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50 Greatest Spider-Man Stories: #35-31

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!

35. “Down Among the Dead Men”/”Venomous”/”The Last Stand,” Marvel Knights: Spider-Man #1-12

We really need a name for Mark Millar’s run on Marvel Knights: Spider-Man! It’s 2012! The comic has been out for seven years and it still doesn’t have a name! Yes, the story was split into three four-part stories that each had names, but come on, it was specifically a 12-issue story! It should have a name!

In any event, the series tells the story of Aunt May being kidnapped and Spider-Man being forced to go to some extreme measures to get her back. The early issues of the series involve Spider-Man searching for her with the help of longtime Spider-Man villain, Mac Gargan, who Millar cleverly notes WAS a detective.

As the story goes by, Gargan becomes the new Venom and we learn that the whole story is a complicated plot by Norman Osborn to teach Peter Parker a lesson. It is almost like Norman is trying to go out of his way to torment Peter psychologically, including forcing Spidey to break Osborn out of prison to save Aunt May.

Spidey wrestles with the decision…

One of the themes of the story was power and what one should do with it. Osborn taunts Peter with the idea that Peter could do so much more with his gifts than being just a superhero. Osborn knows that HE wasted his own gifts, but he is a villain, so it is not so bad. Meanwhile, Gargan craves more power.

The Dodsons and Frank Cho do a great job on the artwork for the series (the Dodsons got the first and last story and Cho got the middle arc).

34. “Return of the Sin-Eater,” Spectacular Spider-Man #134-136

One of the themes in “The Death of Jean DeWolff,” Peter David’s classic Spider-Man tale, is the danger of Peter losing control. It was another way to view the responsibility that comes with great power. In the sequel to that story, Peter David masterfully plays with that idea further by showing that Peter’s momentary lapse of reason when he tried to kill Sin-Eater (who is being released from a mental hospital after it was determined that drugs SHIELD had tested on him had caused him to temporarily go insane and now that the drugs are out of his system, he is no longer a menace to society) had a rather permanent effect on the Sin-Eater…

The injuries he caused to Stan Carter (the Sin-Eater) cause Spider-Man to freeze up when he encounters his old foe, Electro, and Spider-Man finds himself dealing with a mental block that won’t let him use his full powers in combat with Electro.

Meanwhile, Stan Carter is still quite insane. He talks with the “Sin-Eater” (a personality he has created in his mind) and he strives to find a way to keep the “Sin-Eater” from killing again. David’s parallel conclusions to Spidey and Electro’s battle and Carter’s battle with “Sin-Eater” are very impressive.

Sal Buscema became the regular penciler on Spectacular Spider-Man with the first issue of this story. He would pencil every Spectacular issue until well past #200.

33. “Venom,” Ultimate Spider-Man #33-38

If you’re planning on seeing the new Spider-Man film series, this story arc by Brian Michael Bendis and artists Mark Bagley and Art Thibert likely had a major impact on the films you are going to see, as this story reveals that Peter Parker’s parents were working on a “Super-suit” that could possibly cure cancer. They were killed in a mysterious crash and now, years later, the son of the Parkers’ scientist partner, the Brocks, has tracked down Peter Parker and is trying to convince him of their “inheritance”…the suit…

The suit, of course, is essentially the Venom sybmiote. Peter tries it and things go bad. Luckily, Peter is a strong kid and he can control it. But when his jerky former childhood friend, Eddie Brock, who got him into this mess in the first place, tries the suit…well, as Peter’s friend Gwen says after Eddie tries to force himself on her at his dorm, “Eddie is a bad guy.”

This was a powerful arc and the changes to Peter’s origins are almost certainly the influence for similar changes upcoming in Spidey’s origin in the film series.

