When Spider-Man was created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko in 1962, he was the first teenage superhero and the first hero to have relatable problems. Not only did Spider-Man have to worry about fighting villains, but also worry about looking after his elderly aunt and finding money to pay the rent – issues that the reader could relate to. Due to this, Spider-Man has been able to consistently popular for almost 60 years.
Throughout these five decades, there has been an abundance of quality stories featuring your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man. I have composed a list of 14 of the best Spider-Man comic book stories.
There’s a healthy mixture of stories throughout the decades, with all of them being well received critically or fan favourites. As a result, there is a Spider-Man for almost every kind of reader.
Amazing Fantasy #15
Written by Stan Lee. Art by Steve Ditko.
This is where it all began. Before Spider-Man had his own series he appeared in Amazing Fantasy #15. Issue #15 was going to be the final issue of Amazing Fantasy so Stan Lee used it try-out the character, which the publisher Martin Goodman thought was a stupid idea, without any real financial repercussions. As we know, this ended up being a good move and Spider-Man is still with us today.
Without reading this issue you are probably very familiar with the contents of Amazing Fantasy #15 as it tells the origin story of Spider-Man. Thanks to the movies/animated series we all know it’s about a teenage boy who was bitten by a radioactive spider and is ultimately motivated to become a hero out the guilt he has from his uncle’s death.
Spider-Man’s origin is one of the best and rightly so. It has an immense amount of weight behind it and gave us a mantra which everyone can live by – “With great power comes great responsibility.”
Single Issues: Amazing Fantasy #15 (has been reprinted over a dozen times)
Trade Paperback: Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spider-Man Volume 1 or Amazing Spider-Man Epic Collection: Great Power or Mighty Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spider-Man – With Great Power
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If This Be My Destiny
Written by Stan Lee. Art by Steve Ditko.
If you want a story that perfectly encapsulates all the elements of the Spider-Man in the 1960s then you cannot go much further than If This Be My Destiny. It juggles superheroics, romance, financial struggles, and Spider-Man’s responsibilities into a tale which see our hero try to save Aunt May’s life as she lies in a hospital bed, poisoned by radioactivity, while also trying to stop the mysterious Master Planner.
Lee and Ditko successfully craft a Spider-Man that’s in a dire predicament and desperate to save his aunt’s life. This all comes to a dazzling height with one of the greatest scenes in Spider-Man history in which he is trapped under heavy debris. It’s a powerful moment that Ditko draws a Spider-Man full of anguish as he attempts his escape.
This story is also noteworthy because it introduces Harry Osborne, future best friend, and Gwen Stacey, future lover.
Spider-Man No More
Written by Stan Lee. Art by John Romita Sr.
In this classic story, Peter Parker quits being Spider-Man due to a lack of respect and gratitude from the public. Without Spider-Man crime drastically rises in the city, but it’s when Peter stops a man from being mugged that he’s reminded as to why he became Spider-Man in the first place.
The classic mantra of “great power comes great responsibility” is explored throughout this era of Spider-Man, but Spider-Man No More is the story which explores this the best. By having Peter quit being Spider-Man, we see the real impact of Spidey not being around and why being a hero is not about seeking glory.
As an added bonus, this classic also introduces The Kingpin, who would go on to be a staple villain for Spider-Man and Daredevil.
Single Issues: Amazing Spider-Man #50-52
Trade Paperback: Amazing Spider-Man Epic Collection: Spider-Man No More or Marvel Visionaries: John Romita Sr. or Marvel Masterworks: Amazing Spider-Man Volumes 5 and 6
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The Night Gwen Stacy Died
Written by Gerry Conway. Art by Gil Kane.
Based on the title alone, you can already deduce what this story is about. As a result, I won’t be digging so much into what this story is about but the themes it explores.
The Night Gwen Stacy Stacy Died very much explores the concept of grief and how it effects people differently. This is explored in different ways from Spider-Man’s reaction to witnessing her death, to how he reacts to it as Peter Parker along with his extended cast such as Mary Jane.
