Movies & TV / Columns

Comics 411: Favorite Spider-Man Stories

June 10, 2020 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
Spider-Man Kraven's Last Hunt

Welcome back! I’m Steve Gustafson and if you enjoy discussing anything comic book related, you’ve come to the right place. Each week we cover something in the industry and I always enjoy your input in the comment section below.

Previously on…

Last week we discussed Superman’s Strangest Powers. I was aiming for powers that were in the comic books but you guess took it to all mediums…so I allowed it. Here’s what some of you had to say:

Steed: “The amnesia-causing kiss will always be a favourite :D”

El Atomico: “remember in one of the movies, when he threw a fruit-roll-up version of his cape over criminals?! I think, in the Fortress of Solitude, meaning 2 I think! :D”

Dorath: “At times, he’s had super-ventriloquism, reading, hypnosis, and you can’t forget the mind wipe kiss.”

D-Unit: “I remember an old Superfriends cartoon where Mr. myxlplyx turned him into the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz and then Superman used “his heat vision to turn his tin suit to lead” so that Kryptonite wouldn’t affect him. Some of those cartoons were out there…”

CS 22: “Live action usually had the wackiest ones. One that comes to mind was the ability to persuade people that he adopted for a brief period in Season 9 of Smallville. It happened after he came in contact with gemstone Kryptonite (don’t ask).

The episode unfolds with him persuading people to do anything he wanted them to do. But the real kicker is towards the end when he has a scene with Zod and he says “You don’t think sometimes I want to be a killer like you?”. At that point, he goes off to kill the woman who he suspects murdered Jor-El.

Yes, with his special ability he persuaded himself to become a killer. LMAO.”

D2Kvirus: “His ability to use his powers for call-screening is either a complete and utter waste, or something he should use far more often considering I can’t seem to go three days without yet another call claiming that my Amazon Prime account which doesn’t exist has been hacked”

Steed: “Also forgot in the dreaded Superman 4 how he was able to suddenly have the innate perfect superpower of reconstructing buildings that was damaged. Kinda made him far too powerful in a silly way.
Him straightening the Pisa tower when he went bad then leaning it again in the 3rd film was great fun though. Only Christopher Reeve could have made that character so endearing I tell you.”

Carl Rood: “Sometimes they’d call something Super-Whatever even though it’s just an application of existing powers. The one that stands out is Super-Weaving. He just used his super speed to weave a basket.

The super breath is hard to pin down. Sometimes it’s just a gale force wind and others it’s super cold.

Then there’s his ability to hear faster than the speed of sound or through a vacum.”

prowriter: “Whatever you call the power where his super excretions don’t destroy people or appliances, that’s something. BRB. Gotta take a SuperShit.”

Jean Jaramillo: “I always was partial to his ability to project a miniature version of himself by shooting rainbows from his fingertips”

Sting Rey: “the new power which was recently introduced, the super-flare has become my favorite. he just unleashes all the solar energry in his cells all out an once. the drawback is it leaves him depowered for an extended period of time as he has to build up that radiation.
it was used in supergirl season 1.”

Thank you to everyone who commented! This week we discuss…

Our Favorites Spider-Man Stories

I’m sure we’ve all used this time to catch up on some reading and revisiting favorite issues or graphic novels. I was flipping through some of my Spider-Man issues and got to thinking about some of my favorite Spidey stories over the years, like ‘The Gauntlet/Grim Hunt’. Back in 2009-2010, this storyline took a plot that had been done before and tweaked it into one of the more entertaining Spider-Man stories around. The idea, and stop me if you’ve heard this before, being that a group of Spider-Man’s classic villains (The Rhino, Electro, Sandman, The Lizard, among others) have emerged new and improved. Each take on Spider-Man, weakening him. This leads into Grim Hunt, in which the family of a former villain takes advantage of the situation.

This week I thought I’d throw out a few of my essential reads when it comes to Spider-Man.

What makes a great Spider-Man story? To me, Spider-Man will always swing under the banner of “With great power comes great responsibility”. He struggles, he loses, his personal life is barely manageable, but he never quits because he knows that his powers are a gift to use to do good. Spider-Man is about sacrifice and overcoming the odds.

To keep things interesting, I put myself on a limit of 5 stories. Is it really feasible and realistic to try and boil the essential Spider-Man to only 5? Of course not. It’s a credit to his rich history that you could make this list 100 long and still find people debating that something was missing.

