Essential Reading List: 10 Must-Read Spider-Man Comics

Whether you are a comic book fan or not, Spider-Man has swung through your life at some point. Whether it’s on TV, in film, or even at an amusement park. Spidey may just be the most recognizable superhero ever created. For years he has been the guy everyone could relate to whether he has the tights on or not. Spider-Man is a rare hero who has his entire body covered. There is no telling who is under the mask. That has been one of Spidey’s most compelling attributes. No matter what race, religion, or gender. You could be Spider-Man.

Spiderm-Man
Spider-Verse (Marvel Comics)

Spider-Man over the years has provided us with numerous valuable lessons; such as how important family is. Even about how being a superhero can be great, yet can also be a burden as well. That’s right, there is no superhero who shows the downside of being a hero quite like Spidey. Everyone in the world can relate to the old “Parker Luck.” As we continue our Essential Reading Series at The Daily Fandom, here are our 10 essential Spider-Man stories.

1. Amazing Fantasy #15

The story that started it all. Stan Lee and Steve Ditko used Amazing Fantasy #15 to introduce the world to possibly one of the most important characters ever made. This issue is at the top of our list, for without this comic there wouldn’t be a list. The origin of how Peter Parker becomes Spider-Man. The famous story everyone knows, of how a young teenager gets bitten by a radioactive spider, giving him the powers of a spider.

Spider-Man
Amazing Fantasy #15 (Marvel Comics)

It is not the spider bite that gives him his powers that makes Peter’s origin so iconic. It is his subsequent selfish use of those powers, leading to the death of his Uncle Ben. After Ben’s death, Peter realizes how he could have prevented it, and swears to use his powers for good. Amazing Fantasy #15 provides readers with the saying heard around the world

“…with great power, there must also come — great responsibility.”

2. The Amazing Spider-Man #248

Though this issue is not a “key” issue or your typical Spidey adventure, it is a heart-warming story that shows exactly what Spider-Man truly represents. The story finds a young kid named Tim Harrison, who is one of Spidey’s biggest fans. One night Spidey paid the boy a visit. The two share stories and hit it off. Peter is clearly moved by how highly Tim believes in him.

Spider-Man
The Amazing Spider-Man #248 (Marvel Comics)

Before Peter leaves, Tim asks him what his secret identity is. Despite refusing at first, Peter ends up removing his mask and revealing himself to Tim. As the story ends there is an image outside the building where Tim is living, revealing it is a home for the terminally ill. This is a beloved issue in The Amazing Spider-Man series, and could not be left off of our list.

3. “Death of Gwen Stacy,” The Amazing Spider-Man #121-122

Possibly one of the darkest moments in Peter Parker’s life. The death of Gwen Stacy sent shockwaves through the comic universe and would have ramifications in Peter’s life for years to come. Peter’s first love, Gwen Stacy, found herself caught in the middle of Peter’s secret life when Green Goblin kidnapped her and brought her to the top of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Spider-Man
The Amazing Spider-Man #121 (Marvel Comics)

After a fight between Spidey and Green Goblin, Gwen was pushed off the bridge by Goblin. Though Green Goblin stated that Gwen was dead before he threw her off the bridge, it was recently revealed in Dan Slott’s “Clone Conspiracy” storyline that Gwen was killed when Peter attempted to catch her with a web, causing her neck to snap.

Spider-Man
The Amazing Spider-Man #121 (Marvel Comics)

Gwen’s death sent Peter’s life into shambles. As one of the most iconic character deaths in comics, Gwen Stacy’s death is without question an essential moment in Spider-Man’s history. Other than Uncle Ben, no death has had a bigger impact on Peter’s life than Gwen’s. To this day Gwen still has an impact on Peter’s life. Multiple storylines have been made involving the clones of Gwen, and even a story revealing she had twins with Norman Osborn. Just when you begin to forget about her, Gwen’s death always seems to come back and haunt Peter in a new way.

4. “Spider-Man No More,” The Amazing Spider-Man #50

John Romita Sr. uses this issue to present us with one of the most iconic Spider-Man covers ever. The depressed Peter walking away from the giant Spider-Man perfectly represents the events that take place in this issue. Peter’s life as Spider-Man is weighing down on him. Life as a vigilante is causing Peter to neglect his personal life, including school, friends, and his Aunt May.

