A pop culture behemoth and a symbol of the underdog, Spider-Man is the perennial everyman. Sure we might not all have radioactive spider powers but Peter Parker had to juggle school life with a superhero alter ego, all the while he’s living by a moral code given to him by his late uncle. With great power comes great responsibility. Dealing with school bullies one minute and then battling flying super villains the next. So here we have the top 20 Spidey stories according to moi. Loving the feedback so far guys, nice to get debates and conversation going, it’s the intention of these lists. If you disagree or want to ask something then fire away, I’m all for it. @swing_kinker or @BigGlasgowComic is where you can get me. Anyhoo, let’s get on with the list shall we.
24. The Wedding-1987
It finally happened!. Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson are finally getting married. Most of the issue leading up up to the wedding deals with Peter wondering how he can adequately provide for her whilst also worrying about the danger he’s putting her in. M.J is a huge fan favourite among comic readers but….I’ve had a bit of a love hate relationship with her. She’s supportive at times, a high maintenance party girl at other times. She’s romantic and besotted with Peter at times, she’s a whiny, unsupportive twat at others. I guess it depends on which writer is dealing with her. This issue is super sweet though and it’s nice to see them both so happy.
23. Spider-Man/Human Torch: I’m With Stupid: Year-2004
This charming miniseries was written by the polarising Dan Slott and drawn by the legendary Ty Templeton who does a wonderful job conveying the nostalgic charm the series was going for. Slott is well known for being a massive fan of Spidey and has his dream job of writing almost exclusively spider-man stories. While nobody with any sense would be anything other than happy for him, some of his decisions and the directions he has taken the character he loves so much has really rubbed a lot of people up the wrong way….but shouldn’t art do that sometimes? I personally don’t read much Spidey these days as Slott’s work isn’t always to my taste. This series on the other hand is the work of a man who loves Marvel history and uses it beautifully to explore the relationship between Petey Parker and Johnny Storm. The dialogue is excellent and there’s a real 60s type charm to the whole thing. It’s light, it’s fun and it’s an example of just how great a writer Slott can be.
This alternate universe version of Eddie Brock and the symbiote suit is more tragic and personal to Peter with Eddie being a childhood friend who reappears in his life. He’s working on a cure for cancer that his later father had been trying to perfect and it turns out he had been working on it with Peter’s father. The symbiote slime is core to the experiment and so predictably everything goes tits up and completely out of control. Better than the standard origin of Venom.
21. Tangled Web #4: Year-2001
Greg Rucka is a writer who doesn’t get discussed nearly as much as he should. He’s like a journeyman writer who goes about his work and flies under the radar which is a shame because his work deserves more than that. Take this little cracker for instance…..I love a good Kingpin story and I also love a short anthology tale. This ticks both of those boxes and with the authority of a 1950s headmaster. The story starts off showing the home life of a man who watches his tv as a weapons sale he was in charge of gets busted. He receives a phone call from the Kingpin telling him that someone will be along to pick him up soon. Turns out the job was for Wilson Fisk (Kingpin) himself and he is not a happy man. The man’s wife begs for him to get out of this meeting somehow as it will lead to his death but he seemingly accepts his fate. What follows is an incredibly tense car ride, following his journey to meet the Kingpin and my nerves are jangling as I’m dying to know what will happen. It’s amazing what build up work a good writer can do in such a short space of time. Nice art from Eduardo Risso just sweetens the deal.
20. Coming Home: Year-2001
Oh boy, talk about a run that went boobs up. Marvel realised that their awful string of Spider-Man crossovers that ran relentlessly through the 90s had turned fans off and the webslinger was not the popular force that he once was. So what do publishers do when they run out of ideas? Reboot baby!! After 29 so so issues written by Howard Mackie they gave the reigns to Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynsky and he rejuvenated the title with an interesting story involving a new character called Ezekiel who has the same powers as Spidey. Ezekiel is trying to tell Peter that he is part of an evolving food chain known as a totem and a character called Morlun is out to feed on him. It all started out great and interesting but man, it fell to crap shortly after the first couple of arcs. Many blame editorial interference which is very possible as they never can seem to let the writers just see out their vision. This was a great start to the run though and also had Pete take a job as a high school teacher which was awesome.
19. Spider-Man No More-1967
This classic Stan Lee, John Romita Sr issue was a big influence on the excellent 2004 Sam Raimi movie Spider-Man 2. The burden and pressure of being Spidey becomes too much for Peter and he throws his suit away pledging that he’s done with the superhero life. Several scenes of contemplation later he obviously comes to the conclusion that no matter how tough it gets, this is his destiny.