32. “New Ways to Die,” Amazing Spider-Man #568-573

If “New Ways to Die,” the six-issue storyline by Dan Slott, John Romita Jr. and Klaus Janson was ONLY about the first meeting between Spider-Man and Norman Osborn since Osborn was given a government position and the leadership reins of the Thunderbolts (putting Norman into the ironic position of being the nominal “good guy” bringing the fugitive Spider-Man to justice) then it would be a cool story…

The idea of Spidey’s greatest foe now working for the LAW?!? That’s a rough situation. However, this story also introduced Venom back into the Spider-Man titles. Venom was one of Osborn’s Thunderbolts. Well, his presence brings out bad things in Venom’s former host, Eddie Brock. Brock becomes a NEW character known as ANTI-VENOM, who has powers that work as the opposite of Venom. When Spidey figures, “Heck, this works out well for me. He can take care of Venom FOR me,” he learns that Anti-Venom is after Spider-Man, TOO, because of the trace elements of the Venom symbiote remaining in Spidey’s system. It is not a painless process. So Spider-Man has his hands very full with bad guys and crazed “Good guys” coming at him from every angle. When you throw in the mysterious Menace, then things REALLY spiral out of control.

This was the first long storyline of the Brand New Day era and Dan Slott knocked it out of the park.

31. “The Spider or the Man?” Amazing Spider-Man #100-102

One of the most interesting things about Stan Lee’s run on Amazing Spider-Man is that it does not end in any sort of traditional sense. #100 seemed to be the end, only he then returned five issues later for another five issues before abruptly leaving in the middle of a storyline about the freakin’ GIBBON.

However, if Amazing Spider-Man #100 HAD been his final issue, what a way to go out! The story (drawn by Gil Kane and Frank Giacoia) was a somewhat traditional (but strong) tale of Peter Parker debating if he wanted to continue to be Spider-Man or not. Ultimately, he decides to try a potion to remove his powers. It ends with one of the great Spider-Man cliffhangers of all-time…

Writer Roy Thomas had to follow THAT up and yet he managed to acquit himself well, introducing the classic Marvel character, Morbius the Living Vampire. Morbius was a scientist who accidentally turned himself into a pseduo-vampire. In the storyline, Morbius comes into conflict with Spider-man who just accidentally turned himself into a dude with six arms. Morbius ALSO comes into conflict (as does Spidey) with the Lizard, who was a scientist who…you guessed it…accidentally turned himself into a lizard.

It is a crazy free-for-all drawn extremely well by two comic book legends, Gil Kane and Frank Giacoia.

27 Comments

I like “the Spider or de Man?” and “Return of the Sin Eater”. The rest I could’ve live without reading. To me Millar’s Spideys is one of the worst. Full of bad dialogue, some villians fullfilling sexual fantasies with shape shifters, Norman Osborn moving every string behind the shadows (again). Ugh! Not good.

Welcome to Suck City. Population: Peter Parker. Next to Batman, Spidey would be the solo character I could most easily rattle off 50 greatest stories and still have tons left over but so far this list has included a grand total of 1 of them! LOL guess I’m out of touch or something. I think Millar sucks balls and Bendis & Slott are overrated. The Sin-Eater sequel was ok but not top 50 material IMO. The multi-arm/Morbius story was just silly and I can only see nostalgia being the reason I would vote for it, but others’ mileage obviously does vary.

‘return of Sin eater ‘ only lasts 3 parts ( 134- 136 ) [i'm not at home.. but in my memories, all 3 parts are inked by colleta]

With 137 G. Conway comes on board and brings back tarentula

[...] MailAndrew Garfield brings out Spider-Man's emotional sideTelegraph.co.ukMTV UK -Comic Book Resources -Contactmusic.comall 501 news [...]

Glad that Venom storyline made it on here. I honestly liked it a whole lot more than the 616 Venom. I think it managed to nail the apparent original intended concept of the flip side of Spider-Man much better. They don’t seem to really touch on it much in the series, but origin-wise, Ultimate Eddie Brock was basically Peter without the influence of Ben and May. Tying their origins together was fantastically done and I was quite pleased when they incorporated bits of it into Spectacular Spider-Man.

Hey e’rybody, let’s remember that this was a poll involving anyone who wanted to be involved. If you disagree, that’s fine, but it’s all just opinions, and yours is worth just as little as everyone else’s.

Ya know, Spideykicksbutt.com scribe JR always referred to the Mark Millar story as “Shush”, as the 12-issue greatest hits towards through Spidey’s rogue gallery, trying to unravel the mystery bad guy behind it all, teaming up with sexy cat burglars, etc is VERY familiar in structure to Batman’s popular “Hush” story.

