NEW YORK (AFP) - For a comic book hero, it's the ultimate taboo.
In the latest edition of the Marvel comic "Civil War" on sale, Spiderman does the unthinkable and removes his Spidey mask to publicly reveal his hidden identity.
"I'm proud of who I am, and I'm here right now to prove it," the legendary webslinger tells a press conference called in New York's Times Square, before pulling off his mask and standing before the massed ranks of reporters as newspaper photographer Peter Parker.
"Any questions?" Parker asks in the final panel of the issue, amid a barrage of camera flashes.
In a statement, Marvel trumpeted the revelation as "arguably the most shocking event in comic book history."
The seven-issue "Civil War" series, launched in May, sees Marvel's writers taking on the topical issue of civil liberties.
Following a showdown between a group of superheroes and supervillains in which hundreds of innocent civilians are killed, the government passes the Super-Hero Registration Act, requiring all superheroes to reveal their identities and register as "living weapons of mass destruction."
Marvel's roster of invincible crime fighters is split into two bitterly opposed factions, with one camp -- championed by the likes of Spiderman -- in favour of the new law and the other, including Captain America and his ilk, refusing to relinquish anonymity.
"This series is unlike anything the comic world has seen before," editor-in-chief Joe Quesada said.
"The events that take place in Civil War will change the future of the Marvel Universe, tearing apart friends, families and teams."