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CSBG Archive

50 Greatest Spider-Man Stories: #20-16

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 #20-16. Click here for a master list of all the stories revealed so far!


20. “The Sinister Six,” Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1

This classic Stan Lee and Steve Ditko epic introduced the Sinister Six, who were formed by Doctor Octopus as a way of slowly wearing Spider-Man down so that Doc Ock can finally take him out himself.

The fascinating aspect of the story is how it is laid out. Short battles between Spidey and each of the members of the Sinister Six (Electro, Mysterio, Kraven, Sandman, Vulture and Doctor Octopus) punctuated by an absolutely stunning full page splash of Spider-Man taking out the villain in question. Like so…

The comic is worth it just for those full-page smashes. Ditko really cut loose on them.

Here’s what my buddy Chris has to say about the issue:

Spider-Man has always lent himself well to the “triumphing against the odds” story, from great stories involving rubble or the Juggernaut to lesser imitations involving Firelord. This is the best of them. Ditko able to take his time illustrating a story and showing his true potential; Peter bereft of his spider powers and ready to give up on the crimefighting life when his six greatest foes team up to kidnap Aunt May and Betty Brant; that pivotal moment when Peter puts on his costume one last time, ready to go down fighting…

19. “No One Dies,” Amazing Spider-Man #655-656

After the death of J. Jonah Jameson’s wife, Marla, Dan Slott and Marcos Martin show Peter Parker’s ruminations on death in the life of a superhero with a brilliant extended dream sequence in the first part…

This is followed by a Quixotic declaration by Spidey that he will not allow anyone else to die…right when a new villain debuts whose whole shtick is killing as many people as possible. As you might imagine, there is quite a conflict there.

Slott has a lot of poignant things to say about death in superhero comics (especially the part about how bad guys are the ones who always get to return) and Marcos Martin is…well…you know, Marcos freakin’ Martin! He’s amazing.

18. “The Death of Captain Stacy,” Amazing Spider-Man #88-90

What began as a standard enough Doctor Octopus tale by Stan Lee and John Romita/Jim Mooney turns into one of the most tragic moments in Spider-Man’s life as Captain Stacy, the heroic father to Peter Parker’s girlfriend, Gwen, sacrifices himself to save a young boy about to be crushed by debris from a Spider-Man/Doctor Octopus fight. Gil Kane just joined the Amazing Spider-Man creative team in #89 before having to deliver a stellar death sequence, with some of Stan Lee’s strongest dialogue from this particular era (the era where Romita was slowly phasing himself off the book and Lee was soon to follow)…

17. “The Owl/Octopus War,” Spectacular Spider-Man #73-79

What began as a battle between the Owl and Doctor Octopus for the control of New York City soon turned into something much more personal to Spider-Man. You see, the Black Cat had returned and she was working with Doctor Octopus. When she spurns him to help Spider-Man, he does not take it well and tries to kill her. He nearly succeeds. Spider-Man then waits by her bedside for the eventual attack by Doc Ock. #78 got a lot of votes by itself for the issue where Peter goes around to his friends and sort of makes peace before what he thinks might be his final battle against Doctor Octopus. Bill Mantlo did great work with Black Cat’s personality as well as the foreboding doom of Doc Ock’s attack. Al Milgrom and Jim Mooney handled the art duties. Here are the striking moments right before Ock attacks…

16. Spider-Man Blue #1-6

Spider-Man: Blue is a love letter from Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale to the period where Stan Lee and John Romita changed the dynamic of Amazing Spider-Man into an almost teen romance comic with superhero trappings. The story has Peter dictating an audio letter to Gwen, thinking back to the time that they fell in love for the first time (roughly Amazing #41-47). It is compelling work from Loeb and Sale obviously is having a blast, especially when he draws Gwen and Mary Jane…

This is a heartfelt, touching work with spectacular artwork from Sale.