The Crazed Spruce

June 25, 2012 at 7:49 am

Only one of these I read was “The Spider or the Man”. Good story, but it didn’t make my list.

This list is pretty shocking in how bad it is. The Roy Thomas story is especially bad. It is easily one of the worst stories I ever read of ANY character, much less Spider-Man. I mean he really does not nail the voice of Peter Parker in any shape or form, Morbius is an awful villain, I truly am stunned. I’d be hesitant to vote a Roy Thomas story into any best of list, even if the list was “Top 50 Roy Thomas stories.”

By the way, Return of the Sin Eater is an incredibly underrated, awesome story, so I’m pleased it made the list. It totally deserves more recognition. I actually enjoyed it even more than the original Sin Eater storyline. Great pick. I never read “New Ways to Die” so I remain neutral on that one.

I agree with T. here, both on “The Spider or the Man?” and on “Return of the Sin Eater”.

In all fairness though, didn’t Stan Lee write issue #100, and left it with the cliff hanger of Spidey suddenly growing four extra arms, and then hand it off to Roy Thomas to finish it off? After working on Spidey for almost 9 years, that is one crazy way to welcome the new writer aboard.

The “Return of the Sin Eater” story really stuck with me as a kid. It really shook me up that Spidey nearly crippled a dude. It was also the first time I can remember someone doing something interesting with Electro in years (this is the story with the whole static electricity negates wallcrawling trick, right?), and the ending is pretty brutal, or it was when I was a pre-teen anyway.

PAD had a pretty balanced approach to Spider-Man during his run Spectacular that I really enjoyed, featuring light-heared moments (The Commuter Cometh) and some really dark stuff (both Sin-Eater stories) especially when you compare it to some of the dreck that would follow in the 90s and beyond, which often tried for dark and extreme but was mostly just terrible. The only other writer that I think does a good “grim” Spider-Man is JM DeMatteis.

That is supposed to read “during his Spectacular run”

Argh

Ed (A Different One)

June 25, 2012 at 11:07 am

“New Ways to Die” is the only post BND storyline I considered voting for, but ultimately declined to do so. Hasn’t stood the test of time yet. I do remember enjoying that particularly storyline though. I also think it was the first time JRjr was back doing pencils on the title since BND which was the main reason it stood out for me at the time.

Yeah, Morbius. Either I haven’t read the right “Morbius story” yet or I just plain don’t get the character. The six arm saga was just a silly storyline to me and Morbius was the worst part of it. If I want to see a throw-down between Spider-powered human and a vampire, I want it to be a battle for the ages. Does that ever happen? Not to my knowledge. Morbius shows up and slaps Spider-Man around like a limp-wristed sissy boy who can’t get out of his own way. Every. Time.

Am I the only one who thinks that a Spider-Man vs. Vampire melee should be more intriguing than that?

Alright, alright, I’m done with the negativity.

“The Return of the Sin Eater” looks good . . .

In all fairness though, didn’t Stan Lee write issue #100, and left it with the cliff hanger of Spidey suddenly growing four extra arms, and then hand it off to Roy Thomas to finish it off? After working on Spidey for almost 9 years, that is one crazy way to welcome the new writer aboard.

Yes, Stan Lee did leave Roy Thomas with that atrocious cliffhanger. In fact, that’s what makes the awfulness of Roy’s story even more fascinating. Roy managed to somehow make the four extra arms the BEST thing of the story! The dialogue, the plot, the villain, they were all so terrible that suddenly the six-arm plot is the least of your worries as a reader. Roy Thomas especially was bad at this weird self-punishing monologue thing he used to love. He would have first person thought bubbles full of self-loathing, along the lines of “Yeah, face it hero, you’re the worst thing ever! Look how much of a screw up you are! Maybe you can enter a freakshow you piece of garbage!” Okay, I’m taking liberties, but that’s really what it feels like to me to read Roy Thomas’s thought bubbles. But then add his narration captions, especially when he writes them in the second person, and it’s sheer torture: “Look at you hero! You sure screwed up again!” When he combines both devices in a single story it becomes melodrama hell. I mean, Stan Lee did a lot of melodrama and self-loathing monologuing, but I never realized what a talent it was to make such things appealing and maintain a good energy while doing them until I read a lot of Roy Thomas books and saw it done badly.

