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50 Greatest Spider-Man Stories: #40-36

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! We continue with #40-36. Click here for a master list of all the stories revealed so far!

Enjoy!

40. “I’m With Stupid,” Spider-Man/Human Torch #1-5

Written by Dan Slott and drawn by Ty Templeton and four inkers (Nelson, Tom Palmer, Drew Geraci and Greg Adams), this pleasant mini-series tells the story of Spider-Man and Human Torch’s relationship from their first meeting until the present (well, the present as of when the mini-series came out, which was 2004 – a whole lot of things have changed since then).

Templeton’s artwork is great and I loved the way that Slott worked in the various eras in with the story, as Slott sure knows his continuity. The series ends with Johnny Storm learning Peter Parker’s identity as Spider-Man and the two get even closer. This is probably not the BEST scene in the series (especially as you need the next page to REALLY get the full effect, but I just love the “Parker luck” line so much)…

Come on, that’s hilarious!

The whole series was basically filled with great character moments. I’m really pleased that Slott and Templeton got back together for the tribute issue of Amazing Spider-Man when Johnny “died.”

39. “Return of the Burglar,” Amazing Spider-Man #198-200

Written by Marv Wolfman and drawn by Sal Bucema (#198-199), Keith Pollard (#200) and Jim Mooney, issue #200 is really the issue people voted for, but the storyline is really #198-200 for the full deal. In any event, the Burglar returns, teaming up with Mysterio to gain access to the Parker home because that is where some old gangster buried his treasure. The Burglar and Mysterio faked Aunt May’s death so that they could dig in silence.

So, well, Peter obviously has some real anger towards the Burglar that killed his uncle…

Talk about dramatic! The issue is filled with stuff like that. Really powerful character-driven stuff.

38. “Return of the Sinister Six,” Amazing Spider-Man #334-339

Written by David Michelinie and drawn by Erik Larsen (with inks by Mike Machlan, Terry Austin, Randy Emberlin, Keith Williams and John Romita), this storyline does a great job bringing the Sinister Six back together. Michelinie reasonably understands that Spider-Man fighting six powerful supervillains at once for six issues would be hard to write, so he builds suspense really well for the first four issues, as Spider-Man deals with villains one at a time while Doctor Octopus is building his master plan behind the scenes.

Then, in the penultimate issue, Spider-Man is forced to take on the villains (with a nice dramatic acknowledgement of the severity of the situation)…

Larsen does a great job on this storyline, especially the dramatic full-page attacks between Spider-Man and the various villains (amazing spotlight pages for Electro, Hobgoblin, etc.). The best is probably the climactic fight between Spidey and Doc Ock in the final part (there is this amazing sequence with Ock’s arms wrapped around Spidey).

37. “To Have and to Hold,” Sensational Spider-Man Annual #1

Written by Matt Fraction and drawn by Salvador Larocca (with digital colors by Paco Roca), this story is a bit of a love letter to the marriage between Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson. Set during the time when Peter was a fugitive from the law after revealing his identity to the world, Mary Jane is cornered by a former bodyguard she knew in Los Angeles where they almost had a moment (during a period she and Peter were sort of separated). He is now working for SHIELD and he wants her to turn herself and Peter in. She relates her history with Peter to explain why that won’t be happening (Peter, meanwhile, is talking to a police detective he is friendly with trying to work out a deal where he gives himself up to protect Mary Jane and Aunt May, Gift of the Magi-style)…

One of the best bits in the issue is when Fraction shows us Mary Jane’s thoughts in a particular moment and then returns to that moment later to show us Peter’s thoughts, and almost always they are both thinking that they are screwing things up and wondering what the other one sees in them. It is really great.

Larocca does a nice job on evoking each of the eras the flashbacks are set in. This is a really adorable comic book. Beautiful work all around.

36. “The Commuter Cometh!” Amazing Spider-Man #267

Written by Peter David and drawn by Bob McLeod, this is a hilariously offbeat tale where Spider-Man tracks a crook to Scarsdale, a suburb of New York City.

David milks a lot of great humor from Spider-Man’s “fish out of water” deal in the suburbs…

Just a hilarious approach to a novel idea. McLeod’s art is great, as always.

30 Comments

Peter David is great. On a recent X-Factor issue, Spidey swings by to the X-Factor Investigations building. Monet asks him “where do you come from? And what was your web attached to?” Spidey says : “passing cloud”. He solved one of the mysteries of my childhood: “in the 60′s cartoon, how does he always swings above the city and not between the buildings?”

“as Slott sure knows his continuity”

Actully, he doesn’t. he deliebratly screwed with history in the Black Cat issue, in order to make his story work.
But he knows his Lee/Ditko era stuff, that I will give you, but he is no Roger Stern or Kurt Buseik.

