Cooler than Wolverine, better than Captain America, more relatable than Thor, and more approachable than Tony Stark, Spider-Man is Marvel Comics’ most enduring and arguably, most popular character. With his 50th Anniversary fast approaching, the comics world once again has its eyes on the beloved wall crawler. With a brand new "Ultimate Spider-Man" animated show, a rebooted film franchise, and the upcoming Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions video game, things are looking big for your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. That’s why we’ve taken this opportunity to take a look at some of Spidey’s most epic moments in his near-50 years of publishing history.
20. Maximum Carnage
Unlike a lot of Spidey fans, I don’t really have a soft spot for Venom and Carnage. They are cool looking, sure, but that’s about all. However, when Spidey-Man and Venom teamed up in the early 90’s during Maximum Carnage in a bid to take out the vile Cletus Kasady, in our opinion, any team up of a hero and a badass villain are cause for celebration, and this was the most epic team-up of them all.
19. Iron Spider
Spidey’s seen quite a few costume changes in his day, but taking the “Iron Spider” costume from Iron Man himself was the biggest departure. It added new functionality, and most obviously, a brand new color scheme. Sure, it didn’t last, nor will it ever return. But at the time, it was a bold change for our favorite webhead that sparked heated debate amongst comics fans that would’ve raged forever, except an even bigger controversy was on the horizon.
18. Flash Thompson is Hobgoblin?!
Alright so, this was misleading. But reading it at the time, I remember it being one of the most shocking moments in my history of reading the Spidey books. Could it be that Peter’s old high school bully/friend was this horrific criminal? Was there about to be a sweeping character arc that brought Flash Thompson into the limelight of the Spider-Man universe? Well, no. He was framed. But still, this cliffhanger weighed heavily on my mind at the time. I was young and naive, what do you expect?
17. Peter Takes Up Pro Wrestling
Before he swore to take the great responsibility with the great power, Peter Parker opted to use his newfound arachnid abilities to fight crime and masked supervillains, he went the more logical route: professional wrestling. Using his powers to face off with Crusher Hogan in the legend-making squared circle, Peter used his teenage vanity for some extra cash.
He had an epic career in front of him, so for fans of pro wrestling, it’s kind of a shame that Spidey turned to vigilantism.
16. Black is the New Red-and-Blue PJ’s
The 1980’s arc of the symbiote costume latching onto Peter, and later Eddie Brock, is one of the defining moments of the 1980’s Spider-Man. Watching the symbiotic alien costume take control of Peter’s personal life is an enthralling experience for everyone the first time they read it, and it’s just as great when he finally breaks free.
Eddie Brock… now that’s another story.
15. Cosmic Spider-Man
You don’t get much more epic than a typical science nerd teenager gaining arachnid powers and then getting the Uni-Power and becoming Captain Universe. I mean seriously, it’s Captain freaking Universe. Considering Peter Parker’s penchant for science and all around nerdery, it’s oddly fitting that he should get to experience, if even for a brief moment in time, some of the greatest cosmic power in the galaxy.
14. Spider-Man Has 6 Limbs
This may be more “gross” than it is “epic,” but the infinitely more spider-like Spider-Man was a site to behold. One of the many instances of Marvel throwing stuff at a wall to see what sticks, this was one of the more bizarre-but-awesome ideas. Personally, I’d have loved to see it run a little longer before Curt Connors helped him out and fixed his mutation.
13. Spider-Man: Torment
Has Torment aged well? No. Was it badass as hell at the time? Absolutely.
Torment, essentially, is Todd McFarlane writing Spider-Man as Batman. Peter Parker is a melodramatic jerk, and there are no wisecracks to be found. However, the artwork and battles with The Lizard rival some of the classics, and based on art alone, is one of the most spectacular pieces of Spider-Man’s long history. If you enjoyed Torment as a kid, I highly recommend “reading” it again. I put reading in quotes, because most of these five issues are splash pages. Epic splash pages, but still useless. Consider Torment an exercise in McFarlane’s development towards Spawn.
12. Spider-Man is Unemployed
I admit, I hated "Brand New Day." Detested it. Destroying twenty years of continuity is a lazy attempt at making the character “relatable” again. Earlier this year Marvel took the ultimate leap at making readers identify with Peter Parker by putting him on unemployment.
That’s right, Peter got canned from the Daily Bugle and can’t find any other work. But guess what? It was the thing that got me to finally give the re-vamped Spider-Man a chance. And it led to something a bit further on this countdown.
11. The Clone Saga
We couldn’t do an epic list without including at least one epic fail. If you look up “epic fail” in the (non-existent) pop culture dictionary, you will see an explanation of the awful Clone Saga.
Perhaps the most convoluted piece of storytelling in comics history, his awful storyline hit every branch on the way down, including editorial mistakes, greed, sloppy writing and art, cliche comic book tricks and retconning. It’s a long, drawn-out arc that had no real conclusion and is a bigger stain on the Spidey mythos than "Brand New Day" could ever be.
It doesn’t help that last year, Marvel tried to retell it. In a “new” mini-series. Epic. Fail.
