A Panel From Every Issue Of…
By Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. Amazing Fantasy #15, Amazing Spider-Man Volume 1, #1-38 (1963-1966). Everyone knows that Peter got bit by a radioactive spider in Amazing Fantasy #15, back in August 1962. But did you know that that was also the last issue of Amazing Fantasy? And Spider-Man didn’t reappear until The Amazing Spider-Man #1 in March 1963?This is Stan Lee at his very best–a visionary and an architect, even if his dialog feels a little dated and prone to hyperbole. And Steve Ditko had a great sense of proportion, always making Spider-Man look smaller than his foes and Peter Parker look smaller than his classmates, making his feats and troubles that much more amazing and human, respectively. So much happened–tons of memorable villains and side characters (most listed below in the issue-by-issue links), Spidey decided not to join the Fantastic Four when he found out there was no salary, and in Spider-Man Annual #1 the first major villain team up: The Sinister Six! Grade: A+
By Lee and John Romita, Sr. #39-88 (1966-1970). How do you follow an act like Steve Ditko? By bringing in another legend: John Romita, Sr. These issues went deeper than the first 38: Stan Lee explored Green Goblin in detail, revealing him to Norman Osborn and making him Spider-Man’s “main” villain. Lee told more multi-issue stories, which he had started at the end of the Ditko run–taking more time to tell each story, and creating fewer characters. But Stan hadn’t run out of ideas: These years gave us Rhino, Shocker, Silvermane and Kingpin, and told the tale of Green Goblin discovering Spidey’s secret identity. We also saw Dr. Connors begin to take a role as a side-player in the Spiderverse. Oh, and Peter got to date a little gal you all may know about. Grade: A
By Lee and (mostly) Gil Kane #89-110 (1970-1972). In these stories, we see a bit of a creative dip. But there are some highlights–including #96-98, the famous “Harry Osborn drops acid” storyline, that was not approved by the Comics Code Authority. It’s an A+ story, and it’s ironic that it was drawn by Gil Kane who would later illustrate another controversial drug storyline featuring Green Arrow.
by Gerry Conway and(mostly) Gil Kane John Romita Sr., and Ross Andru #111-149 (1972-1975). During this period, the brand got more diluted, as Spidey appeared in three books every month: Amazing, Marvel Team-Up, and Peter Parker The Spectacular Spider-Man. I was a regular reader of all three books, but there was no denying that Amazing was the best. The Conway years brought us “The Night Gwen Stacy Died,” perhaps the most controversial Spider-Man issue of its time, in which Spider-Man kills Gwen—due to Green Goblin’s machinations. Some say it was Gobby who killed her, but check the facts: The webline broke her fall and snapped her neck. On the one hand, this left Spidey feeling sad. On the other, it left him free to pursue probably the second-best-known nonsuper female in comicdom: Mary Jane Watson. Yes, that’s right, a superhero switched girlfriends! Who had done that before? Peter Parker may have been the first. Conway also created The Punisher, Hammerhead, and Tarantula; had Otto Octavius marry Aunt May; and let Harry Osborn step into his daddy’s purple pointed boots. But those were the high points.
Conway also created Man-Wolf, Grizzly, and Spider-Man and Gwen Stacy clones; let Aunt May shoot Spider-Man (yes, really); and got J. Jonah Jameson to hire Power Man (Luke Cage) to murder Spidey. Oh, and the Spider Mobile. And it is because of these low points that I give the run an overall B-. It was decent but forgettable, with a few A+ storylines throughout.
By Len Wein and Ross Andru #150-181 (1975-1978). This was one of my least favorite runs for 1970s Spidey—the decade was otherwise pretty good. What Wein brought to the table was a tendency for even longer form narrative. High points included Aunt May’s heart attack. Low points included a third Green Goblin, the ghost of Hammerhead(!), and generally “meh” stories about the usual suspects (Sandman, Shocker, etc.). Grade: C.
By Marv Wolfman #181-204 (1978-1980). He starts with a done-in-one origin retelling, and then the former Marvel editor-in-chief launches in to create Black Cat, Big Wheel, and Rocket Racer. As for art, there were some other standouts: Jim Starlin’s work on #187 (one of the best done-in-ones in all of Amazing Spider-Man history); John Byrne; Keith Pollard; and Sal Buscema. As fun as they are, Wolfman’s stories don’t stay with you. Marv is known for thrills—not depth. Grade: B-.
181, 182-183 (first Big Wheel), 184-185 (Parker graduates), 187 (Captain America, art by Jim Starlin), 189-190, 191-192, 193 (return of burglar who killed Ben), 194-195 (first Black Cat), 196-200 (death of the burglar, and the best story of Marv’s run), 201-202, 203 (with Dazzler), 204-206 (crossover with Marv’s Fantastic Four)
By Denny O’Neil and John Romita, Jr. #207-223 (1980-1981). #205 is by Dave Michelinie and #206 is by Roger Stern, and there’s some fill-ins at the end as well, but this is mostly O’Neil and Romita, Jr., writing thoroughly dispensable issues. The only lasting concept was Madame Web. Grade: C.