Glad to see “The Commuter Cometh” made the list. I never put my top ten in order and never voted but this one was on my list.

I am glad a ‘fun’ story made the list, as I had figured that a lot of the stories on peoples lists would be the grim and dramatic stories (like Kraven’s last Hunt (also on my list)). Of course I will not be suprised if that is what the top ten is made up of.

It is the little things like MJ touching the bodyguard’s hand to make him stop tapping his fingers as she recollects memories of Peter which make “To Have and to Hold” such a special tale.

All right, 2 outta my 10! I’m a sucker for that Torch/Spidey mini.

The fact that these stories are in the 30s really shows how many great Spidey stories there are.

Interesting choices. Some comments:

1.Brian:” teaming up with Mysterio to gain access to the Parker home because that is where some old gangster buried his treasure. The Burglar and Mysterio faked Aunt May’s death so that they could dig in silence.”

Well, to be autistic for a moment, I wouldn’t describe it as “teaming up.” The Burglar thought that he was coercing the corrupt administrator of a nursing home; he didn’t know that he was dealing with Mysterio until old globe-head decided to stop playing along.

2.SPIDER-MAN/HUMAN TORCH: Glad to see this one make it. Just so many great moments in this mini.

3.ASM 198-200: I loathe Wolfman’s run on Spidey with the heat of a thousand suns….except for issue 200, one of the best single issues in the history of Spidey.

4.ASM 267: Not a deep or profound issue, but just an incredibly fun story. Heck, I’ve actually elicited smiles/laughs just by describing this issue’s premise to people who don’t read comics; it’s that good.

The Crazed Spruce

June 24, 2012 at 8:41 am

I liked “The Return of the Sinister Six”, but it finished just outside of my top 10 list. I honestly considered putting it at #10, instead of the Avengers story I used, but frankly, I thought the reveal of Doc Oc’s actual scheme was a bit weak. (Although I haven’t read it in over a decade, since I lost my copy of those issues in a house fire ten years ago.)

Haven’t read any of the other issues, but from what I heard about the Spidey/Torch mini and the Commuter story, I probably would’ve really liked ‘em. Can’t really speak for the other two.

Spidey/Torch and “To Have and To Hold” are in my top ten. Absolutely love them. Spidey/Torch is just downright hysterical, and Ty Templeton is perfect for the tone and the world they’re in. It’s a complete love-letter to Spidey and the Marvel Universe at large. I just wanna hug this thing. I’m a big fan of Slott’s ASM run, but I still think this is his masterpiece.

“To Have and To Hold” is that one issue that I can only describe in flowery adjectives. Clever, heart-warming, heart-breaking, uplifting, hillirious, bittersweet. In one annual, Fraction showed a better understanding and warmth, with such clarity and maturity, for the MJ-Peter Parker relationship then damn near anyone who came before him, or since. Great, great issue.

@Morten: If he doesn’t know his continuity, then how could the differences have been deliberate?

The Burglar story was a runner up for me but didn’t make the final cut.

The best panel in that story is how scared the burglar is of Spidey and doesn’t understand WHY he’s chasing him, so Peter unmasks saying “Ben Parker was my uncle!” causing the Burglar to pretty much shit himself until he has a heart-attack.

Yeah, I should probably have dropped something else and rank it. It was not an easy vote.

Very happy to see The Commuter Cometh make the list, even if it’s further down than it should be. First story from my list to make it.

Haven’t read ‘To have and to hold.’ Another recommendation for the pile. And yeah, I think we’ve had two or three from my top ten already.

love spiderman falling from the tree after telling the little girl no to the big wheel. plus mary jane sharing how peter put on nova on his mix tape for her.

“The Commuter Cometh” i the first from my top ten to show up. Great, fun story. The Spidey/Torch mini may well have made it in my ten as well, if I hadn’t forgotten about it. I’ll have to check out that Sensational Spidey annual, it slipped by me when it came out.

Just had Bob McLeod sign my copy of ASM #267 this past May. “I hate the suburbs. The people are all nuts…” is one of my favorite panels ever. What a great issue.

Travis Pelkie

June 24, 2012 at 4:48 pm

I wasn’t quite as impressed with that Sensational Annual as some. I think it’s because it got built up so much that it couldn’t have lived up to its reputation. Or maybe it’s because seeing Liv Tyler and Ben Affleck up there on the page you show was too distracting :)

The Spidey/Torch mini was, I believe, only 5 issues, not 6. But “Ty Templeton’s art was great” is a redundancy, sir! Ty=great art! ;)

It’s fun seeing how these stories seem to break nicely into humorous ones and dramatic ones.

BTW, there’s no “k” in “Electro.”

Aside from being flattered that people remember “Commuter” so fondly, a couple of comments you might find entertaining.

