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50 Greatest Spider-Man Stories: #10-6

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 #10-6. Click here for a master list of all the stories revealed so far!

Enjoy!

10. “The Harry Osborn Saga,” Spectacular Spider-Man #178-184, 189-190, 199-200

J.M. DeMatteis began a classic stretch of stories spotlighting the slow descent of Harry Osborn into madness beginning with the Child Within storyline in Spectacular Spider-Man, where we see just how badly emotionally abused Harry was by his father Norman (a few years later, DeMatteis would re-visit this idea in a Spectacular Spider-Man Annual where Spider-Man relives Harry and Norman’s childhoods). Meanwhile, the fact that Harry knew Peter’s secret identity was being used by Harry torment his best friend…now his enemy.

Things seemed to come to a fever pitch in #189…

With Spidey finally saying, in effect, “screw it”…

Harry kept the secret and later, died a heroic death fighting against his own madness (as his body fought against itself). DeMatteis always does exemplary character-driven work, but this character study of Harry Osborn was really top of the line. Sal Buscema did a great job on the artwork.

My pal Chris has this to say about the Harry Osborn Saga:

I like the inherent drama in Peter’s best friend being his worst enemy, as set up by Conway [who first had Harry Osborn become the Green Goblin - BC]. This conflict was best realized here, with Demateiss probing the psyches of the characters involved and Buscema delivering the best storytelling of his career. To me, it comes down to the moment of peak tension, where Harry has everybody sitting down to dinner in Spectacular Spider-Man #189. We see Harry descending into madness, Liz worried, Peter doing his best to calmly eat, Normie enjoying all the fun, and Raxton ready to lose his cool, all perfectly realized by Sal Buscema. I consider this the best modern Spider-Man story; I even think this has already earned its place among the best Spider-Man stories right alongside the classics.

9. “Spider-Man No More!” Amazing Spider-Man #50-52

The majority of the voters voted for just #50, but a goodly amount voted for the whole three-part story, so I’m including the whole thing.

The comic is obviously best known for the opening act, where Peter Parker is driven nearly mad from all the bad press Spider-Man was getting on TOP of all of Peter’s personal problems (like Aunt May being sick…AGAIN). Finally, Peter decides to give up being Spider-Man…

However, the Kingpin of Crime (introduced this story) has taken control and he is ratcheting up the attacks in New York City and after Peter saves the life of an elderly security guard (who bears an uncanny resemblance to an uncle of Peter’s), Peter realizes once again that he has too much responsibility to quit doing good…

This leads to an awesome cliffhanger as Spidey returns and takes the fight to the Kingpin…

This story also saw the introduction of Joe “Robbie” Robertson and the heroic death of Frederic Foswell. It is a Stan Lee/John Romita/Mike Esposito classic.

8. “The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man,” Amazing Spider-Man #248

People always remember the ending of this one-off tale by Roger Stern, Ron Frenz and Terry Austin, but I don’t think the beginning gets enough credit. Stern comes up with a truly novel approach to telling the story, intercutting the article about Timmy with Spider-Man meeting the boy, in response to the article…

It is a great plot device and Stern uses it really well. Frenz and Austin shine on the artwork and, of course, the character drama at the heart of the tale is quite gripping. Peter sharing time with a young boy who idolizes him gives readers a unique perspective on Spider-Man and what it means, truly, to be a hero. A touching work that is hard to read without getting a bit sentimental about it.

7. “Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut!” Amazing Spider-Man #229-230

On the other side of things, this two-parter by Roger Stern and artists John Romita Jr. and Jim Mooney spends less time on character development (although Peter’s dogged approach to heroism does play a role) and more on one of the most inventive and well-designed fights in comic book history.

Ever since Stan Lee and Wally Wood put Daredevil through the paces against Namor, one of the hallmarks of the Marvel Universe is putting a David up against a Goliath and watch the underdog, if not pull it off, at least make it far more interesting than it should be.

