In our second edition of Where to Start we are going to look at Marvel’s biggest superhero, who is without a doubt at least in the top 3 (if not top 2) of the most well known and beloved superheroes of all time… the friendly neighborhood webcrawler… the amazing, spectacular Spider-man!
We will start with a quick look at where he comes from and then follow up with a few lists of current and classic stories every webhead should check out!
Spidey started his life in Amazing Fantasy #15, in August 1962, created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.
One of the first teenager- turned- super powered hero (and not sidekick) characters in comics, Spidey’s high relatability, wisecracking fighting style, wonderfully colorful costume and cool science fiction origin made for a knock out combination from the start. It did not take long for Peter to get his own series, with “The Amazing Spider-man #1” in March 1963. To this day it is still being disputed if the main idea for the character came from Stan Lee or Steve Ditko, with both sides telling different versions of the story (a thing that comes up quite often when you look up Lee’s history of doing characters with other creators).
Anyway, Lee went on to write Amazing Spider-man issues 1-100, 105-110, 116-118 and 200, then later returned for a couple guest stories as well.
The character was one of Marvel biggest hits and is still to this day to Marvel what Mickey Mouse is to Disney. Nearly everybody knows the story of the young, nerdy teenager who gets bitten by a radioactive spider to then get the proportionate strength, wall crawling and reflexes of an arachnid. He went on to use his powers for personal gain, until a man he let slip away ended up killing his foster father uncle Ben, which made him learn the lesson that “with great power comes great responsibility”.
Peter’s early life was already an eventful one, when he lost the first love of his life, Gwen Stacy, through a neck injury he actually caused himself while trying to save her from a deadly fall. This was the first instance of the dreaded “Parker Luck”, which would follow him, as it does all dramatic or heroic characters, all throughout his life.
But overcoming terrible odds, beating whatever life and a rogues gallery of crazy sci-fi villains threw at him, was exactly what made him such a fan favorite, because under all that power, he was still one of us: a geek, a kid, an outsider who tried his best to find his place in the world and fit in. That… is just timeless, which is why Spidey will continue to be relevant for the next hundreds of years, no matter if we are talking about Peter Parker or Miles Morales. No matter if we are talking about comics, movies, cartoons and animated shows, videogames. I will gladly help you out on the comics part, of course.
Do not be confused: there are more than one Spider-man. Of course Peter Parker is THE Spider-man, but after his death in the Ultimate universe (a parallel universe to the normal Marvel universe which had its own line up of book) a young boy named Miles Morales took over the mantle of the spider. I will list books for both versions and also give you hints towards other spider characters, like Venom, Scarlet Spider, Spider-Gwen and more. You might end up loving them all.
To make your entrance into this amazing comic character easier, here is a list you could follow. Just click on the links to be redirected to the book or series in our store. If you are already a well read Spider-fan, head down to the comment section and tell us if we missed something you deem a must read.
Marvel Comics is doing a reboot/refresh of their entire comic line this fall, so if you want you could just start there with the new Amazing Spider-man #1, which shows how Peter deals with suddenly being a jet setting, playboy millionaire, or with Spider-man #1, which follows around Miles Morales’ version of Spidey. For both series I would recommend a subscription, to make sure you don’t miss a single issue and don’t have to order every issue every month manually.
If you want to go back a bit further, stuff gets a little bit more complicated.
Peter got a new writer (Dan Slot) and a reboot a few years ago, in which he was made younger again, to make his adventures more accessible. If you really want to start as far back, because it makes sense for the current stuff (which is still written by Dan Slott), this would be it. Its a lot of books and not 100% necessary to understand more recent developments, but if you don’t want to miss out on any little nuance of story, you could do that, by clicking here.
A more recent entry point would be this: Superior Spider-man.
Also written by Dan Slott, this story shows how Doc Ock manages to beat Spider-man and swap his mind with his archnemesis. Yes, you read that right. It is a whole run of Spider-man comics in which Doctor Octopus runs around as the egocentric superior Spider-man, inside Peter’s body… and best of all… it is actually an amazing story that shows what makes Peter so special and why he can be the only real Spider-man. While Ock drives the action here, Peter is still a presence in the book, so don’t worry and give it a try. It has been collected in 3 oversized hardcovers which you can get here
or in 6 tradepaperbacks here
The next volume of Amazing Spider-man starts right after the conclusion of “Superior” and has Peter back behind the wheel, who has to deal with the fallout of what happened before, which is also a great read.
-Amazing Spider-man TP vol.1 Parker Luck
-Amazing Spider-man TP vol.2 Edge of Spider-verse
-Amazing Spider-man TP vol.3 Spider-verse
-Spider-verse HC (more or less optional, if you only want to see Peter’s perspective on the Spider-verse, which you will get also in vol.3 TP. If you are interested in the other Spider-characters, like Miles, Gwen, the Spidey from the future of 2099 and so on, you shouldn’t miss it)
-Amazing Spider-man TP vol.4 Graveyard Shift
-Amazing Spider-man TP vol.5 Spyral
Miles Morales will become a part of the normal 616 Marvel universe this fall, with the All New, All Different reboot. You can just start his new series with Spider-man #1, or you can travel back in time and read how he got to be Spider-man and what the “real” Spider-man Peter Parker thinks of him. Those down here collect his first complete run of comics
or just get the smaller trades here which contain the same stories in smaller books.
If you enjoyed what Miles does as Spidey, there is one last run of his comics, before he enters the normal Marvel universe. These stories play out after the ones I put up above.
Another must read for Peter and Miles fans is Spider-men, which is written by Brian Michael Bendis and features “our” normal universe Peter Parker meeting up with Ultimate Spider-man Miles Morales for the first time in his parallel dimension. Its a really cool read and shows why both deserve to hold the title of Spider-man.
As I wrote above, that is still not all for the current Spidey stuff. This just covers the two main Spideys, Peter and Miles. You can still check out Spider-man 2099, which is a future Spider-man from the year 2099 who travels back into our time, Spider-gwen, which is a parallel version of Gwen Stacy who got bitten instead of Peter, Scarlet Spider, which is an evil Peter Parker clone trying to become a hero himself, Silk, another spider powered female hero and last but not least… Venom, who is now in possession of one of Peter’s old high school bully, who uses the symbiote as Agent Venom for good.
That should cover you as far as current stuff goes.
Spidey has a lot of classic stories as well, which are worth a read, but might be far back in time, or even have been removed from his timeline all together due to a reboot or refocusing of the comic. Don’t let that stop you though.
- Spider-man Blue which focuses on Peter’s first love with Gwen Stacy.
- Spider-man by J. Michael Straczynski A very long run by JMS on Spidey, which is in many peoples eyes one of the best runs of the character ever. Its available in four volumes and shows a grown up Peter, working as a teacher who is married to MJ.
- Marvel Knights Spider-man by Mark Millar which is the Kick-Ass creators run on the character.
- Spider-man by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko you can get here and here. If you really wanna see how it all started and like to read some old school 60s comics, this is a must.
- Kraven’s Last Hunt, which is sadly out of print at the moment, but for eager readers we have the prose novel ready.
- Birth of Venom shows you where one of Spidey’s worst enemies comes from.
- Masques shows what super star artist Todd McFarlane can do with the ol’ webhead.
- Ultimate Spider-man is the complete, multi year run of the original Peter Parker Spider-man in the ultimate universe, before Miles Morales takes over.
- Clone Saga was a pretty controversial story, but you can start reading it here
In the end we hope our little feature makes you the entry into Spider-land a bit easier. If you have any recommendations for other books, or another character you would like a Where to Start on, let us know in the comments below.