Wizard’s Top Ten Spider-Man Stories Circa 1998


Alex Ross's Spider-Man Wizard coverIn 1998, WIZARD magazine published a special one-shot devoted to Spider-Man. I probably read it more than I have most Spider-Man comics. The highlight was a top ten Spider-Man stories list by writer Andrew Kardan, which gives a bit of clue as to what were considered the best Spider-Man comics at that particular time.

I don’t agree with the round-up completely, but each of the stories they mentioned is really good.

Kardan obviously had his preferences. Roger Stern wrote four of the stories, although (as the last articles indicates) the crew at WIZARD did seem to really enjoy his work. Stan Lee was the only other writer to have more than one story on the list (in this case, two.) And there are some interesting trends.

Seven stories were from the 1980s. One was from the 1970s. Two were from the 1960s. Three stories featured the introduction of a new villain (Venom, Hobgoblin, Sin-Eater.) Two more featured the first time Spider-Man fought a Marvel supervillain, although to be fair that is one of the distinguishing attributes of Stern’s run, and he was well represented. Four stories featured a character from other titles: two villains (Juggernaut, Cobra/ Hyde) and two heroes (Daredevil, Wolverine.) Only two stories featured the return of a recurring Spider-Man villain, with Doctor Octopus and Green Goblin. The Cobra/ Hyde tale did mark Spider-Man’s second encounter with Cobra.

Four stories featured a major death (Ned Leeds, Jean De Wolfe, Gwen Stacy/ Norman Osborn, Uncle Ben.)

 

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Notable creators whose work was not included on the list were JM Dematties, Tom Defalco, Marv Wolfman, Sal Buscema, Ross Andru and John Romita Sr. This isn’t to suggest that anyone should alter a list to get a more representative sample, when the standard is “ten greatest.”

Kraven’s Last Hunt is probably the most acclaimed story not to make the list (although it didn’t make JR’s either.) Views on that storyline in the pages of WIZARD magazine have been varied. It got an A grade in a review of Spider-Man Trade Paperbacks in a later WIZARD one-shot. But in another special it was shown as an example of grim and gritty copycats to WATCHMEN and DARK KNIGHT RETURNS.

“Caught in the Act” is probably the least well-known of the stories to make the list, and WIZARD has a lengthy love affair with it. In another issue, editor Brian Cunningham referred to it as his favorite comic book story ever. WIZARD would later reprint it in their Spider-Man Masterpieces hardcover, along with “Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut,” the Death of Jean Dewolff, The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man and Venom’s second appearance in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #315-317. There are generally two ways to look at that story. It’s a well made story, but not terribly consequential. Or it’s the best example of a particular kind of story, and this makes it more important than ever.

WIZARD also had a nice John Romita Jr. cover for the special, appropriate as his work was well-represented in the top ten list.

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To answer the quesiton on the cover, the movie did happen. And the new Spider-Man was Mattie Franklin.

Personally, I would have rated the Master Planner saga higher. Seven of their ten choices would have been on my Top Ten, including my five favorite Spider-Man stories, so I don’t see it as a bad selection. The other three stories were certainly worth reading, and probably belonged in a Top 25, especially at the time. This was before Dan Slott, Brian Michael Bendis, Paul Jenkins, Mark Millar, J. Michael Straczynski, Mark Buckingham or Marcos Martin were able to show their takes on the character.

If I had done it (circa 1998) it would have included…
10. SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #178-200: JM Dematteis and Sal Buscema’s Harry Osborn Green Goblin saga.
9. AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #53-59: Stan Lee and John Romita Sr’s amnesiac Spider-Man VS Doctor Octopus epic.
8. The Death of Jean Dewolff
7. Spider-Man VS Wolverine
6. Kraven’s Last Hunt
5. AMAZING FANTASY #15
4. Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut
3. If This Be My Destiny….
2. The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man
1. The Night Gwen Stacy Died

Andrew Kardan’s list can be compared to the Comic Book Resources Top 50 or IGN’s Top 25. A few years later, OFFICIAL PLAYSTATION Magazine asked the creators of spiderfan.org to come up with their list. I believe it went as follows. Going from memory, they agreed with The Death of Jean Dewolff, The Master Planner Saga, Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut, The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man, and the Night Gwen Stacy Died. But they also had the Clone Saga, Kraven’s Last Hunt, Venom’s second appearance, the story in which Green Goblin’s identity was revealed, and AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #400.

What do you guys think of the list? And do you have any memories of the first time you came across something similar?

