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CSBG Archive

50 Greatest Spider-Man Stories: #50-46

In honor of the fiftieth anniversary of Spider-Man, we’re doing four straight months of polls having to do with Spider-Man, culminating with the release of the Amazing Spider-Man film in July. We’ve done Spider-Man covers, Spider-Man characters, Spider-Man creators and now, finally, Spider-Man stories!

You all voted, now here are the results of what you chose as the 50 Greatest Spider-Man Stories! Click here for a master list of all the stories revealed so far!


50. “The Crime-Master Versus the Green Goblin,” Amazing Spider-Man (Volume 1) #26-27

This Stan Lee/Steve Ditko tale was a fascinating two-parter where Spider-Man finds himself in the middle of a war between the mysterious Crime-Master and the Green Goblin. The Crime-Master and the Green Goblin know each other’s secret identity, so they are sort of stuck together. However, the Crime-Master turns on the Green Goblin and tries to take control of the New York mob all by himself.

Meanwhile, Spider-Man is sure that Frederick Foswell (the seemingly reformed Daily Bugle reporter who secretly led a double life as a criminal mastermind known as the Big Man) is the Crime-Master, so the whole story is this fascinating game of cat and mouse between the Crime-Master and the Green Goblin and Spider-Man and the Crime-Master and Spider-Man and the Green Goblin and Spider-Man and Foswell (as he tries to no avail to follow Foswell and prove him a crook).

On top of all of that, Spider-Man lost his costume so he has to use a store bought version instead!

This is a thrilling tale by Ditko and Lee with great artwork by Ditko. Here is a glimpse…

The reveal of Foswell’s motivations are especially well-handled.

49. “Flowers for Rhino,” Tangled Web #5-6

The plot of this two-parter by Peter Milligan and Duncan Fegredo is quite simple. It is “Flowers for Algernon” adapted to star the Rhino. Heck, it is right there in the title!

In the tale, Rhino has surgery to increase his intelligence because he has fallen in love with the daughter of a Russian mob leader. The story is utterly charming…

Fegredo’s art is excellent (especially all the little character bits) and Milligan manages to find an ending that varies from “Flowers for Algernon” that is particularly clever.

48. “The Original End of Spider-Man” Amazing Spider-Man (Volume 1) #18-19

Reader Lorin Heller’s thoughts on this story were so thorough I figured I’d just let him handle this one…

Ah, a gem. The second-part of the first major continued story in Spidey history. Fresh from running away from the Goblin, our hero’s life is completely in the pits. He continues to be obsessed by May’s health
and the medicine is running out. Jameson (his smile giving the Joker a run for his money) is gloating all over every media outlet he can find; receiving public kudos in the process, Betty won’t talk to Peter and later is spotted on the arm of another guy (first Ned Leeds appearance); and Spider-Man gets rejected while trying to sell his image than his web formula. He encounters the Sandman and runs away from HIM, in a very embarrassing spectacle WITH Jameson on-hand! The only two people who DO believe in Spider-Man end up being two of his least favorite folks: The Human Torch and Flash Thompson. The former tries to call Spider-Man to meet him, and gets stood up. The latter stupidly dresses up in a Spider-Man outfit and gets beat up by crooks. Peter, quite rightly pissed at this chain of events, decides to throw in the towel for the first time (though there will be many more) on the Spider-Man lifestyle.

Ironically, it is Aunt May who gets Peter to get over himself, in a show of personal strength that she won’t display again for YEARS.

Special call-out to the depiction of Jameson. Absolutely hilarious. What’s scary is that J.K. Simmons does a good version of the laughing hyena look in Spider-Man 2. Oh, and the scene with the Sandman coming up behind Peter just as he’s changed! Would make you jump out of your seat if it was live-action. The art and writing combine to excellent effect, and this is yet one more highlight of the Lee-Ditko run.

