Since his debut in 1962, the wall-crawling hero known as Spider-Man has been entertaining comic book readers with not only his battles with his large and colorful rogue’s gallery, but also his problems dealing with his personal life. With the recent release of the milestone Amazing Spider-Man #700, here’s a list of the Top Ten key issues of Web-Swinger’s long and crazy publishing comic history.
Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1
10) Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1: Spider-Man had faced off against villains who had teamed up before, but never six of his most dangerous foes all at once! Doctor Octopus, Mysterio, Kraven the Hunter, Electro, the Vulture and the Sandman had teamed up to form the Sinister Six, a team of villains who would pool their powers together with one goal in mind: the destruction of their shared enemy, Spider-Man! Spidey would be forced to run through a gauntlet to fight each villain, encountering other heroes of the Marvel Universe and refusing their help (while having lost his powers at the time), ending in a fight with Doctor Octopus to rescue Betty Brant and Aunt May. The Sinister Six would return many other times over the years (often in various incarnations with different members), but they would be unique in comic book history in being the first team of villains who gather together to destroy a single hero.
Amazing Spider-Man #6
9) Amazing Spider-Man #6: From the start, Spider-Man featured new and different ways to handle his villains, and the latest he faced in his early career, the Lizard, was no exception. Upon learning the reptilian menaces’s tragic story – Dr. Curt Connors uses an experimental serum made from reptile DNA to try and regrow his lost arm, only to mutate into the villainous Lizard – Spider-Man works instead to both cure the man and keep his secret to protect Connors and his family. Naturally, the Lizard would return in later issues, forcing Spider-Man to fight someone he both saw as a friend and was a loving family man, making it all the more tragic.
Amazing Spider-Man #121 and #122
8) Amazing Spider-Man #121 & 122: The cover of ASM #121 said it all: someone close to Spider-Man was going to die! But who would it be? While Peter and his friends deal with Harry Osborn’s bout with LSD, Harry’s father Norman cracks under pressure and returns to his identity of the Green Goblin, intent on once again destroying Spider-Man. Knowing the Webhead’s true identity, he goes after Peter’s girlfriend, Gwen Stacy, kidnapping her and throwing her off the George Washington Bridge to her death (and worse, Spider-Man may have helped caused it, his attempt to snag her with his webbing possibly snapping her neck!)! The next issue picked up right after, with Spider-Man determined to catch the Goblin and bring him to justice. Tracking the villain to a warehouse owned by Norman Osborn, the two adversaries engage in a brutal battle the results in the Green Goblin’s death. While Norman Osborn would later turn up alive (and secretly manipulating events in Spider-Man’s life ever since), the death of Gwen Stacy would be the most tragic in Spider-Man’s life, and prove how dangerous his life could be to those he loved.
Amazing Spider-Man #300
7) Amazing Spider-Man #300: There’s a new villain in Spider-Man’s life: Venom, who is literally a twisted mirror image of the Wall-Crawler! Worse, he also knows Spidey’s true name and history, as proven when he appears to menace Spider-Man’s wife, Mary Jane! The reason being is that Venom is Eddie Brock, a journalist Spider-Man inadvertently disgraced, who discovered the alien symbiote Spider-Man once used as a costume but then discarded when it tried to take over his body. Spidey is able to defeat the villain (who would return to further menace and/or team up with him over the years), and is soon prompted to ditch his black costume and return to his more classic red-and-blue look! The Venom symbiote would change hands in more recent years (including former Scorpion Max Gargan and Peter Parker’s former high school nemesis Flash Thompson), but would remain a dangerous member of Spider-Man’s rogue’s gallery.
Amazing Spider-man #31
6) Amazing Spider-Man #31:This pivotal issue finds Spider-Man tracking down and fighting a group of masked criminals, who knock him out and dump some mysterious cargo in the water. Later, Peter Parker’s day gets bad when Aunt May mysteriously falls ill. Meanwhile, Daily Bugle reporter Frederic Foswell (formerly the criminal mastermind known as “The Big Man”) is sent to stir up some news, and under the guise of Patch, learns of a plot to smuggle nuclear devices by ship. He passes the info to Spider-Man, who fights the criminals (the same ones from before) and foils the plans of a mysterious criminal called the Master Planner. But what makes this issue so pivotal isn’t the plot, but the fact that this is the debut of two important characters: Harry Osborn and Gwen Stacy! One would go back and forth between being Peter’s best friend and worst enemy, and the other would become the love of Peter’s life until her tragic death. A must-read issue if there ever was one.