Sinister Six and Death of Captain Stacy are obvious classics. Not surprised to see them. Love Mantlo’s work on Spectacular so I’m happy to see that run represented here. Blue is not the best Loeb/Sale work and I didn’t vote for it but I’m not offended it’s here. All in all some solid choices this time around but I wonder with only 15 to go how many great stories won’t make it.

I’ve really liked alot of the Loeb/Sale projects. Although this Spiderman one doesn’t make their top 3 for me.

Might have to check out those Slott/Martin issues. Looks like it might be a good read. Being nearly 50 issues older – hopefully I can get them cheap. :)

The first Sinister Six story is really delightful, packed with fun moments and those great splash page punch-outs. I know the Master Planner story is probably going to finish higher than it on the list, but I think the first ASM annual might be the best single issue of the Lee/Ditko run.

Yeah, the Sinister Six is really where it’s at. I loved the scene where Peter loses his powers and winds up terrified, high over Manhattan, desperately clinging to a flag pole.

Besides that great story, Annual #1 had a bunch of other stuff that is not often reprinted. While most have probably seen “Secrets of Spider-Man” and certainly “How Stan and Steve Create Spider- Man”, also included were several full page pin-ups/bios of all his villains (even the burglar and the Terrible Tinkerer are inluded!), a pin-up of Jameson and Betty (“Heel and Heart-Throb”!), a pin-up of the gang from school, and even a pin-up of Parker’s house in Queens! This latter features a cutaway, labeled view of the home ala the Baxter Building and a great panel of Aunt May worrying about how “frail and delicate” Peter is! Whoever bought this issue sure got their quarter’s worth!


I recomend the Big time ultimate Collection, the cheapest way to get the first half of Slott’s run. http://www.amazon.com/Spider-Man-Big-Time-Ultimate-Collection/dp/0785162178

Remember, most of it was penciled by Humberto Ramos, some issues by Stefano Caselli and just a few by Marcos Martin.

Owl/Octopus War! Whoop-whoop!

That and “A Death in the Family” makes two of my picks that have made the list.

Hopefully my boy Marc Guggenheim is represented in the top #15.

I voted for Spectacular Spider-Man #78 by itself, but I am very pleased to have seen the whole Octopus/Owl Gangwar make the list in its entirety.

Probably my favorite page in the annual is in the backmatter, a showcase of Spider-Man flipping and contorting through the city as could only be drawn by Ditko. I have a T-shirt of one of the splash pages (Sandman), and although it’s about two sizes too big on me, I still search for any excuse to wear it.

No One Dies might be my favorite post OMD Spider-Man story. I’d have to think about it, but it’s definitely up there. It read to me a lot like the last issue of the Morrison/Truog run on Animal Man, in that you see the writer exorcising all these ideas and doubts and feelings that must’ve been kicking around in his head for years. Also, Marcos Martin, cmon, you know it’s gonna be good before you read the first balloon.

The Crazed Spruce

June 28, 2012 at 11:26 am

“The Sinister Six” was #8 on my list. Lee and Ditko at their best.

I read the first part of “No One Dies”, but missed the second. Decent enough story, but it finished short of my list.

I read bits and pieces of the Owl/Octopus storyline, but not enough to vote for it.

Haven’t read either of the other two. I get the feeling that I would’ve liked ‘em if I had, though.

I actually had the Death of Captain Stacy as #3. I really love that story. The fight between Ock and Spidey at the airport in issue 88 is fantastic.

I had No One Dies at #7, but all five of these are good. Spider-Man Blue would probably not be above the other four, but it’s by no means a bad choice.

The first three are all some very good choices. The ASM annual, in particular, is a perennial favorite of mine for re-reading. I’d really dig a set of high-quality prints of those splash pages.
Never read “Owl/Octopus War” or “Blue.”

I’ve really enjoy all of the Loeb/Sale “Colors” books that I’ve read from Marvel (was really disappointed when Captain America:White never happened) and Spider-man: Blue was a really good one. It’s a gorgeous character piece with really great work by Sale.

