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CSBG Archive

50 Greatest Spider-Man Stories: #30-26

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!


30. “Learning Curve,” Ultimate Spider-Man #8-12

The second Ultimate Spider-Man story arc, where writer Brian Michael Bendis really took control and began to put very different twists on characters like J. Jonah Jameson, Ben Urich and the Kingpin.

Very nice artwork from Mark Bagley and Art Thibert.

29. “Unscheduled Stop,” Amazing Spider-Man #578-579

Mark Waid and Marcos Martin deliver a tour de force performance in this two-part storyline about Spider-Man trapped underground on a wrecked subway car with a jury who was targeted for death so that some bad guys could delay the trial. Forced to try to find an exit in the subway tunnels, Spidey and the jury find themselves especially pressed for time when the river begins to leak in from above them. One of the jury members, by the way, happens to be J. Jonah Jameson’s DAD!

28. “Spider-Island,” Amazing Spider-Man #667-672 (plus various tie-ins and a prologue in #666 and an epilogue in #673)

The Jackal and the Queen (from the storyline where Spider-Man gained organic webshooters) team-up to give everyone in Manhattan spider-powers through bed bugs. All the heroes in New York come together to stop the bad guys’ plan, but Spider-Man plays a key role as he had been trained for this crisis by Shang-Chi (on the forecasting advice of the new Madame Web) by learning martial arts so that he could beat up people with the same powers of him. However, Peter is having a hard time keeping his identity from his girlfriend, Carlie Cooper, now that she has spider-powers, as well.

Here’s Peter rallying the people of New York…

All this, plus the return of the first Spider-Clone, Kaine! Dan Slott wrote it and Humberto Ramos and Victor Olazaba drew it (with some assists from Karl Kesel. The epilogue and prologue were drawn by Stefano Caselli.)

27. “Death of Spider-Man,” Ultimate Spider-Man #156-160

Mark Bagley returned to Ultimate Spider-Man to close the series out with writer Brian Michael Bendis and inker Andy Lanning as Spider-Man faces one of his greatest threats yet as the maniacal Green Goblin brings the fight right to Spider-Man’s front doorstep.

Will Spider-Man have to make the ultimate sacrifice to protect those closest to him? Well, the name of the story IS the “Death of Spider-Man,” after all…

26. “The Original Clone Saga,” Amazing Spider-Man #143-149 (plus an epilogue in #150)

The Jackal had been working behind the scenes against Spider-Man for some time now, but with #142 we finally see the Jackal’s end game – he is obsessed with Gwen Stacy and has actually CLONED her! While the story is filled with crazy twists and turns by writer Gerry Conway and artists Ross Andru and Frank Giacoia, especially Peter Parker dealing with the seeming return of his dead girlfriend, the real heart of the story (which was noted by more than a few of the voters) was the way that Conway used the arc to develop the Peter/Mary Jane relationship.

They share their first kiss in #143 (in an amazing sequence by Ross Andru) and in #149, it sure seems like they seal the deal on their relationship status as Conway ends his Amazing Spider-Man run by bookending the scene in Amazing Spider-Man #122 with the end of Amazing Spider-Man #149 (both scenes involve Peter and Mary Jane and they both involve momentous decisions involving doors being closed). Finally, Archie Goodwin, Gil Kane and John Romita give an epilogue to the story in #150.

Here were reader Lorin Heller’s thoughts on the story:

Gerry Conway built up the Jackal as the mystery character for almost two years, and the storyline culminated in the original clone saga. Forget what that ultimately wrought. This original story is just wonderful. Peter and Mary Jane have just appeared to start a romantic relationship, when Gwen Stacy suddenly reappears in his life, unleashing emotional havoc. My favorite issues in this tale are #147 and #148. The fights with the Tarantula, first in New York traffic (including hilarious scene on a bus) and later in a darkened factory are excellent. The nasty planned vengeance of chaining Spider-Man up before tossing him off the bridge was a classic moment. The best moment though goes to the reveal of who the Jackal is, and just how much of a freaking psycho he truly is. “Dear Boy, haven’t I always been your friend?” Brrrrr…..


I didn’t vote for it, but Learning Curve was one of my favorite Ultimate Spidey stories. I can’t get enough Kingpin.

Well, I’m positive now that the two Ultimate stories I voted for didn’t make it. I much preferred Ultimate Knights to either of these two USM stories. I found the many interactions between characters excellent, and for once the Ult. Universe started to feel really cohesive. I also voted for the Spidey-Wolverine body-switching story.