 

Thomas Mets is an Education Masters student in New York City. He is also one of the moderators of the Spider-Man forum at Comic Book Resources. He has been a fan of Spider-Man since coming across the character in the comic strip. 

(15) Comments

  1. Crime Master

    None of these really surprise me except for Spider-Man VS Wolverine and the Hyde story, not that they're bad or anything, I've just never thought of them as being top 10 worthy (and can't remember them ever being given a spot on other lists like this.) The absence of Kraven's Last Hunt is kind of weird, but surprisingly most people I show it to don't think of it very highly, maybe I hype it up a little too much. I definitely also agree with a few comments above that Nothing Can Stop The Juggernaut doesn't quite deserve number 1, great though it is.

  2. Thomas Mets

    @#2- I'm being pendantic here, but I don't think that a story can be at the same time "rather good" and "average." Stern was conssciously imitating the great weight scene from ASM 229-230 when he did "Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut" although the difference here is that he repeated it through a two issue storyline. It had a different sense of pacing, and I think it still revealed something different about the character. That said, there are some similarities with the first appearance of the Scorpion (another issue in which Spider-Man faces a seemingly unbeatable foe) as well as Daredevil's fight against Namor. http://www.spidermancrawlspace.com/2015/11/10/tangled-webs-major-spider-man-moments-that-happened-in-other-marvel-comics-first/ @#6- Editorial doesn't take a look at this stuff before it's published. But I have collected the error. @#10- They definitely had the Master Planner saga too low. Perhaps they thought (incorrectly) that the Silver Age storytelling was dated? @#13- Except defense of Spider-Man VS Wolverine. It's a story I really like to. In addition to being the best Marvel Team Up ever, it could be the best Web of Spider-Man (at the time Web's MO was taking Peter outside of New York City as a photgrapher.)

  3. Al

    @#11: Spider-Man vs. Wolverine is not a crappy story at all. It’s nothing less than the best Marvel Team-Up issue ever published. A lot of context is not recognized in that story, one of the biggest being that many people look at it as a Spider-Man story but it isn’t. By it’s nature it’s a Spider-Man and Wolverine story thus the sensibilities of what comprises Wolverine are present in the narrative. Violence, espionage, moral ambiguity, etc. Its a tale which serves both of their characters. Also in the context of the issue Peter had just come out of the very bloody and very violent gang war which had not only given him a lot of burn out due to all the bloodshed, but had ended with the Kingpin reinstated in power to his great frustration. Peter was also divided between maybe giving up on his identity altogether, Flash was on the run, Hobgoblin was out there, things were complicated between him and MJ and Felicia, and he was still reeling from the death of Jean DeWolff, the psychotic violence of the Sin Eater and the Beyonder’s mental whammy on him. Peter was in a very dark place in that one shot and very much adrift emotionally, hence why when confronted with more senseless violence and street crime early on he tried to lose himself by making out with Mary Jane, believing himself to have ruined that relationship with her too. And then he sees Ned Leeds violently murdered in a strange place he is unfamiliar with and a world of spies where morality is a lot more grey and gruesome from what he’s normally used to. “For example, there was a scene where he had to take on a bunch of guys with guns, and he was all like “OMG, what am I going to do? I am so out of my league!!” Or some such as that. When Spidey is in NYC, he takes on armed thugs all the time without a moments hesitation. So, why does he suddenly become a total wuss just because he’s in another country?” His reaction to the men with guns was also wholly realistic because that happened when he had JUST come home to discover Ned’s body, he was in shock basically but being in a foreign country can in fact impact upon you feeling out of your league, especially when armed murderers who’ve killed your friend abruptly are threatening you in a foreign language. “Then later on in the story he PUNCHES A WOMAN TO DEAHT!! Oh, but she wanted to die, and it was an accident, so it’s all good. Peter Parker, the guy who feels crushing guilt because he forgot to call his Aunt May, manages to just shrug off involuntary manslaughter.” Peter didn’t shrug it off. After he killed Charlie the images were flashing through his head and it took both MJ and Wolverine to convince him to let go of that guilt. It is also important to bear in mind that whilst Peter is very hard on himself a lot of the time, deep, deep down he doesn’t actually feel as guilty as he gives the impression of. If he did he’d never ever risk hanging around loved ones after what happened to Gwen. Intellectually Peter knows Charlie killed herself and just used Peter to do it so it was almost entirely on her. He also knows she was dying from Logan’s claws, that the KGB intended to give her a far less merciful death and that Charlie herself was not an innocent person by any means. In ASM annual #5 Peter’s actions, whether accidental, deliberate, or something that just happened in the heat of the moment, resulted in the death of a Communist assassin. He not only didn’t mention this after that story he straight up never showed remorse for it. In ASM #123 Peter tells Luke Cage he straight up hates mercenaries. Call him prejudiced if you will but effectively Peter’s morality when it comes to killing isn’t as strict as one might believe. He’d never do it coldly or deliberately (unless his family was in danger perhaps) but if it happens by accident his feelings about it depend upon the person in question. And if that person is a mercendary, and assassin, or a terrorist he’s not going to feel as cut up over them as he would someone who’s life he values more highly. Because even criminals on the street he sort of knows probably do what they do out of poverty and desperation or else can more likely be reformed. Assassins and mercenaries straight up make a point of training themselves to hurt people for money and that’s their day job, which to a guy like Peter is despicable. So once he gets a bit of distance and comfort from MJ and Logan he probably was able to reconcile what happened and basically move on. Basically Peter wasn’t out of character, the context was just very, very different from what it usually was.

