We are at the beginning of the Crawlspace’s list of the Top 50 Spider-Man stories. This selection has been assembled from smaller lists by the various reviewers and members of the podcast team.
Writer: Mark Millar Artist: Terry Dodson
I got two submissions for that Mark Millar/ Terry Dodson TPB. While Millar and Dodson later collaborated on a twelve issue storyline in Marvel Knights Spider-Man, that had two issues by artist Frank Cho, so obviously these represented votes for the mini-series Trouble.
Trouble reimagines the teenage years of May, Ben, Peter and Richard over the course of a summer vacation in which they’re trying to figure out who they are, and an act of betrayal carries lifelong consequences. There’s a pregnancy subplot whose consequences are difficult to reconcile with the continuity of the comics given the age difference between Aunt May and Peter Parker, but it’s ahead of its time in its foreshadowing of Marisa Tomei’s hotter, younger Aunt May.
49. One More Day (Amazing Spider-Man #544-545, Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #24, Sensational Spider-Man #41)
Writers: J. Michael Straczysnki and uncredited cowriters. Artist: Joe Quesada
A few days after the events of Civil War, Peter Parker is a wanted fugitive and Aunt May lies near death’s door. Spider-Man goes looking for help. An encounter with Iron Man provides a coda to some of the major relationships from the New Avengers of the title (Peter and his mentor Tony Stark, Aunt May and Jarvis) while a meeting with Doctor Strange, the other big Lee/ Ditko creation, reveals the truth behind an encounter between the two during the first year of JMS’s run on Spider-Man. Echoing themes from earlier in JMS’s run, Peter Parker is given visions of what his life could have been like if he had never become Spider-Man and learned the lessons of power and responsibility.
48. Fusion the Twin Terror (Amazing Spider-Man #208)
Writer: Denny O’Neil, Jim Shooter, Mark Greunwald Artist: John Romita Jr.
I got a very passionate argument for Fusion’s first appearance as the villain was described as “the most underrated of Spider-Man’s enemies.” The writer noted “His abilities were ultimately a little derivative, but his reason for hating Spider-Man was quite compelling, and much more convincing than that of every other bad guy. It reflects something Jonah’s warned against since Amazing Spider-Man Issue 1, which sadly does sometimes happen. I truly appreciated how he put Spider-Man through the wringer, so that the final moment of victory is even more powerful.” Fusion’s disability (he is two dwarves who merge into one being) adds to the diversity of Spider-Man’s supporting cast. Jim Shooter and Mark Greunwald’s contributions to the plot recall the old adage that there are never too many cooks in the kitchen. The done in one story is a powerful argument for why 17 pages is the perfect length for a Spider-Man comic, with the balance of Peter’s private life and the introduction of a new villain with such staying power.
47. The Freak (Amazing Spider-Man #552-554)
Writer: Bob Gale Artist: Phil Jiminez
There had been numerous stories about Spider-Man dealing with social ills, but none are as powerful as his encounter with a super-powered junkie. When you had the writer of one of the most beloved movies of all time, and the artist behind some of the best daring comic books of the last twenty years (The Invisibles, Grant Morrison’s New X-Men, Infinite Crisis) you knew that the results would be amazing, but nothing prepares you or Spider-Man for the shock of seeing a villain take out a crack pipe in the middle of the battle. Freak’s escape at the end of the three part story serves as a metaphor for just how difficult it will be to resolve the world’s drug-related ills.
46. The Man-Killer Moves at Midnight (Marvel Team Up #8)
Writer: Gerry Conway Artist: Jim Mooney
Issues of gender inequality and the proper role of feminism are treated with the subtlety and respect you would expect from a 17 page early 1970s superhero comic written by a young man barely out of his teens. This is Gerry Conway’s only appearance on the list.
45. Timebomb (The Spectacular Spider-Man #228, Web of Spider-Man #129)
Writers: Tom Defalco, Todd DeZago; Artists: Sal Buscema, Steven Butler
This is the first of fifteen Clone Saga entries on the list. It provides the payoff to visions of a dark future in which Peter threatens Mary Jane, and his poor behavior here serves as a justification for Marvel’s decision to make Ben Reilly the new Spider-Man. During Peter’s moment of crisis he encounters the heroes readers most wanted to see guide him in the right direction: the New Warriors.
This two-parter also included the final issue of Web of Spider-Man, a satellite title that developed a unique identity as the Spider-Man comic you buy if you’ve already picked up that month’s copies of Amazing Spider-Man, Spectacular Spider-Man and Spider-Man.
44. Spider-Man Chapter One #0, 1-13
Writer/ Artist: John Byrne
John Byrne’s retelling of the first eighteen or so issues of Lee/ Ditko’s Amazing Spider-Man is arguably the greatest influence on the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming, an film with numerous guest-starrs who help a teenage hero find his way, while the Vulture has teamed up with the Tinkerer. There have been quite a few retellings of classic Spider-Man stories, most of which try to find a new structure to explore a modern aspect of the character. Byrne made a structurally bold decision to make as few changes as possible to the original story, while using a format in which most issues feature the resolution of an earlier tale and the introduction of a new adventure, allowing for the advantages of done in one shorter stories without the pain of finishing a Spider-Man adventure. The zero issue featured the origins of Spider-Man’s greatest enemies, so we could know that Sandman and Norman Osborn are distant relatives.
43. Día de los Inocentes. obviamentes (El Sorprendente Hombre Araña #131)
Writer/ Artist: Unknown
The legendary acid trip issue of the bootleg Mexican series merged the country’s culture, and the wall-crawler, while providing a commentary on repression within the Soviet Union. It’s safe to say that the book’s relative obscurity s is the only reason this issue rates so low.
42. The Amazing Spider-Man VS The Prodigy
Writer: Ann Robinson, Artist: Ross Andru
There are two kinds of Spider-Man fans: those who think aliens don’t fit into Spider-Man’s world, and those who have read this masterpiece. A giveaway by Planned Parenthood, this storyline featured Spider-Man’s encounter with the nefarious Prodigy, an alien pretending to be a human trying to trick teenage girls into getting pregnant in order to get slaves for his army. The highlight was Peter’s examination of his own life, how he wasn’t ready to be a parent, which started with the immortal line “What jive stuff this turkey hands out!”
41. Sins Remembered (Spectacular Spider-Man #23-26)
Writer: Samm Barnes, Artist: Scott Eaton
After Sins Past was such a hit, Marvel immediately commissioned a follow-up storyline, giving us more of Gabriel and Sarah Stacy, while teasing a cover of Peter making out with someone who is technically ten years old. This was daring, adult material that had a tremendous impact on the Spider-Man comics in the ensuing years.
Don’t forget that you can submit your own choices for the best Spider-Man stories to firstname.lastname@example.org. See the previous Tangled Webs entry for details on eligibility.