This grim story is wonderfully rendered by the master Gil Kane, who captures the drama and the action between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin. His clean but bold lines are expressive in show a wide range of emotions and have a dynamism which makes the action exciting.
The Kid Who Collected Spider-Man
Written by Roger Stern. Art by Ron Frenz and Terry Austin.
Out of all the Spider-Man stories featured, The Boy Who Collects Spider-Man is the most touching. This one-off tale of Spider-Man visiting a young boy, who happens to be Spidey’s biggest fan, is moving and shows Superhero comics are not always about battling the bad guys and saving the day.
This boy collects everything and anything Spider-Man from newspaper clippings to memorabilia from battles with villains. Throughout the issue the two converse, sharing stories, and Spider-Man even reveals his identity to the young boy.
The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man is a very human tale that shows what it means what heroes mean to others. The final page, which I won’t spoil, also pulls an emotional string for the reader and maybe even shed a tear.
Kraven’s Last Hunt
Written by J.M DeMatteis. Art by Mike Zeck.
Out of all the stories on this list, Kraven’s Last Hunt is probably one of the darkest.
Kraven the Hunter has hunted every animal known to man and is now ready to move onto much bigger game – Spider-Man. But that’s not all, he also wants to become Spider-Man to prove that he’s the superior one.
Much of the story is an exploration of Kraven, going deep into motivations and pride, and what do you do once you have defeated Spider-Man?
Mike Zeck does some of the best art of his career, using many visual techniques to tell the story. He crafts pages that are full of metaphor to explore the book’s themes. This is accompanied by pages with dense layouts, which hold many panels on each page to emphasise intense moments and subtle movements.
Single Issues: Web of Spider-Man #31-32, Amazing Spider-Man #293-294, and Spectacular Spider-Man #131-132
Trade Paperback: Amazing Spider-Man: Kraven’s Last Hunt or Spider-Man Epic Collection: Kraven’s Last Hunt
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The Death of Jean DeWolff
Written by Peter David. Art by Rich Buckler.
In this dark Spider-Man tale, Spidey and Daredevil are on the hunt for a serial killer when they both discover that some of the victims were people that were close to them. The heroes use very different tactics in trying to search for the killer, which brings on tensions between the two heroes
By making the crime personal Peter David runs with the tension created to heighten the tension between the heroes and explore the ethical dilemmas involved with being a hero. This includes if it’s okay to work outside the justice system in order to find a killer and what you can and can’t do once they’ve been caught.
This story also gives Spider-Man a whole different kind of foe to face. Sin-Eater is far more grounded than the array of colourfully costumed criminals that the Wall-Crawler is used to, which makes their crimes feel all the more shocking
Nothing Can Stop The Juggernaut
Written by Roger Stern. Art by John Romita Jr.
Juggernaut is an X-Men villain which usually requires the strength of a whole team to take down. But what if the only person available to face him was Spider-Man? This is the basic premise of this David vs Goliath story.
The odds are in no way in Spider-Man’s favour, as he throws everything at The Juggernaut to no avail. What makes this story so fun is the ways that Spider-Man tries to stop him, which are cleverly thought out and look great on the page.
How does he do it? You’ll have to read to find out!
The Commuter Cometh
Written by Peter David. Art by Bob McLeod .
Spider-Man is a hero that works best when he’s in the big city. There’s plenty of tall buildings to swing from and it makes it really easy for him to get around. The story is very well aware of this and drops him a new location that’s very out of his element – the suburbs.
The results of this are downright hilarious and The Commuter Cometh is easily one of the funniest Spider-Man stories ever. David and McLeod take full advantage of this fish out of water tale with plenty of physical gags and witty dialogue.
Prepare for a bit of silliness and you won’t be disappointed in the slightest.