Here, Spider-Man throws everything and the kitchen sink against Juggernaut, including some really well-designed page layouts by Romita Jr. (as he wrings every little bit of drama that he can out of the tale)…

Such a haunting image for Spidey, but this is Spider-Man, after all…he’ll find a way! But HOW? Read the story!

6. “The Original Hobgoblin Saga,” Amazing Spider-Man #238-239, 244-245, 249-251 and Spectacular Spider-Man #85

One of the things that has gone a bit forgotten when it comes to Hobgoblin is the fact that writer Roger Stern made a point of setting it up so that Peter Parker was, once again, sort of responsible for something bad happening. Just like when he let the burglar get away and then his uncle got shot, so, too, did Peter let a crook get away rather than chase him into the sewers.

The result is the petty criminal stumbling on to one of Norman Osborn’s hidden Green Goblin lairs…

Spidey realizes that in the issue in question (that a Goblin lair was discovered by the petty crook), so when the Hobgoblin shows up, Spidey knows that the two things are connected.

What things DO remember about the Hobgoblin is that he had a slightly different approach to villainy than most. He was not crazy, exactly, he just figured that he could use Osborn’s goods to gain power and fortune. He was calculating in a way that most super-villains just aren’t. And come on, how do you beat this introduction by Johns Romita…

The other interesting aspects of the Hobgoblin were his schemes, like when he found information on a bunch of notable businessmen and blackmailed them all together. Plus his quest for power (the Spectacular Spider-Man issue has him finally finding the Goblin Serum, which gave him the powers of the Goblin and not just his gear). Also, John Romita Jr’s great artwork. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there was a great mystery as to WHO the Green Goblin was. Looking back, knowing who Stern intended him to be, Stern plays it very fair in just the relatively few issues that the Goblin appeared in during Stern’s run.

Stern would return to the character years later to give it his original reveal.

36 Comments

Michael Howey

June 30, 2012 at 1:28 am

There is some strong evidence that the best (arguably second best after Lee Ditko) run on Spider-man is 229 – 262. It’s my personal favourite but we have seen juggernaut, hobgoblin one and two, black costume, and many of the other issues (the vulture tarantula and Cobra/Hyde) were great if, less iconic. Such great comics.

Also worth noting that Harry danced disastorously around being a hero under Conway from inferno before he started going off the rails. That was fun too.

Travis Pelkie

June 30, 2012 at 1:37 am

One of the comics I bought when I started to be a hard core collector was a reprint of the first part of the Hobgoblin saga shown here. I foolishly traded it away, and now I’ve gotta find it somewhere.

And having met Roger Stern on a number of occasions, I can say that he’s a really cool guy. Great to see 3 of his stories here.

Marvel reprinted the Origin of the Hobgoblin trade last year. I highly recommend people go buy it!

Marvel reprinted the majority of the Hobgoblin issues in Marvel Tales near the end of that title’s run. Those issues usually go for pretty cheap.

Jeez, four of mine showed up here! If I had read Dematteiss’s Harry Osborn saga, it might well have made the cut too, based on how much I’ve liked all his other Spidey work. My 70s/80s Spidey reading hasn’t gotten me up to that point, though. Nice to know there’s so much good stuff to look forward to.

I love all of these. Your pal Chris nailed it with his write-up for the Harry Osborn saga. These days it’s all Norman, but when DeMatteis was writing Harry, the stakes were as high and higher than they had been with the original. DeMatteis and Buscema excelled at creating scenes like the one at the dinner table, scenes that made you feel uncomfortable as a reader, and unsure whether you really wanted Spider-Man to punch the “villain.” It’s close, but I might even recommend this over Kraven’s Last Hunt as an example of dark Spider-Man done right.

Just got the majority of the Stern/Romita Jr issues in Essential ASM 11. Top, top. Stuff.

I feel like I’ve been seeing these scans MY ENTIRE LIFE.

