Spider-Man Best Comics (1961-1971)
Updated: Oct 20, 2021
Spider-Man. I have heard many, many times at how great the Spider-Man comics are, something you have to see to believe. Well, now I've seen it. And I'm a believer. If you read any Marvel comic, read this one. Stan Lee hit the jackpot with this idea, creating a character so fundamentally human despite being a superhero, dealing with normal teenage problems like rent, jobs, love life that he becomes a character anyone could relate with. And his journey as a superhero is so much better than any other (the others have more vague reasons for being a superhero). Not to mention his supporting cast: Aunt May, his only remaining family; J. Jonah Jameson, the anti-Spider-Man newspaper editor with his hilarious rants; Flash Thompson, bully to Peter Parker and No. 1 fan to Spider-Man; Gwen Stacy, Peter's love interest; Harry Osborn, Peter's best friend; Mary Jane, the party girl next door and Peter's future love interest; and so many more. Not to mention his immense rogues gallery of villains like Doctor Octopus, Green Goblin, Vulture, Mysterio, Lizard, Kraven the Hunter, Scorpion, Rhino, etc. Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko really poured a lot of love into his character as throughout their run there is not a single bad comic unlike some of their other characters. Some issues are certainly better than others, but the writing is superb throughout. It does get a little stale at the end which is probably why Stan Lee decided to pass it on. But he left behind a great ten years of epic storytelling that still resonates with audiences today. There are so many stories to choose from, but I decided to go with ones that stood out the most to me. So, without further ado, here are the top Spider-Man comics of Stan Lee's run:
18. Amazing Spider-Man Vol 1. 4: Nothing Can Stop the Sandman
When it comes to first villain appearances, not many of Spider-Man's foes made the cut (only three did). Sandman, one of the main villains of Spider-Man 3 (2007), is also one of the strangest Marvel villains, able to change his entire body into that of sand. This story makes the list for the fact that he is a foe that Spider-Man truly struggles with defeating as he can't punch or kick his way out of it, resorting to using science to finally take out the Sandman. Sadly, the villain went off to become more of Fantastic Four and Hulk villain, but he'll go back to Spider-Man eventually. Still, a pretty great entrance to the Marvel world.
17. Amazing Spider-Man Vol 1. 20: The Scorpion
Another first villain appearance issue, the coming of the Scorpion. This guy is one of Spider-Man's lesser-known foes and isn't really in the same league as the others. So why does this story make the list? Simple. In his first battle with Spider-Man, he knocks the hero out. Do you know how many other villains did that on the first go? None. Doc Ock came close, but Scorpion actually did it on his first try. And it's all J. Jonah Jameson's fault who wanted to create in his mind the anti-Spider-Man. Well, he succeeded by creating a monster. This is one battle that Spider-Man really does come close to losing and cements Scorpion as one of his more powerful foes of this era. He may be shunted to the side later on, but for now he is a truly formidable threat.
16. Amazing Spider-Man Vol 1. 26-27: The Crime-Master
This story plays out like an old mafia movie with the mysterious Crime-Master looking to take over the city's gangs while the Green Goblin is looking to do the same, both going to head-to-head for control of the underworld and not caring who gets caught in the crossfire. So, naturally, Spider-Man steps into the crossfire to try and stop it all, tackling both foes and the entire criminal underworld to boot. This story also started the tease of Green Goblin's identity, already setting him up to be Spider-Man's archnemesis.
15. Amazing Spider-Man Vol 1. 63-65: Wings in the Night
The Vulture. Main villain of Homecoming, one of Spider-Man's first foes and certainly the oldest but he still manages to pack a punch. Earlier in the run, the Vulture was dying and chose a replacement to take on the Vulture name. But upon discovering he had been tricked for his technology, he forces his body to recover and now this is the story of his comeback. He frees his supposed successor and then challenges him to a duel to prove who is the true Vulture, with Spider-Man doing his best to protect civilians. And when Vulture comes out on top, he goes on to fight Spider-Man, who gets injured and thus soon fights for his life against the winged predator. All that, plus a prison escape in the final issue makes this one of the more fun storylines Stan Lee came up with that also gives a bigger presence to the Vulture.
14. Amazing Spider-Man Vol 1. 25: Captured by J. Jonah Jameson
From the very beginning, J. Jonah Jameson has hated Spider-Man. I think he is one of Stan Lee's favorite characters he ever created and he certainly is one of my favorites. This story brings the two to a head as Jameson is approached by a scientist who claims he has built a robot, the Spider-Slayer, that can track Spider-Man anywhere and never stop hunting him, and one he can never beat. Thing is, he's telling the truth. So Jameson operates the robot and hunts Spider-Man down with Spider-Man constantly on the run, doing his best to stay ahead of the robot and desperately thinking of a plan. This is basically a non-stop thriller and makes J. Jonah as much an enemy of Spider-Man as any of the supervillains.