I’m wondering if ASM #139-142 should have also been included in the Clone Saga listing … it really feels like the arc starts there (Pete sees “Gwen” in #142, as mentioned above), and the trade paperback at http://www.talesofwonder.com/product-exec/product_id/65697/nm/Spider-Man+Original+Clone+Saga+TP includes those issues as well.

Interesting mix. Unscheduled Stop is by far my favorite Waid contribution to Spider-Man, and any well-written story is automatically elevated to excellence when Marcos Martin draws it. I don’t consider it faint praise to say that Unscheduled Stop features the best riff on “The Final Chapter” since Ditko’s original.

Learning Curve is another one I read as a teenager, enjoyed and forgot. I remember Ultimate Spider-Man really clicking for me up until about Volume 8 (not long after the debut of Ultimate Venom), and then it started becoming unreadable. From what I’ve read online about the “Death of Spider-Man,” it sounds like utter shit.

And speaking of shit, Spider-Island, that was certainly a comic book that came out. Point A sure did go to Point B in that one.

The original clone saga, while not super awesome enough to be mined for years and years the way it was, works well as a standalone. I think the surrealism and pop Freudianism of Spider-Man grappling with clones of himself and loved ones makes for a good hook, and is even a natural fit given the character’s history of reality-warping foes like the Chameleon and Mysterio (both of whom pose as Spider-Man in their first appearances).

I never did care for the Jackal, though. He always seemed like a poor man’s Green Goblin, even in his mannerisms. I guess that’s consistent with the way the 90s clone saga ended, with the reveal that the Jackal was second fiddle to Osborn all along, but I don’t really see that as redeeming his overall shittiness as a villain.

Meaningless Albert

June 26, 2012 at 3:14 pm

Unscheduled Stop is my favorite post OMD Spidey story (tied with New Ways to Die). The original clone saga features the always great art of Ross Andru, and this is the best thing about it. Not a dreadful story, just not that good. I herad good things about Spider Island, but the Ramos art kills it for me.

Gottsa get me a copy of Unscheduled Stop. The Original Clone Saga had a very important impact, but to me it’s like Iron Man’s “Demon in a bottle”: good concept, poor execution.

Hmm. Outside of Unscheduled Stop and the original Clone Saga, I don’t think these were great choices.

I didn’t vote for any of these. I suppose I like Learning Curve the most among all of them but that isn’t saying much. I know the love Unscheduled Stop gets online but to me, as a lifelong Spider-Man reader, it’s got “been there done that” all over it. It’s not an offensive story, so points for that for any Spidey story from the last 15 years, but it’s just not as interesting to me as it is to some.

If I had voted, Unscheduled Stop might have been on my list.

Spider Island could have been good (I like the idea of putting Spider-Man n a silver age DC story), but I am another one who can not get past the Ramos art. Big Time on, there has been some really bad art in ASM (Marcos Martin aside). I have no idea why Marvel can not/will not get a good artist on their flagship book

It’s nice to see Gerry Conway getting props for his work developing Mary Jane.

I voted for “The Original Clone Saga” for the bookends between #122 and #149 more than anything else. When you take away the Jackal, Tarantula, Gwen’s clone or the whole sordid drama surrounding Miles Warren and his freaky attachment to Gwen, the real turning point is Peter moving on and finally getting together with Mary Jane. Thanks for pointing this out.

“Unscheduled Stop” was on my list; a no-brainer for me. One of my favorite spidey stories from the past couple of decades. I’ve enjoyed most of Slott’s work, but Spider-Island just wasn’t very good at all. There have been some very interesting developments spun out of it, though. The other three are some solid stories, but nothing that came close to my top ten(or top 25, for that matter).

My first two picks show up, with Learning Curve and Unscheduled Stop. Though I guess I’m not sure if my vote contributed to Learning Curve, as I voted for it with #13 included, so I’m not sure if my points went here or with the sure-to-be-coming #13. I feel like #13 is such a natural epilogue to the events of Learning Curve that they ought to be included together, but I also understand the argument for separating them, as #13 is such a fantastic issue by itself.

