National Comic Book day is a celebration of this storytelling format; hoping to inspire people to pick up and read a comic. Along with National Comic Book Day, iconic Marvel superhero Spider-Man recently celebrated his 55th anniversary after making his comic book debut in August 1962 in Amazing Fantasy #15. So why not combine these two very special occasions and take a look at some of the best storylines in Spider-Man comics.
If This Be My Destiny…! – The Amazing Spider-Man #31 – 33
MAIN CHARACTERS: Spider-Man, Doctor Octopus
CHARACTERS INTRODUCED: Harry Osborn and Gwen Stacy
Peter attends his first day at college, meeting Gwen Stacy and Harry Osborn – two characters whose roles in Peter’s life would carry great significance in the future. While Peter is trying to adjust to college life, Aunt May comes down with a mysterious illness and a new supervillain known as the Master Planner begins stealing a various technological devices. It is later revealed that the Master Planner is in fact Doctor Octopus, who has the one thing that could save Aunt May’s life. The most memorable moment of this storyline is the image of Spider-Man trapped under heavy machinery and it looks like all hope is lost.
WHY READ IT? This storyline is an example of Peter’s struggle being a regular college student and his life as a superhero. The heavy machinery could be seen as a metaphor of all of Peter’s issues literally falling on top of him, with the burden of being a superhero weighing heavy on his shoulders. But after seeing visions of his Uncle Ben and Aunt May, he realizes he can’t fail her like he did Ben and his determination helps him escape.
Spider-Man No More! – The Amazing Spider-Man #50
MAIN CHARACTERS: Spider-Man, Gwen Stacy, Mary Jane, Harry Osborn
CHARACTERS INTRODUCED: The Kingpin
After being Spider-Man for many years, Peter realises he is still being unappreciated by the public. He has neglected his relationships with friends and family and has ignored his college work. So he decides enough is enough and gives up being the iconic web slinger for good. This comic book storyline paved the way for other characters giving up their superhero aliases in order to have a normal life. However, it almost never lasts, as Peter would soon don his red and blue costume again.
WHY READ IT? For years Peter has put in personal life to the side in order to be a superhero but he is now questioning his motives for being Spider-Man in the first place. He believes that for his own sanity he has to give up being the hero and by doing so, he will become a man. This comic is a defining moment in The Amazing Spider-Man comics because we are invited to see the vulnerable side of Peter Parker and that being Spider-Man doesn’t always have its benefits.
This storyline inspired the majority of Sam Raimi’s film, Spider-Man 2 in 2004.
The Night Gwen Stacy Died – The Amazing Spider-Man #121-122
MAIN CHARACTERS: Spider-Man, Gwen Stacy, Green Goblin
Before there was Mary Jane, there was Gwen Stacy – Peter Parker’s first love. Gwen is tragically killed after being kidnapped by the Green Goblin. This storyline is memorable because it was a watershed moment for comics as killing a significant character who was also the girlfriend of the title character was unheard of but writers decided to take a risk. With this risk came a change within comic books as storylines were becoming darker and grittier – citing the end of the Silver Age and the beginning of the Bronze Age.
WHY READ IT? Gwen’s death had a profound affect on Peter, similarly to the death of Uncle. Her death haunted Peter for a long time because he realised there was limits to his power and he didn’t know what else he could have done. Peter realised although he has the power he can’t save everyone. This is something that would be brought up in many other storylines in the Spider-Man mythos because of how impactful it was. It made readers aware that not even the ones close to Peter are safe and it’s something which would later affect his relationship with girlfriend and later wife Mary Jane Watson.
The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man – The Amazing Spider-Man #248
MAIN CHARACTERS: Spider-Man
CHARACTERS INTRODUCED: Timothy Harrison
This story involves a young fan getting to meet his hero – Spider-Man. The young fan is Timothy “Tim” Harrison, who collects all the articles ever written about Spider-Man. One day Spider-Man appears in Tim’s room and the two talk about Spider-Man’s career; who is surprised about Tim’s admiration for him. Tim asks to know who Spider-Man really is. Hesitant at first, Spider-Man eventually takes off his mask and reveals himself as Peter Parker to Tim. Peter also discusses Uncle Ben’s death, which ultimately caused him to fight crime as Spider-Man. We later find out that Tim is staying in a cancer clinic, having been diagnosed with leukaemia and only has a few weeks to live.
WHY READ IT? Upon retelling the story of Uncle Ben’s death, Peter once again feels the guilt of letting him down; blaming himself for his death. He feels as though he is unworthy of Tim’s admiration but Tim’s opinion of him doesn’t change. Although his Uncle’s death is one of Peter’s greatest failures, it made him into the man he is – Spider-Man, turning a failure into a success and becoming a hero for kids like Tim.
Kraven’s Last Hunt – Web of Spider-Man #31 – 32, The Amazing Spider-Man #293 – 294, The Spectacular Spider-Man #131 – 132
MAIN CHARACTERS: Spider-Man, Kraven the Hunter, Vermin
This crossover story arc features the final battle between Spider-Man and Kraven the Hunter. Kraven hunts down Spider-Man and the two face off, with Kraven defeating Spider-Man. Kraven shoots him, believing he has killed the wall crawler and then buries the hero. Kraven later dons a copy of Spider-Man’s costume – declaring himself as the victor. Spider-Man eventually digs himself out of his grave, tracking down Kraven , want to take him down once and for all but Kraven refuses to fight as he already won. Later in the story arc, Kraven soon realises his hunting days are over and commits suicide – ending what has been considered one of the best Spider-Man storylines ever told.
WHY READ IT? This comic portrays the early stages of Peter and Mary Jane’s marriage but the development of Kraven’s character and his death has been continuously praised – having a significant role in the comic’s success. The character had been put on the backburner in order to focus on villains such as Venom and The Hobgoblin. So having the character return and defeat Spider-Man just shows how much of a formidable foe Kraven was and having him commit suicide was a somewhat of a fitting ending. Kraven accomplished the one thing many other villains at that point couldn’t and after his greatest achievement, he felt as though nothing left to live for.
Maximum Carnage – The Amazing Spider-Man #378 – 380, Spider-Man #35 – 77, The Spectacular Spider-Man #201 – 203, Spider-Man Unlimited #1 – 2, Web of Spider-Man #101 – 103
MAIN CHARACTERS: Spider-Man, Venom, Carnage
CHARACTERS INTRODUCED: Shriek
Maximum Carnage was a 14 part storyline, which crossed over with the other various Spider-Man titles in 1993. Cletus Kassady is jailed in Ravencroft Asylum after the alien symbiote he was bonded to was destroyed. However the symbiote mutated his blood, allowing Cletus to generate a copy of the symbiote; calling himself Carnage once again. He breaks free from Ravencroft, along with Shriek as they recruit several villains during their killing spree. With Carnage and his array of villains causing havoc in New York, Spider-Man and Venom join forces with other heroes such as Captain America and Blackcat to take down the villains.
WHY READ IT? Seeing Spider-Man and Venom work together against a common foe was definitely an iconic moment and having other villains and heroes involved definitely made it an event to remember. There is also inner conflict between the heroes as Venom wants to stop Carnage at all costs but Spider-Man doesn’t want to get blood on his hands. Having Venom be part of the team of heroes would prove beneficial, as the character would later become an anti-hero. Plus the video game isn’t too bad either.