Peter Parker's Greatest Moments as Spider-Man

Mon, April 14th, 2014 at 1:58pm PDT

Comic Books
Marc Buxton, Contributing Writer

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Peter Parker is back! One year ago, the only place fans could find Peter Parker was on Disney XD's "Ultimate Spider-Man" cartoon, but that's about to change as the original Spider-Man returns to the pages of Marvel Comics' "Amazing Spider-Man." After taking his body and life back from Dr. Otto Octavius, the Superior Spider-Man, Parker is taking the comics world by storm and preparing to star in Sony's latest Spidey sequel, "The Amazing Spider-Man 2." After going missing since "Amazing Spider-Man" #700, Parker is suddenly everywhere. While most readers enjoyed Dan Slott, Ryan Stegman, Humberto Ramos & Giuseppe Camuncoli's "Superior Spider-Man," his return is a welcome one as the most likable hero in the Marvel Universe has been sorely missed.

RELATED: Dan Slott Readies the Return of Peter Parker and "Amazing Spider-Man"

Before "Amazing Spider-Man" #1 goes on sale April 30 and Spidey's next film hits theaters on May 2, Comic Book Resources looks back at Peter Parker's greatest moments, exploring both the triumphs and tragedies that have inspired and built the legend of one of comics' greatest heroes. These are the moments of great power, where one responsible young man made a difference in the lives of others -- and even saved the world -- and those that have changed the series and its hero forever. These are the moments that readers have cherished for decades and have made Peter Parker the Amazing Spider-Man.

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Harry's Salvation

It may have been retconned in recent years, but "Spectacular Spider-Man" #200 by writer J.M. DeMatteis and artist Sal Buscema was designed to be the final Harry Osborn story and the moment of Harry's passing was one of the most heart wrenchingly well executed moments Spider-Man readers have ever witnessed. During what was supposed to be the final battle between Harry and Peter, Goblin Harry drugged Spider-Man and had him dead to rights. Harry planted bombs throughout the building they were fighting in to ensure the Goblin-Spider war would end that day. Peter informs Harry that Harry's son Normie and Mary Jane Watson were both trapped in the building. Harry selflessly rescued the heir to the Osborn legacy and his former girlfriend, a heroic act which put him in a lucid state that led to him venturing back in to save the drugged Peter. When the building exploded, Harry's injuries combined with a debilitating illness left him at death's door. When Peter asked why Harry saved his once hated enemy, Harry replied "Because you're my best friend." Harry died, redeemed in Peter's arms, a moment of quiet dignity that contrasted the decades long animosity between Osborn and Parker. It was a perfectly executed moment of redemption by DeMatteis and a fitting exit for a longtime cast member. Modern fans are lucky they can have Harry Osborn stories of their own, because Harry Osborn once died the perfect death solidifying the eternal friendship between himself and Peter.

Defeating the Superior Spider-Man

RELATED: The Defining Moments that Made Otto Octavius a "Superior" Spider-Man

Marking one of the most polarizing Spider-Man stories of all time, writer Dan Slott dared to remove Peter Parker from the pages of "Spider-Man" and replace him with the villainous Doctor Octopus. Ock, his consciousness now in Peter's body, swears to become a better hero, with Peter unwillingly along for the ride locked in the not so good doctor's subconscious. It was gripping, controversial, funny and innovative, and when it recently came to an end, it was one of Peter's greatest moments. Trapped in Ock's brain with only a few memories left to sustain him, Peter could only stand by and watch while in the real world Ock was busy battling, and losing to, the Green Goblin and his Goblin Nation army. The Goblin kidnapped Ock's new love, diminutive scientist Anna Maria Marconi. Ock knew the Superior Spider-Man didn't possess what was needed to defeat the Goblin and handed the reins back to Peter. Unfortunately, as a ghost in Otto's mind, Peter had lost all of his memories. In one great meta moment, all of Peter's heroic memories came flooding back in, reminding both Peter and his faithful readers of Peter's triumphs, tragedies and history as Spider-Man. In a singular moment of rebirth, Slott defined what makes Spider-Man so spectacular, and it's not death or tragedy or regret -- it's fun. Through Peter retaking the mantle of Spider-Man, fans are reminded that through it all, there is not a more fun fictional character than our hero, the once again Amazing Spider-Man.

