Ever since his debut in Amazing Fantasy #15, Spider-man has had some of the most iconic story arcs in comics history. Since 1962, Spidey has been swinging across the New York skyline from page to screen in numerous incarnations, from web headed teenager to star crossed lover to fighting alongside the Avengers.
Now that Marvel’s “Spider-verse” event is upon us, I thought I’d ask a few people around town to share some of their favorite Web-slinging adventures from our favorite wall-crawler: Jonathan Sanders (manager of Super Hero Hive), Badr Milligan (of The Short Box Pod Cast), Adam Wollet (local comic creator), Brett Ricketts (creator of TheDirectEdition.com), Comic Zombie (blogger @ comiczombie.wordpress.com), and of course myself, Erik Slader (writer of the blog Epik Fails of History and content creator for this here site).
For those of you living in the Negative Zone these past few months, Spider-verse is a current story line where every single Spider-man ever from all corners of the multi-verse must unite against a common threat.
JONATHAN, Your Friendly Neighborhood Comic Manager
“Spider-Man: The Darkest Hours” Novel by Jim Butcher
Spider-Verse is the biggest event in Spider-Man comics recently, so what better story to write about than one involving Morlun and his family?
He first appeared in 2001 in the 2nd series of Amazing Spider-Man, issue #30. After his first story arc, Morlun (that inter-dimensional vampire dude) was presumed dead. 5 years later, this novel came out and showed us that Morlun was just the youngest of his family- “the ancients” or in Spider-Verse- “the inheritors”. Then after this novel, in the same year, Marvel Comics brought Morlun back to life in the big story arc, “The Other”.
The story starts off with everything looking up for Peter Parker, (which we all know won’t last, with that Parker luck and all…) he’s a high school science teacher AND he’s married to Mary Jane! One day he turns on the news and one of his heavy hitter enemies- The Rhino is rampaging through Times Square. This turns out to be a trap and his spider-sense goes off worse than when he came across Morlun. Three people show up after he takes on the Rhino, 2 men (Thanis and Malos) and a woman (Mortia). Mortia claims that Morlun was their younger brother and they want revenge by draining his life force.
Will they be safe? Will he be triumphant over 3 siblings of Morlun more powerful than he? Will Black Cat and MJ get along? All these and more will be answered in The Darkest Hours. This is one of the toughest battles Spider-Man has ever had. Luckily he has help from others like Black Cat and Doctor Strange , and one you wouldn’t expect… I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone so check it out yourself! Plus it’s by Jim Butcher who wrote The Dresden Files!
Amazing Spider-Man “Big Time” Story Arc (issues #648-656)
New allies, new villains, new costumes, and a new job! “Big Time”, written by Dan Slott and art by Humberto Ramos, Marcos Martin, and Stefano Caselli has it all. This is one of my favorite Spider-Man stories in the last 5 years with amazing art and a great story. That’s right, Spider-Man hits the big time now! He has a new job at Horizon Labs as a lead scientist and even the Avengers are taking him more seriously when they see what he can accomplish. But reaching the big time also means bigger, badder villains too!
One of the first villains Peter faces in this story arc is the Hobgoblin, but he’s a new and improved version! Phil Urich, nephew of Ben Urich, kills the previous Hobgoblin and assumes the role with a flaming sword in hand and lunatic laugh that Spidey can’t seem to get past… until he makes a new suit!
This one has a stealth mode and is made of an “omni-harmonic mesh” to counter act Hobby’s sonic scream. Once Hobgoblin is defeated (with the help of Black Cat), more villains are right around the corner… But we also see the first appearance of Agent Venom (Flash Thompson) as a hero using the symbiote suit!
Alistair Smythe breaks Mac Gargan (the Scorpion) out of jail, and just like Peter Parker, Gargan gets a new and improved Scorpion costume made by Smythe. Also, since it’s Smythe, Spider Slayers are involved working with Scorpion to take down Spider-Man. They even have their own version of his “spider-sense” so they’re harder to hit. Smythe decides to target J. Jonah Jameson’s family and friends to make him suffer because Smythe lost his father. Finally Smythe tries to kill JJJ, but his wife, Marla Jameson, jumps in the way and is killed. Spider-Man does not take this well.
