Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man has over 50 years worth of comics. Fifty. Years. Let that number sink in for a second or two. And it's not like Peter's been limited to the pages of just one series, either. As you likely know, the wall-crawler has starred in multiple titles over the years. These adventures show what makes him such a great hero, fill his life with tragedy, or give him something worth celebrating. We all have our favorite story arcs, but we here at Comic Vine wanted to highlight a few that we strongly suggest checking out and find ourselves re-reading from time to time.
The Night Gwen Stacy Died (ASM #121-122)
Let's begin with the most obvious choice: the death of Gwen Stacy. Written by Gerry Conway and penciled by Gil Kane, this is an undeniably massive storyline for Peter Parker and it really is mandatory reading for any fan. It's only two issues and there's plenty of collections, so there's no good excuse to miss it. Why is it so important, you ask? First and foremost, the way Gwen dies is absolutely heartbreaking. The thought of putting yourself in Parker's boots in that scenario is horrific. Issue #121 hits you with that stunner and then leaves you hanging. What follows is a great display of what makes Spider-Man such an honorable hero. Even after losing Gwen, Peter's able to resist letting his rage take full control. He has Green Goblin at his mercy, yet he's able to keep himself in check and refuses to cross that line. What comes after that? Well, that's a real jaw-dropper.
Kraven's Last Hunt (Web of Spider-Man #31-32, ASM #293-294, The Spectacular Spider-Man #131-132)
Back in 1987, J.M. DeMatteis and Mike Zeck crafted an engrossing and bleak tale about Kraven the Hunter's struggle with Spider-Man. Prior to this, Kraven was just a dude who enjoyed the challenge of facing Spider-Man, and the hero would always find a way to defeat the villain. However, this story arc begins with a shocker. Sergei Kravinoff wins, allegedly kills Spider-Man and then buries him. As Kraven puts on Spider-Man's costume and attempts to prove to himself that he's truly superior, we're also treated to a twisted and visually compelling journey as Spider-Man finds the strength to escape his grave. It's a brilliant insight into both characters and the visuals pull you right into the dark atmosphere. As for the conclusion, well, let's just say it's an unforgettable course of events.
Coming Home (ASM #471-476)
J. Michael Straczynski and John Romita Jr. begin their run a totally gripping story. Not only are there new changes brought into Peter's life (he's now a teacher and a possible new twist is applied to his origin), but Straczynski and Romita Jr. also introduced one of Spider-Man's deadliest threats: Morlun.
The web-head has impressive physicals, but nothing he unleashed could faze this villain at all. To make matters even worse, he could not hide or escape this bad guy, either. Usually, Parker can face his foes in his classic costume and then get some much needed rest when he goes back into his civvies. This wasn't the case with Morlun. Not at all. This new foe had the ability to locate the hero at any time he wanted to, meaning Peter wasn't safe anywhere he went. And if Spidey tried to get too far away from the Morlun, the evil character would lure him back in by attacking innocents. This gigantic challenge brought Spider-Man's willpower front and center. It's a dilemma that'll keep you guessing how it'll come to a close and there's a legitimately touching moment tossed in there as well. Lastly, the ending paves the way for an issue many spent decades waiting for.
The Kid Who Collected Spider-Man (ASM #248)
Sometimes being a superhero isn't about saving the city from a maniacal villain or joining a team to help defeat the world's latest threat. No, sometimes being a hero is all about making a difference in just one person's life. A hero doesn't just saves lives... they inspire them, too. That's the message Roger Stern and Ron Frenz wanted to deliver in this issue and they did so incredibly well. It's a heartwarming read and illustrates why Spider-Man is such an admirable character.
Venom (ASM #300)
Come on, how can you not read Spider-Man's first big fight with Venom?! Written by David Michelinie and penciled by Todd McFarlane, this is a thrilling and action-packed issue about the first brutal encounter between these two. There's no real downtime in this one, either. It jumps from one big moment to the next, never losing its grip on your attention. Simply put: it's an issue you can read over and over again. Also, very old spoiler: this one may or may not mark the return of Spider-Man stepping back into his classic costume!
Spider-Man! (Amazing Fantasy #15)
This seems like a pretty self-explanatory pick, right? I mean, origin stories really don't get much more iconic than this, people. In just one issue, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko introduced the world to Peter Parker and revealed how this shy teenager would transform into one of the medium's most popular characters. It's a story you've likely heard dozens of times by now across different forms of media, but there's just no topping the original experience. Seriously, everyone needs to read the true telling of Spider-Man's origin story at least once.