Story continues below

47. Spider-Man: Reign #1-6

Spider-Man: Reign, writte and drawn by Kaare Andrews, was inspired by Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and puts Spider-Man through a similar scenario. Peter Parker is a widowed old man decades in the future in a dystopic New York run by a fascist mayor who has reduced crime to essentially zero, but by having what amounts to stormtroopers running around the city intimidating everyone. A couple of them rough Peter up (breaking his arm) when he gets involved with them chasing down a “crook.” Eventually, J. Jonah Jameson comes to Peter and convinces him to return to being Spider-Man (Peter agrees, but he is also suffering from hallucinations of his dead wife, his dead Aunt and his dead Uncle). It is not a pretty sight (an old man in his underwear with a mask) but it is enough to inspire a whole new generation of New Yorkers…

Things don’t go smoothly for Spider-Man from here on out, and it is especially painful when we learn how Mary Jane died (eventually, though, Peter finds inspiration from her memory to once again serve the people of New York).

46. “The Horns of the Rhino” Amazing Spider-Man (Volume 1) #41-43

This three-part story was very important as the Rhino was the first supervillain created by Stan Lee and John Romita after Steve Ditko left the title. The Rhino had a great visual and he fit well into the Spider-Man Rogues Gallery (a very difficult Rogues Gallery for new villains to break into). However, this storyline also brings back John Jameson, the son of J. Jonah Jameson, and a character who would appear in a number of Marvel Comics over the years. More important than Spider-Man trying to protect John Jameson from the Rhino (and John’s reactions to gaining superpowers from space spores), though, is the way that Lee and Romita re-shape the feel of Peter Parker’s life outside of being Spider-Man. Peter’s relationships with his college classmates had not gone smoothly to this point, but with this storyline, that changes dramatically as Peter and Harry Osborn are now good friends and the somewhat strained relationship between Peter and Gwen Stacy turns into the Peter/Gwen that we still know to this day.

Oh, and some minor character also made her first full debut in this issue…

That’s no big deal, though.

The finale of the story has Spidey finally take down the Rhino and is our first real extended exposure to Mary Jane’s personality (and her fondness to just start dancing in the middle of rooms). The Harry/Gwen/Mary Jane/Peter quartet (with Flash thrown in from time to time) became a major focus of the book from this point forward.


Spider-man: Reign? seriously?

Thinking the same thing.

I’ve almost completely forgotten the details of those early green goblin stories but I do remember loving the Foswell subplot and how it amped up once the goblin came into it. Really complex plot line for the time. I really gotta re read the Ditko stories.

I’m really pleased ‘Flowers for Rhino’ is in here! I didn’t vote for it as I don’t really think of it as a Spider-Man story, but it’s cool to see it touched so many readers besides me.

Rollo Tomassi

June 22, 2012 at 6:09 am

Hmmmm…I’m missing issues 5 and 6 of Reign. Does the story dramatically improve in those final two issues? It must, in order for it to have made the list.

Nope, Reign does not improve.

My only explanation for its popularity is that people REALLY liked The Dark Knight Returns and will read anything that’s trying to be like it. I guess it’s a bit like when the Beatles hit the big time and for a few years anybody with a Liverpool accent could get a recording deal.

The description of “Reign” is why it’s a poor story. It’s horribly unoriginal and the art is so divertive. And seriously…who believes they’ll still be selling newspapers that far in the future?

Jeff Spaulding

June 22, 2012 at 7:30 am

The inclusion of “Reign” baffles me too. I know we’re near the bottom of the list, so I’m not expecting things like “The Kid Who Collected Spider-Man” to appear–yet–but hell, I’d include “What If Uncle Ben Had Lived?” (from WHAT IF # 46, back in 1984) if you want a really good “imaginary” Spider-Man story.

Well, I’m glad we got Flowers for Rhino

Spider-Man: Reign Parts 5-6 were so bad they were erased from my memory. I don’t remember those issues at all.

I have to agree Spider-Man: Reign tried to be Spider-man’s Dark Knight Returns and failed. It doesn’t deserve to be on this list. Any Stan Lee / Steve Dikto story its better and has to be ahead of “Reign”.

Flowers for Rhino! My number one choice! I know that several of my choices won’t make the list (2 stories from Ultimate Spider-Man), but at least my number one is on here. I sure hope someone else voted for the story in Ultimate Spider-Man where Wolverine and Spidey switch bodies.

Hey I voted for Reign. It got 5 points from me. Besides we already know the top 3 stories are going to be Amazing Fantasy 15, “The Death of Gwen Stacy” and “The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man”. Even though we all know “If This Be My Destiny” is the great Spider-Man Story ever told.