10. Kraven’s Last Hunt
Not many supervillains can say they’ve defeated Spider-Man. Kraven can. In Kraven’s Last Hunt, the maniac Kraven the Hunter finally succeeds in besting Spidey, and considers himself at peace for doing so. More an exploration of Kraven the Hunter than Spider-Man, Kraven’s Last Hunt ends with the character committing suicide. It’s a grim ending, but an amazingly fitting one to one of Spider-Man’s most intriguing baddies.
9. Peter Makes a Deal with the Devil
Perhaps the most controversial, but nonetheless epic, moment of Spider-Man’s history, the "One More Day"/"Brand New Day" debacle will quite possibly be looked back upon in the same way we look at "The Clone Saga" today. Completely ridiculous and unnecessary. Be that as it may, it was no less shocking to see Peter Parker make a deal with Mephisto to save the lives of everyone he cares about.
It may be a blotch on the history of Spider-Man’s publishing, but it’s still a mind-blowing milestone for the character.
8. The Graveside Vow
Okay, so there’s no epic, melodramatic scene in the original Spidey comics in which Peter clutches his mask while kneeling by the grave of his Uncle Ben in the midst of a rain storm, swearing his devotion to avenging his uncle’s death. However, the realization that Peter acted like a selfish jerk and went dancing around in the squared circle (see #17!) instead of being responsible is the realization for Peter that turned him into the webslingin’, jive talkin’ hero we know and love today.
7. Spider-Man No More
Watching a hero try to give up his vigilante lifestyle only to find out how much he truly depends on it is always a great read, and Stan Lee and John Romita, Sr.’s "Spider-Man No More!" is the granddaddy of ‘em all. Partially the basis for the plot in Spider-Man 2, this issue of "Amazing Spider-Man" is one of the most effective in portraying the benefits and burdens of being everyone’s favorite wallcrawler.
6. Harry Osborn Dies a Hero
Nothing says “epic” like a sweeping character arc. All the best characters have them, from Hamlet to Darth Vader. The Spidey saga is no different, and Harry Osborn is one of the greatest characters ever to grace the book’s pages. However, in "Spectacular Spider-Man #200," when Harry was still battling his best friend as Green Goblin, Harry lost his life saving Peter from an explosion that would’ve killed him. With Peter by his side in his dying moments, Harry died as Peter’s best friend instead of his biggest enemy.
5. Peter Unmasks Amidst Civil War
Another moment forever lost in time thanks to "Brand New Day," Peter Parker’s unmasking made real-world headlines. To show his devotion to “Team Stark” amongst the Superhero Registration Act hysteria, Spidey revealed his true face to the world, spawning a plethora of brand new story possibilities stemming from the danger he put his loved ones in.
Unfortunately, this particular epic moment was all too brief, with the world once again clueless as to the true identity of the Spider-Man.
Call me a sap, there’s no greater epic leap in one’s life than to get married. It’s an eternal, sacred bond (except in Hollywood), and watching Peter and Mary Jane finally do the deed after years of flirtation was a treat. Despite all of the great adventures that Spider-Man has had, there were perhaps none greater or more uncertain than marriage. No major superhero had ever legitimately married before — Superman and Lois Lane didn’t marry until 8 years after this — so the options were wide open as to what threats this relationship could pose to the newlyweds.
And Peter could hardly deal with homework and his life as Spider-Man, how would he ever be a housedad too? With MJ makin’ the sweet cash-money as an actress and model, someone’s got to be home with the arachna-babies.
3. The Gauntlet
It’s a shame that “The Gauntlet” storyline was one of the last before Marvel opted to do away with "Brand New Day." The story was, quite literally, a gauntlet. Peter has to face new and improved versions of some of his most popular villains, including The Vulture, Rhino, and The Lizard. While it’s usually a dangerous line to walk reinterpreting or changing some of comics’ classic villains, “The Gauntlet” pulled it off with flying colors.
Look no further than “Shed,”, the Zeb Wells-penned four issue arc featuring the rebirth of The Lizard. Not only is it the best story of “The Gauntlet,” but the "Brand New Day" era in general.
2. Gwen Stacy Goes to the Great Beyond
Let’s just be clear: Gwen Stacy dying, in particular, is not the moment of choice here. The scene atop the bridge and Green Goblin’s terrible actions is part of it, but the important thing to note about the entire Gwen Stacy scenario is Peter’s guilt that forever plagued him after a very ambiguous cause of death. Was she already dead when Goblin threw her off the bridge, was it the shock of it all, or was it actually Spidey’s harsh webline that snapped her neck?
Though we may know the answer now, the gravity of living with such a burden is unimaginable. But hey, one reason we love Spider-Man so much is because he gets dragged through the mud consistently and can still crack a joke.
1. Peter is Beaten by the Goblin
"Peter Parker: Spider-Man #25 (Vol. 2)" may just be the most brutal and depressing Spider-Man comic book ever, featuring a beaten down, broken willed, and bearded Peter Parker on his last string of sanity. Having been captured by the Green Goblin in a bid by Norman Osborn to make Peter the true successor of the Osborn (Goblin) name, Peter is able to resist but has his mind poisoned by his archenemy.
In closing, Goblin has a stellar monologue about being two sides to the same coin, telling Peter “We’re cop and killer — the same psychological profile — one small step removed from being exactly the person we hate most.” It’s a character breakdown of epic proportions, for both Spidey and the Goblin, and also one of Peter’s lowest points of existence. We wouldn’t have had it any other way.