At this point, after 60 years of stories in comics, animated series, movies, video games and appearances in an infinite number of other products, it is not necessary to explain who Spider-Man is, nor what his origin, his powers or enemies are–I consider that is quite clear.
However, it is worth mentioning what sets the character, both Spider-man and Peter Parker, apart from many of the other superheroes of the Marvel Universe because while it is true that he wears a spandex suit, has a secret identity, fights crime and has special powers like many others, Spider-Man’s stories have a very human feel to it that makes him very relatable to the vast majority of his readers with problems and situation such as having difficulties to pay his debts, personal issues with his loved ones, difficulty in managing his two lives and many other things that may seem familiar or at least feel very real, which is very different to cosmic beings and journeys through the universe of other Marvel characters.
Another element that is worth pointing about Spider-Man is that, unlike other Marvel characters, his best stories usually come from his own titles; although he has appearances with the Avengers or the Fantastic Four, to mention a few, Spider-Man’s development as a character has always been focused the best when he is having adventures on his own and having characters from his cast such as Mary Jane, Aunt May, Venom or Harry Osborn.
Due to what has been mentioned in the last couple of days and obviously taking advantage of the stir created around the character by the contractual problems between Sony and Disney due to him leaving the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), it is appropriate to talk about some of the best Spider-Man comics stories to have a broader view of the character beyond what has been presented to us recently.
Now, in no particular order, the best 7 Spider-Man comics/storylines:
Amazing Fantasy #15.
What better way to start this list than with the beginning? This is where we get the origin story that pretty much everybody that knows Spider-Man is familiar with. In this issue, the latest in The Amazing Fantasy collection, we are present to the young Peter Parker, as it is stung by a spider that was exposed to radiation, which gives him certain special abilities that, at first, he tries to use to make money.
However, after his uncle Ben was killed by a criminal whom he had the opportunity to help capture and did not, he learned that with great power, well, you know the rest.
The Amazing Spider-man #31-33 (If This Be My Destiny).
A powerful story that sums up a lot of what Spider-Man is all about: since Aunt May is diagnosed with a serious illness for which Peter needs to get a lot of money and this happens just when a mysterious villain (later it would be known that he was Dr. Octopus) appears and begins to steal a series of technological artifacts to form a device that happen to be the only thing that can save Aunt May.
Also, all this happens when Peter is in his early days in college, introducing very important characters in his life such as Gwen Stacy and Harry Osborn. This results in a very compelling story that deals with the concepts of responsibility, selflessness and sacrifice for your loved ones, which is what Spider-Man is all about, having some of Stan Lee’s finest writing ever.
It also includes one of the most iconic and powerful panels of the character’s history, made by the great Steve Ditko, where he is lifting a heavy machine to save his life in dire circumstances.
The Amazing Spider-Man #50 – 52 (Spider-Man No More)
Tired of the little gratitude and little affection he receives from the citizens of New York, Peter Parker decides to stop being Spider-Man and focus on being a normal person.
As expected, crime in the city increases dramatically, including giving entry to someone who would go on to become of his best-known villains, Kingpin, also known as Wilson Fisk.
This story shows how important Spider-Man is to his city and leads Peter to understand why he saves people.
The Amazing Spider-Man #378 – 380 (Maximum Carnage).
The symbiote that emerged from Venom, known as Carnage reappears (after its original presentation a few issues before in the series) to recruit a series of murderers with whom he creates a massacre in the city of New York, thus forcing Spider-Man alongside the likes of Venom and ask for help to other superheroes, such as Captain America or Black Cat in this action-filled thriller.
The Amazing Spider-Man #248 (The Kid Who Collected Spider-Man).
Easily the most emotional story on this list and one that has a lot of powerful resonance, even to this day.
This issue tells the story of a boy that is the biggest Spider-Man fan, which reaches the media and results in the superhero himself visiting the boy in his own room. The story has very strong emotional component given that the kid is dying and Peter decides to reveal his identity to him, telling him how he became Spider-Man and thanking him for reminding him why he does the things he does as a superhero.
Spider-Man has many emotional stories in his collection, but very few can compete with this particular issue.
The Amazing Spider-man #121 – 122 (The Night Gwen Stacy Died):
The Green Goblin (Norman Osborn) recovers his memory and remembers that Peter Parker is Spider-Man, so he decides to make the hero suffer by hurting his loved ones, which leads him to kidnap Gwen Stacy, Peter Parker’s girlfriend.
Spider-Man goes behind the Green Goblin and this takes him to a bridge from where the villain drops Gwen. Spider-Man uses his web to try to save her and actually manages to reach her feet, but the abrupt movement of braking in the air that way caused her neck to break and she died in the process.
Without a shadow of doubt, a moment that revolutionized the world of comics because it was the first time that a major character died in a popular series and also a moment that truly marked Spider-Man as a character and as a man, possibly starting a new era for him as a young adult.
The Amazing Spider-Man #293 – 294 (Kraven’s Last Hunt).
This is a Spider-Man masterpiece in which a then-secondary villain like Kraven The Hunter manages to hunt Spider-Man, shoot him tranquilizer darts and bury him alive. Then, Kraven decides to prove himself that he is superior to his recently hunted prey, so he puts on the Spider-Man costume and takes his place as a hero.
Days later, the real Spider-Man wakes up from the darts’ effect and face Kraven, who decides not to fight since he considers himself a winner and tells Spider-Man that his days as a hunter are over.
This is a story that takes both characters to a new dimension, especially Kraven, depicting them in a very poetic manner and also analyzing what makes both of them tick, as one is driven by love and care for others (Spider-Man) while the other is driven by what he lacks (Kraven), which results in a very somber ending.
As you can see from this list (of which some very good stories are left out) Spider-Man is more than just a man of action who defeats villains since the character’s approach has always had a very human basis that has resulted in him being very relatable to fans everywhere and, hopefully, to future writers of comics, movies or animated Spider-Man series, as well.