By Roger Stern and John Romita, Jr. #224-252 (1982-1984). Roger Stern had been writing the “inferior” Peter Parker The Spectacular Spider-Man for two years before he got tapped for the main event. In just two short years on Amazing Spider-Man, he: Brought in Foolkiller from the pages of Omega the Unknown; pit Spidey against Juggernaut in The Third Greatest Story of the 1980s (#229-230); wrote a hilarious two-parter in which Spidey had to protect Cobra from Mr. Hyde; mutated the Tarantula (#233-236); created a villain even better than Green Goblin—Hobgoblin (#238-239); brought back Mary Jane and told us she knows Peter is Spidey (#242); did a “JJJ fantasy” issue in which the churlish editor got to beat the snot out of Spider-Man (#246); delivered the “Kid Who Collects Spider-Man” (#248); and brought the black costume home from Secret Wars (#252). And all the while, John Romita, Jr., did the best work of his career. This is one of the greatest runs of anyone, ever, on anything. Roger Stern left Spidey and took over The Avengers (and created West Coast Avengers), where he proceeded to write my all-time favorite run on that series as well. He got into a fight with editor-in-chief Jim Shooter and quit Marvel for good in 1987 to go to DC (where he worked on The Death of Superman). Grade: A+.
224, 225 (Foolkiller returns), 226-227, 228-229, 231-232, 233, 234-236 (“Monsters,” featuring Tarantula mutated into a giant spider), 237, 240-241, 246 and 248 (the Kid Who Collected Spider-Man), 238-245 and 249-251 (The Hobgoblin saga), 252 (first appearance of black costume)
By Tom DeFalco and (mostly) Ron Frenz #253-285 (1984-1987). Tom DeFalco, working mostly with Ron Frenz, followed up on Stern’s Mafia storylines with characters like The Rose and more Hobgoblin stories. DeFalco brought an action-packed tone to the title, but like his predecessor Roger Stern, towards the end of his run, he broke with Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter and Jim Owsley had to finish what DeFalco’s “Gang War” storyline. During this run, we got a couple fill-in issues by Peter David, one featuring Frog-Man, the other about Spidey’s commute from Long Island. Both are hilarious. Grade: B+, with many A- issues.
253, 254-255, 256-257 (first appearance of Puma), 258-261 (return of paper-bag Spidey), 262, 263, 264-265, 266, 267 (The Commuter by Peter David), 269-270 (vs. Firelord) 271 (whatever happened to Crusher Hogan–wrestler from Amazing Fantasy #15), 273-276 (Hobgoblin “unmasked”), 277 (backup feature by Charles Vess), 278 (by Peter David), 279-282, 283-287 (Hobgoblin arc)
By David Michelinie and Todd McFarlane #298-324 (1987-1989). After some fill-in work, Michelinie and McFarlane came aboard. Their run changed Spidey’s look forever, and introduced the massive symbiote franchise. Still, it’s not one that resonates with me. McFarlane left to start his own book, titled “Spider-Man” (#1 was one of the best-selling books of all time, even though the comic was pretty lousy). Grade: B.
By Michelinie and Mark Bagely #324-388 (1989-1993). Future Ultimate Spider-Man penciler Mark Bagley (hired via a contest) joins Michelinie for the rest of his run. Grade: C.
326-329 (Spidey becomes Captain Universe), 330-331, 332-333, 334-339 (Sinister Six), 340-343, 344 (May dates Willie Lumpkin), 345-350, 351-352, 353-358, 359-360, 361-363 (first Carnage), 364-377 (return of Parker’s parents), 378-380 (Maximum Carnage), 381-382, 383-385, 386-388
By JM DeMatteis and Mark Bagely #389-406 (1994-1996)/Tom DeFalco and (mostly) Mark Bagely#407-439 (1996-1998). Two good writers turn in subpar work on a series that’s running on fumes. Grade: D.
By Howard Mackie. #1 (443)-29 (1999-2001). Marvel had ruined Amazing Spider-Man, so they relaunched it as Volume 2 (but the issues would later be recognized as part of Volume 1). Stay away. Grade: F.
By J. Michael Straczynski and John Romita, Jr/Mike Deodato, Jr. #471-545 (2001-2007). In his first issue, JMS announced that this was going to be different. It was titled, “Transformations: Literal & Otherwise,” and in it Peter began to learn that there was more to his origin story…A mythical “spider totem” storyline extended throughout JMS’ run, and exemplifies why it was the most interesting one in decades. He took existing legend and, rather than re-imagine it, added to it. Nothing he did can be called revisionist—it’s not Brian Michael Bendis revising Avengers history to fit in Jessica Jones. JMS merely filled in gaps. High points include: The totem stories; the 9/11/2001 tribute issue; “The Conversation” (#38); the reuniting of Peter and MJ (#50–as touching an issue of comics as I’ve ever read); #500 (in which JMS and John Romita, Jr., go over just about every major event in Spidey’s 40-year career); and the art, the art, the art. Low points: Everything after #514. Grade: A+, then B-.