Joining the Avengers

For years he was the ultimate loner, but when Spider-Man was included on the roster of Brian Michael Bendis' "New Avengers," a new era of Spider-Man had begun. While the knee jerk response may have been shock and outrage, the initial concept of Spidey as an Avenger was already explored years earlier and the webslinger remained a reserve member in good standing. The difference was that as a New Avenger Peter figured as prominently on the team as longtime Avengers Captain America and Iron Man. Peter added a new dynamic to the team, an everyman and ground floor entry point to the global and even cosmic world of the Avengers. The inclusion of Spider-Man allowed "Avengers" writers to include Spider-Man's fantastic rogues in Avengers lore, and they did so with gusto. Norman Osborn played the part of primary Avengers protagonist for years, providing a constant foil for Spidey and his new team. Spider-Man as an Avenger seemed to be an award for Peter's years of solo struggles, a justification that the world's greatest heroes recognized the humble Peter as an equal. No longer did the usually isolated Peter have to stand alone; the bravest and most storied heroes in the Marvel Universe now had his back. The same fans who swore they would never read an issue of "Avengers" involving Spider-Man are now begging for Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios to make nice so Spider-Man can be part of the cinematic "Avengers." He may have started his heroic journey alone, but when Peter joined the Avengers, he truly became one of Earth's Mightiest Heroes.

Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut

While the story lasted a mere two issues, they were two issues that perfectly summarized everything about Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man. In "Amazing Spider-Man" #229–230, written by Roger Stern, one of the greatest writers to ever script the wall-crawler's stories, with art by John Romita, Jr., Spider-Man took on the one foe he could not hope to defeat. Prior to this story, fans had witnessed the unstoppable Juggernaut taking on the X-Men time and time again. It took Charles Xavier's entire team to so much as slow the Juggernaut down, and in some cases that wasn't even enough. Yet here was Peter Parker, alone, overpowered, beaten, frightened and outgunned in every conceivable way. Hanging in the balance was the life of one old woman Peter barley knew, the precognitive Madame Web. Peter had no hope of defeating the Juggernaut, yet on he fought. Peter knew that continuing to fight would eventually lead to his death, yet he did not back down. These two issues are perfect examples of what makes Spider-Man such a great hero; his willingness to endure an impossible beating in order to do what is right. Stern and Romita really gave the reader a sense of Peter as the ultimate underdog, a hero that fights with his heart even when his head tells him to retreat. Eventually, in true Spider-Man fashion, Peter used his greatest weapon, his mind, to defeat the Juggernaut. He didn't do it for gratitude or a monetary reward; he did it to protect one elderly stranger who reminded him of the woman who raised him and, more importantly, he did it because that's what heroes do. These issues showcase what makes Spider-Man so great: his tenacity, his guts and his willingness to keep fighting when all hope is lost.

