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.

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