Best Spider-Man Comics
Best Spider-Man Comics
The 2017 summer blockbuster Spider-Man: Homecoming was a real treat. But this cinematic incarnation of Peter Parker is a far cry from the brave but eternally melancholic science nerd-cum-superhero we remember from the comics. In fact, the movie made us want to return to the source. But catching up with over half a century of stories is not an option. So the question is: what should we read, where do we start? Enter Michael Minneboo: expert of all things ‘Spidey’ and author of Mijn vriend Spider-Man (My Buddy Spider-Man). Here are Mike’s five essential Spider-Man stories.
1. Origin of the Hobgoblin
One could argue that the Green Goblin aka Norman Osborn is Spider-Man’s ultimate nemesis. In the 1980s he had been dead for about a decade, and readers wanted him back. The main Spider-Man scribe at the time, Roger Stern, didn’t want to resurrect Osborn. Therefor he decided to meet the readers halfway: together with artist John Romita Jr. he created the Hobgoblin. A villain that stumbles upon the Green Goblin’s old hide-outs and equipment and creates the Hobgoblin identity by upgrading Osborn’s stuff. Hobgoblin became the ultimate Spidey villain for the decade. He’s very smart, lethal and looks like a great Halloweenesque character to boot.
‘The origin of the Hobgoblin is a very well crafted and exiting story. Stern uses pre-existing elements of the Spider-Man mythos, and gives them a modern and fresh twist. John Romita Jr. excels in visual storytelling. To me, he’s the best Spider-Man-artist ever. The battles between the hero and the Hobgoblin are visually exiting, and at the heart of this storyline is the mystery of Hobgoblin’s real identity.
Originally published in ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ #238-239,
244-245, 249-251 (1983-1984) and ‘Peter Parker, the
Spectacular Spider-Man’ #43, #47-#48 en 85.
Also collected in the trade paperback ‘Origin of the
Hobgoblin’ and the omnibus ‘Spider-Man by Roger Stern’.
2. The Night Gwen Stacy Died
In the early days of his career, Peter Parker experienced a couple of major losses. The first one was the death of his Uncle Ben, which made him realise that with great power, there must also come great responsibility. The second big loss was the death of his first great love, Gwen Stacy. When the Green Goblin kidnaps Gwen, he drops her off the Brooklyn Bridge. Spidey tries to save her, but fails. Even with superpowers, a hero doesn’t always succeed.
‘The Night Gwen ‘The Night Gwen Stacy Died’ is a two part story that shook the comic book world and in a way made it lose its innocence. If the hero isn’t always able to save the day, anything is possible.
Written by Gerry Conway, with art by Gil Kane.
Originally published as ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ #121 & 122 (1973),
reprinted in trades and special collections numerous times.
3. The Master Planner-Saga
This is a classic three-part story by the original creators of Spider-Man: Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. Of course, their run is mandatory reading for any Spidey-fan, but this one sticks out, because it’s a great example of how being Spider-Man frustrates the life of Peter Parker.
Peter starts his first year in college. He’s worried about his sick Aunt May who is dying of blood poisoning. She once needed a transfusion of Peter’s radioactive blood and that’s what making her sick. The serum that can save May’s life is in the hands of a villain who calls himself the Master Planner, who turns out to be Spidey’s nemesis Doctor Octopus.
During their fight in the villain’s hideout, the ceiling collapses burrying Spider-Man under tons of machinery and rubble while the chamber begins to flood. The situation looks hopeless. Thinking about how he doesn’t want to let May down like he did Uncle Ben, Peter finds superhuman strength within himself and is able to slowly lift the tons of rubble off his back. Ditko illustrates every part of this process by making each comic book panel bigger than the last one, underlining Peter finding the power within to persevere and free himself. In this classic sequence Ditko perfectly shows his artistry and wonderful draughtsmanship.
Originally published in ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ #30-33 (1965/66),
but also included in ‘Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spider-Man’ vol. 4.
4. Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut
When the unstoppable Juggernaut tries to kidnap the blind clairvoyant Madame Web, Spider-Man tries everything within his power to protect her. When he fails and Juggernaut almost kills the elderly woman, Peter decides that, whatever it takes, the villain must be stopped.
This two-parter is a wonderful study of Spider-Man’s character and perseverance. Risking his own life, Spider-Man tries to protect others against evil, even when he is confronted with an opponent who is way out of his league.
Story (again) by Roger Stern, with art by John Romita Jr. This creative Spider-Man dream team show what heroes like Spider-Man are made of, and why he’s the best comic book character in the world.
Originally published in ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ #229-230 (1982).
Also collected in the trade paperback titled ‘Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut’.
People who watch superhero movies, sometimes complain about the origin stories. To me, Spider-Man’s origin story is one of the greatest of the genre. Stan Lee and Steve Ditko introduce Spider-Man in a mere 11 pages. But these 11 pages are one of comic book’s gems.
Peter Parker is 15 when a radioactive Spider bites him, giving him spider-powers. Instead of becoming a hero, the social outcast decides to become Spider-Man and make money in showbiz. This way he is able to financially help out his Aunt May and Uncle Ben, the people that have raised him ever since his parents died. When a thief breaks into the TV studio where he is recording and makes a run for the door, Spider-Man does nothing and lets him get away.
When a burglar breaks into the Parker house and kills Uncle Ben, Peter discovers this is the same guy he easily could have stopped a few weeks ago. But he didn’t bother back then for selfish reasons. Because he feels responsible for his uncle’s death, the youth now has learned that with having great power, there also comes great responsibility. Ben’s death makes Peter decide that Spider-Man must help out his fellow men, even to great personal cost.
Originally published in ‘Amazing Fantasy’ #15 (1962),
reprinted numerous times, among which ‘Marvel Masterworks:
The Amazing Spider-Man’ Vol. 01 and ‘Essential Spider-Man’ vol.1.
Michael Minneboo is a comics expert, journalist and blogger. He has been a Spider-Man-fan for over 30 years. In 2017, his book 'Mijn vriend Spider-Man: Superhelden, geeks en fancultuur' (My Buddy Spider-Man: Superheroes, geeks and fan culture) was released. He blogs about comics and popular culture on http://www.michaelminneboo.nl. On Twitter he is @MichaelMinneboo.