(Welcome to Comics Rewind, a weekly column devoted to discovering – or re-discovering – great comics published some time in the past. Here you will find looks back at comics published in every era, from the Golden Age to the Modern Age, as well as retrospectives on the work of important comics writers, lists of “essential” comics, and evaluations of important works, as well as works worthy of a second look or a wider audience. Enjoy!)
Since we’ve got The Amazing Spider-Man creeping up on us in just a couple of weeks, I thought it would be fun to take things in a Spider-Man direction here at Comics Rewind. But here’s the thing: I couldn’t decide on which one to feature. So it’s list time!
I haven’t done the math, but it’s entirely possible that Spider-Man’s had more stories published about him at this point than any other comic book superhero, including Superman. There have been points in history where as many as five Spider-Man series were in publication at once (there are three right now), and at times the flagship book – The Amazing Spider-Man - has been published two or three times per month. That’s a lot of Spidey to comb through, and this is all my way of saying that, like most lists I write, this is by no means meant to be a definitive statement on the “best” or “definitive” Spider-Man stories. I just find these interesting, OK? I find them interesting for a number of reasons, and I being that it’s (almost) Spider-Man season at the moment, I decided to trot them out. So, in chronological order, here they are:
Green Goblin Reborn! (The Amazing Spider-Man #96-98, 1971)
Harry Osborn’s popping pills, Norman Osborn doesn’t remember he’s the Green Goblin, and both Harry and Peter Parker are having lady issues. This story is noteworthy because it’s one of the darker tales from the Stan Lee era of Spidey writing, and because it’s considered the first drug-related story in mainstream comic books.
The Six Arms Saga (The Amazing Spider-Man #100-102, 1971)
Another of the more outstanding bits from the Lee era. Peter Parker doesn’t want to be Spider-Man any more, so he cooks up a concoction designed to remove his powers. Of course, the thing backfires, and he wakes up the next morning to find that he’s grown four extra arms (to give him eight limbs; you know, like a spider). Add to that the introduction of Morbius, the Living Vampire, and this is practically essential reading.
The Night Gwen Stacy Died (The Amazing Spider-Man #121-122, 1973)
Because we’ve got a Spidey and Gwen movie coming up, and because this is probably one of the most important superhero stories ever written, and definitely one of the most important Spider-Man stories.
The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man (The Amazing Spider-Man #248, 1984)
This one isn’t about supervillain battles or major character changes. This is about fandom, and about the power of the metaphor of a superhero. It’s one of the more touching comics you’ll ever pick up.
Kraven’s Last Hunt (Web of Spider-Man #31-32, The Amazing Spider-Man #293-294 and Spectacular Spider-Man #131-132, 1987)
Because too many Spider-Man readers have forgotten how amazing Kraven could be when he got the right story.
Torment (Spider-Man #1-5, 1990)
It’s an essential Spider-Man vs. The Lizard story. Plus, it’s Todd McFarlane at his most kick-ass.
Maximum Carnage (Spider-Man Unlimited #1-2, Web of Spider-Man #101-103, The Amazing Spider-Man #378-380, Spider-Man #35-37, Spectacular Spider-Man #201-203, Carnage U. S. A, 1993)
Come on. I don’t really need an excuse to recommend an epic Carnage story to anyone, do I?
Flowers for Rhino (Spider-Man’s Tangled Web #5-6, 2001)
What if the dim-witted Rhino was suddenly imbued with new intelligence? That’s the conceit of Peter Milligan’s Spider-Man meets Flowers for Algernon story. Plus, I’ve always kind of loved Rhino.
Spider-Man: Blue (2002)
Of all the “colors” limited series Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale have fired off at Marvel, Blue is probably the best. It’s a beautiful meditation on the Spider-Man and Gwen Stacy love story, and a great self-contained Spidey book to hand to a new reader.
One More Day (The Amazing Spider-Man #544-545, Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #24 and The Sensational Spider-Man #41, 2007)
You might remember this arc as the one that pissed off nearly every Spider-Man fan on the planet a few years back. Even still, it’s worth reading for its importance in Spidey’s modern history, and for a sense of the difference a bad editorial decision can make. And hey, you might even like it.