What I love about Unscheduled Stop isn’t just the great set-piece by Waid or the truly phenomenal art by Martin, but the incorporation of the “today will be your lucky day” theme. If you think about it, the story could have easily just been the subway rescue, and still be quite good. But that seemingly minor tacking on of the fortune cookie, having the subway ticket fall from the sky, Peter’s frozen incredulous look at the girl saying “what do you do?,” and Peter realizing at the end that being there to save those people who surely would have died otherwise IS actually a lucky thing to have happened (despite how bad it sucked in practice)… that’s what makes the story special to me. It skillfully incorporates the most basic element of the Spider-Man psyche– saving people is what he does, and he’s lucky to get to do it.

Unfortunately, the presence of Learning Curve already leaves me feeling pretty certain that my #1 pick–The World According to Peter Parker–will probably not be showing up at this point, as I feel like there’s just no way it beats Learning Curve. And that’s too bad, because it really is my favorite Spidey story, with the new status quo of Aunt May opening her home for wayward super-heroes, and Spidey, Human Torch, Iceman, and Kitty forming a dysfunctional Queens High pseudo-super hero team with MJ and Gwen as sort of coaches/cheerleaders. It was such an original, wonderful concept that had an infinite amount of story potential, I was sad it only lasted a year before the Death of Spider-Man kicked off. If that era had been given more time to grow, I really think it would have become quite well-loved. I mean, just the notion of Aunt May calling a family meeting and then saying “alright kids, suit up,” with Peter, Johnny, and Bobby all looking hopelessly confused… that’s classic shit. Or at least it should be classic. But alas… it’s not making the list.

And I also voted for Ultimate Spidey annual 1, where he and Kitty first hook up. It was such a major veer from regular Spidey continuity, and such a creative yet sensical one. But I doubt we’ll be seeing that either, at this point. I just can’t imagine it being top 25.

“The Jackal and the Queen (from the storyline where Spider-Man gained organic webshooters) team-up to give everyone in Manhattan spider-powers through bed bugs.”

Wait, seriously? That sounds like one of the dumbest things ever. Given that it’s Slott, though, I’d trust him to pull it off. (I haven’t read it myself)

I gotta get “Unscheduled Stop”.

The Crazed Spruce

June 27, 2012 at 1:36 am

The only one on the list that I read was “Spider Island”, and I actually wound up missing the first and last issues of it. It was an interesting premise, but the execution just didn’t speak to me, y’know?

I get the feeling that I would’ve really liked “Unscheduled Stop”, though. Especially since it plays into a lot of the same character beats that at least two of the stories on my list do.

“From what I’ve read online about the “Death of Spider-Man,” it sounds like utter shit.”

Most of The Death of Spider-Man is a not very interesting and ridiculously drawn-out fight sequence, but the ending of the story was an absolutely perfect way to end the series. It even got me a little teary-eyed.

Just finished Spider-Island recently. I don’t think it’s top 50 material, but then again, Reign made it on the list, so yeah, it’s definitely better than Reign.

Unscheduled Stop, though? Awesome. It is definitely Top 50 material.

Ed (A Different One)

June 27, 2012 at 6:36 am

@ Third Man – I think you’ve done a great job of describing what make Mark Waid such a great writer. Anyone can do a superficial story about Spidey saving a bunch of people on the subway. Mark Waid imbues it with those little details which gives the story so much more depth and weight and uses it to plumb the depths of what makes Spidey such a compelling hero to begin with. While I’m moderately pleased with Slott’s run on ASM, I wish, I wish, I wish, I wish that Waid had been handed to book outside of the confines of the brain trust. I would just love to see what Waid could do with this character on an extended run (he seems born to write Peter Parker) and I’m beginning to worry that we may never get a chance to find out.

And like much of Gerry Conway’s stories (at least the early ones), the original clone saga seemed so full of potential that was never fully exploited by Conway. I mean, did we really get to see Spidey and his clone square off to any large extent? I think it was less than 4 panels before the Jackal blew the stadium up. Peter’s clone came off more as an afterthought than a compelling story element in it’s own right.

And while I’m not a huge fan of Ultimate Spidey, I too would have liked to have seen the whole “Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends” paradigm last longer than it did (with Torch and Iceman living with Aunt May and Peter while having Kitty in the mix). Marvel just didn’t seem to know what to do with it’s Ultimate line during that time period and went to a quick series of reboots. It’s a shame that this got washed away with the rest of it.

Haven’t read Spider-Island, but it sure has a dumb premise and ugly art. The original Clone Saga was great, though, and so were “Learning Curves”. That was the turning point on USM for me. I didn’t really like much the book until that point, in which I started to love it.

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