After the death of Mrs. Jameson, Spider-Man vows that as long as he’s around no one dies. Enter stage left: Massacre. He’s a new villain with no emotion and a big incentive to kill. When Spider-Man beat Scorpion and the Spider Slayers, he lost his ‘spider-sense” in the process, and gets shot while facing off against Massacre the first time. This leads him to build a new Spider-Armor suit to combat him and his bullets and triumphs over the new baddie. This ends the Spider-Man “Big Time” story arc and sets up “Spider-Island”, but that’s another story for another day…
BADR, Short Box Podcaster Supreme
“Spider-man: Blue” by: Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale.
“Spider-Man: Blue” is the most pivotal story for this character in my opinion. “My favorite” doesn’t do it justice in describing what type of impact it has for me or the six other people I’ve shared it with. Blue is my go to book for anyone new to the comic scene or whenever the reputation of comic book literature is in question. It is powerful because no matter your background or age, it will take the reader on an impassioned ride from beginning to end, never once loosening its grip on your heartstrings.
Spider-Man: Blue is written by Jeph Loeb, illustrated by Tim Sale, lettered by Richard Starkings, and colored by Steve Buccellato. These names are important because they join forces in several other monumental Marvel Comic series (often dubbed “Loeb’s Marvel color books” – Hulk: Gray / Daredevil: Yellow).
The premise, is a love story told in flashbacks. It’s Valentine’s Day, and Peter Parker is reminiscing about his lost love, Gwen Stacy. He’s in his attic looking through old picture albums recounting the events that led up to his first time meeting her. What follows is the story of how they fell and love and eventually become eternally separated.
The series delivers not only a great love story at its core but also some of the best action scenes you would come to expect in a Spider-Man comic. Some of Spider-Man’s greatest villains make an appearance in each issue. Everyone from Rhino to Green Goblin, The Vulture, and even Kraven the Hunter. Each one running Peter through a gauntlet that tests his fortitude as a young forthcoming superhero.
I read this story at a time when I was transitioning to a lot of different comic genres. I was getting into indie and small time publishers. I thought I had my fill of the “spandex hero” genre. I definitely thought I had read everything there was to read about Spider-Man. I don’t remember when and where or even how I came across this series, but it’s a stroke of luck I welcome more of.
It’s grounded in a traditional Spider-Man time period (The Stan Lee and John Romita years) but given such a unique twist, it really goes-to-show that Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale not only comprehend, but respect the years of continuity and history of the character.
The phrase “this has it all” gets thrown around a lot, but I think this series is the reason why this phrase has any meaning and relevance. Spider-Man: Blue is a story about love, loss, harrow, inspiration, and most importantly, acceptance.
The Amazing ADAM
“Back in Black” (The Amazing Spider-man #539-543) by: J. Michael Straczynski
One of my favorite Spider-Man stories is the five-part Back in Black story arc (Amazing Spider-Man 539-543, by J. Michael Straczynski, Ron Garney, Bill Reinhold, Matt Milla, and Cory Petit). ‘Back in Black’ followed directly on the heels of ‘Civil War’, and focuses on the consequences of Spider-Man’s choice to reveal his secret identity, which lead to an assassination attempt on his beloved Aunt May. Back in Black is on my list of favorites because it gives us a glimpse into the psyche of a person who would put on a costume to fight crime, and brings to life the demarcation line between Spider-Man and Peter Parker.
Back in Black was one of the first books I read after a long hiatus from comics and is one of the primary reasons I fell back in love with them. At their core, every Spider-Man story is about Peter Parker. The world sees Spidey as a hero (most of the time), but really he’s Peter’s escape from the world. Spider-Man, the costume, gives a shy kid with a good heart the confidence to do the things that Peter could never do. Understanding this makes Back in Black even more powerful.