First up is The Night Gwen Stacy Died. Outside Uncle Ben’s death, this story was a landmark event in the shaping of both Spider-Man and Peter Parker. To sum it up, Spider-Man fights his nemesis, the Green Goblin. The Green Goblin abducts Spider-Man’s girlfriend Gwen Stacy, and she is killed during the battle. At the time, this story was a shocker. We see Spider-Man in a whole new light as he struggles with anger/rage, guilt/sadness, and the realization of the danger those around him are in. By itself, it shows that death has meaning in comic books and how a hero has to contend with that weight. It also shows how a hero carries himself, even when he’s overcome by fury, he does the right thing in the end.

While Gwen has taken on new life and new roles, this story still reads well. Also, I want to point out, as big as an impact this has had on Spider-Man, it was done in two issues, The Amazing Spider-Man #121–122. If done today, it would be 8 issues long and include a number of “aftermath” type of issues.

In No One Dies, we see Spidey tackle a familiar theme in his life: Death. In comic books, it’s usually used as a punchline or gimmick. ‘In No One Dies’ (Another two-part tale!), J.J. Jameson’s wife, Marla is dead. After the funeral, Peter has a nightmare where he sees everyone who has ever died in his life (including Gwen Stacy, Ben Reilly, Ezekiel, Frederick Foswell, Bennett Brant, George Stacy, and Charlamange from ‘Spider-Man Vs. Wolverine’). One of the stronger images from the story is Peter seeing his parents, who have no faces because he can’t remember what they look like. his memories of them are so vague. The guilt is too much for Peter and he’s battling the intense feelings that he can do better, that he can do more. He vows to do more and be a better Spider-Man. “As long as he’s around no one dies”. The fight with Massacre is as intense as you’d expect but the lead-in is what really sets this a part. It takes a hard look at death in comics and the ripple impact it has on Spider-Man.

Is any list that talks about Spider-Man’s greatest stories complete without Kraven’s Last Hunt? While some have called this story overrated, I read it again recently and it still resonates with me. Especially because it brings back the emotions I felt when I read it when it first came out.

Kraven the Hunter fulfills his hunt and “kills” Spider-Man. This story accomplished the near impossible by making Kraven complex and intriguing. While this is really a Kraven story, it reflects on Spider-Man and the effect he has on villains. Writer J. M. DeMatteis explained that the story was intended to explore Spider-Man’s character and how others perceive him, saying, “What [Kraven] plans to do is kill Spider-Man and then take his place – prove that he can be a better Spider-Man than Spider-Man. What he becomes, of course, is not Spider-Man, but what he perceives Spider-Man to be. In a sense, what Kraven becomes is something akin to Frank Miller’s ‘Dark Knight’ character. […] One of the things about Peter Parker, with Spider-Man, is that he doesn’t just put on a mask and become “the Spider-Man.” He doesn’t become transformed into this dark creature of the night. No matter what costume he has, no matter what he does, Peter Parker is always a very human, passionate, caring guy. Kraven doesn’t know that. And that is the major difference here.”

Next is Spider-Man No More. While the “…No More” type of stories where the hero quits are old hat today, back in 1967, this was a big deal. Peter Parker attempts to give up his life as Spider-Man, but finds that he is unable to let it go. This ONE issue perfectly encompasses the doubt and hardship that Peter goes through. Yes, this is also the first appearance of The Kingpin, Wilson Fisk, but it’s the simple way the story unfolds and we watch Parker deal with the knowledge that everything he does and sacrifices will never be appreciated by the very people he does it for. One of my favorite single issue stories ever. It’s not surprising that the cover of this issue is iconic and copied to this day.

Another one is Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut. While making my list I noticed I’ve avoided recent storylines. That’s not to say that there aren’t any classics today but these storylines stood out to me as a young and impressionable lad. Before I became a cynical reader who has seen and read it all.

While ‘Spider-Man No More; showcases Spider-Man’s doubts, this shows his will and drive. Filled with action and Spidey fun, this is another perfect example of who Spider-Man is and what he stands for. The Juggernauts is unstoppable and Spider-Man is faced with a seemingly impossible task. Not only is this an outstanding Spider-Man story, it should be a must read for comic book writers today. Sometimes simple is better and heroes just need to be heroes.

OK, I fully expect an outpouring of comments telling me what I missed. What I’m more interested in is YOUR essential Spider-Man stories! ‘The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man’? The hugely underrated ‘The Death of Jean DeWolff’? ‘Spider-Man: Blue’? ‘If This Be My Destiny’? 

Challenge yourself and keep it to 5!

That’s all the time I have. See you next week!