Spider-Man: Reign is truly underrated and is unfairly called a knock-off of The Dark Knight Returns. I would say it is its own tale, a unique exploration of what would happen to Peter if you take away his support system (namely Mary Jane and Aunt May). The scene where Peter narrates his feelings during his first meeting with MJ (which coincidentally beat Reign by a rank) by her death bed is simply goosebump inducing and makes the “Face it, Tiger!” moment all the more magical than it already is.

surprised to see spider man reign on this list mostly how litlte messed up it was including how mary jane croaked. plus though mary janes first fully seen appearance would be higher

Spider-Man: Reign has been critically re-evaluated recently and found to be a secret success, much like the Dark Knight Strikes Again.

#26-27 is one of the stories I had a difficult time leaving off of my top ten — if for nothing else, the whole bit of having to wear the costume shop Spidey costume. At first it’s just comedy gold, but then… well, I’ll keep this spoiler free for those who have yet to read it. Go read it!

Wow, how did Reign make it on the list? I know it’s recent, which makes it easier to recall, but even that shouldn’t be enough to get it on the list.

Michael Mayket

June 22, 2012 at 10:31 am

I agree with all of the above criticism’s of Reign except the one about the artwork.

Ed (A Different One)

June 22, 2012 at 10:34 am

Wow, I hard forgotten how much JR was trying to mimic Ditko’s look in those early issues. I heard that he originally took the job thinking he was just going to fill in for a few issues before Ditko’s inevitable return. Boy did he get that wrong! Amazing to think how both Romita’s career and Spider-Man in general would have turned out had Ditko returned the way JR originally expected.

And the Rhino was probably the last “great” addition to Spider-Man’s rogue gallery until Stern’s original Hobgoblin (though I have a soft spot in my heart for the Shocker too). A lot of the additions thereafter were so freaking painful. The Kangaroo. The Grizzly. The Gibbon. And who can forget the Hypno Hustler . . .

Venom was a breath of fresh air by comparison . . .

Loved Flowers for Rhino. Didn’t vote for it but I’m glad it’s here. I just hope the list isn’t 90% Amazing Spider-man 1-100 (mostly 1-50). I fear that the greats from the 80s on will share votes so thin that they often won’t make the grade.

@ookerdookers: I also love the way the store costume plays into the plot. Really clever.

And I will agree with everyone who says Reign is a pretty poor DKR ripoff. I mean, it’s almost EXACTLY the same.

None of mine yet, but I’m pretty sure most of them will make it on here.

Whoa! Spider-Man #19. Step away from the pizza, Peter. Just step away.

Reign was said to be one of the symptoms of the ruination of the character. Who is Spider-man, now? He went from a character you could tell who he was, to a victim of numerous reboots and character changes over the years. Now he’s Deadpool.

I want the old guy. I don’t want any magical-totem characters. I don’t want any false promises of resurrections and big fun stories constantly coming at us. The essence of the character is his humanity. That he has conflict and moraltiy. And if they did an Unmasking story, don’t promise us it, DO IT!! Keep at it. Give it a plot.

OH, it’s too late.

I don’t understand the Reign hate. It was a great story. Are people upset about how MJ died? It could happen, and we all knew it was a stand alone story not in continuity ala DKR. It was wonderfully done and dramatic when it needed to be without being aggressively DKRish.

We’re talking about the story where Spider-Man killed Mary Jane with radioactive splooge, right? Even if it wasn’t such a pathetic rip-off of Dark Knight Returns just that plot point alone would make it a strong contender for worst Spider-Man comic of all time.

Spider-Man Reign took the spot of Spider-Man Spirits of the Earth GN. (I am probably the only person who voted for it, but it is an amazing story, and Reign doesn’t hold a candle to it)

Well, I figure the appearance of ‘Reign’ means that being notorious is almost as good as being liked.

It was wonderfully done and dramatic when it needed to be without being aggressively DKRish.

Wait…Riegn WASN’T aggressively DKRish? How much more of a ripoff would it have had to be in order to qualify as “aggressively DKRish” in your book? Actually name the characters Bruce, Alfred, Batman, and Robin?

If nothing else, Reign had my all-time favorite Spider-Man joke. He says, “There are 3 kinds of people in this world: those that can count and those that can’t.” That still cracks me up.