Still, looking forward to The Final Chapter.

So, top 5 will be: The Death of Jean DeWolf, the Final Chapter, Kraven’s last hunt, the Death of Gwen Stacy and Amazing Fantasy 15. No-brainers.

All great choices. I would have put Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut in top 5 but can’t complain with it making top ten. I was beginning to worry it wouldn’t, given the oddity of the list so far.

The Hobgoblin is such a great villain. When I started collecting ASM (with part two of the Firelord fight) the Hobgoblin issues were among the first Spider-Man back issues I bought.

Slott really started off on the wrong food with me by ‘returning’ the Hobgoblin only to replace him with a very much inferior, very much more cliched villain.

There do not seem to be any clunkers (Maximum Carnage, Mark Miller story…) in this group of stories.

It’s a common mistake I’ve made many times, but the name of the story is “The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man.” The title is present tense.

I thought Juggernaut and Kid who Collects would crack top five, but they’re certainly good picks wherever they’re popping up.

Looks like I’ll have 7 of my picks on this final list (shame there wasn’t more of the DeFalco/Frenz run, I had Gangwar and Whatever Happened to Crusher Hogan on there…also the first appearance of Prowler, which is a personal favorite…)

glad to see the Harry Osbourn saga in here…the story and art were top notch and it stands up now as awesome as it was when I first read it at 13 years old…

Some really great picks here.Some comments:

1. SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN 189: Man, DeMatteis really gets the psychology of little children. The glee on little Norman’s face as he watches his father is just spot-on. After all, from a child’s perspective , what Harry is doing sounds/looks great (putting on a cool Halloween costume and talking about how much he loves his family, etc).

2.ASM 229-230: Seriously, the sequence in 230 where the Juggernaut faces down an oil truck (“This won’t hurt me! Nothing can!”) is one of the most perfect pieces of sequential art ever written/drawn.

3.Original Hobgoblin Saga: A real high-water mark in Spidey-dom.

4. AMS 50: Classic issue with some great visuals. However, I’ve always though that it would have more interesting if the security guard had been the guard from AMAZING FANTASY 15, and not a Ben Parker lookalike.

5. THE KID WHO COLLECTS SPIDER-MAN: Classic tearjerker.

Happy to see the
10. “The Harry Osborn Saga,”
on this list even if 10 is a tad bit low in my opinion. Ah I miss the days of multiple Spidey series with their own seperate tones.

The Crazed Spruce

June 30, 2012 at 10:04 am

The Juggernaut story and “The Boy Who Collected Spider-Man” were #3 and #4 on my list. I might’ve voted for the rest, but they were below my radar. (I haven’t read the Harry Osborne story in over a decade, haven’t seen the Hobgoblin issues since they first came out, and I don’t even remember reading more than the first part of “Spider-Man No More”. All great stories, though.)

The Juggernaut story plays into one of Spidey’s best character traits, his sheer determination in the face of insurmountable odds. No matter how the deck is stacked against him, and no matter what doubts he might feel, in the end, he never backs down, and never gives up. EVER.

I actually violated one of my hard-and-fast rules with “The Boy Who Collected Spider-Man”. Y’see, I’ve never actually read it. But it’s been featured so often in blogs like this one, I feel like I’ve read it a dozen times over, and it’s a great story. (And I did watch the episode of the 90′s cartoon that was loosely based on the story. So there’s that….)

I’m overjoyed to see the DeMatteis/Buscema Harry Osborn saga in the top 10. These were among the very first comics I ever read, and the ones that set the bar REALLY high for what I considered quality in a superhero comic in terms of storytelling and the balance of high drama and action.

