Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
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 #15-11. Click here for a master list of all the stories revealed so far!
15. “Harry Osborn is on Drugs!” Amazing Spider-Man #96-98
This is one of those stories where the context of the time is so important. Overall, it is a strong story by Stan Lee about the pressures of life building on Harry Osborn with similar pressures sending his father, Norman Osborn, spiraling into his super-villain identity of the Green Goblin while Harry spirals into drug addiction. The artwork from Gil Kane and John Romita is superb. Here is a nice sequence from the middle part of the story…
However good the story reads NOW, though, the power that was present in the context of its original publication is far greater. Stan Lee fought the Comics Code Authority and produced a topical piece of comic book work that will stand the test of time.
14. “The Alien Costume Saga,” Amazing Spider-Man #252-258/9
Speaking of something that you really needed to be there to fully appreciate the impact it had on comicdom, the introduction of a new costume for Spider-Man had a much larger impact than any similar change would have nowadays.
The new black costume was like a shock of cold air to the system of Spidey fans everywhere and when Tom DeFalco (along with artists Ron Frenz and Joe Rubinstein) followed the new costume up by showing that it was, in fact, a living creature – well, that took the story to a whole other level!
One of my favorite bits in the storyline is when Spidey goes to the Fantastic Four for help (a great usage of the shared Marvel universe by DeFalco)…
One thing that can’t be overlooked about the Alien Costume Saga is that it also contained the debut of the Rose, who became a fairly notable character and, even more importantly, it contained the issue where Mary Jane Watson reveals that she knows that Peter Parker is Spider-Man! Talk about momentous turn of events!
I am unsure of whether #259 should be included or not. I guess I will say “yes.”
13. “Coming Home,” Amazing Spider-Man (Volume 2) #30-35
J. Michael Straczynski took over Amazing Spider-Man with #30 and within a few issues had transformed the book into a strong new direction. First off, Straczynski sent Peter back to high school…as a science teacher! It was a clever idea that Straczynski used very well. It added new story elements to Spidey that were never present before, especially all the avenues available with the lives of his students.
More famously, though, this initial storyline (with art by John Romita Jr. and Scott Hanna) introduced the concept that Spider-Man had not received his powers from radiation having a weird effect on a spider, causing its abilities to transfer to Spider-Man but rather that the spider ALREADY had mystic abilities and it transfered them to Peter because the radiation was killing it. This idea of the “Spider-Totem” played a major role because there was this seemingly unstoppable force called Morlun who was seeking out Totems to feed on.
The battle between Spidey and the energy vampire was devastating. Here was a character that Spider-Man could not hide from by taking off his costume. In addition, when Spidey DID get away, Morlun would just start attacking innocents until Spider-Man came to him. It was a lose/lose situation for our hero. Straczysnki handled the hopelessness of the situation beautifully in this strong moment here…
Great stuff. Spidey’s heroism shows through beautifully. And, of course, this being Spider-Man’s title, he manages to pull out a last second win through a clever use of Spider-Man’s scientific background.
This was a great start to a long and acclaimed run by Straczynski.
12. “The Gift,” Amazing Spider-Man #400
One of the amazing things about “The Gift,” by J.M. DeMatteis, Mark Bagley and Larry Mahlstedt is that it takes place firmly within the second Clone Saga. Ben Reilly is all over the issue and the story concludes with Peter Parker being arrested for a murder committed by Kaine (who I don’t believe we yet knew was also a clone of Peter Parker, hence Peter’s fingerprints being left at the scene of the crime).
And yet, at the heart of the comic is the relationship between May Parker and Peter Parker. DeMatteis beautifully handles the last day of their relationship as May awakens from her coma in time to spend one more day with Peter, Mary Jane and her closest friend, Anna Watson.
She has a particularly special moment with Peter on the observation deck of the Empire State Building…
And the death scene? Wow. It is three pages long, so I didn’t have room for it here, but…well…if you can read it without being a LITTLE bit choked up, then you are made of sterner stuff than me.
11. “The Goblin Unmasked!,” Amazing Spider-Man #39-40
Yet another story where the context is so important. This is a great two-parter about Spider-Man learning the identity of the mysterious Green Goblin (who also, shockingly, learns Peter’s identity, as well)…
and then having to choose to save his enemy when Osborn’s memory goes away…
But as good as the tale is, it was even more important in showing that Stan Lee did not need Steve Ditko to still tell sensation Amazing Spider-Man stories. This story is the debut of John Romita on the title. These first few issues or so are done in a more Ditko-esque style (which Romita did well) but soon, Romita would take over and re-define the look of the series. This initial story, though, showed that Lee and Romita could deliver the goods just like Lee and Ditko could!
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