Spider-Man
The Amazing Spider-Man #50 (Marvel Comics)

When Peter finds out his Aunt is sick and has been calling for him, Peter rushes to her. Upon his arrival, Peter is told that she is sedated and sleeping. Peter takes a lot of anger out on himself. Blaming his alter ego Spider-Man for all of his personal issues. This combination with J. Jonah Jameson turning the whole city against him really takes a toll on Peter. Peter then goes for a long walk thinking about his job being a hero. Peter decides to quit being Spider-Man and throws his costume away.

“A Hero No Longer”

While Peter has given up being a hero, he is still having problems in his personal life. Peter quits his job at The Daily Bugle to have more time for his school work. Yet Peter still has no time to spend with Gwen Stacy. After a period of time, Peter hears a crime being committed and goes for help. The man Pete rescues reminds him of his Uncle Ben. Peter is reminded once again why he became a hero in the first place and becomes Spider-Man once again.

Spider-Man
The Amazing Spider-Man #50 (Marvel Comics)

Not only does this issue show Peter going through an emotional roller coaster, but it further introduces the iconic villain, Wilson Fisk, as Kingpin. Though Kingpin wasn’t nearly the high-level threat in his early days that he is now, his creation would lead to plenty of personal battles with Spider-Man. Peter’s personal battles mixed with the introduction of an iconic villain make this issue a must read.

5. Ultimate Spider-Man #1

After a long run on writing Ultimate Peter Parker, Brian Michael Bendis introduced Miles Morales. Bendis focused on creating distinct differences between Miles and Peter. Both Miles’s parents were alive and faced more problems in the modern world. Miles initially did not want his powers. After witnessing Peter’s death, however, Miles realized he could have helped in some way. Convinced by his friend Ganke to dawn the tights and become Spider-Man, Miles faced the tall task of convincing the friends and colleagues of Peter that he was worthy.

Spider-Man
Ultimate Spider-Man #1 (Marvel Comics)

Though it took time for Miles to convince people he could handle the task of holding the title of Spider-Man, Miles did it. Miles quickly became an all-new legend. One of the great things about Spider-Man has always been the idea that anyone can be Spider-Man under the mask. Miles proved that belief to be true. Miles Morales has been growing in popularity ever since his creation. The new movie Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is full proof of that. It shouldn’t be long before we see Miles on the big screen for a live action movie.

6. “The Black Suit,” The Amazing Spider-Man #252-300

After years of wearing the classic red and blue costume, Peter went on a journey into space and returned with an all-new black suit. Peter was so amazed by the enhanced power this suit gave him, that he never noticed what was actually happening. Little did Peter know that this suit was alive. Not only was it alive, but it was also beginning to control Peter. Pete began waking up after night’s of sleep feeling even more exhausted than before. The suit had been controlling Pete at night and going out fighting criminals.

Spider-Man
The Amazing Spider-Man #252 (Marvel Comics)

After a visit to Reed Richards and The Fantastic Four, Peter discovered that the suit was alive. The suit was an alien symbiote that was bonding itself to Peter. At this point, however, the symbiote became addicted to the action of being Spider-Man, making it difficult for Peter to get rid of it. Eventually, Peter was able to remove the symbiote. Unfortunately for Peter, the symbiote had discovered a new host. One that would become one of Spider-Man’s greatest enemies of all time.

Venom

The symbiote bonded itself with Eddie Brock. When bonded with the symbiote, Eddie Brock took the title of Venom. Venom would go on to become one of Spidey’s most powerful villains. After its time being bonded with Peter, the symbiote adopted all of his powers. Not only did Venom contain all of Spidey’s powers; he, in turn, became immune to his spider-sense.

Spider-Man
The Amazing Spider-Man #299 (Marvel Comics)

Peter has dawned the black suit a few times since Venom; most notably the storyline “Back in Black.” Pete used the costume as a symbol to put fear in his enemies in an attempt to find the person who shot Aunt May. Ever since its creation, the Black Suit has become almost as iconic as the classic suit. The long history Spider-Man has with the suit and Venom is full of some of the most beloved Spidey stories ever told.

7. The Amazing Spider-Man Vol.2 #38

For years, Peter Parker worked to keep his secret identity from his friends. Though there is no character Pete has kept his secret from more than his Aunt May. On this issue, the inevitable moment has come. Aunt May has found out that Peter is Spider-Man. May confronts Peter, who at first denies it and attempts to come up with a crazy excuse. May, however, shuts down Pete’s attempt to cover it up and is adamant that she knows his secret.

