I Will Tell You #74:
Top 5 Forgotten Spider-Man Stories
A few weeks ago, you might recall that I recounted the five biggest missteps in the history of Spider-Man, timed to coincide with the release of Superior Spider-Man #1, the start of a controversial arc that many feel just might be the biggest misstep of all. That was right here, if you don’t recall.
Now, I certainly didn’t mean to imply that I’m one of those who think that Dan Slott’s new storyline is going to be considered as one of the worst Spidey stories of all time, by timing the release of that column with the new comic. In truth, I thought Superior Spider-Man #1 was a great start to this whole idea; the idea of a Peter Parker who’s not exactly himself. That’s all I care to say about it here; if you haven’t read Spidey lately and you don’t know what I’m talking about, well, the spoilers are out there. Go find ‘em before they find you.
But then I thought, with the release of Superior Spider-Man #2 this week, maybe I should, in all fairness, take a look at the five best Spidey stories of all time. So that’s what I set out to do, until I realized that a list like this has probably been done hundreds of times already. So, while wanting to be fair, but not repetitive, I pondered just exactly what I should do.
And in trying to remember all of my favorite Spidey stories, I remembered that there were a lot of them that, well, I hadn’t remembered, until I started digging into it. I mean, everyone fondly recalls the death of Gwen Stacy two-parter, or the Harry Osborn drug issues, or Kraven’s Last Hunt. But there are also plenty of great stories that have largely been forgotten, overshadowed by these and other popular storylines. So it hit me; I’m not going to tell you the top five fondly-remembered Spider-Man stories; instead, I will tell you:
The Top 5 Forgotten Spider-Man Stories. Ready? Good. Sit back and strap in. ‘Cuz here we go.
5. Amazing Spider-Man #400, 1995 (JM DeMatteis / Mark Bagley)
The reason you’ve forgotten about this one is because this story, featuring the death of Aunt May, took place right in the thick of the despised Clone Saga that we’ve all been trying to forget. Of course, this development, like many others in this ill-fated storyline, was eventually revealed to be a fake, through some contrived and ridiculous explanation that we didn’t really believe or care about. But at the time, we really thought her time had finally come, and writer JM DeMatteis gave her a very emotionally powered sendoff; probably one of the best ever in comics. And it was made sadder still by the fact that while Peter was at her side during her final moment, his clone, who shared Peter’s memories of his aunt while his very existence was unknown to her, had to grieve, apart from her, and alone, unable to say good-bye to her as she passed away. Of all of the clone saga comics that ever tainted my comic book collection, this single powerful issue is the only one that still remains there.
4. Amazing Spider-Man #261, 1984 (Tom DeFalco / Ron Frenz)
This one is overlooked by just about everybody. It took place right in the middle of the whole Hobgoblin saga, which had many great moments. Except how it ended, but that’s another story. In this issue, The Hobgoblin has kidnapped a very-pregnant Liz Osborn, Harry’s wife, to try and coerce Harry into turning over his father’s final Green Goblin journal. Instead, Harry and Spider-Man face off against The Hobgoblin; as Liz goes into labor; in a warehouse that’s on fire. While the birth of Normie Osborn could be considered a key moment, the strength of this tale is the sheer suspense behind it, the tension over what this will do to Harry, and the ultimate heroism that Harry displays. It was not only one of the greatest single issues of the original Hobgoblin era, it was also a great example of a single-issue story, period. The icing on the cake? A way-cool Charles Vess cover featuring a triumphant Hobgoblin amidst the flames. You probably have this one; go back and check it out.
3. Spectacular Spider-Man #200, 1993 (JM DeMatteis / Sal Buscema)
Another great issue by DeMatteis, and another one featuring Harry in not only a key role, but his final appearance. Only this time, he’s become The Green Goblin again, and he’s going after Mary Jane. Of course, Peter arrives in time to fight him. But it’s not just another Spider-Man / Green Goblin battle; it was the final Spider-Man / Green Goblin battle, and perhaps the most tragic of all, as it was a final battle between two bitter enemies who had once been the best of friends. And during the battle, Peter and MJ keep trying to remind Harry of these better times during his few lucid moments. The Goblin eventually gets the upper hand over Peter, but ultimately Harry triumphs over the Goblin’s personality and rescues Peter, as well as MJ and his own son, sacrificing himself in the process. The Death of Harry Osborn has never been held in the same regard as the death of Gwen, or even Norman Osborn, but it certainly should be.
2. Amazing Spider-Man Annual #14, 1980 (Denny O’Neil / Frank Miller)
This single issue was by far not only the best during writer Denny O’Neil’s initial run on Amazing Spider-Man, but also the most offbeat. Featuring both Doctor Strange and Doctor Doom, it wasn’t the usual day in the park for Spidey, but then, annuals were always something special back in those days. It’s a perfectly paced story featuring one of Doom’s lackeys gaining power from Strange’s foe, Dormammu, in an attempt to fulfill some ancient prophecy. Spidey and Strange stop him, of course, but the true magic of this issue is Frank Miller’s, along with inker Tom Palmer and colorist Ben Sean, incredible tribute to the artistic talents of Spidey and Strange co-creator Steve Ditko, All three bring their own style to the issue but make it very clear that they are paying homage to one of comics’ greatest creators. This is likely the single most underrated and overlooked Spider-Man issue ever.
So what could possibly top that, you ask?
I can think of something.
You wanna know, do you?
Very well; I will tell you:
1. Spectacular Spider-Man #107 – #110, 1985 (Peter David / Rich Buckler)
This, of course, is the Death of Jean DeWolff story that put writer Peter David on the comic industry map. Not everyone forgets about this arc when thinking of great Spider-Man stories, but it doesn’t get mentioned enough. David brought with him not only a compelling mystery with a genuine surprise, but also other talents like, oh, realistic dialogue. It’s a lot more common nowadays, but David’s scripts could often be read aloud and not sound like a comic book story. And the story read more like one that wasn’t written with Spider-Man in mind, but one that he could comfortably fit into. David gave Amazing Spider-Man’s sister title a completely different feel. This sense of realism is what always made David’s stories stand out back in the day. And they still do. And hopefully, will again soon, once he recovers from his recent stroke. Get better,sir.
So, remembering your favorite stories is easy. Remembering the ones you forgot; that’s a little tougher. I’d be curious to know what some of your favorites are; ones that have been forgotten by most, or even those that just might not have been highly regarded by as many fans. Leave your comments below, and in the meantime, maybe, I’ll work on my next feature: most average Spidey stories of all time.