  4. Bill

    I agree with Hobo-Goblin (comment #3) that "Spider-Man vs. Wolverine" is a pretty crappy Spider-Man story. I can't believe it is on anyone's Top 10 best list. I remember when I first read it how much I thought that Spider-Man/Peter was written so completely out of character. For example, there was a scene where he had to take on a bunch of guys with guns, and he was all like "OMG, what am I going to do? I am so out of my league!!" Or some such as that. When Spidey is in NYC, he takes on armed thugs all the time without a moments hesitation. So, why does he suddenly become a total wuss just because he's in another country? Then later on in the story he PUNCHES A WOMAN TO DEAHT!! Oh, but she wanted to die, and it was an accident, so it's all good. Peter Parker, the guy who feels crushing guilt because he forgot to call his Aunt May, manages to just shrug off involuntary manslaughter. Like I said, totally out of character. I've always loathed that story and thought it was very poorly written. So, why so many people seem to dig it is a real head scratcher to me.

  5. Al

    The problem with Nothing Stops the Juggernaut being #1 is that it’s appeal lies in both it’s brilliant action, Spider-Man’s altruism and his never say die attitude. But all of those elements are done really well if not better in the MP Trilogy but the latter comes with OTHER stuff that defines Spider-Man as well. The challenge of the Juggernaut makes Spidey an underdog and at the same time forces him to keep going against impossible odds. It’s a reinterpretation of the rubble lifting scene from the MP Trilogy but that moment is both more iconic and more important as a point of personal growth for Spider-Man. But it also features lots of personal life stuff, in fact the whole plot is about Peter trying to save Aunt May his mother-figure and the drive to succeed is looped back around to his origin. Plus the odds against him are actually larger. He’s in a race against the clock to save the person he loves most from a fate he inadvertently helped bring about and he’s got hoardes of villains and a super villain to fight to get it done. And then he’s trapped alone under water with the tide rising. It’s a much larger set of challenges to overcome with greater stakes and Peter overcomes it not with his intelligence, trickery or resilience but with his sheer grit. It was everything the Juggernaut fight was and more and it accomplished all this using elements inherent and important to the world of Spider-Man whilst also advancing the character. It was a coming of age moment for Peter. Plus he went to college, met Gwen and Harry and so on. It is very obviously are much better/more important Spider-Man story than the Juggernaut battle. Does it deserve to be #1? Well it is again a toss up between that the origin or the Gwen death story. It most certainly isn’t the #9 spot for goodness sake. Mr. Hyde didn’t deserve to be on that list when there were so many other great stories like Spider-Man No More, ASM #39-40, ASM #400, Spec #200, Spec #75, Kraven’s Last Hunt.

  6. xonathan

    Stories that land "The Best of" list meet certain criteria. Whether it's good writing (KLH), Nostalgia (The Kid who collected) or defining moment (The Night Gwen Stacey Died). But an important category is how new reader friendly the story is. And Nothing can Stop the Juggernaut has that as its a self contained story and a good one. Also the dialogue is not that dated.

