Top Ten Spider-Man Battles (Part I)
(EDITOR’S NOTE: It’s never too late for a first! Longbox Graveyard may be ninety-two issues old but this week sees our very first guest column. Mark Ginocchio is author of the Chasing Amazing blog, where he recounts his quest to own every issue of Amazing Spider-Man and — most importantly — reflects on what each of those issues has meant to him throughout his life. Chasing Amazing is a unique and heartfelt blog and bound to be of interest to readers of Longbox Graveyard — check it out! Fan as I am of his work, it didn’t take me long to jump on Mark’s offer to provide guest content for Longbox Graveyard. In this week’s article, Mark begins his countdown of his Top Ten Spider-Man battles! Take it away, Mark!)
Spider-Man (a somewhat neglected superhero here at the Longbox Graveyard) has never been known for his abilities in combat, and yet the character still has been the star of a number of memorable confrontations over the years. One thing that I’ve always found amusing is how various Marvel creative teams have always set up a conflict for Spider-Man by basically admitting he’s not as tough as the Hulk, Captain America, The Thing or Thor, and yet the Web Slinger has still been able to overcome these terrible odds enough times that you would think someone should finally give him the credit he deserves.
These 10 confrontations are personal favorites from my 25-plus years of reading and collecting Spider-Man (which you can read all about over at my blog, Chasing Amazing – plug, plug). If a random person who has never heard of superheroes came up to me and asked what was so awesome about Spider-Man, I would point this nefarious stranger to this list because I believe each battle reveals critical elements that have gone on to contribute to Spidey’s massive popularity over the years (but still not popular enough to make Longbox Graveyard’s Top 10 Marvel list – sorry still bitter about that).
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Let’s kick the first part of this list off with Spider-Man taking on another superhero’s arch nemesis:
10. Spider-Man vs Red Skull (Amazing Spider-Man Annual #5)
One of the longest-running mysteries during the Silver Age of Spider-Man was whatever happened to Peter Parker’s parents. In Amazing Spider-Man Annual #5, we discover that Peter’s parents were both international spies who had betrayed the United States before dying in a plane crash over Europe. A dismayed Peter flies overseas to confront his past and finds out that his parents were set-up by the Red Skull. Peter’s actual confrontation with Captain America’s greatest foe is fairly rigorous – a couple of henchman, some lasers and some Red Skull bombs are his biggest obstacles. But it’s the conclusion to this battle that is very emotionally satisfying. The Skull escapes during the battle while his headquarters burns to the ground. But the flames partially melt the I.D. card of Peter’s father, Richard, revealing a U.S. intelligence card underneath and clearing his name of treason. Despite the parental love he received from his Aunt May and Uncle Ben, Peter can finally be at peace with his past thanks to his victory against the Red Skull.
9. Spider-Man vs Firelord (Amazing Spider-Man #269-270)
Galactus’ herald discovers the hard way that Spider-Man packs a wallop. What I’ve actually always enjoyed about this two-issue arc is how Spider-Man ultimately succeeds by not doubting his physical strength and taking the fight straight to his rival. Throughout these two issues, Firelord torments Spidey and various innocent people around New York City, and the hero’s initial response is to pussyfoot around the confrontation through insults and distractions. Spider-Man tries tricking Firelord into flying into an abandoned building that’s about to explode, an oncoming subway train, and a gasoline tanker. And in each instance, Spidey becomes increasingly frustrated with himself for endangering innocents during his futile attempts to subdue Firelord. That’s why Spidey basically says “screw it,” starts wailing on Firelord and beats him to a pulp before the Avengers finally join the scene and peel him back. It’s a moment that’s so bad-ass, it makes me say “if you come at the Web Slinger, you best not miss.”