Reign is absolute garbage. Flowers For Rhino is great but I guess I belong to the “not really a Spidey story” crowd because the focus is 99% on Rhino. Anyway I’d take Flowers over that POS Reign anyday. I also hold out hope for Spirits of the Earth but I’m guessing this list is going to be alot of 1960s/early 70s stuff and some overrated stories from the last decade (Unscheduled Stop and the 9/11 issue, for example). I’m sure some 80s stuff will make it on here, hopefully more than just Stern. Love his work but there were other great Spidey stories in the 80s besides his.

Ugh, I’m such a bonehead for not voting. The Crimemaster storyline would easily have made my Top 5. Ditko’s plotting in that arc I think tops the Master Planner storyline on the whole (although obviously nothing trumps the beginning of “The Final Chapter”). My two favorite moments are

***Spoilers to a 50 Year-Old Story***

(1) how the Crimemaster is revealed to be just some dude, with Peter reflecting that it was silly of him to expect to recognize the man behind the mask. So true, and for disappointed readers, Ditko balances it with another unmasking, this one uncovering the double identity of a well-established character.

(2) when the Goblin can’t get Spidey’s mask off, since IN THE PREVIOUS ISSUE Peter webbed his ill-fitting, store-bought mask to his costume to hold it in place.

These points might not be such a big deal today, but if you think about it, in 1965, plotting like this was a revolutionary step toward realism in comics. To not only have Spidey using a store-bought costume over the course of several issues, but to have that pay off as an essential part of the story, that’s the kind of satisfying, literary realism that Marvel built their reputation on.

Also wanted to give quick shoutouts to Flowers for Rhino and the other Rhino arc on the list. Better than the debuts of Mary Jane and Rhino, I thought, was the way Lee handled Jameson’s relationship with his son, and the Rod Serling-esque drama of John becoming exactly what Jonah had always accused Spider-Man of being.

I’m actually surprised to see these classics so low. I have a rough picture of the top 15 in my head, but with four awesome Ditko issues already accounted for, I can’t imagine what will populate the 30 in between.

@Bill Reed:

What does “has been critically reevaluated” mean?

Have some critics reread it and changed their minds for the positive? How many critics are we talking about? 1? 5? 10?

Or have critics who had not previously expressed an opinion expressed one in contrast with those of previous critics. If so, how many? And how many as a percentage of critics who had previously decried it?

So if the bandages are any indication, the doctors did the Rhino’s brain surgery through his supposedly near-indestructible costume?

i liked reign alot because it was different. also werent these stories picked on peoples votes. i hope the first vs the juggernaut (from asm 226-227 or so) is high on the list and the recent rhino tales from the brand new day era are high on the list. its nice to see peoples views i didnt vote im too biased on the subject. i dont have an ultimate favorite story due have some favorite moments though.

Let me just say that, although I left it off my top ten, ASM #41 may have the greatest ever opening line in a Spidey comic:

“Most super hero thrillers open with contrived action, in order to hook you! But we know you’ll hang around — and, to prove our faith in you, let visit Aunt May…”


It was the early Spidey books which made me decide to become a writer – at eleven years of age. I have a lot to be thankful for from Stan and the gang.

Definitely considered Flowers for Rhino, which was one of my favourite stories of the last decade. But like many posters above, didn’t feel comfortable voting for it as a Spider-Man story. Still, enough people did, and that’s cool!

I have Flowers for Rhino, but haven’t yet read it. Damn my giant stack of unread comics!

I suspect that a lot of the votes for Reign are due to the featuring of that book by Brian in a couple of columns around the time of the voting. I’d guess people saw it and said, oh yeah, that one!

As much as I love Ditko, if he’d been the one to first depict MJ, I really don’t think she’d be as popular as she became. Ditko’s women are…eh. (Although over at Steve Bissette’s blog, he recently featured some risque comics with Ditko art, and while I think someone else inked it, the Ditko pencils and layouts are clear.)

Man, I gotta get cracking with my comics rereading, so I can do my early Amazing/Untold Tales mega reread soon. So cool to read that whole batch and see how well Busiek wove in new stories.

Michael Howey

June 23, 2012 at 1:12 am

Am I the only one who hasn’t read Reign?
Should I try it out of morbid curiosity or is it too bad even for that?

Is Reign bad? Listen, bud – it features commentary on the story from satirically presented news anchors, one of whom is actually named ‘Miller Janson’

Andy Holcombe

June 24, 2012 at 9:56 am

I think “Flowers for Rhino” was in Tangled Web #5-6. Tangled Web #4 was the story “Severance Package.”