13. Amazing Spider-Man Vol 1. 18: The End of Spider-Man
Aunt May is sick, deadly sick. (She gets sick so often it's a miracle she survived to the modern day at all). So Peter realizes that he can't let anything happen to him so he can take care of her. Which means that when he comes across supervillains, he can't do anything. Which makes everyone think him a coward. Other heroes disavow him. Supervillains mock him. Funnily enough, Spider-Man's only true supporter is Flash Thompson who constantly bullies Peter. It also shows off one of the most horrifying things ever put to comics: a smiling J. Jonah Jameson (trust me, it is just wrong). This is one of Spider-Man's lowest moments as he is forced to run away from every fight.
12. Amazing Spider-Man Vol 1. 66-67: To Squash a Spider
This is one of Spider-Man's strangest battles as he fights against the master of illusion, Mysterio. Except in this battle, Mysterio has convinced Spider-Man that he's the size of an ant (something that Far From Home has a small easter egg of). So Spider-Man runs around as a giant Mysterio chases him, trying to find his way out of this nightmare. This storyline solidifies Mysterio as one of Spider-Man's greatest foes as what he lacks in combat, he makes up for in misdirection, twisting Spider-Man on his head until he doesn't know what to believe.
11. Amazing Spider-Man Vol 1. 53-56: Doc Ock Wins
At this point, Spider-Man and Doc Ock have gone up against each other several times and each time it was a close victory for the hero. Here, Stan Lee takes it up a notch as the good doctor lodges with Aunt May (she apparently sees him as such a nice man) bringing this battle home for Peter Parker. And that's only the beginning as Spider-Man manages suffers a blow that makes him lose his memory. Realizing this, Doc Ock tries to make Spider-Man work for him, but even with no memory, Spider-Man knows what it is to be a hero. All that and more makes for one of the most thrilling of Spider-Man stories.
10. Amazing Spider-Man Vol 1. 44-45: Where Crawls the Lizard
The Lizard. He has very few appearances and yet each one leaves its mark as he is one of Spider-Man's strongest enemies. A real Jekyll-and-Hyde personality, Curt Connors is a good man and loving father and husband. But due to experiments, he has a darker side that wants to rule the world. So when Spider-Man fights him, he doesn't really want to hurt him as he knows Connors is inside. But the Lizard doesn't hold back. These two issues show off their greatest battle and one of Spider-Man's deadliest as he does his best to stop the Lizard while saving the man inside despite his growing number of injuries.
9. Amazing Spider-Man Vol 1. 96-98: Drug Saga
This story would be good on its own with just the Spider-Man and Green Goblin battle, but they're not the main story. This is a story that helped usher in the next age of comics with darker and more poignant stories. In this story, the epidemic known as drugs is spreading and Harry Osborn becomes a victim, taking some to deal with his growing stress and pressure, and then overdosing. So while Spider-Man wants to be there for his friend, he first has to deal with his friend's father, trying to convince him to stop this madness and be there for his son. One of the more important stories Marvel published at the time and it was only the first of many.
8. Amazing Spider-Man Vol 1. 3: Spider-Man Versus Doctor Octopus
The first couple of issues were good, but this is the one that made Spider-Man a must-read. Doctor Octopus, his second greatest foe. At this point, Spider-Man had only fought a few bad guys and some two-bit thugs. Here, he's in the big leagues and is quickly taken out in his first battle with the doctor. Dispirited from such a shameful defeat, he doubts his abilities as a hero. It is only when he hears another hero give a speech at not giving up that he realizes that he can't stop from one defeat and then uses his big science brain to go in for round two. Truly, one of the best issues.
7. Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine Vol 1. 2: The Goblin Lives
The Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine was a short-lived secondary Spider-Man series. This was actually it's final issue. Still, if this was it's last, then it went out with a bang. This is one of Spider-Man and Green Goblin's greatest battles right here as the Goblin recovers his memory (more on that later) and he leads Spider-Man through several tense situations surrounded by loved ones (the dinner scene in particular being a standout), until they come together in the skies, grappling each other to see who will come out victorious. It also shows off the Goblin's growing descent into madness. One of the tensest situations Spider-Man has ever been and one of his greatest battles with Stan Lee pulling no punches in this over-sized issue.