Black Costume Spider-Man means something to Peter. Like a full body spandex mood ring, his black costume sends a message – there will be no quips following the thwips – and after discovering that Wilson Fisk, The Kingpin, is the man behind the assassination attempt, an emotionally distraught Spider-Man goes to kill him. After breaking into the prison where Fisk is held and silently brawling for a few minutes, Fisk asks Peter if he’s going to do what he came there to do. Spider-Man replies that he can’t kill him, removes his mask, and then Peter Parker says that he can.
Peter beats Fisk raw and leaves him to cower back to his cell before an audience of inmates. He doesn’t kill him, but he could have, and he says he will one day. But, that’s not the point. The point is that Back in Black shows us that Spider-Man is better than Peter Parker, or maybe the best version of him. Spider-Man is not human, but rather a symbol, a construct of good. After years of relying on Spider-Man to do the things that Peter couldn’t, finally we see what Spidey can’t do. Spider-Man can’t kill. Peter Parker can…
“Spider-man: NOIR – Eyes Without a Face” – Fabrice Sapolsky / Marko Djurdjevic / David Hine / Carmine Di Giandomenico
The ‘Spider-Verse’, to some might cause angst, to me… I’ve been giddy with every issue! Now, I will admit that I’m more of a glass half-full than half-empty kinda guy. I have thoroughly enjoyed the whole series but one version of Spider-Man has me particularly interested in reading more about that dimension: “Spider-Man Noir”. From the first cover art to the day I got the comic in my hands it was everything I wanted it to be and more.
The year is 1939 and Peter Parker has had all the events of every previous Spider-Man occur: Uncle Ben has passed, the Goblin and the crime boss Kingpin have been wreaking havoc and Peter is in the early to mid-swing of his life (this isn’t a reboot, or origins story). In this version Spider-Man is dressed in all black, with a leather mask, aviation goggles, a trench/pea coat, leather gloves and boots. His webbing is black as well. He also packs a revolver (Something very unique to this Spider-Man). In this version, he acquires his abilities from being bitten by a poisonous spider in a crate shipment from Africa.
In this latest episode, Mysterio and the Kingpin are trying to acquire his blood in hopes of donning his powers for themselves. The set-up fails and a new mysterious figure enters at the end to claim Noir Spider-Man’s life.
Equipped with a two-pronged spear and a nautical diving helmet, this new menace attempts to kill Noir. Suddenly, the Amazing Spider-Man warps in to snatch Noir and bring him to 2099’s universe along with a myriad of other Spider-men to devise a plan to stop this new menace. At the end of this series I would love to see more of Noir’s life. The times were simpler and the feel is much more street level. Which is something I’ve always loved about Spider-Man, in all his incarnations!
COMIC ZOMBIE, Blogger of Comics
“Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut!” (Amazing Spider-Man 229-230) – Roger Stern / John Romita Jr.
My favorite thing about Spider-Man is his refusal to quit, no matter how bleak things look. Seriously, he is as tenacious as a kid trying to get their mom’s attention: they are never going to stop. There are plenty of examples of this, from the great “Master Planner” story by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko to about a hundred stories of him being sick or poisoned and having to fight a bunch of super villains. But my favorite, and I think the best example, is this brilliant two-parter from the legendray John Romita JR and the inexcusably underrated Roger Stern: “Nothing can stop the Juggernaut!”
The story centers on Spider-Man (duh), Madame Web – a powerful telepath with a spider theme (she is blind and hooked up to life support), Black Tom Cassidy, and the Juggernaut (b*#ch!). Black Tom and the Juggernaut used to pal around and spent most of their time messing up the X-Men’s day. They had recently suffered yet another defeat, and want to use Web’s psychic powers against the X-Men, so Black Tom sends the Juggernaut to collect her.
She catches wind of the plan and summons Spidey to help her. Unfortunately for Spidey, he is horribly, horribly outclassed by the Juggernaut. However, as I mentioned earlier, our boy is tenacious as hell, and refuses to quit, no matter how much of a world class ass-beating he takes.