The story was originally inspired by an actor. Back in those days, Marvel had a character appearance program, and there was one actor who regularly played Spider-Man, a guy named Scott Leva. And Scott would take great pains to give him a very spidery look, with lots of crouching and stuff. Even if he was just around the office, he never broke character and would always be crouching on things. One day, Scott wasn’t available, and Marvel needed a Spidey for a gig. So they pressed into service the guy who normally played Captain America–a young, aspiring actor named Jonathan Frakes (yes, THAT one). And he walked around in the same way that he did as Cap, and I saw that and thought, “Boy, Spidey looks kinda stupid if he’s simply walking around.” And the whole story just find of flowed from that. If he’s clinging to the wall, it’s “Whoa, it’s Spider-Man!” If he’s just walking around, it’s “Who’s that guy in the Spider-Man costume?”

And I’m really pleased over the selection of the page that you ran. The little girl who identifies herself as Shana is, in fact, an artistically accurate depiction of my eldest daughter Shana as she was at the time. She’s now all grown up, runs a theater called the Sun-Ray Cinema in Jacksonville, FL with her husband, Tim, and will occasionally admit to being related to me.

PAD

Actually, if you compare Shana in this comic to Supergirl 1 million, you’ll see something of a resemblance. That’s because Supergirl 1 million was based on my third daughter, Ariel, who was about the same age at the time of that comic as Shana was here.

PAD

PAD’s inspiration for The Commuter Cometh is awesome! Thanks for sharing that.

I’ve never been a big fan of “The Return of the Sinister Six” – not sure why… I think I disliked the approach to Doc Ock in that story (I haven’t read it in 20 something years, so hard to remember why off hand)

Ed (A Different One)

June 25, 2012 at 10:46 am

It’s a shame that I quit reading comics the first time around right before PAD started hitting it big at Marvel. As such, I missed those great early Spidey stories he wrote (including the Death of Jean DeWolff, which I’m still trying to remedy). I did catch “Commuter” in .pdf form though from a friend of mine who bought the ASM CD-ROM back when Marvel was selling those. Loved it. PAD’s a class act too and I’m glad he chimed in with his comments above. He’s one of those creators you can just tell was (and is) a fan first and foremost . . .

I hadn’t heard of the Torch/Spidey mini by Slott or “To Have and To Hold” by Fraction. I’m definitely going to have to check those out. That’s half of the fun of these poll sometimes – you discover there’s still good material out there that you haven’t read yet.

Fraction really seems capable of flashes of true creative genius sometimes. Much like Jenkins was with Ramos though, Fraction seems “joined at the hip” with Larrocca as his artist. And, much like Ramos, he’s not for everybody . . .

Oh, and about the only thing I remember fondly about that Erik Larson era of Spidey was Doc Ock’s sharp white suit . . . .

Jean De Wolfe’s easy to rememdy: it’s in the latest Essential Peter Parker Spectacular Spiderman

Great anecdote by Peter David… so Jonathan Frakes was Picard’s Number 2 and Marvel’s Spider-Man Number 2?

[...] 50 GREATEST SPIDER-MAN STORIES: #40-36 from Comic Book Resources [...]

PAD, thanks for sharing the genesis of that great story! The Commuter symbolizes to me everything that was just plain fun in comics of that era.

Don’t forget, he also webbed a Dobie.

I love that The Commuter Cometh story— funny, but also added depth to the idea of a Spider-Man. Everything felt more real about the character after reading that issue. I was thinking things like “Of course he can swing from webs in the big city, now we know that he really do need things to swing on since it didn’t work in the suburbs”.

As a resident of Jacksonville, FL, I must say that the Sun Ray Cinema is awesome and I went to see The Avengers there (2nd time at that point.). I paid Shana (who is also awesome) for my movie and pizza. If you’re ever in Jacksonville and want to check out a movie, I highly recommend the Sun Ray!

[...] There are several things the best stories with a married Spider-Man have in common. They usually fall into one of two categories, with occasional overlap. Many of the stories tend to be self-contained, as creative teams come to tell a one-off adventure. In addition to Blue and Sensational Spider-Man Annual One, there’s Kraven’s Last Hunt, Peter David’s short story “Five Minutes” and Millar’s Marvel Knights Spider-Man run. It’s an interesting contrast to the single Spider-Man, who seems better represented in stories that are clearly part of an ongoing run. The other best regarded stories tend to feature significant closed doors, as long running stories are given permanent endings. Examples include the Death of Aunt May, the Death of Harry Osborn, Kraven’s Last Hunt and even The Return of the Sinister Six, with the death of Aunt May’s fiancee Nathan Lubensky. [...]

[...] was thrilled to see readers selected “Commuter” for Comics Should Be Good’s 50 Greatest Spider-Man Stories list last year, as it really is in a class of its own when it comes to Spider-Man’s vast library of storylines. [...]

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