Amazing Spider-man #39
5) Amazing Spider-Man #39: The cover to this issue is only a hint of what happens inside: Spider-Man captured by the Green Goblin with his costume revealed under his torn clothes! After a day that includes a visit to the doctor (who warns him that any shock or excitement to Aunt May could be fatal), and an encounter with his best friend, Harry Osborn’s father Norman who is mysteriously angry, Spider-Man fights a gang of crooks who hit him with a gas that prevents his Spider-Sense from working. It’s all part of the Green Goblin’s plan of revenge to expose Spider-Man’s true identity to the world! After discovering that Spidey is Peter Parker, the Goblin confronts the hero in front of his house, forcing Peter to fight to keep Aunt May safe. The Goblin succeeds in capturing Peter, and so sure of his impending victory, reveals his own identity: Norman Osborn! You don’t need any more information than that to know why this issue is an important one in the Spider-Man saga. This issue is also when John Romita Sr. took over Spider-man
Amazing Spider-Man #3
4) Amazing Spider-Man #3: Another well-known and popular villain in Spider-Man’s rogue’s gallery is Doctor Octopus. This was the issue that featured the demented scientist’s debut, with Dr. Otto Octavius, following an explosion in his lab, becoming fused to his special four-armed harness and becoming mentally unbalanced to become a criminal, as well as a villain who could match Spider-Man in not just strength, but intellect. The tentacled villain would continue to menace our hero over the years, by himself or as a member of the Sinister Six, and wane in his levels of popularity and menace, but would remain as one of Spider-Man’s core comic book villains.
Amazing Spider-Man #14
3) Amazing Spider-Man #14: This was the issue that featured the debut of Spider-Man’s greatest villain, the Green Goblin, who attempts to destroy the Web-Swinger with a bogus movie shoot! And unlike other comics where the villain’s true identity and origin was revealed at the end, it would be many issues before we would learn the Green Goblin’s true face: Norman Osborn, the father of Peter Parker’s best friend, Harry! Osborn would later become a true threat to not only Spider-Man but the entire Marvel Universe, as well, but this would the book that started his path of destruction.
Amazing Spider-Man #1
2) Amazing Spider-Man #1: The first issue of one of the longest-running comic book series helped set the tone for Spider-Man’s career. Picking up right where Amazing Fantasy #15 left off, it found young Peter Parker desperate to earn money to support himself and his Aunt May after newspaper publisher J. Jonah Jameson began calling Spider-Man a menace and phony in his articles, turning the public against him and ending his showbiz career! It even featured an appearance by the Fantastic Four, who Spidey tries to join! The issue also featured the debut of the Chameleon, the villainous master of disguise who uses his skills to impersonate and further discredit Spider-Man!
Amazing Fantasy #15
1) Amazing Fantasy #15: No surprise that this has the top spot, since it was, of course, Spider-Man’s comic book debut. We’re introduced to Peter Parker, the shy bookworm who is ignored and teased by his classmates, who gains spider-like abilities thanks to the bite of a radioactively-charged spider. At first using his powers for fame and fortune, the young hero gains a harsh lesson in power and responsibility when a thief he lets run by ends up killing his beloved Uncle Ben! While this was the final issue of the anthology series, Amazing Fantasy #15 was the book that kick-started the career of one of the most popular characters in comic books.
Amazing Spider-Man #50
Amazing Spider-Man #50: With the public against him and his personal life being effected (his grades are slipping and he can’t spend enough time with Aunt May), Peter Parker has come to hate being Spider-Man, and decides to give up being a super-hero, throwing his costume in the trash! But it couldn’t come at a worse time, as a new villain, the Kingpin, has begun organizing New York’s criminal elements under his control. After saving a security guard who reminds him of his Uncle Ben, Peter is reminded why he decided to fight crime as Spider-Man in the first place and decides to don his costume once more (after reclaiming it from J. Jonah Jameson, who had it on display in his office). Kingpin would become better known as the archenemy of Daredevil in later years, but the issue is best known for its iconic cover by veteran artist John Romita, with a saddened Peter walking away from an image of Spider-Man, making one of the best known comic books around.
Amazing Spider-Man #9
Amazing Spider-Man #9: This featured the debut of the electric-powered villain, Electro! After gaining his powers following a lightning strike while working on a power line, the villain quickly launched into his criminal career, using his powers to rob banks and make J. Jonah Jameson claim that he was really Spider-Man! After an initial defeat while trying to catch the super-powered crook, Spidey has to get creative in order to stop Electro’s crime spree and clear his name. While Electro hasn’t done much in recent years, he was still a known villain of Spider-Man’s early rogue’s gallery, and one who fans immediately know of.