What not everyone remembers is that this whole psychological chess game between Peter and Harry actually went on consistently for about three years – even when it wasn’t a main story in Spectacular, DeMatteis made sure it was always a subplot. You REALLY got inside the characters’ heads in that time – the conflict of Harry wanting to hate Peter because he convinced himself that Spider-Man killed his father, and Peter’s conflict at wanting to help his best friend Harry, his hatred of the legacy of the Green Goblin, and fearing for his secret identity and the safety of his loved ones (he and MJ lived upstairs to the Osborns in the same apartment building!). It culminated in Spectacular Spider-Man #200 – what is, to this day, my all time favorite Spider-Man story – no matter what havok One More Day wreaked on it (I hate One More Day even more for bringing back Harry Osborn after such a perfect, heroic death than for undoing the Pete/MJ marriage). It’s truly a high point for Spidey comics.

It really is interesting, reading through this list and the JMD stuff from the nineties…in hindsight, it really does seem like he was wrapping things up for Peter Parker as Spider-Man. The death of Harry, the death of Aunt May and MJs pregnancy all seemed like they were almost intended as a bookend to the series. I guess, in hindsight, it should have been obvious that there was no way the stories were going to stick, at least knowing the comics industry as it is today it is obvious anyway.

It must have taken some real cajones on JMDs part to raise the stakes so much, but the payoff is pretty obvious given the placement of the stories on lists like this.

But then again, this was back when stuff actually happened to Spider-Man, like it was a story or something. Not, you know, a general holding pattern around a licensed character. Yeah, they have turned Spider-Man into Dagwood Bumstead, I think sometimes.

surprised the boy who collected spider man did not wind up in the top three given how heart breaking the story last moments are for timmy plus it also one of the coolest episodes of the 90s cartoon. the original hobogoblin saga nice start to a cool bad guy till he got messed up by marvel of who is suppose to be under the mask. and been waiting for nothing stops the juggernaut for it shows that no matter the odds proving he can not win spider man will keep fighting not to mention the juggernaut walking through the flames from the tanker truck still gives me chills.

I don’t think any artist is as affected by his inker as JRJR. His work with Jim Mooney and Scott Hanna was always fantastic and made him one of my favorite artists, with that Juggernaut story definitely being a standout piece, but I haven’t liked a single thing he’s done since he started working with Klaus Janson a few years ago.

So glad the Harry Osborn saga was ranked this high, truly a great story. Spectacular #200 is one of the greatest single issues I’ve ever read.
Wholeheartedly agree w/Benjamin J, the most horride thing One More Day wrought was bringing Harry Osborn back, after he died the perfect, heroic death.

The first Hobgoblin story will always have a special place in my heart because it is the story that turned me into a comic book collector.

I always liked Spider-Man, but only owned a smattering of whatever issues my parents had bought for me up to that point. In fact, the only reason I picked up Amazing Spider-Man #238 was because I was bored following my mother around at a grocery store when I saw this issue, with its striking cover, and asked my mother to pick it up for me.

The issue blew my 11-year old mind. I had to read the next issue, and when I couldn’t find it the next time I was at the grocery store I stepped into a comic book store for the first time to find it.

This is also why I bemoan that it is so hard to find single issues of comic books anywhere but in comic book stores anymore. It prevents kids from having this kind of serendipitous encounter with comics which can grow into a lifelong love of the medium.

LOVED the Hobgoblin saga, read all the issues as they came out. Was totally gripped by it. This may be sacrilegious but I actually prefer Hobby to the Green Goblin,

“there was a great mystery as to WHO the Green Goblin was”

I think you mean as who the HOBGOBLIN was.

And I agree with Dalasco. The work John Romita Jr does completely changes from spectacular to meh to utter rubbish depending on who inks.

Ed (A Different One)

July 2, 2012 at 7:25 am

We got really Stern-heavy here with this quintet, but that means no Stern in the Top 5 – and that just aint’ right!

Anyway, I’ve said so much about these stories in other posts that there’s just not much more to say. The brilliance of that early JRjr work again jumps out at me. Never thought much about it being due to the inker (Mooney here – who is one of t he great unsung talents who have worked on Spidey over the years), but inkers, even inkers as great as Mooney, don’t design the panel layouts and JRjr proved to be an absolute master of it here. Hard to believe this was relatively early in his career too.