  7. hornacek

    @6 - You beat me to it! A helpful suggestion for anyone wanting to keep their job on the Crawl Space - don't get the name wrong of the most beloved member of the podcast (at least according to all but one iTunes review). :) As for NCSTJ, I think this earns its spot in the top half of this list, not sure if it deserves #1, but my own top three would probably rotate around every few weeks. The thing is, when this story was written, pretty much every previous Juggernaut story where he was defeated ended the same way - the X-Men fought him but were unable to stop him, but they finally pried his helmet off so that Professor X could put the whammy on him. There had not been any (?) stories where someone had defeated him physically (have there been any Juggernaut/Hulk fights?) so the "Nothing" part in the title isn't just to make a good title, it's true.

  8. xonathan

    "SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #178-200: JM Dematteis and Sal Buscema’s Harry Osborn Green Goblin saga." JD's favorite :P

  9. Yvonmukluk

    There's one massive, awful mistake in this article that completely ruins my enjoyment of it completey. I can't believe the editorial staff would even allow this to be published. You call JR 'JD'! THIS IS AN OUTRAGE! Which is a shame, because the rest of the article is great.

  10. Frontier

    I can see where the big significance of "Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut" comes from. It's Spidey, on his own, taking on one of the toughest Marvel villain, someone who usually requires a whole group of heroes to even make a dent and without the benefit of the telepathy usually used to stop him. And he keeps fighting, even when the odds seem hopeless and he keeps getting the tar beaten out of him, then somehow finds a way to beat someone viewed as an unstoppable force, all by himself. If anything signified Spider-Man as the world's greatest Superhero, it's that feat. Back when he didn't need the Avengers, constant new gadgets and suits, or people coming in and saving him. I don't think it deserves the #1 spot, but I do understand why it would be high on any "Best Spider-Man stories" list.

  11. Al

    Will write more later but...no....just no... Look, Stern was awesome and all but...Jesus Christ...the best Spider-Man story of all time has to be a conversation between the origin, the Master Planner Trilogy or the Death of Gwen Stacy. Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut, the Kid Who Collected Spider-Man, The Death of Jean DeWolff and Kraven's Last Hunt can contend for the #2 spots and arguably might win out if your looking at which stories are just WRITTEN best (because KLH was rich in it's themes and psychological layers and symbolism and all that good stuff). But in terms of what stories best represent and go to the heart of the character and his mythos...No. Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut just hits on one aspect of that, but the Death of Gwen, the MP Trilogy and the origin they are very much epitomizations of who the character is deep down at his core and grap upon the fundamental ideas underpinning him. That he's ultimately a normal guy motivated by guilt and responsibility who's heroic because he has the never say die attiude of like the human spirit and stuff and that touches on his personal life. I mean for the MP trilogy to be that low on the list at all is...what were they on man?

  12. Hobo-Goblin

    Spider-Man VS Wolverine doesn't belong on there, unless you like stories where Spidey looks like a total tool, pees himself in fear, and one of his long-standing supporting cast members is unceremoniously disposed of.

  13. RDMacQ

    I really disagree with #3 and #1. I read both of these stories, based on the recommendation from Wizard, and I really found them average at best. Nothing overtly wrong with them, but nothing stand out, either. They are pretty average Spider-Man stories. Good Spider-Man stories. But nothing that really changes or defines him. The fight with Mr. Hyde really doesn't help redefine or challenge Spider-Man in any way. We already know he's good with the quips. The fight with Mr. Hyde may be a standout example, but not one that I think is one of the best Spider-Man stories ever. The fight with Juggernaut really does highlight Peter's "Never give up" attitude. But that was set in stone 20 years earlier during the Master Planner saga, which is a far better example- in my opinion- of defining and challenging Spider-Man. The moment where Spider-Man lifts the wreckage off of him, and then proceeds to keep going to get the medicine to Aunt May, is quintessential Spider-Man. I think that the folks at Wizard were a little too in love with the books from their childhood, and let rose colored glasses affect their choices. It was a list fuelled more by nostalgia than a real objective analysis. For me, the best Spider-Man story? The Night Gwen Stacy Died. The just didn't redefine Spider-Man, that redefined comics, period. It was a major touchstone for the character, to which would forever define the series. Nothing Stops the Juggernaut is fine. But it's just another "Spidey battles the bad guy" story. A rather good one, but not one that is the best of the best. And it doesn't even feature a bad guy from Spidey's rouges. The Night Gwen Stacy Died" is ALL about Spider-Man, from start to finish, and is a major element of his mythology. So, for me, there's not even a contest.

  14. WolfCypher

    #1 "Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut" Hunh. Okay. I'm totally okay with that. Honestly nothing on that 1st list offends me, not the stories nor where they place. And for you millenials, that reads "Number 1 Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut, NOT "hash tag one Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut."

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