I’ve only read the Daredevil and Spider-Man ones, but are all of the Loeb/Sale ‘colours’ books about the main hero moping over an old dead girlfriend?

Thanks Freyes2011!! I’ll have to check it out :)

Ed (A Different One)

June 29, 2012 at 6:29 am

Damn – I sent a comment in yesterday but was having internet issues – doesn’t look like it made it through.

ASM Annual #1 was great. Great story (original Sinister Six story definitely belongs on this list, but I expected it to be higher), and all of those extras that others have already mentioned was just icing on an already extremely good cake. It was a little before my time, but I was able to read the .pdf version on that ASM CD-ROM that Marvel was selling a few years back. I wish they had made good on their original aim to release all of their titles like that.

While I think the whole “No One Dies” edict that Spidey put on himself was a stupid plot element (and I hope it goes away soon), I have to admit that the issue that introduced it was top notch. There were a lot of things going on in PP’s life at the time that had a high emotional impact – the death of Jonah’s wife (I’m blanking on her name – dammit!), Johnny Storm “dying”, and Martin just drew the living shit out of all of it. That scene where Jonah wakes up to the alarm and has to get up and walk around what is now a very empty side of the bed to turn it off was brilliant in its simplicity and carried a ton of emotion. Great issue (though I wouldn’t have had it ranked this high) that came out during a 3 – 4 issue run where ASM was just hitting it out of the park on a consistent basis.

Death of Captain Stacey definitely belongs. That was classic post-Ditko ASM at it’s finest.

The Owl/Doc Ock gang war is the first storyline I’ve voted for that’s made the list so far (if memory serves me right). Mantlo’s run on PPSSM is criminally underrated. That Spidey titles were clicking on all cyclinders during this time period with Mantlo on PPSSM and Stern/JRjr on ASM. Was Byrne on Marvel Team Up at the time? Probably not, but what a trio of creators that would have been on the Spidey titles at the time! And even though Al Milgrom’s art is often scoffed at in my experience (you’ll never see him make anyone’s “Best Artists” list) he always put in a competent, workman-like effort IMO and that panel where Spidey is just outside the Black Cat’s hospital room window and Dock Ock is coming up the side of the building toward him kicks total ass! I have to give some well earned kudos to good ole’ “Editori-Al” for that panel!

Read “Spider-Man Blue” and liked it and then proceeded to not think a whole lot about it since. I dont’ think I would have it in my Top 50 but I can see why people would have liked it and voted for it (but damn, it’s placed rather high). Not enough to warrant a rant . . .



Hulk Gray is also about Betty (she was dead at the time). If you´ve watched “the Incredible Hulk” movie, the scene where Hulk takes Betty to a cavern to cover form a storm is directly taken from Hulk Gray. Except that Betty was afraid of the Hulk at the time.

Thanks Freyes2011. I was half joking – I didn’t expect it to actually be true!

was wondering when the death of captain stacy would be on the list for it showed spiderman that some time people can get caught up and pay a price being around heros.

Yeah, I’ve always thought that Marcos Martin just can’t draw faces. Seems that is true. Nyuck Nyuck. I guess I have to laugh at that, nobody else will.

He’s growing on me, but he isn’t there yet.

These are pretty solid choices. I’m a little surprised to see Owl/Octopus War so high. I do remember it fondly. Maybe I’ll reread it, now that I finally got my collection out of storage (It was a hard three years away from my comics).

I’m not a fan of Jeph Loeb, but his work with Tim Sale is usually great. Those Marvel “colors” books are pretty good. And I treasure Tim Sale’s art.

The Death of Captain Stacy is fantastic. How I loved the recreation of it and the follow up in “Marvels”! It was spine-chilling.

The Sinister Six is one of Ditko’s best works. No matter how good art has become as of late, these Ditko’s pages never get old.

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