18. No One Dies: Year-2011
Dan Slott is a writer who conflicts Spidey fans, some of whom think he is revolutionary and brings imaginative ideas to the series. Then there are others who think those ideas are too outside the box and take away from the core of what a Spider-Man story should be. I’m in the middle….sorry to be a fence sitter but I really like some of his stuff and then he comes out with some rubbish that just turns me off. He’s a lifelong fan of the character and it makes me happy that he gets to live his dream of writing the series, it’s a nice thing to see. Anyway this story chronicles the death of J. Jonah Jameson’s wife Maria and after the funeral, Peter delves into an existential dream sequence seeing all the people who have died since he took up the mantle of Spider-Man and he vows not to let anyone else die. Just after that a new supervillain known as massacre turns up whose modus operandi is to kill as many people as he can…….awkwaaaaard. The extended dream sequence drawn by Marcos Martin is just a thing of beauty. Wonderful story.
17. Death Of The Stacys: Year-1970-1973
Many of you would probably expect this to be higher due to it’s importance in ushering in the silver age of comics and for providing the comic buying public of the time with the unthinkable death of a major character in a mainstream title. I am doing this list on what I have read and how it made me feel so I didn’t get the impact that it caused as it was before my time and I even knew all of the reveals and twists when I read it (the collected title kind of gives it away) so although I enjoyed it a lot and can appreciate the impact it had, it just didn’t have the chance to shock me. Be that as it may, this covers the deaths of both Captain George Stacy, a police captain and mentor to Peter Parker who is also his girlfriend’s father and the death of Gwen herself. Both deaths are handled maturely and with great pathos and sentiment by both Stan Lee and Gerry Conway with art from John Romita sr and Gil Kane.
16. Threat Or Menace: Year-1981
Including excellent art (along with the cover) from Frank Miller and Klaus Janson, the first story from the The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #15 is jam packed with a frantic plot including Spidey battling Doc Ock and coming into conflict with the Punisher. Denny O Neill penned this story of a fake Swami who is poisoning people while pretending he has perfected a death touch. The Punisher kills him but the poison falls into the wrong hands and Spidey and Frank Castle are racing to get it back while disagreeing with the means of which to deal with the bad guys. O Neill’s Spider-Man run is often derided and it certainly wasn’t anywhere near the quality of his Batman run but this story is superb. It’s absolutely full of well paced action that flows perfectly and leaves you breathless just by reading it. An under appreciated gem.
15. Son Of The Goblin: Year-1974-1993
This collection is essentially the entire life arc of Harry Osborn, son of and successor to his father The Green Goblin so there is a lot to cover and it’s all neatly collected in this one trade paperback. Harry was a tragic character who just wanted to be loved by his father who looks down at him with shame as he doesn’t have the same ruthless business savvy that he does. Harry is best friends with Peter but detests Spider-Man as he is accused of killing his father. That awkwardness leads to some great tension within the friendship and leads to Harry becoming a drug addict, taking on the role of the new Goblin and generally just becoming a nutter. Peter desperately tries to get the old Harry back and rid him of his ghosts which finally works as Harry redeems himself …..but at a cost. The final issue in the collection is written by J.M. Dematteis and is just beautiful.
14. Return Of The Burglar: year-1979-1980
The burglar from the very first issue of Spider-Man, the catalyst for everything to come, the Killer of Uncle Ben (insert your own sauce joke here) returns to team up with Mysterio. Why you ask? well he needs to gain access to the Parker household as that is where he has some old buried loot he wants to get his hands on. Mysterio fakes Aunt May’s death and Peter lets his guard down. Safe to say when Peter finds out it was all a trick he loses it and puts a heavy beating on the burglar. It’s all very tense and a great character study of Peter himself and it’s great therapy for everyone who wanted to see Uncle Ben’s killer get battered. Marv Wolfman wrote this classic.
It all began here. One of the most famous comic book origin stories of all time and a hugely influential one as well. Young Peter Parker is bitten by a radioactive spider whilst on a school trip. He then develops powers and ….great power….responsibility and Uncle Ben dies, you know the deal. A genuinely fun debut issue for the superhero that many kids around the world related to as he was a shy, geeky kid who got thrown into this crazy super world.
12. More Than You Bargained For: Year-2005
Kitty Pryde and Peter Parker go on a date…..there you go, all you need to know how good this is. The ultimate series ran adjacent to the regular series and was essentially a reboot even though the normal series was still running…..with me? The two teenagers spend the early parts of the issue bemoaning the fact they don’t fit in and will never find anyone who understands them etc…you know, like teenagers do. Eventually, with the help of her fellow x-men members, Kitty asks Peter out and they get together for an adorable and awkward date. Brian Michael Bendis nails the teenage dialogue as they desperately fumble for the right thing to say and stare at the phone waiting for it to ring. Any fan of romance and humour will love this.
