The Crawlspace Readers’ List of the Greatest Spider-Man Stories


For the last few months, Mark Alford and I have been publishing entries for a series on the best Spider-Man stories based on submissions by the Crawlspace podcast and website review team. Now it’s time for the readers’ list. The few entries that weren’t on the Crawlspace Top 50 are the ones that are going to get the most commentary.

25. Spider-Man: Redemption #1-4

Writer: JM DeMatteis, Artist: Mike Zeck

This mini-series by JM DeMatteis and Mike Zeck was published during the tail end of the Clone Saga, tying up loose ends from Ben Reilly’s story, as he has a showdown with his archenemy Kaine and a reunion from a love interest from The Lost Years. While Ben Reilly was meant to be a more back to basics Spider-Man, this story highlighted what made him different from Peter Parker. He had experienced new kinds of tragedies, the result of years of a nomadic existence. He loved a woman who was wanted by the police. Kaine was his version of Venom (with bits of the Harry Osborn Green Goblin), the villain who knows his secret identity, has similar abilities and devotes his energies to destroying his life. That’s the focus of the story, as Ben Reilly faces an enemy who just wants to destroy him. It ends with Reilly wiling to give up everything, but the decision is taken out of his hands.

 

24. Elliptical Pursuit (Amazing Spider-Man #346-347)

Writer: David Michelinie, Artist: Erik Larsen

The fourth showdown between Spider-Man and Venom was your preferred encounter. The first half establishes the stakes; Peter sends Mary Jane away the moment he hears of Venom’s escape, and is willing to run away while in the middle of a discussion with the villain. He tries to establish a trap for Venom, not realizing that he’s playing into his enemy’s hands.

This leads to a new kind of showdown with Venom in a secluded island. You might think this makes life easier for Peter since he doesn’t have to worry about civilian casualties, or threats to his secret identity. The environment gives new material for what had essentially become an annual event, keeping the latest encounter between enemies fresh, and making for some dynamic fight scenes illustrated by Erik Larsen. Venom knows the terrain better than Peter, and has some new abilities that make him more dangerous than ever. It all comes to an end with one of Spider-Man’s cleverest ways of defeating any of his bad guys.

23. Troubled Mind (Superior Spider-Man #1-10)

Writer: Dan Slott, Artists: Ryan Stegman, Giuseppe Camuncoli Humberto Ramos

This was #10 on the Crawlspace staff list.

22. Spider-Man and the Green Goblin…Both Unmasked (Amazing Spider-Man #39-40)

Writer: Stan Lee, Artist: John Romita Sr.

This was #32 on the Crawlspace staff list.

21. Spider-Man: The Lost Years #1-3

Writer: JM DeMatteis, Artist: John Romita Jr.

A prelude to the story was published in installments as a back-up feature in the more expensive editions of Amazing Spider-Man #400, Spider-Man #57,  and Spectacular Spider-Man #223. It was also collected in Spider-Man: The Lost Years #0, along with “The Double”  by JM DeMatteis and Liam Sharp.

These issues explore what happened to Ben Reilly after the events of the original Clone Saga, as he finds himself caught in a clash between criminals and police in Salt Lake City. He has spent several years in a vagabond existence, going from town and town. But now he finds a place where he is tempted to stay. Kaine’s been hunting him down, and encounters a similar temptation.  And we know it all ends badly because Peter Parker is eventually going to be tried for murder when his fingerprints are found on one character’s body. The red foil embossed covers, and John Romita Jr art on a flashback story about a superhero tackling crime before he had a costume suggest that this is as close as Spider-Man gets to the Daredevil mini-series The Man Without Fear.

20. To Have and to Hold (Sensational Spider-Man Annual #1)

Writer: Matt Fraction, Artist: Salvadore Larroca

This was #18 on the Crawlspace staff list.

19. Return of the Burglar (Amazing Spider-Man #193-200) 

Writer: Marv Wolfman, Artist: Keith Pollard

This was #15 on the Crawlspace staff list.

