Comics Greatest Stories: Spider-Man
For nearly five decades, Spider-Man has been Marvel Comics’ flagship superhero, and one of the all-time comic book icons. Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s signature creation didn’t reach that plateau overnight, and hundreds of talented writers and artists have done their part to create Spidey’s legend.
With so many comics to draw upon, it can be difficult to find the essential Spider-Man stories. Fortunately, there are several which have already proven to withstand the test of time. For this installment of Comics Greatest Stories, we’re picking the 10 best Spider-Man adventures. These are the comics that are nearly perfect for both new fans and old.
RELATED: Spider-Man: Origins and Evolutions
10: Venom – Amazing Spider-Man #300
Because Venom has become one of Marvel’s most popular anti-heroes, it’s easy to forget that he was once one of Spidey’s greatest enemies. David Michelinie and artist Todd McFarlane’s landmark anniversary issue, Amazing Spider-Man #300, gave fans a memorable introduction to Eddie Brock’s alter ego while bringing back the alien symbiote that became Spider-Man’s black costume.
Venom terrorized Mary Jane Watson while searching for her husband, Peter Parker/Spider-Man. And Venom was legitimately frightening in his first full story, as he was able to bypass Peter’s Spider-Sense. Without that early warning system, Venom truly had Spider-Man at his mercy.
Naturally, Spider-Man came out on top in the end. But in the process, a new Marvel superstar was born.
9: Marvel Knights: Spider-Man #1-12
This might be a dark horse choice for this list, but the first 12 issues of Marvel Knights: Spider-Man was a thrilling epic from Mark Millar and artists Terry Dodson & Frank Cho. Essentially, Millar, Dodson, and Cho are playing Spidey’s greatest hits by bringing almost all of his villains into play. But when fan service is done so skillfully, who can complain?
The story opens with Spider-Man finally defeating Green Goblin and putting him behind bars. Unfortunately, Norman Osborn’s contingency plan threatens Peter and everyone he holds dear. Black Cat was Spidey’s partner as he faced a gauntlet of his rogues gallery, and came face-to-face with a new Venom.
By the end, Spidey was cornered by a large group of bad guys. But overcoming the odds is a Spider-Man tradition!
8: If This Be My Destiny – Amazing Spider-Man #31-33
Near the end of their run together, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko delivered one of the first multi-part Spider-Man stories ever. Lee and Ditko made the stakes more personal than ever by threatening the life of Peter’s beloved Aunt May. All he needed to do to save was track down Doctor Octopus and retrieve the cure for May’s illness. But that’s easier said than done!
Harry Osborn and Gwen Stacy both debuted in this tale, and played large roles in Peter’s life going forward. However, these issues are best remembered for the stunning sequence in which Spider-Man frees himself from tons of wreckage.
This was a masterfully rendered and written sequence, and it helped define Spidey’s drive as a hero.
7: The Superior Spider-Man – Amazing Spider-Man #698-700, The Superior Spider-Man #1-31
During Dan Slott’s decade-plus on Amazing Spider-Man, he gave Doctor Octopus a decisive victory over Spidey. Doc Ock transferred his mind into Peter Parker’s body while leaving Peter’s mind trapped in Ock’s dying body. However, Peter’s innate heroism touched a chord in Ock’s heart as the real Spider-Man died. He vowed to remake himself into “the Superior Spider-Man” while carrying on Parker’s life.
For a while, Doc Ock did pretty well as the Superior Spider-Man, and he even fought off the remnants of Peter’s mind to retain control of his body. But in the end, Doctor Octopus was overwhelmed by the Green Goblin’s evil, and it took the return of the one true Spider-Man to save the day.
6: The Death of Jean DeWolff – Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #107–110
Chances are, if you’re a casual Spider-Man fan who only knows him from the movies and animated shows, then you have no idea who Jean DeWolff was or why she was important to Spider-Man. That’s because the real Jean DeWolff was killed off 35 years ago in Peter David’s first superhero story. For almost a decade, NYPD police captain Jean DeWolff was one of Spidey’s closest friends on the force.
David and veteran artist Rich Buckler teamed up to explore the emotional aftermath of Jean’s murder. Spider-Man’s discovery that Jean harbored romantic feelings for him only drove him further over the edge while the city hunted for her murderer, the Sin-Eater.
This story also marked a turning point for Spider-Man’s working relationship with Daredevil, as each hero learned their respective secret identities.
5: Spider-Verse – Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 3 #9–15
Back in 2014, Dan Slott and artists Dan Slott and artists Olivier Coipel & Giuseppe Camuncoli brought together almost every incarnation of Spider-Man ever created. Slott was inspired in part by the video game, Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, which he wrote a few years prior. In the comic, Peter Parker, Miles Morales, Spider-Gwen, Spider-Girl, Spider-Ham, Spider-Man 2099, Doc Ock’s Superior Spider-Man, and many more joined forces to prevent the Inheritors from wiping out all of the Spider-heroes in the multiverse.
This comic also proved to be very influential on the Oscar winning animated feature, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
4: Kraven’s Last Hunt – Web of Spider-Man #31–32, Amazing Spider-Man #293–294, and The Spectacular Spider-Man #131–132
In this harrowing tale, J.M. DeMatteis and artist Mike Zeck gave Kraven the Hunter an unforgettable sendoff by allowing him to finally defeat and “murder” Spider-Man. And with Spider-Man out of the way, Kraven decided that only he could become “the Spider.”
While Mary Jane dealt with the emotional fallout of her husband’s disappearance, Kraven terrorized New York with his brutal take on Spidey’s persona. Fortunately, Peter wasn’t actually dead. Regardless, his confrontation with Kraven left Spider-Man severely shaken.
3: The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man – Amazing Spider-Man #248
Eleven pages. That’s all it took for Roger Stern and artist Ron Frenz to deliver one of the Spider-Man stories for the ages. The first half of Amazing Spider-Man #248 is filled with a forgettable fight with Thunderball. But in the second half of the issue, “The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man” features a heart-wrenching encounter between Spidey and Timothy Harrison, a terminally ill nine-year old boy.
Timothy might literally be Spider-Man’s biggest fan. And over the course of a single night, Peter Parker lays bare all of his secrets to the kid he is powerless to save.
2: The Night Gwen Stacy Died – Amazing Spider-Man #121-122
For all of his heroic feats, Spider-Man’s life has often been defined by tragedy. In this two-part story, Gerry Conway and artists Gil Kane & John Romita Sr. revived Norman Osborn’s Green Goblin persona and aimed at the woman Spider-Man loved: Gwen Stacy.
After kidnapping Gwen, Green Goblin threw her off of a bridge and dared Spider-Man to save her. Unfortunately, Gwen perished despite Spidey’s desperate attempt to catch her. In his pain and anguish, Peter came within a hair’s breadth of murdering Green Goblin in return.
These issues were also the genesis of Peter’s long term romance with Mary Jane, as she refused to abandon him during his moment of need.
1. Spider-Man! – Amazing Fantasy #15
Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley’s Ultimate Spider-Man provided an excellent update on Spidey’s origin. But nothing beats the original tale by Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko. In the span of a single issue, Lee and Ditko depicted how Peter Parker became Spider-Man while also introducing readers to his beloved Uncle Ben and Aunt May.
Peter wasn’t always the selfless hero that he is today. It took losing his uncle for Peter to realize that being Spider-Man meant more than just cashing in on his abilities. He had to accept that with great power there must also come great responsibility.
It’s been Spider-Man’s creed for almost fifty years, and this is the issue where the legend was born.