Nerd Labs: Issue #4 - How Old is Aunt May?
Hello True Believers!
With the latest reboot of the Spider-Man franchise being announced, as well as a new casting for Aunt May, I thought I should tackle one of the most pressing, and controversial topics in Spider-Man lore:
Just how old is Aunt May?
I put this question out, and got everything from 60-90, with a few “however old the writer wants her to be” thrown in for good measure. But these didn’t satisfy me, so I decided to do some digging and see what I could find.
Answering this took a little research. First, Spider-Man debuted in 1962, as 15 year old Peter Parker. This means that he would have been born in the year 1947. Now, we have to assume that “Aunt” May is a sibling of one of Peter’s parents, despite always being depicted as significantly older in appearance. Studying the United States Vital Statistics Report from 1950, the average age of parents in 1947 was 20-24, meaning Mr. and Mrs. Parker would be 35-39 in 1962, had they survived. Given a few years between siblings, Aunt May would be about 39-50, assuming she is the older sibling.
Now things get a little confusing. In our time, 52 years have passed since we first met Spider-Man and Aunt May, meaning Peter would be 67, and Aunt May would be pushing 100. This is when “Marvel Time” comes in.
Marvel Comics famously work on what is referred to as a “sliding time scale.” This means that the timeline for the events of comics shifts to prevent real world aging of older characters. This keeps the events and characters relevant and fresh, and also explains how many of our favorite heroes haven’t retired or died from old age.
This does, however, make things a little more difficult for us. See, “Marvel Time”, according to my research, first popped up in the mid 1960s, with the first printed use of the word coming in the letters column of Fantastic Four Annual #4. However, it doesn’t seem to have any major effect on the timeline until much later on, meaning it would be very difficult to try to translate Marvel Time to real time.
That is, it would be, if it weren’t for Tom Brevoort and the magic of Tumblr.
In 2014, Brevoort received a question on his personal Tumblr account about the timeline of Marvel Comics. He responded by saying that “it’s been approximately 13 years since the Fantastic Four first debuted in Marvel Time.”
This means that about 4 years in our time is equal to 1 year in the comics. Meaning that Spider-Man debuted only about 3 months after the Fantastic Four (who appeared in 1961), and thus we can still use the Brevoort described 13 years as our guideline.
Taking our old age for Aunt May, and adding the 13 years means that she is currently 52-63.
This is considerably younger than I would have guessed. She has always been depicted as well into retirement, even when Peter was just a kid. It is possible that Aunt May is actually “Great Aunt” May, which would make her in her late 70s, but there is no comic sourced evidence that I could find to support this. She never refers to Peter’s mother or father in a way that would make you believe that she is anything but Peter’s aunt.
So, what's the right answer? While my research is pretty solid in my opinion, I suspect Scott over at NerdSync is closer to reality:
So there you have it. What do you think? Did you always believe that Aunt May was older? Or do you side more with Scott's thoughts? Does it matter how old she is? Let me know in the comments.