Spider-Man
The Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 2 #38 (Marvel Comics)

The two embrace in a long, deep conversation. May claims that part of her will always hate Spider-Man, but she will always love Peter. After Peter explains why he became Spider-Man, May tells a secret of her own. May reveals that Ben’s death is partially their fault as well. The two had a fight, and Ben stormed off. After May leaves, she is seen in a cab beginning to cry. Peter tells himself that he has lied to May for too long, and now with his secret out, he has the responsibility to never lie to her again.

8. Kraven’s Last Hunt

Kraven’s Last Hunt is a dark story that has always been considered to be one of Spider-Man’s most famous stories. In this story, Kraven goes after Spidey and shoots him down, “killing him.” After Kraven buries Spider-Man, he puts on a copy of Spidey’s suit. Kraven then goes around the city fighting criminals looking to prove he is Peter’s superior in every way. After a few weeks, Peter awakens from the tranquilizer Kraven shot him with and digs himself out of his grave.

Spider-Man
The Amazing Spider-Man #294 (Marvel Comics)

Spider-Man goes to confront Kraven, who refuses to fight Spidey back, claiming to be the victor in their battle. Kraven sends Spidey on a hunt after the villain Vermin. While back home, Kraven now has a feeling of peace. Kraven then kills himself, leaving behind a note for the police, stating he was behind violent assaults around the city. Taking place just before Peter and Mary Jane’s wedding, this story utilized that to attach emotion to the story. This story is full of violence, horror, and beauty. Received by critics as one of the best Spider-Man stories ever told.

9. “Death of Captain Stacy,” The Amazing Spider-Man #88-90

Spider-Man has had a long career full of death and tragedy. Since his origin and the death of Uncle Ben, Peter has been pretty successful in protecting those close to him. The Death of Captain Stacy was a brutal reminder that Peter could fail. Captain Stacy’s death also proved a valuable lesson to Peter about doing the right thing. This was the first time Peter did everything right but still failed.

Spider-Man
The Amazing Spider-Man #90 (Marvel Comics)

During the battle between Spidey and Dr. Octopus, large blocks of concrete began falling from the rooftops. With Captain Stacy looking on, a crowd formed. Captain Stacy rescued a young child while getting crushed by falling debris. Peter swings down for Captain Stacy’s last few moments. Cpt. Stacy reveals that he knows that Spider-Man is Peter, and asks him to be good for Gwen and keep her safe. This moment is gut-wrenching when just over 30 issues later Gwen would also find herself mixed up in a battle between Spidey and Green Goblin, leading to her death. The story was a preview of what was to come for the remainder of Peter’s career as a hero.

10. The Spectacular Spider-Man #200

Peter and Harry, for as long as they have known each other, have had a complicated relationship. Harry has discovered the secret identity of his late father and of Peter. Blaming Peter for his father’s death, Harry plotted his revenge. Harry, who already had a history of unstableness and drugs, fell into madness. With the goal of destroying Peter, Harry dawns on the Green Goblin costume like his father.

Spider-Man
The Spectacular Spider-Man #200 (Marvel Comics)

Harry ends up defeating Peter and straps him down inside a building he rigged to explode. After realizing that there are other people inside the building including his son Normie, Harry then proceeds to rescue them all, including Peter. Harry was brought to the hospital and it is found that the goblin serum has been poisoning him. Harry and Peter share an emotional last goodbye right before Harry passes away.

“A Swinging Icon”

Spider-Man has dominated the comic industry for over 50 years. Up there with Batman and Superman, Spidey is one of the most recognizable fictional characters ever created. A perfect representation of what it means to be a hero. Spidey’s history is full of tragedy and darkness; yet, it is also full of love and friendship. Despite everything that has happened to him over the years, Spidey always seems to keep his head up and manages to put a smile on your face.

Whether it is Peter Parker, Miles Morales, Gwen Stacy or whoever is under the tights, everybody can find a Spider-Man to relate to. It’s no surprise why Spider-Man has been so popular for over 50 years. It should come as no surprise if he is just as popular 50 years from now. Spidey will continue swinging through all of our lives in as many ways as possible. He will have an impact on so many lives in so many ways. In some ways, we won’t even notice. Spider-Man has an incredible history that is easy to appreciate and that is why he is one of the most beloved characters of all time.

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