Well, this was a tough one. With fifty years of comic books, multiple titles, mini-series, one-shots, graphic novels, and more, determining the ten best Spider-Man stories ever was a tall order. Luckily, we were able to meet it in a way no one will ever be able to dispute! Here are the universally agreed on ten best Spider-Man comics, ever:
10. Spider-Man – No More!
Spider-Man: the original Rodney Dangerfield, getting no respect from anyone. Fed up, Peter throws his costume in the trash just as the Kingpin of Crime first appears… But after meeting a man very, very similar to his Uncle Ben, Pete decides to put the costume back on and be Spider-Man for good. Amazing Spider-Man #50 is chock full of iconic moments from Stan Lee and penciller John Romita, Sr. but more than anything, it was a reaffirmation of who Spider-Man is, and why he keeps fighting.
9. Amazing Spider-Man #33
The whole three issue “Master Planner” arc is pretty excellent as early Spider-Man goes, but its probably best remembered for the insanely good four page sequence pencilled by Steve Ditko, and teased on the cover. Buried under tons of rubble, about to pass out, Spider-Man thinks of what life would be like for his – currently bed-ridden – Aunt May, and manages to push himself further than he’s ever gone before, lifting the wreckage off long enough to escape. Ditko is the true star here, and there have been plenty of superhero sequences before and since that depend on the main character triumphing by just giving 110%… But we’ll be darned if that doesn’t get to the heart of who Spidey is in a few simple panels.
8. Nothing Can Stop The Juggernaut
In the best Spider-Man stories, Spidey doesn’t necessarily win. Sure, mostly he does, but he gets the spit kicked out of him first. And unlike other heroes, who get a few scratches, Spider-Man will walk around with a cast on his arm for months. That’s one of the elements that makes this two-part story from Roger Stern and John Romita, Jr. so great: it even lets us know in the title, there’s no way Spidey can win! But he tries, both for his injured friend Madame Web (another classic Spidey trope, protecting his mentors and friends from harm by taking it himself), and to stop Juggie from doing further harm… And all Juggernaut does is just keep walking.
7. Web of Spider-Man #1/Amazing Spider-Man #300
This is a little bit of a cheat, but these two landmark comics are so inextricably linked, it’s tough to keep them apart. In the first, Spider-Man’s “evil” symbiote costume takes control of Peter’s body as he tries to battle a new gang of Vultures, finally ending with a climactic battle in a bell tower. What makes the issue so beautiful though is that it ends with the symbiote, rejected by Parker and defeated, taking his unconscious, naked body and gently placing it out of harms way, before disappearing… Until ASM #300, marking the first, terrifying appearance of arch-villain Venom (dovetailing with events in WoS #1), and perhaps even more importantly, penciller Todd McFarlane who’s art would go on to influence the entire comic book industry for the next decade and beyond.
6. Amazing Spider-Man #38-#39
Interestingly, the original ASM #39 is also a fan-favorite – the “How Green Is My Goblin?” story that found Norman Osborn and Peter Parker discovering each other’s secret identities… But we’re actually referring to the more modern iteration, which had an even more important reveal: Aunt May finally finding out Peter’s superhero identity. In #38, they do nothing but talk, for one solid issue about what it means for both of them and their relationship going forward – and back. The next issue? A totally silent, ‘Nuff Said comic, as Aunt May finds out all she can about Spidey, and tries to figure out just how she feels about his other life. Together, they work as a study in contrasts, and we can’t really think of one without the other.
5. Kraven’s Last Hunt
Okay, so why number five for possibly the best Spider-Man story ever? Because it’s the best Kraven story ever… And the number five best story involving Spider-Man ever. The death of Spider-Man is just the beginning of Kraven’s journey, as he “consumes” the Spider in order to become him. Don’t get us wrong: Spider-Man is put through the ringer here, and even buried alive… But from front to back, it’s Kraven’s show; and it’s a doozy.
4. The Death of Gwen Stacy
Is this the most famous Spider-Man story of all time (except our number one choice, of course)? Arguably, yes, as the Death of Gwen Stacy at the hands of the Green Goblin is considered by many to also be a major turning point in the history of comic books; almost a loss of innocence, if you will. With that in mind, it’s also a brilliantly scripted and drawn story, particularly the final sequence at the Brooklyn Bridge. Even decades later, anyone who has read the story – and seen Spider-Man desperately trying to save his girlfriend’s life… And failing… Will never forget it.
3. Spider-Man: Blue
Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s “color” series for Marvel are justly lauded as meditations on exactly what make each character so special. Spider-Man: Blue might just be the best, though, as it deals emotionally with the death of Gwen Stacy, while simultaneously paying tribute to what made the relationship between Peter and Gwen so special. Mixing action, and strong character beats with a gorgeous color palette by Steve Buccellato (tinted with blue, natch), this gives us the catharsis that the previous item on our list lacks.
2. The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man
This was actually only the back-up story in Amazing Spider-Man #248, but the Roger Stern scripted story, with pencils by Ron Frenz is remembered because it captures in a few short pages everything that’s wonderful about Spider-Man, before breaking our frickin’ hearts. The world’s biggest Spider-Man fan finally meets his hero when he sneaks into his bedroom at night. The kid and Spidey trade stories, then the kid asks Spider-Man who he really is. Spider-Man shockingly pulls off his mask, tells his origin, and when the kid tells him he still thinks Spidey is great, Peter smiles and leaves. It’s a sweet little story, until you find out the child is about to die of leukemia, and his dying wish is to meet Spider-Man. That’s when the tears start coming, and they never, ever stop.
1. Amazing Fantasy #15
We agonized about including this story at the top, just because we’ve seen so many different versions of the origin of Spider-Man over the years. Then we realized: we’ve seen so many different versions, because the original story is pretty much the perfect comic book. A flawed hero, exciting powers, great, original characters, and a tale that could only be told in comic books, the origin of Spider-Man is not just a great comic, but quite possibly the single best origin story ever told. For that alone, it deserves first place.
HONORABLE MENTION: Dan Slott’s current run on Amazing Spider-Man is one of the best of all time. We didn’t include a specific storyline on the list, because even with a few years under his belt, it’s tough to get the perspective we have on the rest of these titles to say which is a “classic” storyline. Suffice to say, pick up ASM right now, and we’ll see you back here for a revised list on the 75th Anniversary