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!
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.