6. Amazing Fantasy Vol 1. 15: Spider-Man
Here it is. The origin story. Peter Parker, high school science nerd with a loving aunt and uncle, gets bitten by a radioactive spider. But he doesn't just then become a superhero. No, first he decides to use his powers for personal gain, trying to make it as a wrestler. But, when he gets screwed over, he steps aside as the place gets robbed, not wanting to get involved. But then, tragedy strikes and his uncle is killed by the person he let go. This forces him to accept the age-old mantra: with great power, comes great responsibility. He has this power, so he has to use it to help and protect. All of this packed into this small issue. Director Sam Raimi also brought it to life in his first Spider-Man movie in 2002. Stan Lee proposed the idea to his editor who didn't think it would work. So, they planted it in the Amazing Fantasy comic's final issue as it was cancelled just to see what the fan reaction was. And the overwhelming excitement led to Spider-Man getting his own series. It all started here, in this one great story that still holds up after all these years.
5. Amazing Spider-Man Annual Vol 1. 1: The Sinister Six
Wanting to beat Spider-Man once and for all, Doctor Octopus gathers up five other supervillains that have fought Spider-Man before for the single purpose of destroying him. Vulture, Electro, Sandman, Kraven, and Mysterio join up with the Doctor to form the Sinister Six, the first supervillain team. They kidnap Aunt May (though she doesn't realize it, somehow) and Betty Brandt and lead Spider-Man through a gauntlet of duels as he battles each one of them in turn to save his loved ones. This over-stuffed issue is just filled with non-stop action that never lets up as Spider-Man is forced into the battle of his life. Truly an epic. Just imagine how much worse it'll be for the hero when he has to fight them all at once.
4. Amazing Spider-Man Vol 1. 88-90: The Death of Captain Stacy
Not only does this story contain one of the fiercest battles Spider-Man has with Doctor Octopus, it also has it end in tragedy as when part of a building falls to the ground, Captain Stacy (Gwen Stacy's father) pushes a little boy out of the way and gets hit instead, dying from his injuries. But not before revealing he knew Peter was Spider-Man and begs him to keep Gwen safe (yeah, if you know Spider-Man you know he doesn't keep his promise). This is one time where Spider-Man failed to save someone dear to him and the death resonates with him as Captain Stacy was one of the few people who truly believed in him.
3. Amazing Spider-Man Vol 1. 39-40: Green Goblin Unmasked
This is the story that cemented the Green Goblin as Spider-Man's archnemesis. Before, Doctor Octopus was his main foe while the Goblin was just another member of his rogues gallery, albeit a more powerful one. But here, Green Goblin tracks Spider-Man down and discovers his identity, battling him on his front lawn and dragging him through the sky as seen on the cover above. And then, he reveals himself as Norman Osborn, the father of Peter's best friend Harry. And then they fight in a collapsing warehouse that's also on fire. Stories rarely get intense as this as the two nemeses face off in the battle of the century as Peter struggles with how to get out of this alive and also protect his secret identity, ending in a shocking manner.
2. Amazing Spider-Man Vol 1. 50-52: Spider-Man No More
After yet another battle that he gets blamed for, Spider-Man has finally had enough and abandons the supehero game, throwing his costume away in an iconic image that is replicated in the amazing film Spider-Man 2 (2004). But when the world hears of this, the Kingpin, a mob boss who is massive in size and strength, seeks to take over the city's underworld. And when Spider-Man is reminded of his Uncle Ben, he comes roaring back to stop the Kingpin in a truly fantastic story that goes deep into the inner turmoil of the hero and sadly ends in sacrifice. It also has one of his best fight scenes as he goes up against one of his fastest and strongest enemies who has no superpowers. He also is forced to briefly team up with J. Jonah Jameson.
1. Amazing Spider-Man Vol 1. 31-33: The Master Planner Saga
The peak of Stan Lee's run on this title and one of the best Spider-Man stories ever. When Aunt May falls sick from radiation poisoning, there's only one cure. And it's just been stolen. So Spider-Man goes on a rampage throughout the city, tearing through the underworld and beating up as many criminals as he can until he finds the mysterious Master Planner (no spoilers but the identity reveal is truly amazing). And in their battle (the Master Planner's lab was underwater), the lab collapses and Spider-Man is trapped. Thus comes one of his best moments and best lines, where he lifts all the wreckage on top of him so he can save his Aunt after saying "anyone can fight when the odds are easy. It's when the going's tough, when there seems to be no chance, that's when it counts." This scene is replicated somewhat in Spider-Man: Homecoming and stands one of the greatest Spider-Man moments of all time. Stan Lee went all in on this story, bringing the hero to his lowest moment and having him overcome all odds to win the day as a superhero does. This is the definitive Spider-Man story of Stan Lee and stands the test of time as one of his best stories ever written.
And there's Spider-Man, truly one of the best fictional characters ever created. These are just some of the great stories Stan Lee wrote, couldn't fit all of them. Can't wait to see what comes next. Next: Avengers.