Swinging Through Spidey’s Classic Tales
Spider-man: Far From Home comes out in cinemas this week and so we thought it would be appropriate to pick 20 of the best Spidey tales from his first 30 years. Picked by classic comics connoisseur Tripwire’s senior editor Andrew Colman…
1. Amazing Fantasy 15. The classic origin story which closes with one of the most quoted lines in comics. Stan Lee claimed that this brief cautionary tale about juvenile selfism and wish-fulfilment was his parting shot to an industry he had tired of. Fandom’s immediate reaction to it changed his mind.
2. Amazing Spider-Man 12. Doctor Octopus’s unmasking of Spidey initiated what would be a recurring component in the Spider-Man mythos.
3. Amazing Spider-Man 14. The first Green Goblin – essentially the Joker to Spidey’s Batman.
4. Amazing Spider-Man 33. Spider-Man trapped in the sewer was a powerful little bottle episode which may have been artist Steve Ditko’s best moment in the title.
5. Amazing Spider-Man 39 and 40. John Romita’s first efforts on the series were instant classics, with 39’s iconic cover (Spidey captured and unmasked) ushering in a new era for our hero. The two-parter was one of the best Spider-Man / Goblin stories, and showed how much the title had developed.
6. Amazing Spider-Man 50 and 51. 1st Kingpin story. Due primarily to Frank Miller, Mr. Fisk has been more associated with Daredevil as far as fandom is concerned, but this brutal, uncompromising villain was perhaps Spidey’s definitive foe – contemptuous, amoral and lacking in any kind of sentimentality.
7. Amazing Spider-Man 90. The death of Gwen Stacy’s dad was a great bit of storytelling, which tugged at the heartstrings without being manipulative.
8. Amazing Spider-Man 100 – 102. Spidey grows four extra arms and battles a living vampire! The story works a great deal better than the premise, with some excellent work from Gil Kane. The arc that effectively began the Bronze Age for Spider-Man.
9. Marvel Team-Up 6. The early years of Spider-Man’s second title featured strong stories with quality artwork, none more so than this issue which featured The Thing, as the duo battle the Mad Thinker. Uncharacteristically dark, with the Thing remarkably unsympathetic, this tale is as noirish as super-hero comics got in the early ‘70s.
10. Amazing Spider-Man 121 and 122. It would be churlish to leave out this milestone two-parter, which proved that Marvel were prepared to dispense with indispensable characters (at least for the foreseeable future). The death of Gwen Stacy is a grandiose, cinematic triumph, which scaled a new level of emotiveness for the medium. Issue 122’s far more downbeat showdown leading to Norman Osborn’s end is equally audacious and well-handled.
11. Amazing Spider-Man 127 – 149. Gerry Conway had already done plenty with the title already (see previous entry) but this extended story arc featuring the Jackal and new anti-hero The Punisher was perhaps the best thing he did in a prolific career (the Gwen clone and Harry Osborn becoming the Goblin notwithstanding!). Genuinely dark (the fallout from the ‘60s weighed heavily), the storyline featured our protagonist battling a hidden nemesis while combatting his demons after losing Gwen. Surreal and bleak in places, this is probably my favourite Spider-Man period. Recommended.
11. Amazing Spider-Man 185. Peter Parker graduates from college (well, it only took 15 years). This story did stop regular fan letters asking how he could remain a student for so long, which is presumably why the editors went ahead with this. Good lightweight fun.
12. Amazing Spider-Man 200. By no means a classic, this is still a decent redemptive tale in which Peter Parker defeats the man who killed his Uncle Ben.
13. Amazing Spider-Man 201 and 202. Compulsive, well-written two-parter that features the Punisher and Spider-Man battling endemic corruption in New York. Added an extra layer to the Punisher character and backstory.
14. Amazing Spider-Man 238. 1st Hobgoblin. The decision to add a copycat villain after numerous Green Goblin story arcs was considered somewhat cynical at the time, but the mystery surrounding him maintained interest.
15. Spectacular Spider-Man 107 – 110. The death of Jean DeWolff. Peter David’s breakthrough as a scripter was a quality bit of work focusing on the demise of one of Spider-Man’s closest allies, and the ensuing whodunit.
16. Amazing Spider-Man 281 – 289. The Gang Wars saga that preceded the Hobgoblin’s big reveal (and demise) was a cut above for a title that had settled into a rut for some time prior to this point.
17. Amazing Spider-Man 293 and 294, Web of Spider-Man 31 and 32, Spectacular Spider-Man 131 and 132. The six issue story arc Kraven’s Last Hunt was J.M. DeMatteis and Mike Zeck’s tour de force – a well-crafted diegesis in which the troubled Kraven decides that in order to defeat Spider-Man, he must become him. Kraven’s character is fully humanized as we learn of his desire to be at peace with himself before ending his life – conceptually this is ambitious stuff indeed, and Zeck’s art is superb. Can’t recommend this enough.
18. Amazing Spider-Man 300. Not just the origin and first full appearance of loveable psycho Venom, but the beginning of a whole new era for Spider-Man, as Todd McFarlane’s cartoony, zany refit caught fan attention. This issue was highly entertaining, but more significantly was the template for the title thereafter, culminating in the pedestrian drudgery of Maximum Carnage.
19. Amazing Spider-Man 315 – 317. It’s Spidey versus Venom again, with the action and silliness ratcheted up even further. Ludicrous stuff of course, not to mention rather vapid in places, but this was McFarlane at his peak.
20. Amazing Spider-Man 328. Cosmic Spider-Man battles the Hulk and kicks his backside into space! Throwaway fun at best, but it was somewhat gratifying to see Spidey turn the tables on old Greenskin. If you care about things like that.