Rising from the Grave

One of Spider-Man's greatest near defeats has also become one of his finest and most enduring moments. In 1987, Marvel published a storyline called "Fearful Symmetry," a classic tale that came to be known by the name "Kraven's Last Hunt." Writer J. M. DeMatteis and penciller Mike Zeck's story begins with the unthinkable: Spider-Man being shot point-blank by longtime foe Kraven the Hunter and buried deep underground in a profane funeral service. In his need to be the ultimate alpha male, Kraven then impersonates Spider-Man and brutally beats criminals as part of his ruse. He even violently defeats the monster known as Vermin, a foe whom Spider-Man once needed Captain America's help to defeat. By his absence, Spider-Man was proven to be a great hero as readers got to witness what would happen if a lesser man than Peter wielded the mantle of Spider-Man, the selfish and brutal violence that would follow if Spider-Man did not have Peter's heart. But the greatest moment was when Peter Parker, buried for so long, punched through the packed soil of his grave, screaming for "Mary Jane!", his new bride. Kraven buried Spider-Man so soon after his marriage to Mary Jane Watson that he was robbed of those early days of marital bliss. Spidey's costumed hand bursting from the ground still resonates, a perfect moment that represents Peter's strength and endurance, his unwillingness to stay defeated if there are people he can help. Peter was greatly affected by the ordeal, but he wasn't darkened; he stayed the same light hearted Peter while Kraven, forever alone and with nothing left to accomplish, shot himself with a hunting rifle. It was the darkest Spidey tale ever told, but the image of Peter rising from the grave remains one of the most poignant moments of Spidey's storied career.

The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man

"Amazing Spider-Man" #248, "The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man" by Roger Stern and Ron Frenz, wasn't the loudest "Spider-Man" story, but it was one of the best. A brave young man named Timmy fought a battle greater than any super hero had ever fought. Timmy had a terminal illness, but he kept fighting in part because he was the kid who collected Spider-Man; in other words, Spider-Man's biggest fan. Imagine the boy's delight when Spider-Man himself paid Timmy a visit, giving Spidey's biggest fan the night of his young life. Spider-Man fought many battles in his great career -- gangsters, monsters, the Sinister Six, multiple evil symbiotes and even gods -- and made a career of selflessness, willing to battle for what was right no matter what the cost. Yet, Spider-Man's most selfless act was unmasking for Timmy, to make the little boy who battled just as hard as Spider-Man privy to his greatest secret. It was a moment that still makes the tears flow even in the most hardened readers and which proves that Spider-Man can stir emotions without ever throwing a punch. The climax to "The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man" remains the greatest testament to Spider-Man's heart since Lee and Ditko introduced the character in the pages of "Amazing Fantasy."

Hitting the Jackpot

"Amazing Spider-Man" #42 was a very cool if not very memorable comic by Stan Lee and John Romita, Sr. It saw Spider-Man take on the suddenly super-powered son of J. Jonah Jameson, a typical series of misunderstandings and plot twists occur and things wrap up pretty cleanly. It was the usual solid effort from Romita and Lee, but what happened at the end of the otherwise fun but forgettable story puts it among the greatest Peter Parker moments. Since the Steve Ditko-drawn "Amazing Spider-Man" #25, there had been a running gag of Aunt May trying to introduce Peter to her best friend's niece, Mary Jane Watson. Trying to avoid the situation (and believing Mary Jane to be a train wreck), Peter dodges the blind date at all costs before finally getting cornered by his doting Aunt upon returning home. This marked the reveal of Mary Jane Watson in all her John Romita, Sr. glory for the first time. Before Romita drew "Amazing Spider-Man," he cut his artistic teeth on romance comics and knew exactly how to depict beautiful women. Mary Jane was his masterpiece and the reveal, with M.J. saying her immortal line, "Face it Tiger, you just hit the jackpot!", became one of the most legendary moments and panels in Marvel Comics history. Following that last page reveal, Mary Jane has become, arguably, the most important supporting character in comics and Spider-Man's one true love. Over the years, Mary Jane became a fully realized character with depth rarely seen by a remember of a solo title's supporting cast. She has gone from vapid party lover to a symbol of strength in Peter's life and it all started with that one brilliant panel of a gorgeous red head with a billion-dollar smile that made Peter Parker and plenty of fans all fall in love.

