How does Spider-Man's "sticky" powers work? If his ability to climb walls works in the same way as spiders and most other insects (e.g. due to Van der Waal's force of attraction) then his hand should have microhairs or thorn-like structures as shown in 2002 Spider-Man movie, which means he should not be able to climb walls while wearing his gloves since those structures can't pierce through gloves.

If the thorny structures are sharp enough to pierce through his clothes then how does he use his hands (like giving handshake to other people) without hurting them?

  • 1
    Spiders don't have to stick to walls or ceilings. If they did they'd never be able to make their webs. So they must have a modicum of control over those micro-hairs.
    – Xantec
    May 4, 2014 at 14:06
  • Since you've already given the answer in your question, I'm assuming this is just a rant.
    – Valorum
    May 4, 2014 at 14:27
  • 8
    Peter Parkour can climb anything. The boy has skills. May 4, 2014 at 17:13
  • 5
    You guys are talking about hairy palms?
    – Morgan
    May 4, 2014 at 17:31
  • @Morgan Watch this video if you want spiderman ruined forever (Audio very NSFW)
    – Izkata
    May 4, 2014 at 19:34

4 Answers 4


The only possible explanation is that spider man has some kind of re-tractable micro structures which allows him to climb wall and is sharp enough to pierce through his clothing. This offers him control while climbing wall and he can retract this structures into his skin so that he does not harm others with them (while giving handshake ). Moreover there is a possibility his skin may secrete some kind of fluid to increase this stickyness (whose secretion can be controlled by him).

A panel of biologists and physicists on the History Channel’s Spider-Man Tech suggested the barbed-hair on his fingertips (from the movie) could have the same effect as the miniature scopulae hairs on the ends of a spider’s feet. Spiders are able to climb up seemingly impossible surfaces like glass because the scopulae interact with the glass’s atoms causing a form of atomic static cling via the Van der Waals force

there is a possibility that this Van der Waals force may pass through his clothes thus not requiring the micro thorn structures to pass through the gloves.

Van der Waals force is nothing is the sum of the attractive or repulsive forces between molecules (or between parts of the same molecule) other than those due to covalent bonds, the hydrogen bonds, or the electrostatic interaction of ions with one another or with neutral molecules or charged molecules as given in wikipedia

which indicates the presence of dipole.So what electro essentially does that is change the charge (he essentially neutralizes the dipole induced by spidermans fingers ) using his powers.

  • this essentially means spider man may actually require those micro structure to walk on wall and the mumbo-jumbo about electrostatic force is actually Van der Waals force
    – user93
    May 4, 2014 at 15:48
  • 2
    I could swear that in the original comic (Amazing Spider-Man #1) when he makes his suit, he specifically makes the fingers of his gloves and the material of his boots thin enough so that his powers can work through them.
    – user14952
    Nov 12, 2016 at 3:29

In the 2002 Spider-Man film we learn that he has retractable thorn-like structures that seem to emerge from his fingertips. These are extended when Peter tries to grab onto something like a wall and retract when they aren't in use.

As you can see from the images below, these are easily long enough to penetrate lycra gloves with a thickness of less than .5 mm

Spiderman Frame

Within the wider Marvel universe, Spider-Man's ability to cling is not as a result of micro-hairs but some mumbo-jumbo about electrostatic forces, something which has been extensively discussed on Movies:SE

  • 1
    They are not, however, long enough to penetrate the running shoes he wears while he climbs. :-) May 5, 2014 at 1:10
  • 2
    @GreenstoneWalker - Looking over the first film, I'm unable to find an instance where he does this. In the "learning to climb" sequence his feet basically dangle below him
    – Valorum
    May 5, 2014 at 8:46
  • 2
    If I remember correctly he uses his hands for anchorage and his legs and feet for locomotion up the walls in that scene (since he's wearing jeans and I doubt those hairs could pass through denim so easily) given his strength level it's possible for him to support his weight on just his finger tips.
    – Monty129
    May 5, 2014 at 17:31
  • 1
    I'm almost certain that you're correct in stating that, in the comics, Peter Parker doesn't use this method to climb walls, That said, Miguel O'Hara (Spider-Man 2099) does use this method.
    – RDFozz
    Sep 2, 2018 at 19:07
  • @RDFozz - Like this, you mean? lh3.googleusercontent.com/…
    – Valorum
    Sep 2, 2018 at 19:18

The idea that Peter Parker possesses micro-hairs along his hand is pretty good, but canon only to at least Sam Raimi's cinematic universe. There's no real substance to that in the comics. There's also an "official" handbook explanation, and that is that Spider-Man somehow can enhance the flux or inter-atomic forces between atoms to bond himself to any surface. The handbooks aren't exactly law, but probably the closest you'll get to a "canon" explanation.

