Posted August 11, 2012 by Mikael Angelo Francisco in Comics


“Though the world may mock Peter Parker, the timid teenager…It will soon marvel at the awesome might of…Spider- Man!”

It was on August 15, 1962 when the final issue of a seemingly unimpressive title was released, its cover prominently featuring a figure clad in red and blue swinging high above the city streets. At the time, nobody had any idea that this character would one day become the flagship character of the company that had almost no faith in him. This new superhero – called Spider-Man – was almost completely junked, because no one at Marvel Comics believed in the character’s potential at the time.

No one, that is, except Stan Lee.

It was Lee (born Stanley Martin Lieber) who fought tooth and nail with his publisher, Martin Goodman, to let him write Spider-Man’s story. Goodman didn’t have much faith in Lee’s new brainchild, and perhaps with good reason. Spiders are “disgusting” things that people hate, said Goodman; how could readers like someone who actively chooses to dress like this foul, hairy little critter? Additionally, Lee had envisioned this character as a nerdy, troubled, timid high school loser; how could people look up to a character like that?

Ultimately, Lee was granted permission, and thus he continued to work on Spider-Man’s origin story and design with artist Steve Ditko. Amazing Adult Fantasy, Marvel’s soon-to-be-iced science fiction/fantasy comic, was renamed Amazing Fantasy with #15, and was released with a cover drawn by legendary artist Jack Kirby.

The story of Peter Parker instantly clicked with readers young and old alike. Here was a superhero who clearly embodied the everyman. He didn’t have vast wealth and a secret headquarters to fight crime with; hell, this guy had to sew his own costume. He couldn’t fly, and he wasn’t an alien god, or a prince from a society of immortal warriors; he was a bespectacled teenage nerd with girl problems who was bullied at school. And, most importantly, he failed. He was not an infallible superhuman who shrugged off bullets like they were nothing; he was a selfish gloryhog who, in a single act of irresponsibility, indirectly killed his own father figure…and inevitably set the course of his life towards a path of heroism and altruism, all because of a mistake he will never, ever be able to correct.

For 50 years, fans all over the world have faithfully followed the adventures of the skinny little nerd who, thanks to an incident that was perhaps part miracle and part destiny, became one of the greatest heroes in the world of fiction.

In this five-part feature, we’ll take a look at 50 of the greatest and most interesting moments in Spider-Man’s history. Let’s start off with 10 of Spider-Man’s most “I-can’t-believe-this-is-happening” moments – transformations literal and otherwise, as well as…other Spider-Men?!

Happy 50th birthday, Spider-Man!

50. Spider-Man Strikes A Deal With Mephisto! Spider-Man: One More Day (November 2007-January 2008)

One of the direct consequences of Spider-Man’s revelation of his secret identity (in the Marvel event Civil War) was that he was immediately targeted, as Peter Parker, by nearly ALL of the enemies he’s made over the years. The one who struck closest to home, though (figuratively and literally) was Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin, who ordered a hit on the wall-crawler. Unfortunately, the sniper bullet meant for Peter hits his beloved Aunt May instead, and as a result, Peter scours the Marvel Universe seeking help to save the person who has been his mother and guiding light for so many years. In the end, he turns to the Lord of Hell, Mephisto, who saves his aunt and erases all records of his secret identity from the world…at the cost of what the devil himself claimed to be the “purest love” of all: Peter and Mary Jane’s marriage. Before Peter could make a decision, MJ willingly sacrifices their marriage for Peter’s happiness, with the promise that they will someday find each other once again. Waking up to a Brand New Day as a swinging bachelor, Peter Parker gets a fresh start on life, meeting new friends, making new enemies and getting new opportunities to make a mark on the world. However, he could not, for the life of him, shake the feeling that he lost something so important in his life…

One More Day (OMD) led to a franchise-wide retcon-slash-reboot. Some of the most important changes to Spider-Man’s life were his return to using webshooters, the revival of Harry Osborn, and the introduction of new villains, as well as the revitalization of classic Spider-Man foes. While to many fans (myself included), this four-part is one of the most controversial, reviled, and foul-tasting Spider-Man tales ever told in his 50-year history, the significant impact of One More Day on Spider-Man canon absolutely cannot be denied. This single factor alone merits the inclusion of OMD on this list.

As much as it pains me to do so.


