In 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.)
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.
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.