I really don’t get the love for him as a writer, and it’s not for lack of trying. I am currently in the middle of his Fantastic Four run after reading his X-Men run, and to me he brings down the quality of every book he touches and makes them convoluted as hell.

“I really don’t get the love for him as a writer, and it’s not for lack of trying. I am currently in the middle of his Fantastic Four run after reading his X-Men run, and to me he brings down the quality of every book he touches and makes them convoluted as hell.”

I really don’t get the love for any of the Marvel guys who immediately followed Stan on the main books (Conway, Wein, Wolfman, Englehart), at least not their 70′s work. And it’s not like they didn’t have good guys there. In the 70′s Essentials (which generally has about 700 creators credited) you tend to get fill-in work by guys like Goodwin or Gerber which slaughters the “main” creators.

I’ve found Millar’s Spider-Man arc overrated(much like “Hush,” the story it emulates so much), but it was still a decent tale with great art, so I’m not surprised to see it here.

Never read “Return of the Sin Eater.” Looks fantastic. I’m slowly working my way to that point in my reading of all the late ’70s- late ’80s Spidey comics.

The conception of Venom was one of the high points of USM, and far better than how he was “born” in ASM, in my opinion. Brock’s motivation for hating Spider-Man always seemed incredibly weak to me, and that was remedied in USM. I also loved the origins of the suit. The idea of a posthumous collaboration with his father was a touching and brilliant idea.

“New Ways to Die” is amazing. It very nearly made my top ten.

“The Spider or the Man?” is one of the few well-regarded classic tales that kinda leaves me underwhelmed. It’s not bad, but it’s quality doesn’t stand out to me in any real way.

Yeah, Morbius. Either I haven’t read the right “Morbius story” yet or I just plain don’t get the character. The six arm saga was just a silly storyline to me and Morbius was the worst part of it. If I want to see a throw-down between Spider-powered human and a vampire, I want it to be a battle for the ages. Does that ever happen? Not to my knowledge. Morbius shows up and slaps Spider-Man around like a limp-wristed sissy boy who can’t get out of his own way. Every. Time.

It’s weird, but neither in real life or online have I ever encountered a Morbius fan. Yet he gets an amazing amount of exposure. He got his own feature soon after first appearing in Spider-Man. He has appeared in so many books so often. He got a lot of exposure in the 90s in the Midnight Sons line of books. He apparently has SOME kind of fanbase demanding to see him, right?

Also, I agree on how annoying it is that Spider-man always seems so outmatched by Morbius, but that was a problem with post-Stan 70s Marvel in general. EVERYONE smacked him around for a while until Roger Stern came along.

Oddly, I like Dan Slott, but I don’t get ‘New Ways to Die.’ Just didn’t do it for me. Ah well.

I think I would like to see a return of Six-Arm-Spidey almost as much as I would like to see a return of Spider-Hulk. Ah, man, why didn’t I vote for Spider-Hulk? Darn. It’s gonna bug me if it was one vote away from being # 1 on the list.

I wonder what the Spider-Man writers would have come up with had Osborn and May both STAYED dead.

Honestly, the Spider Books have gotten too freaking dark since then. Even the coloring is depressing on most of these stories. This whole Parker/Osborn feud thing has become an obsession. And since Marvel has established Osborn as their answer to Lex Luthor, it’s never bound to change anytime soon. Just like the Superman franchise or Batman and the Joker.

God, how I miss Roger Stern…

I really don’t get the love for any of the Marvel guys who immediately followed Stan on the main books (Conway, Wein, Wolfman, Englehart), at least not their 70?s work. And it’s not like they didn’t have good guys there. In the 70?s Essentials (which generally has about 700 creators credited) you tend to get fill-in work by guys like Goodwin or Gerber which slaughters the “main” creators.

