The reason why this becomes such a good indicator of Spider-Man’s strength is because he initially says that he can’t lift it, not even an inch. So we know that the weight of this object has to be generally more than what he could typically lift.
In the next issue we see the magic. As an act of willpower and desperation Spider-Man ignores the pain of his muscles and almost blacks out as he manages to miraculously lift the heavy iron object off of him. The way this scene is portrayed makes it clear that he was brought to his limit in order to escape. Although not definitive, it may be a good starting point to say that he could lift 100 tons. However there was another time when he held up part of the Daily Bugle. No way of telling what that building would have weighed but a 50 story building probably weighs somewhere around 250,000 tons. What do you think of Spider-Man’s strength? Do you think he could lift more than this? Leave a comment.