There’s a large spider running wild in my bathroom. I often try irradiating it with my mobile phone to make it bite me; it hasn’t worked so far, but in case this column stops abruptly and you hear of a mysterious hero being friendly in your neighbourhood, you read it here first.
Unless you have been living under a rock in the Himalayas in recent times, you must be aware of the existence of the
Spiderman 3 movie and its prequels, Spiderman and Spiderman 2. But even as you marvel at Maguire and drool at Dunst, don’t forget that the man in the red-blue/black/red-gold costume, Peter Parker, should now be 45. So if it’s the real Spiderman you want, it is comic-wards that you must swing for it all started with Marvel Comics’ Amazing Fantasy #15.
If you’re looking for the best Spiderman comics in the webcrawler’s four-decade history, there’s a lot to choose from. Spidey as a character was, at the time of his creation, a breakthrough in superhero writing; the real hero was always Peter Parker, the real problems always personal, relatable ones, and the villains tearing up the city came second.
Spiderman, too, with his constant banter and real-person woes (well, real for a superhero, anyway) was a refreshing change from both Superman and Batman, who, despite the vast differences in their superhero abilities, were both fairly distant as characters. Which is why Spidey’s best stories are the ones where he’s in character, a young man who messes up frequently and is always someone you could be, not just someone to look up to and admire.
Which explains why the recent Spiderman Reign, didn’t work for me at all, what with all the angst of the style of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Kingdom Come. Some of the greatest Spiderman stories are the original Stan Lee/Steve Ditko creations, where Spidey battles a range of colourful villains.
The death of Gwen Stacy, Parker’s first girlfriend, is one of the most memorable moments in comics. Among latter-day writers who breathed life into the trash-talking webwalker, I’d pick J Michael Straczynski’s wonderful run of 400-plus issues of Amazing Spiderman as the one that really defined our hero.
My favourite current Spiderman story, though, is the Ultimate Spider-Man
saga, written by Brian Michael Bendis, which began in 2000 and is still going strong. Ultimate Spider-Man
is a modernised revamping of the entire Spiderman mythos, set in an alternate, hip, trendy Marvel universe that has worked not only with young readers but with old-school Spidey fans as well.
Other writers who’ve had memorable Spiderman runs: Meher Baba devotee John M DeMatteis, whose best work on Spiderman was the Kraven’s Last Hunt storyline in 1987, Roger Stern, whose Amazing Spiderman run saw the creation of the Hobgoblin, and David Michelinie, who collaborated with Spawn-creator Todd McFarlane to introduce Spiderman’s deadliest nemesis, Venom, a super-villain to match Spidey’s two greatest foes, Doctor Octopus and the Green Goblin.
Spiderman’s been through a lot lately: the 2006 Marvel Comics mega-event, Civil War, saw him ‘come out’ in public,
tearing off his mask and making media headlines both in the comic-book universe and the real world.
The heroes of Marvel Comics are now mostly government controlled, registered and led by Iron Man, while Spidey’s a rebel in hiding. And, probably to coincide with the release of the new movie, he’s back in black. Exciting times lie ahead for him, and for us.
Now for that spider in the loo, which I’ve just spotted again. Excuse me while I reach for my trusty phone.
Samit Basu is the author of The Simoqin Prophecies and The Manticore’s Secret. He will be writing this column every alternate week.