471, 472 (The Conversation), 473 (Peter learns he is a totem), 474-475, 476 (May learns Peter is Spidey), 477 (9-11 tribute), 478-479, 480 (Nuff Said silent issue), 481, 482-483, 484-486 (revamped Dr. Octopus), 487, 488-489, 490, 491 (featuring Dr. Doom and Captain America), 492-494, 495, 498-500, 501, 502, 503-504, 505, 506-508, 510-514 (the one where Green Goblin impregnates Gwen Stacy–and the point where JMS’ run stops the short), 515-518, 519, 520-522, 523-524, 525-529, 530-538 (Spidey unmasks), 544 (One More Day begins)
By Joe Quesada (script and art on One More Day); Dan Slott, Marc Guggenheim, Bob Gale, Zeb Wells (scripts-Brand New Day) and Steve McNiven, Salvador Larroca, Phil Jimenez, Chris Bachalo, Barry Kitson and Marcos Martin (art-Brand New Day) #546-647 (2007-2010). “One More Day” was fairly universally reviled–Marvel wrote Peter’s marriage out of canon and essentially rebooted Spider-Man, deleting JMS’ brilliant run out of existence. But what followed were 100 issues of a rotating creative staff that were simply awesome. Grade: B+
By Dan Slott and lots of great artists #648-700 (2010-2012). Slott has written more Spider-Man than anyone else. And most of it is very good. I didn’t do a panel-a-day for these issues, but they’re great. From here, the series became “Superior Spider-Man” when Dr. Octopus took over Peter Parker’s body, and then rebooted when Pete got his body back. All of it is…Grade: B+.
A Panel from Every Issue of
By Gerry Conway/Archie Goodwin and Sal Buscema #1-8 (1976-1977). Issue #1 was the first comic book I ever read, so I’m a little biased, but I love these initial issues of this book. Grade: A-.
By Bill Mantlo and (mostly) Sal Buscema/Jim Mooney #9-42 (1977-1980). Buscema stayed on art through 1978, and was succeeded by Jim Mooney (who also did fill-ins on Amazing). The stories were intended to focus on Peter Parker’s college life, and the villains were often silly. It was a perfect comic for the time, with several high points but many “skippable” issues. Grade: B-/C+
9-10 (first time White Tiger appears in a color comic), 11, 12-15 (Beast guest-stars) 16-21, 22-23 (Moon Knight), 24 (first Hypno Hustler), 32-34 (first Iguana), 35, 36-37 (first Swarm), 39-40 (Spider-Lizard), 41
By Roger Stern #43-61 (1980-1981). These were some very strong issues of PPTSS, so you might be sad when Stern leaves…But he goes on to write one of the best runs of The Amazing Spider-Man of all time. This is more formative work. It’s got some really great tales, and a bunch of meh. Frequent art by Mike Zeck and Marie Severin and others–including Marv Wolfman(!) in one issue. Grade: B-
By Bill Mantlo #62-89 (1982-1984). Mantlo returns for a second try, and this time he gets it right. Great run, despite all the art by Al Milgrom in the second half of the run. Grade: B+.
62, 63, 64 (first Cloak and Dagger), 65-66 (my favorite Electro story ever), 67, 69-70 (with Cloak and Dagger), 71, 72 (the kid who collected Dr. Octopus), 73-79, 80 (J Jonah Jameson solo issue), 81-82 (with Cloak and Dagger, Punisher) 83, 84-90
By Al Milgrom #90-100 (1984-1985). Milgrom does both writing and art. Yuck. Grade: C-.
By Peter David and (mostly) Rich Buckler #103, 105-129, 134-136 (1985-1987). Fans love David’s run, which included The Death of Jean DeWolff (#107–110) and the Sin Eater’s return in a sort-of sequel (#134-136). The book became “The Spectacular Spider-Man” at #134. Jim Shooter fired David after #136, and that’s where I stopped reading. Between Stern and DeFalco getting fired from Amazing and now David from this title, it really looks like Shooter was trying to make Spider-Man worse, not better. Grade: B+. Note: David did not write #131 and 132, which were part of JM DeMatteis and Mike Zeck’s, “Kraven’s Last Hunt” story.
OTHER SPIDER-MAN STUFF
Doctor Octopus: Year One (2005) by Zeb Wells and Kaare Andrews. Grade: A. Here
Marvel Knights Spider-Man #1
Spider-Man’s Tangled Web Here
Spider-Man Unlimited Vol. 1 (a panel from every issue) (1993) Here
Web of Spider-Man #1, 8, 12