Spider-Man Is Fifty And Still Awesome

It will come as no surprise to longtime readers that I am a huge Spider-Man fan. It is the book that I have collected the longest, the character that I have always liked the most, and the one that still look forward to reading every month. The first issue that I bought was ASM 324, part of the AssassinNation Plot where the killer revealed was Sabretooth. I already knew Sabretooth from the pages of X-Men and I had some Marvel Team-Up issues, but it was that MacFarlane cover that drew me in.

Comic book creative teams are kind of like Saturday Night Live casts, you like best whatever was the first team or cast you saw. So whether it is Mike Meyers and Dana Carvey or Micheline and MacFarlane you have a soft spot in your heart for whatever first introduced you to the work you know and love. Over the years I have owned every issue of Amazing Spider-Man. I’ve sold them all now but have Omnibus Editions and Marvel Digital Unlimited to re-read at my leisure. I also owned all of Web, Sensational, Marvel Team-Up, Tangled Web, Spectacular, etc. and so I’ve read a lot of Spidey books.

There have been stories and creative teams that are my favourites and others that I forced myself to read. So many great writers and artists have worked on these web slinging tales. In no order here is my list of favourites.

  • Stan Lee: Many will scoff at this answer but he created the character and wrote the first 100 issues.
  • David Michelinie: Cocreated Venom. Excellent Sinister Six tale, wove supporting cast into the stories effortlessly. Great stories backed by solid collaboration with McFarlane, Larsen, and Bagley.
  • Roger Stern: Created Hobgoblin, great gang stories.
  • Dan Slott: Has revitalized Spidey by giving him a fresh update that eliminates dated elements and keeps the great core of the character. Fantastic at making single issues that makes sense on their own but add to a larger narrative.
  • Paul Jenkins: His Peter Parker run was great and he the most underrated Spidey scribe ever. Solid stories, great use of villains, and a deep understanding of the character. Completely overshadowed by JMS run on ASM.
  • Honourable mentions should also go to Zeb Wells and Len Wein who can craft a great Spidey tale.
  • Todd McFarlane: Co-created Venom, made the eyes crazy big, his Spidey look was the defining look of the generation.
  • John Romita: If this list were ranked he would be #1, when people think of Spider-Man it is the Romita SR Spidey that they think of.
  • Mark Bagley: He has penciled almost 200 issues of the character and had huge shoes to fill following Larsen.
  • Marcos Martin: Brilliant style that reminds me of a Steve Ditko/ Tim Sale hybrid that is at the same time unique and his own. Some of the most moving moments of Spidey’s recent years have come from Martin.
  • Steve Ditko: Many feel that he is THE spider artist but I have never loved his stuff beyond appreciating his role in creating the universe and characters. His Dr. Strange stuff though is amazing.
  • Eric Larsen: A great Spidey artist no matter what Pete says.
  • John Romita Jr: So familiar with the character and able to really bring a unique look and style. Does a great beaten up Spidey.
Here are some of my favourite stories, do you self a favor and track them down:
  • Anti drug issues: Run without the comics code authority these issues help emphasize that the medium could be used for social commentary.
  • Death of Captain Stacy: A great reveal at the end and the sad death of another of Peter’s surrogate father figures.
  • Death of Gwen Stacy: Iconic. Heartbreaking. That tiny snap.
  • Kid Who Collected Spider-Man: A single issue story that will tug on your heartstrings.
  • Black Costume Saga: Spider-Man gets his new threads that eventually will be Venom.
  • Gang War: The Kingpin’s disappearance leaves a power vacuum in the criminal underworld. Hilarity ensues.
  • Hobgoblin Arc: The Hobgoblin/Rose storylines through the 200s of ASM are classic long form storytelling at its best.
  • Cosmic Spider-Man: This is it! Spidey goes cosmic! Spider-Man takes on heavy hitters like Magneto and Hulk and uses his new powers to crush them.
  • Death of Aunt May: Issue #400 has since been retconned so Aunt May didn’t die, but this was a moving issue about the most consistent supporting character in the book. A shame its message of family and loss ended up being meaningless.
  • Spider-Island: One of the best crossovers in the character’s history. In a summer where everyone was talking about Fear Itself and Flashpoint this gem flew under the radar.
  • Kraven’s Last Hunt: For many this is THE Spider-Man story. A grittier tale about what makes Peter a hero.
The character has guest-starred in almost every book Marvel has ever published from Avengers to Top Dog to X-Men. There is a Spider-Man story for everyone. He has been in movies, video games, lunchboxes, and breakfast cereal. And everyone, no matter who they are, can sing at least part of the Spider-Man theme song. Here’s to another 50 web-head.
Anthony Falcone
Anthony Falcone

Anthony Falcone is a freelance writer living in Toronto and he is the Ayatollah of Rocknrolla. You should definitely follow him on Twitter.

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Danny Champion
11 years ago

Strongest rogues’ gallery too? Or is that still Batman?

Did you read Spider-Men recently? Some of the Strongest art and colour in the Marvel U right now, outside of Coipel.
Looks great on-screen too. For my money, Spidey’s the only character that actually dictates to the artist how he must be drawn. So much rewarding and expected physicality in his posture and body-language. You can see it in your head before it even happens on-page.

When can we expect some ‘decent’ Spidey animation? I thought Disney where all over that? Toy Story 4 maybe? The one where Andy gets into nerd toys.

Thor Odinson
Thor Odinson
11 years ago

^ No way…by issue 20 Spider-Man had already surpassed Batman in terms of a great rogues gallery. And the Rhino, Kingpin, Hobgoblin, and Venom were still a long way off…

And while most of Spidey’s villains are maybe not so fearsome in the modern era (does anyone really care if he never fights the Sandman again?), at least they don’t each have some stupid idiosyncrasy that gets them caught or defeated EVERY time.

Anthony, I think you were purposely trying to piss me off by calling Stan Lee “Spider-Man’s creator” instead of “co-creator”. Yet you credit Todd “formerly the artist who actually drew things” McFarlane as the co-creator of Venom? He didn’t even design the costume, apart from the teeth and tongue! (OK…I grudgingly admit that those are pretty much essential in Venom’s case). Anyhow this is all another example of your latent resentment towards Steve Ditko, because it was he, not your belovedly overrated John Romita, who invented the classic red-and-blue, a fact which no reboot or ret-con can ever change).

I’m also appalled that you mentioned the ridiculous Cosmic Spider-Man story in the same sentence as Kraven’s Last Hunt.

11 years ago
Reply to  Thor Odinson

Ditko is overrated. I’m tired of hearing how he created Spider-Man. Get over it. It was all about Stan Lee. Truth to tell, the Spider-Man that evolved into a world icon was born in ASM # 39. Romita Sr. is a legend. His art put Marvel on the map. Again, get real; get over it!

Thor Odinson
Thor Odinson
11 years ago
Reply to  Jack

^ Says “Jack”.

a.k.a. John Romita, Jr.

11 years ago
Reply to  Thor Odinson

Come on, dude. Ditko’s art is silly, cartoonish, dated, etc. Honestly, it’s very hipster to be “all about Ditko,” but the truth is that Romita Sr was the man that put Marvel on the map. In many ways I rank him above Lee in terms of development of the icon we know today. Ditko’s role, albeit integral at a moment in time, is way overplayed as a result of misguided sympathy and the hipster tendency to go against the gran and be edgy. Spider-Man, the one we adore, is a Lee & Romita product/creation. We all know this.