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! Click here for a master list of all the stories revealed so far!
50. “The Crime-Master Versus the Green Goblin,” Amazing Spider-Man (Volume 1) #26-27
This Stan Lee/Steve Ditko tale was a fascinating two-parter where Spider-Man finds himself in the middle of a war between the mysterious Crime-Master and the Green Goblin. The Crime-Master and the Green Goblin know each other’s secret identity, so they are sort of stuck together. However, the Crime-Master turns on the Green Goblin and tries to take control of the New York mob all by himself.
Meanwhile, Spider-Man is sure that Frederick Foswell (the seemingly reformed Daily Bugle reporter who secretly led a double life as a criminal mastermind known as the Big Man) is the Crime-Master, so the whole story is this fascinating game of cat and mouse between the Crime-Master and the Green Goblin and Spider-Man and the Crime-Master and Spider-Man and the Green Goblin and Spider-Man and Foswell (as he tries to no avail to follow Foswell and prove him a crook).
On top of all of that, Spider-Man lost his costume so he has to use a store bought version instead!
This is a thrilling tale by Ditko and Lee with great artwork by Ditko. Here is a glimpse…
The reveal of Foswell’s motivations are especially well-handled.
49. “Flowers for Rhino,” Tangled Web #5-6
The plot of this two-parter by Peter Milligan and Duncan Fegredo is quite simple. It is “Flowers for Algernon” adapted to star the Rhino. Heck, it is right there in the title!
In the tale, Rhino has surgery to increase his intelligence because he has fallen in love with the daughter of a Russian mob leader. The story is utterly charming…
Fegredo’s art is excellent (especially all the little character bits) and Milligan manages to find an ending that varies from “Flowers for Algernon” that is particularly clever.
48. “The Original End of Spider-Man” Amazing Spider-Man (Volume 1) #18-19
Reader Lorin Heller’s thoughts on this story were so thorough I figured I’d just let him handle this one…
Ah, a gem. The second-part of the first major continued story in Spidey history. Fresh from running away from the Goblin, our hero’s life is completely in the pits. He continues to be obsessed by May’s health
and the medicine is running out. Jameson (his smile giving the Joker a run for his money) is gloating all over every media outlet he can find; receiving public kudos in the process, Betty won’t talk to Peter and later is spotted on the arm of another guy (first Ned Leeds appearance); and Spider-Man gets rejected while trying to sell his image than his web formula. He encounters the Sandman and runs away from HIM, in a very embarrassing spectacle WITH Jameson on-hand! The only two people who DO believe in Spider-Man end up being two of his least favorite folks: The Human Torch and Flash Thompson. The former tries to call Spider-Man to meet him, and gets stood up. The latter stupidly dresses up in a Spider-Man outfit and gets beat up by crooks. Peter, quite rightly pissed at this chain of events, decides to throw in the towel for the first time (though there will be many more) on the Spider-Man lifestyle.
Ironically, it is Aunt May who gets Peter to get over himself, in a show of personal strength that she won’t display again for YEARS.
Special call-out to the depiction of Jameson. Absolutely hilarious. What’s scary is that J.K. Simmons does a good version of the laughing hyena look in Spider-Man 2. Oh, and the scene with the Sandman coming up behind Peter just as he’s changed! Would make you jump out of your seat if it was live-action. The art and writing combine to excellent effect, and this is yet one more highlight of the Lee-Ditko run.
47. Spider-Man: Reign #1-6
Spider-Man: Reign, writte and drawn by Kaare Andrews, was inspired by Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and puts Spider-Man through a similar scenario. Peter Parker is a widowed old man decades in the future in a dystopic New York run by a fascist mayor who has reduced crime to essentially zero, but by having what amounts to stormtroopers running around the city intimidating everyone. A couple of them rough Peter up (breaking his arm) when he gets involved with them chasing down a “crook.” Eventually, J. Jonah Jameson comes to Peter and convinces him to return to being Spider-Man (Peter agrees, but he is also suffering from hallucinations of his dead wife, his dead Aunt and his dead Uncle). It is not a pretty sight (an old man in his underwear with a mask) but it is enough to inspire a whole new generation of New Yorkers…
Things don’t go smoothly for Spider-Man from here on out, and it is especially painful when we learn how Mary Jane died (eventually, though, Peter finds inspiration from her memory to once again serve the people of New York).
46. “The Horns of the Rhino” Amazing Spider-Man (Volume 1) #41-43
This three-part story was very important as the Rhino was the first supervillain created by Stan Lee and John Romita after Steve Ditko left the title. The Rhino had a great visual and he fit well into the Spider-Man Rogues Gallery (a very difficult Rogues Gallery for new villains to break into). However, this storyline also brings back John Jameson, the son of J. Jonah Jameson, and a character who would appear in a number of Marvel Comics over the years. More important than Spider-Man trying to protect John Jameson from the Rhino (and John’s reactions to gaining superpowers from space spores), though, is the way that Lee and Romita re-shape the feel of Peter Parker’s life outside of being Spider-Man. Peter’s relationships with his college classmates had not gone smoothly to this point, but with this storyline, that changes dramatically as Peter and Harry Osborn are now good friends and the somewhat strained relationship between Peter and Gwen Stacy turns into the Peter/Gwen that we still know to this day.
Oh, and some minor character also made her first full debut in this issue…
That’s no big deal, though.
The finale of the story has Spidey finally take down the Rhino and is our first real extended exposure to Mary Jane’s personality (and her fondness to just start dancing in the middle of rooms). The Harry/Gwen/Mary Jane/Peter quartet (with Flash thrown in from time to time) became a major focus of the book from this point forward.