I think “Flowers for Rhino” was in Tangled Web #5-6. Tangled Web #4 was the story “Severance Package.”

You are correct. Thanks, I thought I had fixed that but I guess not. Fixed now!

sandwich eater

June 24, 2012 at 6:49 pm

I will say that I enjoyed Spider-Man: Reign, but I do not consider it to be one of my top 50 favorite Spidey stories, but to each their own. Anyway, I suspect that Amazing Fantasy #15 will turn out to be number one on this list.

And the Rhino was probably the last “great” addition to Spider-Man’s rogue gallery until Stern’s original Hobgoblin (though I have a soft spot in my heart for the Shocker too). A lot of the additions thereafter were so freaking painful. The Kangaroo. The Grizzly. The Gibbon. And who can forget the Hypno Hustler . . .

Venom was a breath of fresh air by comparison . . .

You forgot about Kingpin, who appeared a few issues after the Rhino. Pretty great addition, no?

You also forgot about Morbius, the Living Vampire. He’s kinda cool. His debut was five years after the Rhino, and about eleven or twelve years before Hobgoblin.

There is also Silvermane, Hammerhead, the Jackal, Carrion, Richard Fisk (Schemer / the Rose)… all of which premiered after the Rhino and way before Hobgoblin… maybe not “great”, but certainly not in the same category as the Hypno Hustler.

And let us not forget Stegron and Big Wheel! Greatest Spidey villains ever!

Ed (A Different One)

June 25, 2012 at 10:02 am

@JoeMac – “You forgot about Kingpin, who appeared a few issues after the Rhino. Pretty great addition, no?

You also forgot about Morbius, the Living Vampire. He’s kinda cool. His debut was five years after the Rhino, and about eleven or twelve years before Hobgoblin.

There is also Silvermane, Hammerhead, the Jackal, Carrion, Richard Fisk (Schemer / the Rose)… all of which premiered after the Rhino and way before Hobgoblin… maybe not “great”, but certainly not in the same category as the Hypno Hustler.

And let us not forget Stegron and Big Wheel! Greatest Spidey villains ever!”

I’ll give you Kingpin, but the rest of them (even Morbius) are a step or 2 below “the greats” IMO.

And maybe Big Wheel. Big Wheel was cool . . .

Jonathon Riddle

June 26, 2012 at 7:59 am

I’m so glad to see Amazing 41-43 make the final cut, as those issues were on my top ten list. Hooray for the Rhino!

Nah, you’re right, except for Kingpin, none of the other guys I mentioned were great… but I just thought they deserved to be placed a peg or two above the Kangaroo, the Grizzly, the Gibbon and the Hypno Hustler, is all…

To my eyes, your original comment read like there was nothing but D-List and below villians popping up in Spidey books from 1966 until 1983, outside of the constant rotation of Kraven, Vulture, Sandman, Lizard, Green Goblin, Chameleon and Electro.

I was just pointing out that was not entirely the case. There were plenty of B- and C-List new villians being created as well.

Ugh, after reading all the comments I’m relieved. I thought I had been the only one puzzled at the inclusion of Reign here. I hated that thing when I first read it and I didn’t hate it less the second time. I tend to read books I dislike a second time months after the first time, to see if my perception has changed or to see if there were things I misunderstood the first time.

Sometimes, I find a new appreciation for them (The Ultimates, though not by much). Sometimes I don’t (Ultimatum). Sometimes I end up hating them even more (The Dark Knight Strikes Again). Reign falls somewhere between the second and third. I don’t understand the appreciation people have for it, and I think I never will.

i quit reading when Spider Man Reign was #47. really? any list that counts that as a great story is not worth my time.

[…] write a review of some of the top ranked Spider-Man stories of all time according to IGN.com and GoodComics.com. My first time out proved to be an interesting one since I haven’t read any Spider-Man title […]

I have fond memories of Amazing Spider-Man (Vol 1) #18-19! I remember the reason Peter basically gave up being Spidey was after hearing Aunt May got sick while he was fighting the Goblin at the Spider-Man Fan Club. Then after Aunt May got better and he got past his low points, as seen above, there came Spidey Strikes Back! That story about Spidey’s return gave me goosebumps!

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