I’ve often wondered about that myself. Most of the post-Stan guys were not very good, although compared to Roy Thomas I think Conway, Wein, Wolfman, and Englehart are practically writing gods. But I do agree with you about Archie Goodwin and Steve Gerber. They absolutely KILL in comparison to the main 70s guys but got much less work. In the 70s runs I’ve been reading, whenever Goodwin does a guest writing stint I know I’m in for a rippin’ good read. I’m guessing maybe he just liked editing more than writing, which is a shame, because if he did more of it I’m sure he’d be held in much higher esteem for his writing. It also seems that he even as an editor he improves the writing of those working under him, because I noticed that James Robinson’s best writing was done under Goodwin’s editorial oversight.

I think Wein, Wolfman, and Conway got to assign themselves the most plum writing gigs because Marvel had a writer/editor system that allowed them to edit books and then hire themselves as writers. I believe Jim Shooter even said in interviews that one of his big goals when becoming EiC was to kill that system because it led to a lot of cronyism and it also led to worse stories since the writers had no one higher up to veto their more questionable ideas.

Roger Stern has written a handful of post-Brand New Day issues of Amazing Spider-Man in the last couple of years. Check ‘em out!

Pete Woodhouse

June 26, 2012 at 4:15 am

I wonder if the producers – plus director Sam Raimi – of the first Spider-Man film trilogy read ASM #100 specificially when casting for Peter Parker? Because, particularly in panel 2, Toby Maguire looks VERY like Peter how he’s drawn by Kane/Giacoia.

Pete Woodhouse

June 26, 2012 at 4:40 am

Looking at the above comments, Conway, Wein, Wolfman I tend to group into one in my head because they were THE trio Marvel went to in the 70s (and a bit of the 80s) when Stan gave up writing and Roy took the EIC role.
In Conway’s case particularly you were stuck if you didn’t like his writing. He was ALL OVER early 70s Marvel -he quickly switched from Iron Man & Daredevil to Spidey, FF, Thor…!
I believe ConWolfWein improved after leaving the ‘heirs of Stan superhero’ shadow. For example, I prefer Conway’s Batman & JLA work at DC. Look at Wolfman on Tomb of Dracula, Wein on Swamp Thing/JLA/editor of Watchmen, etc: all either non-Marvel or non-Marvel superhero at least.
Look at Conway when he returned to Spec Spidey in the 80s/90s. Can you honestly say it was better than his Batman or JLA?
And yes, Morbius slapping round Spidey AND The Lizard was silly. As he was created in ASM#6 (?) I always understood he was one of the heaviest-hitting Spidey villains, at least as strong as Rhino, etc.

I quit Marvel Knight’s Spider-Man during the second part of the arc (with movie Doc Ock). I just could not get in to a story in which whole point of the story was to be as violent and ‘gritty’ as possible. It was less about being a Spider-Man book and more about being violence porn. Being some what of a rip off of a bad Batman story did not help either.

I think this is why I stay away from Mark Miller books now (because I loved Aztek).

One Morbius fan right here. Okay not so much for his characterization I just like the idea of him and he looks creepy, sort of like a Michael Jackson thing going on with that face years before that Michael Jackson look took hold. Hmmm

I’ve never been a fan of Mark Millar. I think his shtick of trying-to-look-original-by-doing-the-exact-opposite-of-what’s-been-done-before-and-in-consequence-ending-up-being-just-as-predictable is tiring and overrated. The Ultimates, Civil War, Wanted and Kick-Ass are all flooded with examples of his “taking really old storylines and try to pass them as something fresh” style, which makes me mad, because pretty much every review I read of those books praise Millar for doing something fresh with the genre while he’s doing the exact opposite.

Marvel Knights 1-12 was more of the same. It felt like a rehash of “Hush” that tried to pretend it was an original thing. I think if Millar had picked an older Batman story to rip off, as he usually does, the results wouldn’t have been as noticeable.

[...] a post-Lizard Curt Connors in a minor role and tied into the story of Peter Parker’s parents. It’s also appeared in a few recent “Best Of” lists. So it makes a lot of sense for Sony to use that comic as the foundation for the next Spider-Man [...]

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