Lifting the Rubble

Just how seriously does Spider-Man take his responsibility to his loved ones? Look no further than "Amazing Spider-Man" #33 by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. The issue was part of a story arc featuring the villainous Master Planner, who turned out to be Doctor Octopus, though the struggle with Ock was secondary to some of the other events that played out in the arc. The first part of this immortal storyline featured the introduction of both Gwen Stacy and Harry Osborn, who would both play pivotal roles in Peter Parker and Spider-Man's life, but even their debuts take a back seat to Peter's vast feat of inner strength. Buried under tons of rubble in the Master Planner's undersea base, Spider-Man finds the will to lift an unknowable amount of weight off his back in order to escape and fight another day. This was no everyday instance of Superman easily snapping chains; this was a man doing the impossible empowered only by the desire to help his loved ones. As Peter was buried, the Ditko-drawn faces of Aunt May and Uncle Ben were floating before him; Spidey drew strength from their presence and the lessons they taught him and found the will to stand. That's what Spider-Man does -- he stands up. No matter the weight or the pain, he stands, and that's why Spidey has won over generation after generation of fans. Aunt May was very ill at the time and needed her nephew, and not even tons of immovable rubble could stand between him and his responsibility to the woman who raised him.

The Death of Gwen Stacy

Meeting Mary Jane Watson changed Peter Parker's life for the better, and the death of Gwen Stacy was the complete antithesis of it. "Amazing Spider-Man" #121-122 by Gerry Conway and Gil Kane not only shockingly ended the life of Gwen Stacy, Peter Parker's fist great love, but the classic comic also effectively ended the Silver Age of comics. Before the Green Goblin pitched the innocent Gwen Stacy off the Brooklyn Bridge (oddly called the George Washington Bridge in the issue's), comics only dabbled in the illusion of change. By issue's end, everything would always return to the status quo, but following the death of Gwen Stacy comics had an anything goes feel and left readers with the impression that even the most sacred of idols could be dispatched with no warning. When Gwen Stacy died, she took innocence with her. Gwen's death added another layer of responsibility to Peter Parker's heroic mission; he now bears responsibility for both his Uncle Ben's demise and that of his lost love. The incident on the bridge also made Norman Osborn one of the most reviled villains in Marvel history, paced perfectly by Conway and Kane with readers' hearts stopping as Gwen is thrown from the bridge, followed by a beat where they feel a sense of relief as Spider-Man seemingly saves her life with an expertly delivered web line -- at least until they notice the tiny but all-important "snap" that left Gwen's neck was broken. Everything changed as the beautiful, brilliant and vibrant love of Peter's young life was no more, Gwen's lifeless body cradled in Peter's arms. The moment hurt and defined a generation of comic readers, and soon, it could define a generation of film goers as well, if "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" could possibly revisit this shocking moment.

The Death of Uncle Ben

While Uncle Ben's death and the lasting lesson is taught Peter may seem obvious in hindsight, there was a time before Stan Lee and Steve Ditko taught Peter Parker anything about power and responsibility. Before Spider-Man, super heroes were passive viewers of their own tragic origins. Superman was a baby when Krypton was destroyed, exerting had no control over his fate; Bruce Wayne was a helpless victim of a violent crime as a child, unable to stop the mugger who gunned down both his parents. Peter Parker played an active role in his origin. By now most know the story: a burglar Peter refused to stop murdered the good and kind man who had sacrificed so much for his orphaned nephew. "Amazing Fantasy" #15's ending was part gut punch, part "Twilight Zone" and its DNA can be felt in each and every "Spider-Man" story that has followed. Not a single story, a single battle or a single moment goes by that does not point to that origin and the moment where Peter sees the face of the man he could have stopped. An overwhelming tragedy brought about by the hubris of a young man gifted with great powers is almost Shakespearean in scope, teaching Peter that "with great power comes great responsibility," a mantra that has come to define Spider-Man as a hero of almost mythic proportions. The lesson resonated not only with Peter, but also with fans, as it was rare to see a cover feature in one of Marvel's anthology series graduate to their own book. Spider-Man made the improbably leap, and in doing so became one of the most legendary heroes in comics.

TAGS:  marvel comics, spider-man, amazing spider-man, superior spider-man, peter parker

 
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