Forty-four years after first donning a mask, Spider-Man takes it off in public in a comic book that hits stores today.
In the book, the second issue of "Civil War," Spider-Man, Captain America and other familiar heroes in Marvel Comics are struggling not with villains but with federal legislation requiring that they register and reveal their identities. That federal crackdown begins after hundreds of children are killed at an elementary school when a battle between heroes and villains spills onto their campus.
In the issue now on sale, Spider-Man is the first major hero to acquiesce, pulling off his mask at a Washington news conference. Captain America, meanwhile, goes underground and leads a faction of heroes who believe the government has gone too far.
The government versus masked men theme has become a staple of superhero lore (it was memorably defined by "The Watchmen" comics in the 1980s but was recently made far more famous by "The Incredibles" and "X-Men" films) but with Spider-Man revealing to the world that his real name is Peter Parker, Marvel is sacrificing one of the core components of its most famous character's mythology.
It is also creating a major divide between the comic-book continuity and the hit Hollywood franchise.
"It can be very intimidating if you don't know where the story is going or how it ends; we do, so we're just excited about where it takes us and the story possibilities it offers," Joe Quesada, Marvel's editor-in-chief, said Wednesday.
He also promised that Marvel won't be backing-off of Spidey's big revelation by zapping the public with a forget-me ray or saying the press conference was a dream or a hoax.
"We won't be pulling a Bobby Ewing with this."