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Top Ten Spider-Man Battles (Part I)

Longbox Graveyard #92

(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 Graveyardcheck 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!)

Chasing Amazing

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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You Might Also Like: Top 10 Spider-Man Battles (Part II) 

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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)

Spider-Man vs. Red Skull

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)

Spider-Man vs. Firelord

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)

Spider-Man vs. Thanos

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)

Spider-Man vs. The Sinister Six

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

LONGBOX GRAVEYARD TOP TEN LISTS

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About markginocchio

Mark is the co-host of the Superior Spider-Talk podcast and the founder/editor of the Chasing Amazing blog.

Posted on March 20, 2013, in Lists! and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 49 Comments.

  1. I like that in the Red Skull panel Spidey says “I couldn’t care less” rather than “I could care less”. One of my pet peeves.

    As far as Spidey chickening out versus Thanos, he seemed to come close to that when he “joined” the Avengers for a couple of issues in 1990 and got tangled in a cosmic battle. Some writers seem to want to remind us that Spidey doesn’t belong on the cosmic scene, but rather at the “street level”.

    Why did the Sinister Six bother to team up if they’re going to take on Spidey one at a time? Strange, but it does look like a great issue nonetheless.

    When I hear “spider-Man’s greatest battles” the first two that jump into mind are the Firelord battle and the battle versus Ju….well, maybe I’ll just wait and see if that second one shows up in the next post.

    Like

  2. Hey, thanks for sourcing my blog (talkincomics).

    Great article you have here. It’s sad what they did with the memory of Peter’s parents with the terrible LMD story in the early 90s, because I really enjoyed the finale of that Red Skull battle.

    And yes Spidey’s rogues are pretty stupid most of the time.

    Like

    • Glad that link led you to Longbox Graveyard, Roman! I knew those links that WordPress suggests were worth something!

      And since we’re calling out Spidey’s villains for lack of imagination, I’m going to raise my hand in support of Mysterio, who is profiled here and is my favorite Spidey foe — mostly because I dig that Ditko bubble helmet, but also because he’s (usually) a pretty brainy bad guy. But, yeah, when your Rogues’ Gallery includes meatheads like The Lizard and The Rhino it is going to drop the collective IQ a point or two.

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      • Mysterio is awesome. He was extremely menacing in his first few appearances, and Spider-Man had to use a lot more wit and deduction to even figure out his plan.

        On the other hand of the spectrum, we have Tombstone, who once ripped out Darkhawk’s power jewel to use for himself. However, he had no idea how to use it so he went to…a fortune teller. Even then he had no clue what she was saying so he just…tried to go to a scientist at which point Darkhawk caught up to him. Or when he was a complete moron in that Punisher/Nomad/Daredevil Dead Man’s Hand crossover and aggravated a room full of criminal businessmen.

        And let’s not forget Demogoblin possessed Hobgoblin, who was on a “sacred mission” to destroy all “evildoers” to achieve… I don’t even know what.

        None of this trumps Hulk getting beaten senseless by Doc Ock like a helpless school girl in a Spider-Man issue, but I’m going off on a tangent at this point.

        I update my blog daily like a travel log so I hope you stop by at some point.

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        • The Mysterio story from ASM #24 — “Spider-Man Goes Mad” — might be my single favorite Spider-Man story from the Lee/Ditko era. I loved how Mysterio used practical effects (like nailing furniture to the ceiling) to mess with Spidey’s mind, but what I liked even better was seeing how very small a push it took to send Peter (almost) over the edge. It betrayed that this kid was just barely holding it together as-is, even without Mysterio screwing with his head.

          (And now I am off to see your blog!)

          Like

  3. I’ve been a Spider-Man fan since i was a little kid in the early ’70s but the way that Marvel has handled him over the decades has left me with a decidedly bad taste in my mouth. Clones, marriage, revealing his identity, having it all erased, and now this “superior Spider-Man” business, which either have been, or will be, written out of existence anyway, and more, his constant self-pity and self-rightiousness have led to me giving up on the character for the time being. I miss the Spider-man of the 70’s (I can hear the groans), a quasi-outlaw who was only trying to make rent. He was constantly confronted with crazy, goofy, and often lethal opponents in which he used his own wise-cracking sense of humor to deal with the both the absurdity of these situation and his desperate desire to just survive them.
    Long story short, Starlin got it right.