Recently I've actually been developing a theory of my own to explain Spider-Man's ability to adhere to surfaces, and I believe it to be far more consistent with comic book showings and the ability of other characters.


And yes, that's ridiculous and not at all scientific, but you might be surprised at how many "spider-y" people there are in Earth-616 that possess strange bio-electrical abilities. Jessica Drew, the first Spider-Woman, is able to generate bio-electrical bursts of energy dubbed "Venom Blasts", used to concuss or overwhelm her enemies. Miles Morales, a Spider-Man from an alternative reality, possess this exact same ability. The generation of electricity obviously isn't at all very spider-like, yet these two characters possess this very same ability. Interestingly, Jessica Drew's power-set in general came from a very similar source as Peter Parker's as well, as she was bombarded with radiation and infused with spider genetics.

Spider-Woman's "Venom"

Though it is elaborated on in the official 1992 MARVEL handbook that Jessica Drew's ability to adhere to walls isn't through some bizarre electromagnetic effect, but through the excretion of an adhesive fluid from her pores, I think it could be argued that electromagnetic forces might still play a role. Electromagnets utilize something to channel a current through, so perhaps this fluid isn't necessarily sticky, but a ferromagnetic substance she can manipulate to her whim? Assuming this we could also start to consolidate all the different Spider-Men/Women's variations on wall-crawling abilities as only being partial explanations and mild variations of the same phenomenon.

Another character, Mayday Parker, the daughter of Spider-Man from Earth-982, provides even stronger evidence for Peter Parker's potential to generate electromagnetic attraction. She herself climbs surfaces with an ability dubbed "Bio-Magnetism", a strange power that not only allows her to generate a bio-electrical field that can be manipulated to magnetize herself to any surface but also repel herself from them. An interesting quirk of this power is that can magnetize people and objects around her merely by touching the surface they're in contact with.

Spider-Girl magnetizes Spider-Man to a wall

Though Spider-Man has never had a showing like this, it's not unreasonable to assume that his own biological daughter, who also possesses spider-like powers, derives her ability from his own. Peter Parker, as well as the other Spider-Men and Women, might even possess the same potential to perform these bio-magnetic feats but either are unaware, too inexperienced, or don't possess quite the same level of control over their own bio-electric fields. She implies the very same here, in Spider-Verse Team-Up #3.

Spider-Uncle Ben and Spider-Girl discuss the potential of Bio-Magnetism

I think Bio-Electromagnetic attraction might also explain even "The Mark of Kaine", an ability of the Scarlet Spider (II). He uses his wall crawling ability to brutally disfigure the faces of others, tearing aware their skin and leaving unusual scarring. In this particular scene, smoke fumes can be seen rising from his finger tips as he performs this act. If he truly is just a more aggressive, but genetically identical copy of Peter Parker, then Peter should theoretically be able to do this too. Why smoke, though? Well, perhaps Kaine is simply "amping up" the bio-electric current pumping through him to electrocute and sear the flesh of his enemies.

The Mark of Kaine

The idea of Spider-Man harnessing some electrical phenomenon to cling to surfaces isn't even a new idea. Stan Lee himself wrote that Spider-Man used static cling to achieve the illusion of a spider's adhesion, and this is how Electro was able to nullify Spider-Man's wall crawling grip. If he was harnessing this "bio-magnetic" force like his daughter, than this goofy bit of Silver-Age sci-fi could still be relevant to the science behind Spider-Man's wall-attachment capabilities.

The only part of this theory I'm not quite sold on is how or why his body would even act like an electromagnet. It's a very ridiculous, very un-spider-like explanation, but I think it nicely unifies the various wall-crawling explanations for Spider-People into one major ability, as well as illuminates the odd trend of powerful bio-electric powers they seem to possess...

tl;dr: Though the official MARVEL handbooks state Spider-Man's wall-crawling ability comes from some telekinetic alteration of inter-molecular bonds, I believe it's far more consistent with the source material that his unusual "stickiness" comes from the generation of a bio-electrical aura, and manipulation of it to electromagnetically attract himself to surfaces.


Spiderman does not have hairs on his hands like spiders, that is just a misconception. His sticky ability actually works by the electrostatic force... That's what a YouTuber said.

  • 5
    Which youtuber? Can you prove he's not got little hairs on his hands? The 2002 films seem to suggest otherwise.
    – Edlothiad
    Jun 29, 2017 at 9:04
  • 4
    What was this YouTuber's citation? How do you know this isn't just a theory they've made up without any justification?
    – F1Krazy
    Jun 29, 2017 at 9:05
  • Please do find the YouTube video you cite, and post it here. A plain link will work, you only need to edit it into your answer. Jun 30, 2017 at 11:16

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