11. The Gift: Year-1995
1995 was a brutal year for Spidey, the much, much derided 2nd Clone Saga was in full, endless, horrific effect and was driving readers to run as far away from the series as humanly possible. If they missed this 400th issue special then shame for them because J.M. Dematteis once again provides readers with a heart achingly beautiful issue where Aunt May is dying and spends her final day with Pete, M.J and Anna Watson. Pete takes her to the Empire State building observatory where she reveals she knows he is Spidey and is proud of him. Wow, what a revelation and Pete is stunned. The death scene itself is heart breaking and quite long for a death scene…….I’m sorry I’ve got something in my eye…..no wait I’ve got allergies!.
10: The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man: Year-1984
Possibly the most predictable entry on the list as it’s on every spider-man list ever. There’s a reason for that though as it is an incredibly moving piece that puts all of Peter’s adventures into perspective. Spidey visits a kid who is his number one fan, with newspaper clippings, pictures and all sorts of memorabilia in his room. It starts off as a cutesy little story about Spidey playing theatre and chatting with this kid but then all of a sudden he reveals his identity to him…..an identity that has been closely guarded for years. It all seems a bit out of character until he leaves the kid’s room and the (metaphorical) camera pans out to show that the kid’s room is in a centre for terminally ill children and Pete sits atop the building with his head slumped into his hands, a grief stricken mess. It’s a massive kick in the baws and incredible example of powerful short story telling.
9. Confessions: Year-2001
Brian Michael Bendis is known for placing the focus of his writing on deep characterisation (sometimes to the detriment of anything else) and it’s issues like this where he excels. Almost a year into the fantastic Ultimate series Peter decided to reveal his identity to his inevitable lover Mary Jane Watson and the unbridled teenage joy captured in the writing and art from Mark Bagley is perfect. Aunt May is hearing the noises of two teens in her nephew’s room and suspects that kinky things may be going on. It’s cute, wonderfully written and captures the fact that Pete is a teen, which is a trait that is often overlooked.
8: When Cometh The Commuter: Year-1985
Peter David took Spider-Man somewhere he’s rarely been….somewhere the environment is against him and somewhere he’s like a fish out of water. What is this horrendous place you ask? ……..DUN DUN DUN…Scarsdale New York…..a suburb with no tall buildings and nowhere for Spidey to swing from. It’s hilarious stuff with kids offering to lend their trikes and great art from Bob Mcleod. A unique and brilliantly executed idea.
7: Blue: Year-2003
It’s that superstar team of Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, haters gon’ hate as the kids say….unless they’ve moved onto something else now. I’m old…help me. Blue is a beautiful reminiscence package that reads a bit like Daredevil Yellow with the narration coming from Pete speaking into a Dictaphone. It’s essentially Pete remembering the time he spent with Gwen Stacy and is a loving tribute to the Stan Lee/John Romita era where Pete and Gwen were together. Tim Sale is on fire here, some stunning work from him. Moving and nostalgic.
6: Flowers For Rhino: Year-2001
A two part story from the under appreciated anthology series “Tangled Web” “Flowers for Rhino” is a take on the Daniel Keyes short story “Flowers For Algernon” in both tone and more obviously by name. It was written by the often subversive and always entertaining Peter Milligan and revolves around the titular bulky thicko who is hired to protect a Russian mob boss’ daughter. When he is told he got a full time job because he is too stupid and ugly to pose any business threat he undergoes an operation to make himself a genius…..comics. As time goes on he realises that being so smart comes with it’s downfalls as he finds everyone too stupid to relate to and everyone is beneath him (I know the feeling mate….). Utterly charming and completely off the wall, this story is a lesson in subverting preconceived notions of characters and twisting them into entertaining short stories.
5.The Death of Spider-Man: Year-2011
The Ultimate series was fantastic….all of it. Just start to finish brilliance and heading towards the end it was rumoured that Bendis was going to kill Peter off……yea yea we’ve heard it all before. Even when the title of the arc was announced it was still very much a case of fans thinking it was one of a number of marketing techniques used over the years to promote nothing but disappointment and lies. Mark Bagley came back to the series so it would finish off with the original creative team. I always loved the ultimate version of the Green Goblin….he was a hulking beast and incredibly intimidating. Spidey and Goblin take the fight to outside Peter’s house in front of Aunt May, M.J and other bystanders. When the stereotypical collapsing hero wins the battle and falls into an embrace with his loved ones, it’s only a matter of time until his eyes open again….back to normal………….Wait….he is going to open his eyes isn’t he?…..hello?!………what the???.
