Having watched all the Spider-Man movies, (yes, even the old Nicholas Hammond ones!), it is encouraging that they get better with every new venture. One important ingredient for this successful trend is the adoption of more and more comic book elements, from organic webbing to the recent shutter-mask upgrade.
Overall, I’ve been a happy camper when it comes to Spidey movies, but that still hasn’t stopped me from comparing them to classic comic book tales. Sticking to my personal tradition, here are 10 (in no order of preference) iconic Spidey tales for you to follow up on – just in case you caught the Homecoming bug!
High school kid gets bitten by radioactive spider and becomes Spider-Man, but swears to use his powers to help people after his Uncle Ben is shot and killed by a robber he had let go earlier.
Since it was first told 55 years ago in Amazing Fantasy #15 (1962), Peter Parker’s origin story is one that has been told repeatedly, both in the comics and in the film.
While Spider-Man: Homecoming mercifully spares us from having to sit through Uncle Ben dying yet again, giving Spidey’s origin story a new spin is not easy.
Enter Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley, whose first issue of Ultimate Spider-Man in 2000 gets my pick for best story on Peter Parker’s origin.
The added depth and dimension this Ultimate version offered just made it impossible to resist, plus the final page where Peter hangs upside down got me screaming “Wow!”.
From Peter’s social ineptness to the additional panels focused on Ben Parker, this 21st century revamp certainly smoothed the transition into the 2002 Spider-Man movie.
Spidey vs. the Sinister Six
The biggest allure of being a Spidey fan is watching him work to uphold his “with great powers comes great responsibility” mantra. This has resulted in him going against insurmountable odds most of the time.
Some of the more memorable bruising encounters that come to mind includes Spidey stopping the Juggernaut (see Amazing Spider-Man #229 and #230), going up against Thanos (Marvel Two In One Annual #2), and even going toe-to-toe with The Hulk (Amazing Spider-Man #120).
However, all these pale in comparison to his first showdown with the Sinister Six in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.
With his powers fading away, Peter had to take on Doctor Octopus, Electro, Mysterio, Kraven, Vulture and Sandman in order to rescue Betty Brant and Aunt May.
The individual panels showing his showdown with each of the villains are still some of the most iconic Ditko has ever drawn.
Hitting the jackpot
There have been so many worthy Peter and Mary Jane Watson moments throughout the webslinger’s history.
Their first meeting in Amazing Spider-Man #42, Peter’s proposals (#184 and #290) and their wedding (Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21), to name a few.
But the one single issue that best defines Peter and MJ’s relationship is encapsulated in the eventful Sensational Spider-Man Annual #1 by Matt Fraction and Salvador Larocca.
Set post-Civil War, with the Parkers on the run from SHIELD, a short pit stop for a cup of coffee re-opens a flood of memories for the two lovebirds, retracing their early days and what makes them complete each other. The panoramic shot of them perched on top of the Empire State Building is simply breathtaking!
Then Marvel had to spoil it all by erasing their marriage with the whole One More Day fiasco. Sigh.
Kraven steps up
The Green Goblin, Venom and Doc Ock may have threatened Spidey’s life the most number of times.
But it is Sergei Kravinoff aka Kraven The Hunter who has the honour of inflicting the heaviest defeat on the wall crawler, in J.M. DeMatteis & Mike Zeck’s Kraven’s Last Hunt story (Web Of Spider-Man #31-32, Amazing Spider-Man #293-294, and Spectacular Spider-Man #131-132).
For years, Kraven was a bit-part villain who usually ended up getting sucker punched by Spidey before the last panel.
Well, the kid gloves are certainly off in Kraven’s Last Hunt, as he not only defeats Spidey but he also buries him alive and replaces him! While this may sound both evil and sick, Kraven’s actions seals his stature as a bonafide grade-A Spidey villain.
In the 70s, the introduction of the Spider-Mobile (a dune buggy that ferries Spidey to do his crime fighting!) was an idea that bordered between ridiculous and blasphemous. Today, we have the Spider-verse exposing us to every possible Spidey-variation.
All these offer a glimpse of how the traditional Lee-Ditko creation can be altered. But sometimes, all it takes is a wardrobe change to hit the jackpot.
Before Tom DeFalco, Roger Stern and Ron Frenz put him in the now familiar black costume in Amazing Spider-Man #252 (1984), Peter had been wearing the famliar red and blue costume for more than two decades without ever changing.
Throw in the fact that it was actually an alien symbiote that would give birth to influential Spidey characters like Venom, Carnage, Toxin and Agent Venom, and it makes his fashion upgrade even more iconic!
Crossing the line
Sometimes we wish Spidey/Peter would cross the line sometimes and be more selfish in terms of his personal needs and life. We got a glimpse of that with the Superior Spider-Man run (2013-2014) by Dan Slott with Ryan Stegman, Humberto Ramos, and Giuseppe Camuncoli.
While putting Doc Ock in Peter’s body caused a huge uproar initially, it ended up being one of the most refreshing twists on the character in its history.
Doc Ock actually helped improved Peter’s life, by completing his long overdue academic recognition, making a profit from inventions, optimising his crime fighting methods, and maintaining a steady relationship. Slott is a freaking genius for overturning the death threats he got at first into accolades!
Still got the blues
Before MJ became Spidey’s permanent love-interest, there was Gwen Stacy (and before her, Betty Brant).
While today’s generation of Spidey fans would know her as Spider-Gwen, the original Earth 616 Gwen actually had strong romantic ties with Peter but sadly died without knowing that he is Spider-Man (though that changed with the recent Clone Conspiracy story)
Anyway, Spider-Man Blue (2002) by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale is a biographical tribute that beautifully re-captures Gwen and Peter’s early courting days. What makes it even more special is that it even came with MJ’s blessings!
Death becomes her
The Night Gwen Stacy Died is one of the most impactful Spider-Man stories of all time. Told in Amazing Spider-Man #121 and #122 (1973) by Gerry Conway and Gil Kane, it is also one of the best Spidey stories, and taught me that there’s actually ‘life’ in comic book characters.
I recall reading this when I was seven and Gwen’s death hit me just as hard as a loved one’s departure.
When the Green Goblin (Norman Osborn) met his fate at the hands of his own glider in the following issue, I felt Gwen’s soul being avenged and still cheer on whenever I read that issue.
While Batman fans will never agree, Gwen’s death stands out as one of those rare comic book moments where death, revenge and retribution came in one swift package.
Come what May
Before Homecoming’s younger version played by Marisa Tomei, Aunt May has always been portrayed as a fragile septuagenarian who gets a heart attack every time something terrifying happens. Hence, most of the 60s and 70s Spidey-stories had Peter in panic mode whenever she gets caught in the crossfire.
Anyway, one major redeeming factor from J Michael Straczynski’s controversial Spidey stint (think Gwen-adultery and Osborn-twins) is the handling of May’s reaction to finding out about Peter’s secret identity in Amazing Spider-Man #38 (2002).
The post-conversation between the duo certainly does justice to the parental bond they share.
Best Make-A-Wish moment
While it seems as if almost everyone knows Peter Parker is Spidey these days, back in the 80s, only a rare handful of people knew his identity.
If memory serves me, Roger Stern and John Romita Jr’s The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man story in Amazing Spider-Man #248 (1984) was the first time Peter voluntarily revealed his identity … and it was for a good cause!
Timothy Harrison is a nine-year-old diagnosed with leukemia, who collects everything related to Spidey, from articles and paraphernalia to Spidey-related “artifacts” from crime scenes. In this “Make A Wish” tale, Spidey takes a night off from saving the world to spend time with his biggest fan.