8. Spider-Man vs Thanos (Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2)
FINALLY, a battle not from the pages of the Amazing Spider-Man (seriously, what’s wrong with me?). But in all seriousness, Spidey’s first confrontation with the Mad Titan Thanos is a great one, albeit one that’s more familiar in tone and construction to some of the others that will appear higher on this list. With Thanos bent on taking over the world (again) and the Avengers imprisoned in a state of suspended animation, Spidey and The Thing are there to save the day. Until Thanos takes out Thing pretty quickly, leaving only Spider-Man to save the galaxy. That’s when things get a little weird – Spidey is so intimidated by his odds of success against Thanos, he’s ready to web sling out of town and just let it be The Avengers problem. That’s reminiscent of how Peter Parker/Spider-Man would operate BEFORE the death of Uncle Ben taught him about responsibility, and I wonder if Jim Starlin’s lack of familiarity in writing Spidey helped foster this somewhat unnerving moment. Fortunately, Spider-Man wises up and uses his intellect and his uncanny ability to wreck his own body to save the day, throwing himself onto the case holding the Avengers, thus freeing them, and then lunging like an overthrown wide receiver to destroy the Soul Gem and bring Adam Warlock to the scene. Warlock encases Thanos in stone, but who cares because Spidey did all the dirty work, right?
7. Spider-Man vs the Sinister Six (Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1)
This is Spidey versus the ORIGINAL Sinister Six, his six greatest foes (in early 60s speak) consisting of Mysterio, Electro, Kraven the Hunter, Vulture, Sandman and Doctor Octopus (the leader, of course). The stakes for this confrontation were obviously higher than they’ve ever been before – Spidey has had a hard enough time subduing these six Stan Lee/Steve Ditko creations individually, so how can he beat all six? On top of that, Peter has seemingly lost his Spider powers! The Sinister Six kidnap “the Brant girl” Betty Brant, who Spidey has rescued in the past and some old lady who was hanging out with her (Aunt May). This brings Spidey out into battle, despite not having his power. Of course, the powers magically reappear once his first opponent, Electro, engages him. I always subtract points for the Bond-villain level stupidity in the Sinister Six’s plan to attack Spidey one-at-a-time, rather than six-on-one in a fashion that probably would have guaranteed them victory (even Spidey says it’s stupid). But either way, each encounter presents Spidey with a unique challenge, and we all get to see how versatile of a hero he can be. Plus this appearance cements Doc Ock as Spidey’s arch-nemesis, while also confirming his ridiculous hubris that currently defines the pages of the Superior Spider-Man.
6. Spider-Man vs Mysterio (Amazing Spider-Man #66-67)
I have long maintained that Mysterio is such an underrated villain in not only the world of Spider-Man, but the entire Marvel Universe. What he lacks in physical prowess, he makes up in spades in the ability to mentally disarm his adversaries. After some earlier unsuccessful confrontations with Spider-Man, Mysterio cooks up a scheme in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man #66-67 that I still believe is his masterstroke. Through his powers of special effects and mind alteration, Mysterio convinces Spider-Man that he has shrunk him down to miniature-size and placed him inside a gigantic killer theme park filled with traps and monsters. It’s such a wholly unique setting for a Spider-Man comic, and because Mysterio is a villain that deals so expertly with slight-of-hand, as a reader, we don’t have to suspend disbelief to the extent that we need to accept that Spider-Man is now Mini-Spidey. Rather, the tension is in watching Spider-Man trying to figure this all out for himself. Additionally, this is around the point where Stan Lee and John Romita Sr. were really pushing the love/social life on Peter. And waiting for him once he found a way to escape Mysterio’s death trap was a pretty little blonde named Gwen Stacy. If you’re not pulling for Spidey to prevail here, dare I say, you don’t believe in love!
(Mark will return in April to round out his list of Spider-Man’s top battles. In the meantime, please post your reactions to Mark’s preliminary selections in the comments section, below, and be sure to visit Mark’s Chasing Amazing blog, for even more amazing Amazing Spider-Man goodness! Thanks so much, Mark!)
View part two of this list HERE.
NEXT WEDNESDAY: #93 Guardians of the Galaxy
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