49. “You won’t like me when I’m angry…” Web of Spider-Man #70 (November 1990)

“Spider SMASH!” What do you get when you bombard Spider-Man with gamma radiation? Actually, I’m not really sure, but I sure know what he gets.

He gets MAD.

Accidentally exposed to a weapon that emits gamma radiation, Spider-Man struggles to retain his humanity long enough to reverse his rather uncomfortable predicament. Nothing of great significance to Spider-Man lore happens in this issue, to be honest. However, the powerful image of a Hulk-sized  figure squeezed into a ridiculously small (for him) Spider-costume attests to the fact that our hero has been through all sorts of ridiculous crap during his 50-year career as a superhero and as God’s favorite toilet bowl in the Marvel Universe.


48. Spider-Man Gets His Heart’s Desire…Or Does He? Spider-Man: House of M #1-5 (August – December 2005)

In the world of House of M, Peter Parker has everything he has ever wanted. His uncle Ben is alive, he is famous and well-loved, and he has a family in the form of his wife, Gwen Stacy, and his son, Richard.

However, this ideal life is nothing but a sham, a lie perpetuated by Parker himself when he claimed to be a mutant and not the product of a freak accident. He did this in order to secure a place in the elite ruling class of a world dominated by Homo superior. In typical Parker fashion, though, his own guilt prevents him from being truly happy, and so he ends up orchestrating his own downfall.

However, his sense of responsibility takes a big step forward upon the revelation that the House of M reality itself was a big, fat lie, brought about by the Scarlet Witch’s descent into madness. True to form, Peter Parker is the first to snap back to reality (er, the real one) and make a stand against the ruling mutant class, giving up the life he has always wanted in the process.

Not only does this miniseries depict one of the most interesting alternate continuities of Spider-Man, it also emphasizes the fact that no matter how hard Peter Parker tries,  he will ALWAYS screw up his own happiness, because of the same damned sense of responsibility that made him the hero he is today.


47. What The Shock?! Spider-Man 2099 Meets Spider-Man #1 (November 1995)

Written by master scribe Peter David, this one-shot teams up Peter Parker and Miguel O’Hara – two of the greatest, smartest, most beloved, and most talkative men to ever bear the mantle of Spider-Man.

Miguel O’Hara is Spider-Man in the depressing, capitalist-dominated world of 2099. A brilliant and sarcastic scientist tapped by Alchemax to replicate the powers and abilities of the original Spider-Man in order to create a superhuman army of corporate raiders, O’Hara finds himself accidentally infused with spider-powers and discovers along the way that all is not right with Alchemax. As he grows into the role, he eventually becomes the greatest hero of his era, and ushers humanity into a new Golden Age, 3,000 years later. (This one-shot takes place waaaaay before that happens, though!)

In this story, Peter and Miguel swap places – Miguel is awestruck by the lush world of the present, while Peter cringes in horror at what the world has become in 2099. They eventually find a way to set things right (skipping the obligatory “hero misunderstanding fight”, as Peter requests) and return to their respective worlds…but not before coming to terms with their individual destinies, and appreciating the good they both do.

As well as complimenting each other’s awesome costumes.


46. The Ultimate Team-Up! Spider-Men #1-5 (June – August 2012)

Universes collide as Peter Parker, the Amazing Spider-Man, meets Miles Morales, the Ultimate Spider-Man!

Thanks (or no thanks?) to the machinations of a classic Spider-Man rogue, Peter finds himself thrown into a universe much like his own, but very different at the same time. In the Ultimate universe, Gwen Stacy is alive and living with Aunt May, Nick Fury is black and still in charge of superhuman relations, and there’s a different, younger Spider-Man jumping around, with bio-sting abilities similar to Spider-Woman’s.

Most importantly, however…in the Ultimate universe, Peter Parker is dead.

As of this writing, this story has yet to be concluded, but it is certainly groundbreaking. It IS, after all, the first official meeting between Marvel’s two main universes. It definitely sets the stage for more potential cross-continuity hopping in the future. Indeed, what better way to do it than to put together the most amazing heroes of two worlds?


45. Savage Land Shenanigans! Marvel Fanfare #1-2 (March 1982)

Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spiderAAAAUGH GOD WHAT’S HAPPENING TO ME AAAAAAAAAAAAA

Look out, here comes the…Man-Spider?!

As a result of the power-sapping abilities of Karl Lykos, also known as the Pteranodon-like mutant Sauron, Spider-Man and the X-Men’s Angel are turned into monstrous versions of themselves!