18.  Spider-Man Blue

Writer: Jeph Loeb, Artist: Tim Sale

This was #9 on the Crawlspace staff list.

17. Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut (Amazing Spider-Man #229-230)

Writer: Roger Stern, Artist: John Romita Jr.

This was #7 on the Crawlspace staff list.

16. Learning Curve (Ultimate Spider-Man #8-13)

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis, Artists: Mark Bagley

This was #28 on the Crawlspace staff list.

15. The Gift (Amazing Spider-Man #400)

Writer: J.M. DeMatteis, Artists: Mark Bagley

This was #24 on the Crawlspace staff list.

14. A Death in the Family (Peter Parker Spider-Man #44-47)

Writer: Paul Jenkins, Artist: Humberto Ramos

This TPB-length story, meant to coincide with the release of the Spider-Man movie, was a bit of a departure from the norm for the Peter Parker Spider-Man monthly, which tended to feature shorter character-based stories with the classically cartoony Mark Buckingham on art. The pairing of Jenkins and Ramos with A-list villains became the focus of the later Spectacular Spider-Man relaunch.

“A Death in the Family” explored what happens when Norman Osborn tries to push Spider-Man over the edge, upset that Spider-Man has refused to be his heir. The Green Goblin goes on national TV to blame Spider-Man for killing Gwen Stacy. Norman frames Flash Thompson for an attack on Midtown High (where Peter was a teacher) that leaves one of Peter’s oldest friends crippled.  He even threatens to murder his own grandson. We do get to see what happens when Spider-Man, still reeling from an earlier fight with Osborn that hinted at the darkness within his soul, is pissed off. But the character has an inner strength to make an unconventional choice and not play Osborn’s game.

13. Revelations (Spectacular Spider-Man #240, Sensational Spider-Man #10, Amazing Spider-Man #418, Spider-Man #75) 

Writers: Tom DeFalco, Todd Dezago, Howard Mackie; Artists: Luke Ross, Steve Skroce, Mike Wieringo, John Romita Jr.

The Crawlspace staff list had votes for the final chapter (where it was in 23rd place) whereas the readers’ list had votes for the entire arc. The Spider-Man editorial offices decided to tie up the Clone Saga in the space of four issues (As Redemption and Amazing Spider-Man #417 show, some loose ends were resolved earlier). It’s Halloween, and a master plan comes to fruition, with each issue featuring a death or major revelation, and sometimes both.

12. Coming Home (Amazing Spider-Man Volume 2 #30-35, 37-38)

Writer: J. Michael Straczysnki, Artists: John Romita Jr.

This was #11 on the Crawlspace staff list.

11. Parallel Lives

Writer: Gerry Conway, Artists: Alex Savuik

This early graphic novel celebrated the marriage of Peter and MJ, showing things we’ve seen from earlier comics (highlights from the Lee/ Ditko run, parts of Mary Jane’s backstory from Amazing Spider-Man #259) with a different lens by showing what they were up to at around the same time before they even met one another. Mary Jane knew that Peter Parker was Spider-Man, so her entire arc was finding the courage to get to know this guy who initially fascinated her, and then reminded her of her abusive father, a seemingly sensitive dork who had a side of his personality he kept hidden. This book works well for newer readers, who get an accessible standalone story centered around Peter, MJ and—oddly enough—Doc Ock, and experienced readers, who get a new perspective on some of their favorite moments. The idea that Mary Jane has always known that Peter Parker is Spider-Man doesn’t hold up to scrutiny in every single scene in comics written by people who had a different take on the characters, although that’s not really an argument against this graphic novel, which can be seen as existing in its own world. Revisiting scenes from classic stories pays off when a villain connected to many of those events get upset at Peter for finding the happiness he hadn’t found for himself, and attacks him to get to Spider-Man, resulting in a rematch between enemies in an iconic location.