4. The Conversation: Year-2002
The Conversation is technically only #38 of J Michael Straczysnki’s infamous run on Amazing Spider-Man but the arc overall runs through 35 and 37 as well. After Peter comes home battered and bloodied from one of his more brutal fights, he doesn’t have the strength to hide his costume and just crashes out on his bed. Aunt May finds the costume and is obviously shocked and doesn’t know what to do so she keeps it to herself……until the conversation. Peter gets an ominous call from May saying “we need to talk” and we’ve all been there eh? Not a nice feeling. This is some of JMS’ finest writing and showcases what he was capable of before editorial interference ruined his run and sadly stories like this became less remembered than the more maligned arcs. He managed to strengthen the relationship between Aunt and nephew as Peter reveals his long held secret about where he was the night Uncle Ben (insert rice joke) died. May explains that she always felt guilty too as they had fought the night of his death. Wonderfully touching and affecting stuff for anyone who shares any amount of love for these characters.
3. Down Among The Dead Men: Year-2004
In actuality I’m counting Mark Millar’s entire 12 issue run on Marvel Knight’s Spider-Man but it still doesn’t have a name so I’m going with the first arc’s name. Although a little convoluted at times due to Norman Osborne’s complicated plan it still serves as a very entertaining read and as with most of Millar’s work it reads like a movie with a fast pace and plenty of action. Terry Dodson (inked by wife Rachel) and Frank Cho’s art compliments all of this and it just flows brilliantly. Aunt May is kidnapped, Spidey teams up with The Scorpion and fights a whole host of his rogues gallery and we get a new Venom. Highly recommended.
2. The Death Of Jean DeWolff: Year-1985-1986
This was Peter David’s first comic book work and baby Jesus what a debut it was. Blood and swearing does not make a comic mature, it bugs me when that is presented as such but this is true mature story telling through the medium of comics. It’s dark but with purpose, there’s pathos and it’s also the best spidey/Daredevil team-up ever. Captain Jean DeWolff was a character that would show up every so often and be friendly with Spidey, she was one of the cops who didn’t consider him a menace. Pete’s investigation into her death at the hands of the mysterious Sin Eater did more to flesh out her character than any proceeding story. Turns out she was in love him and that revelation floors Pete as he thinks of what could have been if she had spoken up. Black suit Spidey always led to stories where he would become more aggressive as the suit would force it’s influence on him and never more than here where he full on freaks ooooot! Upon finding out the identity of the Sin Eater he flips and tries to pummel him to death…literally, he is going to kill him until Daredevil steps in as he knows Pete would regret it. It’s a four part story that feels longer in a good way because it has so much going on in it. It set Peter David up to go on and become a very popular writer in comics, bringing his challenging style to various characters. To be honest this is darker than his usual work so shouldn’t really be seen as an example of his style. If you want a deep look into the struggle of Spider-Man’s dual identity and how he keeps sane with everything he’s dealt with then red this. It’s outstanding.
1. Kraven’s Last Hunt: Year-1987
Predictable? I don’t know, nor do I care. My list, my rules arite?! J.M.Dematteis is a writer I greatly admire for consistently writing heartwarming and deeply character driven comics. He even managed to sneak a little bit of quality into the 90s smash hit crossover crapfest Maximum Carnage. I read this very early into my comic reading life and it’s stuck with me more than most subsequent comics. It’s so well written and a brilliant character study of not only Peter but a minor joke of a character called Kraven. Before this, Kraven The Hunter was simply comedy foil for Spidey to beat up when a writer couldn’t think of anything else to do. So the fact that this one story (and his last) turned him into an iconic character in the Spidey universe says it all. His modus operandi was that he had hunted every predator in the wild (topical) and the one last prey he had to conquer?…..why our Spidey of course. All well and good for some fun stories but HOLY CRAP….here he succeeds in capturing the web crawler and buries him, stealing his suit in the process. He promises to be an even better spider-man than Pete ever was. It’s the ultimate domination, kill the man and wear his life as a trophy. Pete obviously survives with his love for MJ pulling him through and it becomes a game of hunter vs hunter. The art from Mike Zeck and inking from Bob Mcleod is superb and compliments the dark story perfectly with night time settings and rain becoming more visible with the flashes of lightning lighting up the city. I really can’t say enough good things about this story, it remains one of my favourite comics ever and that is why it makes the number 1 spot on this edition of Kinker Korner.
Aaaaand another list down. As always thank you so so much for reading whether you agree or not. Debate and conversation is what makes the comic book industry so great so let’s chat @swing_kinker or @BigGlasgowComic or on our facebook page….or here, just anywhere really. Shout at me in the street if you want. Until next time laddies and lassies, Swing Kinker out.