This week marks the release of Spider-Man Chronicle: A Year by Year Visual History, DK Publishing's massive history of everyone's favorite friendly neighborhood wall-crawler. In the style of two other books I've written for, DC Comics Year by Year: A Visual Chronicle and Marvel Chronicle, Spider-Man Chronicle is a month by month history of the web-head covering his entire career. For my own part, I wrote the 1960s, 70s and 80s sections, while my co-writer Alan Cowsill tackled the 1990s through the present day. The result is easily the most thorough guide to Spidey's adventures ever printed in one volume, filled with hundreds of illustrations from 60 years of Spider-Man comics.
To coincide with the book's release, DK asked me to write a short piece about the top five most memorable Spider-Man comics in the history of the character. What follows is possibly the least controversial Spider-Man list of all time:
The Top 5 Most Memorable Spider-Man Moments:
5. The Final Chapter - While there have been many stories that depict Spider-Man's will and determination, no comic has visually captured that struggle like the single issue of The Amazing Spider-Man # 33 by writer Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko. Expanding upon what was a fairly simple story beat in Stan Lee's plot, Ditko took the reins in this issue with his brilliant 5-page sequence showcasing Spider-Man with practically the weight of the world on his shoulders. With his Aunt May's life at stake, Spidey was forced to do the impossible before his time ran out, all with the aid of Ditko's elegant storytelling.
4. The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man - In what was just a short story in the back of The Amazing Spider-Man # 248, legendary Spider-Man writer Roger Stern crafted a quiet tale that showed the human side of the wall-crawler, and the lengths he would go to bring a small amount of comfort into the life of an innocent child. Drawn by artist Ron Frenz, this story not only retold Spidey's career from his own perspective, but it also gave readers a poignant twist ending that is still discussed to this day.
3. Kraven's Last Hunt - A normally upbeat hero despite the tragedy that was commonplace in his life, Spider-Man took a walk on the dark side in writer J.M. DeMatteis and artist Mike Zeck's gritty tale of the hunter Kraven besting Spider-Man and even burying the web-slinger alive. In an era where dark comics were the norm, this epic storyline that passed through the pages of The Amazing Spider-Man (#s 293, 294), Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man (#s 131, 132) and Web of Spider-Man (#s 31, 32), stood out as a study of the crazed mind of the obsessed, as well as of the unwavering mind of the heroic.
2. The Origin of Spider-Man - Spider-Man's first appearance in Amazing Fantasy #15 was also one of the most perfectly balanced origin stories of its day. In a mere eleven pages, writer Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko gave readers a new take on the solo superhero. Peter Parker was a teen readers could identity with, a young social outcast with real problems and struggles. While many other comics of the time focused on protagonists who lived fantastic lives of wealth and adventure, Peter was an everyday student who stumbled on great power and great responsibility. A compact story complete with character motivation and growth, Spidey's origin has only been slightly altered since, proving that this tale certainly stands the test of time.
1. The Night Gwen Stacy Died - As the first regular writer of The Amazing Spider-Man after Stan Lee left the title, Gerry Conway had huge shoes to fill in the eyes of the fans. And while his stories were engaging and imaginative from the start, his work alongside artist Gil Kane in the fabled issues of The Amazing Spider-Man #s 121-122 was groundbreaking. Not only did this storyline feature the surprising death of Peter Parker's longtime girlfriend Gwen Stacy, but it also featured the demise of Spider-Man's greatest villain, the original Green Goblin. Although the story was full of dynamic action and suspense, perhaps its most memorable moment was the quiet scene at the end of issue # 122 when Peter finally collapsed in despair in the company of his friend Mary Jane Watson. In just a few short panels, Conway fleshed M.J. out as a character more than ever before, while also showing the human side of everyone's favorite wisecracking superhero.
For more details on these and hundreds of other Spidey tales, ranging from the popular to the obscure, be sure to check out Spider-Man Chronicle, out now in comic and bookstores nationwide.