End of the Green Goblin (ASM #39-40)
Green Goblin and Spider-Man have more than a fair share of memorable encounters, but End of the Green Goblin is unmissable. The stakes were insanely high for Spidey in this one because Green Goblin has finally figured out Spider-Man's true identity. The villain's discover comes at a terrible time for Peter. Aunt May's condition isn't ideal and any additional stress could be fatal. So if Aunt May finds out Peter is Spider-Man or was even killed by the Green Goblin, it's safe to say that wouldn't be good for her health. To top it off, this two-issue storyline also fleshes out Green Goblin's origin story. Fun fact: John Romita joined the title with this story arc, too!
The Symbiote Suit (ASM #258, SECRET WARS #8)
"Whoa, whoa, whoa! What do you mean Spider-Man's wearing a black suit now? And wait, it's... alive?!" The decision to make such a huge change to the web-slinger's look was shocking and, as you can see by the results of this poll, it's a look that many fans have grown to love over the years. If you appreciate the look -- be it symbiote or black cloth -- this is a fun and attention-grabbing story you need to read. The fact it eventually leads to "Bag-Man" is just a very, very nice bonus!
The Final Chapter (ASM #33)
There's countless issues where Spider-Man's drive has allowed him to overcome absurdly big obstacles. However, one always comes to mind: THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #33. A battle with Doctor Octopus has left Spider-Man trapped under an immense amount of weight, and a serum that he needs to save Aunt May's life is just out of his reach. Even though the weight is tremendous, Peter Parker is able to push himself harder than ever before and break free from the rubble. This is a prime example of why Spider-Man's resolve is second to none. Just ask Firelord. Oh yes, I went there!
Origin of the Hobgoblin (ASM #238-239, 244-245, 249-251, Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man #85)
Villain's identities tend to be relatively straight-forward, but Roger Stern dared to put an all-new spin on one of Spider-Man's biggest enemies. Not only was the Hobgoblin's true identity a mystery for quite some time, but the latest addition to the rogues gallery felt like a whole new threat in spite of being drastically similar to Green Goblin (regarding his weaponry and attire, that is). Osborn's a dangerous foe, but we all know the guy is a wee bit off his rocker. This addition to Peter's rogues gallery was sane and smart, and this is where it all began for the awesome villain.
Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut (ASM #229-230)
No matter what the odds are, you can bet Spider-Man won't back down. Decades upon decades of comics have created plenty of great examples of this, but few are as significant as the time Spider-Man attempted a seemingly impossible task: to stop the Juggernaut. Sure, people well above Spider-Man's weight class have been able to best the X-Men villain, but Peter -- despite his impressive abilities -- isn't nearly on par with Cain Marko when it comes to sheer might. Spider-Man pulls out all the stops in an attempt to stop Juggernaut, and even when all hope seems to be lost, he refuses to quit. Parker takes quite a beating, but he's eventually able to triumph thanks to his wit (and not to mention the environment).
Dying Wish (ASM #698-700)
We know this is a controversial one for some of you, but there's just no denying this story is one of the biggest events to hit Paker's life. So many fans complain about plots not taking big enough risks or being more of the same thing, so Dan Slott hit us with a ginormous development: Doc Ock outsmarts Peter Parker. But this isn't just some minor victory where Peter gets to flee and eventually return to kick Otto's booty. No, Otto Octavius' plan allowed him to switch minds with Peter Parker, and it's a colossus change to the status quo. As you all know by now, this story spawns SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN and eventually shows us that Peter truly is the superior Spider-Man.
Spider-Man No More (ASM #50)
THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #50 is a huge issue for Spider-Man. Parker stepping into his duds to fight bad guys means he's not around for Aunt May as much as he could be, his grades are going downhill, and his other relationships are taking a hit as well. To top it off, J. Jonah Jameson has so many New Yorkers convinced the wall-crawler's up to no good. This makes Peter ask himself an important question: why bother? His life would be so much easier if he stopped putting on the red and blue costume. It's a critical moment in his life and serves as a nice wake-up call for him, too. Because... you know, great power and all that! Plus, you can't help but love seeing how upset Jonah gets when he sees Spider-Man is back in action. Oh, and how could we possibly forget to mention this is the first appearance of Wilson Fisk?!
These are just a few of our favorite Spider-Man stories. We're curious, though... what are YOUR top "must read" Spider-Man stories? Don't be shy, share them with us below.