SSM was the far superior Spidey title back in the early-to-mid 90′s, IMO. Just wish Sal had stuck with his traditional art style as opposed to what he was trying for during this period.

And, yeah, that introduction to the Hobgoblin encapsulated everything us true-believers loved about the character. The cold, calculating goblin. The goblin who stayed in control. The goblin who made the rules and was not bound by them. Even though he grew to be physically formidable, it was his brains and business acumen that made him truly challenging for Spidey. He was always a step or two ahead . . .

. . . and then Dan Slott has career loser Phil Urich come along and hack of his head off with a flaming sword.

Wait, what . . .what just happened? Did that really happen? Dan, Dan tell me you didn’t really do that? ! ? !

Or that’s what it felt like when I read the opening issue of Big Time. I have to say Mr. Slott, poorly played. Poorly played indeed . . .

Michael Howey

July 2, 2012 at 8:43 am

I’m with Ed on the poor treatment of Hobby. I’m enjoying amazing but sometimes killing characters with potential is powerful but other times it’s just frustrating, (I’m looking at you Mr Millar).

Wholeheartedly agree w/Benjamin J, the most horride thing One More Day wrought was bringing Harry Osborn back, after he died the perfect, heroic death.

I think you mean “after he took the perfect, heroic trip to Europe.” It’s right up there with that touching rite of passage when Peter & MJ made the commitment to live together, or the inforgettable death of that actress posing as Aunt May. One step forward, two steps back.

The Kid who Collects Spiderman wasn’t only a one off story, but it was only HALF the issue. It was actually kind of a back up to a Thunderball story, if you can believe it.

@buttler lol. Has any her suffered more from shitty editorial retconning that poor ol’ Spidey?

sorry meant to write “character”

@buttler….is THAT how they retconned Harry’s absence from the Spidey books since the 90s? Good god, I think I was better off not knowing. :-p

Benjamin: I’m afraid so. It turns out that Mysterio faked Harry’s death, and also-not-dead Norman immediately whisked Harry off to rehab in Europe for a loooong time.

Or, to put it another way, a wizard did it.

The funny thing is, “Europe” was also the answer to where Norman had been all this time that HE was supposedly dead. If Hela’s ever looking for a new land of the dead again, she might want to look into Europe.

[...] story has been heralded by critics and readers alike as one of the greatest Spider-Man tales ever. In a nod to its influence, Dan Slott included Tim in [...]

My collecting days began with #250 (and MTU of the era). I bought #244-5 in ragged condition from my friend, with starvation-earned lunch money. That year of Spider-Man is terrific, because the dramatic tensions of Parker’s private life and the search for the Hobgoblin run through each issue. For example, Spidey thinks Thunderball, in #247, may be Hobgoblin at first, behind the scenes. This coherency continued through ’84, lending DeFalco’s issue a similar strength. Even at ten, I could see a difference in the quality, but I hung in with the excitement, largely generated by Hobgoblin, on-and-off camera. He played a part in Puma’s premiere, too, hiring Thomas Firehart, as I recall. If the future Spider-Man movies (presently set-up to bring us the symbiote again) could tap into the Stern run, I’d be in hog heaven. <3

Roger and J.M. were my favorite superhero writers, growing up (with Peter David close behind, so funny and "adult" in his complexity), so this is one wonderful segment! I also had the fortune of picking up #656. Made me wish I could start collecting again! But that sacrifice is paying off in me finishing my first books, and that's a better legacy from my Spider-Man days than I could otherwise hope. For now, I'll be more than happy to just read CBR!! 'Nuff Said.

[...] Original Hobgoblin run is considered one of the greatest Spider-Man stories of all time. For clarity’s sake, I’ll be featuring Amazing Spider-Man #238-239, 244-245, 249-251 [...]

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