10. The Owl-Octopus War (Peter Parker Spider-Man #72-79)

Writer: Bill Mantlo, Artist: Ed Hannigan

This was #10 on the Crawlspace staff list.

9. The Osborn Legacy (Spectacular Spider-Man #189)

Writer: J.M. DeMatteis, Artist: Sal Buscema

The only part of the DeMatteis Harry Osborn saga to make the Crawlspace staff Top 50 was the finale. To be fair, the main reason this issue wasn’t on the Crawlspace Top 50 was the decision to split DeMatteis and Buscema’s Harry Osborn Green Goblin saga into different sections, rather than have an omnibus length (there’s even a petition for it) run compete with eleven page stories. This issue was collected in the Very Best of Spider-Man TPB.

Harry Osborn had recently become the Green Goblin again, and has taken to tormenting Peter, as small moves (such as giving flowers to Aunt May) take very sinister overtones. Harry abducts his family to show them that he’ll be a different Green Goblin than his father: he will always put them first. One of the best touches is the different reactions: the Molten Man (in likely his finest moment) is ready to fight, Liz is a mature adult in an impossible situation, and Normie thinks this is a fun game daddy’s playing. When Spider-Man finds them, he’s not even worried about the near-certainty that Harry will reveal his identity. He has to make sure no one gets hurt, going so far as to not dodge the goblin glider when Harry sends it his way. Buscema illustrates the hell out of the whole thing, particularly several silent sequences that create a mood of tension and danger. It’s a situation where Spider-Man can’t win, and a madman holds all the power.

8. Down Among the Dead Men (Marvel Knights Spider-Man #1-12)

Writer: Mark Millar, Artists: Terry Dodson, Frank Cho

This was #14 on the Crawlspace staff list.

7. The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man (Amazing Spider-Man #248)

Writer: Roger Stern, Artist: Ron Frenz

This was #6 on the Crawlspace staff list.

6. The Death of Jean Dewolff (Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man #107-110)

Writer: Peter David, Artist: Rich Butler

This was #4 on the Crawlspace staff list.

5. Spider-Man (Amazing Fantasy #15)

Writer: Stan Lee, Artist: Steve Ditko

This was #3 on the Crawlspace staff list.

4. The Night Gwen Stacy Died (Amazing Spider-Man #121-122)

Writer: Gerry Conway, Artist: Gil Kane

This was #2 on the Crawlspace staff list.

3. Best Enemies (Spectacular Spider-Man #200)

Writer: J.M. DeMatteis, Artist: Sal Buscema

This was #5 on the Crawlspace staff list.

2. The Master Planner Saga (Amazing Spider-Man #31-33)

Writer: Stan Lee, Artist: Steve Ditko

This was #10 on the Crawlspace staff list.

1. Kraven’s Last Hunt

Writer: J.M. DeMatteis, Artist: Sal Buscema

This was #1 on the Crawlspace staff list.

There are some slight differences between your votes and the staff selections. The staff liked J.M. DeMatteis. You guys really loved him, voting for three more stories by the guy. Here, he did twice as well as Stan Lee. Bendis and Slott got six stories each in the Crawlspace top 50, and one each on this list. Green Goblins did well, with one more Norman Osborn story (joining three that were on the staff list) and one more Harry tale. Todd McFarlane is likely the most notable Spider-Man creator not to be included.

You guys voted for all the stories on the staff Top 10 (Top 11 actually) although there wasn’t support for some notable material: Venom’s first appearance, Back in Black, Spider-Man No More/ In the Clutches of the Kingpin, the Alien Costume saga, the Death of Ultimate Spider-Man, or the wedding issue (the love of Parallel Lives suggests this isn’t due to anti-MJ bias). We can’t read too much into this, because one or two more people sending lists could net radically different results.

What do you guys think of your fellow readers’ choices? Are there any selections that you think could have gone better? And are there any insights you really agree with? 

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