I’d actually consider this to be more of an X-related story than a Spidey-related one, and I’m pretty sure Spidey’s here for the sole purpose of increasing sales. However, the Man-Spider is an awesomely grotesque transformation that has been revisited countless times in various Marvel comics across different continuities, and stands as a constant reminder to us that we should be thankful Peter didn’t turn into a full spider-monster after that fateful spider bite.

Also…Come on, how could you NOT love Marvel Fanfare #1‘s cover?


44. A Helping Hand…Or Six?! Amazing Spider-Man #100 (September 1971)

In a desperate attempt to rid himself of his powers once and for all, Peter Parker accidentally advances his mutation even further!

Believing that the only way he could ever live a happy life with his beloved Gwen Stacy was to completely kill Spider-Man, Peter ingests a serum that he thought would remove his amazing arachnid-like abilities. Unfortunately, he ends up growing two extra pairs of arms, further complicating his situation.

He eventually gets rid of the extra arms after tangling with the Lizard and Morbius, but the striking visual appeal of four fleshy appendages sprouting out of Spider-Man’s sides secures a solid spot for this landmark 100th issue on this list.


43. Spidey Goes Cosmic! Spectacular Spider-Man #158 (December 1989)

Spider-Man becomes the most powerful (non-mutant) superhero in the Marvel universe!

When Earth finds itself in the face of unbelievable danger, the universe selects a daring, heroic individual to become…Captain Universe! As part of the company-wide Acts of Vengeance crossover (where the villains of the Marvel universe decided that the road to victory involved changing sparring partners, resulting in such fights as Daredevil vs. Ultron and the Hulk vs. the Grey Gargoyle), Spider-Man gains the powers of Captain Universe and proceeds to make mincemeat out of even Magneto himself.

It was later revealed that he gained the Captain Universe powers to deal with the threat of the Tri-Sentinel (literally three merged Sentinel heads on a single Sentinel body), and Spidey lost his cosmic powers soon afterwards. It was certainly fun – and wicked cool – while it lasted, though.  


42. Enter: The Scarlet Spider! Web of Spider-Man #118 (November 1994)

The exile returns!

In an attempt to make Spider-Man more appealing, and perhaps to trump the Distinguished Competition’s consecutive string of events with its big-name properties (the death of Superman in 1992 and Batman’s KnightSaga running from 1993-1994), Marvel Comics reintroduced the Spider-clone in 1994’s Web of Spider-Man #117, after his first and only appearance in a story published almost two decades ago (Amazing Spider-Man #149).

Long thought dead after being dropped in a smokestack way back in 1975’s Amazing Spider-Man #151, the sensational Spider-clone,  named Ben Reilly (taking his uncle’s first name and his aunt’s maiden name) returns upon receiving word that his aunt May is in critical condition. This leads to a heated confrontation between Ben and Peter, setting the stage for Ben’s eventual ascension to the status of “one true Spider-Man”. While the clone made his presence known in the previous issue, Web #118 is significant because it marks the clone’s first solo adventure as a costumed adventurer. His first opponent? The psychopathic symbiote with a permanent hate-boner for Spider-Man: Venom.

Not bad for a clone, huh?


41. Ben Reilly Takes Over as Spider-Man! Spectacular Spider-Man #229 (October 1995); Sensational Spider-Man #0 (January 1996)

Not everyone was happy with the revelation that the Scarlet Spider, Ben Reilly, was the original Peter Parker, and that the Peter Parker that readers had been following since 1975 was a clone. However, Marvel was dead-set on making Ben the new “main” Spider-Man, so the House of Ideas sent Peter and Mary Jane packing after Peter (rather conveniently) lost his powers. Desiring a more quiet life in order to have the opportunity to raise a family, Peter leaves the responsibilities of being Spider-Man to Ben. Designing a new costume, Ben Reilly becomes the only webslinger in town (albeit for a short time).

In the gap between Spectacular Spider-Man #229 and Sensational Spider-Man #0, Marvel published titles focused on the adventures of the Scarlet Spider prior to becoming the new Spider-Man, while depicting Peter and Mary Jane settling in to a new life in Portland.

Now, as for how Peter reclaims the mantle…That’s a story for another installment.

That concludes the first part of 50 AMAZING SPIDER-MOMENTS! Thanks for reading, and come back tomorrow for the next 10 entries on this list. Also, feel free to leave your thoughts in the Comments section!

Mikael Angelo Francisco