Written by Tom DeFalco, Terry Kavanagh, J.M DeMatteis, and David Michelinie. Art by Mark Bagley, Sal Buscema, Ron Lim, Tom Lyle, and Alex Suviuk.
Maximum Carnage is a 14-part mega event, running through all the Spider-Man titles in 1993, that had huge stakes for the people of New York. The symbiote Carnage has always been murderous and big trouble for Spider-Man, but things go from bad to worse when recruits like-minded murderers for his rampage. Carnage and his gang go on a destructive killing spree and it’s up to Spider-Man and a group of heroes including Black Cat, Captain America, Cloak, Dagger, and others to stop them. The big draw of this team is the recruitment of Venom, who at the time was a sworn enemy.
While it might not be everyone’s taste, Maximum Carnage is a blockbuster story that’s full of action and that also explores the relationship between Spider-Man and how the symbiotes operate, and their contrast in morality.
Single Issues: Spider-Man Unlimited #1-2, Web of Spider-Man #101-103, Amazing Spider-Man #378-380, Spider-Man #35-37, and Spectacular Spider-Man #201-203
Trade Paperback: Spider-Man: Maximum Carnage or Amazing Spider-Man Epic Collection: Maximum Carnage
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Written by Jeph Loeb. Art by Tim Sale.
This 2002 miniseries is a tribute to Spider-Man in the Silver Age, with a big focus on the romance elements that were quite common from that time. Throughout this series, Peter dictates an audio letter to Gwen Stacy as he reminisces on the period of time when he first fell in love with her.
If you like the romance aspect of Spider-Man then Spider-Man: Blue is for you. The series is very sweet and you can tell the creators were having a lot of fun exploring the silver age with a different angle.
Written by Dan Slott. Art by Humberto Ramos and Stefano Caselli.
What if Peter Parker wasn’t the only one with spider powers? What if everyone in New York City had them? This is the concept behind Spider-Island after the villainous Jackal creates an infestation of bedbugs that gives ordinary people powers similar to Spider-Man. As you would assume this causes all kinds of craziness and Spider-Man has to try and stop it, with a little help from some other heroes.
There is also the subplot running through Spider-Island of Peter Parker attempting to keep his identity a secret from his girlfriend – something that has become difficult now that she has spider-powers herself.
Spider-Island is big and fun, which will have second-guessing if you really want spider-powers yourself.
Written by Brian Michael Bendis. Art by Sara Pichelli.
Were a fan of the character moments between Peter Parker and Miles Morales in Into The Spider-Verse? If you said yes, then you have Spider-Men to thank for that.
Spider-Men marks the first meeting between the two Spider-Men after Peter Parker is accidentally sent to the Ultimate Universe. The result is Peter Parker being in a world in which he had died and someone else had taken on the Spider-Man mantle.
Spider-Men also offers plenty of dynamic action too. There’s a fantastic fight between Peter Parker and Mile Morales, which cleverly show how different the two Spider-Men are from one each other – both in experience and abilities. Pichelli draws this scene with a lot of dynamism by mixing up the number of panels on the page to shift the pace of action, while cleanly framing each one for maximum impact.
Written by Dan Slott. Art by Oliver Coipel and Giuseppe Camuncoli.
I’ve saved the biggest of all the Spider-Man stories for last. It’s so big that it spans dozens of dimensions and features more Spider-themed heroes than you can shake a stick at.
A family of psychic vampires, known as The Inheritors, is travelling throughout the multiverse in order to feed on that world’s version of Spider-Man (or Woman/Girl/Ham). The Peter Parker we all know and love will have to team-up with the parallel-dimension versions of himself to stop the Inheritors from throwing out the balance of the Multiverse.
With so many different versions of Spidey featured, Spider-Verse is full of exciting actions, fun characters, and some heart-warming moments. If you enjoy stories that have big stakes, but also have time for character-centric moments then Spider-Verse will be right up your alley.
Spider-Verse expands out into many tie-in stories. You can find out more about them in this helpful reading order.