Even when it’s clear to him that he has almost no chance to stop the Juggernaut, he keeps trying to stop the inevitable. As the Juggernaut gets closer to his goal Spider-Man gets more and more desperate, and it really ads to the tension of the story. You just can’t see any conceivable way Spider-Man can win, and neither can he. Stern and Romita accomplish in just 2 issues what would take 6 or 8 today, and the result is one of the all-time great Spider-Man stories.
ERIK, Web Site Updater Extraordinaire
“Ultimate Spider-man” (2000-2007) – Brian Michael Bendis / Mark Bagley
There are so many great Spidey stories, from the aforementioned “Spider-man: Blue” to Marvel Knights’ “Down Among the Dead Men”, not to mention the recent ‘Superior Spider-man’ run (about Doc-Ock in Peter’s body) and several issues of Spider-man’s Tangled Web (a heartfelt series about the other people in Peter’s life), but for me, the original Ultimate Spider-man would have to be my favorite.
Now I should clarify that the specific Ultimate Spider-man I am referring to is not the animated series of the same name, nor that Mile Morales guy who currently holds the title, no I’m talking about Bendis and Bagley’s impressive 111 issue run that started back in 2000. Every single one of those One Hundred and Eleven (!) issues is worth reading, along with a few team-up crossovers here and there.
Ultimate Marvel (back when it was good) was created as an attempt to engage new readers without all the convoluted back story, geared towards fans of the movies. They were a modernized take on the classic Marvel heroes: Spider-man, X-Men, Fantastic Four, etc. Ultimate Spider-man #1 will always have a soft spot for me, because it was the first comic I ever bought and I’ve been hooked ever since.
One of the brilliant things about this series is the way Bendis takes the original 11 page origin story (in Amazing Fantasy #15 – 1962 – by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko) and turns it into a 7 issue story arc! Sure Peter Parker gets bit by the (now genetically enhanced) spider in issue one, but he doesn’t actually become Spider-man for a few more issues! We even get to know and love Uncle Ben, which makes his inevitable death so much more heartbreaking.
Another twist that caught everyone by surprise was that Peter revealed his identity to Mary Jane very early on, which made her a more integral part of the story, helping him stitch new costumes and coming up with excuses for him, but it also added a new dimension to their relationship, she wasn’t just a damsel in distress, she was very much a part of his story. Not only did they redesign Spidey’s entire rogues gallery, but they also managed to tie all their various back stories together into one seamless narrative.
In this version, Oscorp is connected to everything in a massive web of conspiracy, which is both an interesting plot point in its own right and a great way to tie everything together (something the new ‘Amazing Spider-man’ movies have taken a que from). For instance: Doc-Ock worked for Norman Osborn prior to his accident, Osborn was attempting to recreate Captain America’s Super Soldier Serum (which also turned Bruce Banner into The Hulk), Electro was a mutant hit-man created by Justin Hammer and hired by the Kingpin, and Dr. Richard Parker worked with Curt Connors on creating Venom.
The characters were flawless, the redesigns were very cool, Bagley’s art was (and still is) breathtaking. Bendis hits it out of the park again and again, every individual issue, every story arc, he manages to balance a thrilling super hero adventure of Spider-man, with the down to Earth, day in the life drama of Peter Parker. All in all, the entire run was one of the most consistently good comics I’ve ever read.
- Parallel Lives
- Negative Exposure
- Tangled Web: Flowers for Rhino
- Black Cat: The Evil That Men Do
- Doc-Ock: Year One
- Kraven’s Last Hunt
- Maximum Carnage
- Web of Death
- The Other – Evolve or Die
- The Night Gwen Stacy Died
- Down Among the Dead Men
What’s your favorite tales from around the Spider-Verse? Share in the comments below!
In case you missed it, the latest episode of the Short Box can be found here: A Very Short Box X-Mas! Be sure to stay tuned after the show for an amazing (pun-intended) Spider-man version of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’! Also head over to TheDirectEdition.com for some awesome nerdy happenings in Jax and for some hilarious comic-related articles, check out ComicZombie.wordpress.com.