    Like

    • Did Starlin handle Spidey outside of that Two-In-One Annual? I’m a geek for Starlin and could be persuaded to read more Spider-Man if it was through his lens.

      I also like your description of 1970s Spider-Man as a “quasi-outlaw who was only trying to make rent.” Do you have any specific issues in mind for that era? I’m always on the hunt for good numbers to read with my Marvel Digital sub.

      Thanks for the comment!

      Like

    • What’s so funny about this is the 70s (post death of Gwen Stacy) might be my all-time least favorite period for Spider-Man (which may be a column in its own right down the line?). I found the stories to be way too shallow and frivolous. It didn’t pick up some of its intellectual steam again until Roger Stern jumped aboard in the early 80s.

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      • For better or worse, the first issue of ASM I ever read was #136, a continuity-heavy “return of the Green Goblin” story that made me think all the most important things in Spider-Man’s life had already happened, and that I was late to the party. I stuck around through #139 or so but decided I couldn’t see what all the fuss was about and dropped the book … I’d buy the book again later, of course, but the damage was done and Spidey was never of more than tertiary interest for me after that point (leading up to my infamous Top Ten List snub last year!)

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  4. I agree with Roman and m.l.post that Marvel has done some lousy things to Spidey in recent years (or decades). Even worse for me is what they’ve done to the X-Men, which is why most of my Marvel reading stops at about 1990, and I just pretend that anything post 1990 never existed.

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    • As your resident guy-who-lies-in-1978 I make a strange candidate for defending more contemporary comics … so I won’t! But I think you’ll find that this article’s author has a healthy appreciation for somewhat more recent Spider-Man tales when I run his numbers 1-5 picks in a couple weeks.

      Like

    • Everyone kills the Spidey Clone Saga, and rightfully so. But the period immediately preceding it had some strong writing from David Michelinie, along with the can’t miss art of McFarlane/Larsen/Bagley and then JMS revived the title in the early 2000s before editorial decisions dragged it back down again.

      Like

      • I am currently in that era and I find Amazing honestly not that great. It’s not bad, but the LMD subplot is really boring and fruitless. I find Spectacular Spider-Man written by DeMatteis (of Justice League International fame) from the same time period much more interesting and underappreciated.

        Also, around 1991 I didn’t like McFarlane’s art on Spider-Man at all, especially during Torment – a story I find doesn’t hold up in the slightest. He draws people, especially Peter out of costume, policemen, and older citizens way too exaggeratedly. He still does that in Spawn but he gets much better at it. Also at the time of Torment he is – I cannot put this any nicer – extremely poor as a writer. Admittedly he also got better at that. Maybe he was holding back. I can definitely say that about Erik Larsen – there is a gigantic rift of quality between his 1991-92 Spider-Man writing and art and Savage Dragon. It’s like a completely different artist. Peter David even made fun of that whole mess in Incredible Hulk with the ‘petty larceny’ joke.

        Man, those 90s…

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    • I am tracing my way to the present currently and I am in 1993 so I don’t have much of an idea how mid-90s or current X-Men is written exactly but in my humble opinion the absolute worst period so far was during the Inferno crossover in 1988.

      I can’t even believe Claremont would write something that poorly. I know he wasn’t at fault for the whole Madelyne mess, but he did contribute his issues to this and it was just all entirely bad. His Uncanny issues were still way better than Louise Simonson’s New Mutants. That was just unreadable.

      Fortunately, both got better but I’m still mad about Inferno destroying my memories of the Phoenix sagas.

      I’m going to reach Onslaught etc. relatively soon so if you’re interested in my notes on it you are welcome to check out my blog too.

      Like

      • 1990s Marvel is some tough sledding, pal. Send up a flare every now and then so we’ll know whether to send out the cadaver dogs to find you!

        Like

        • Don’t worry. I have Vertigo to keep me warm. The 90s really don’t seem as bad as the impression I had gotten so far. Sure there are some rotten series. I loathe DeFalco’s FF and didn’t care for his Thor or Thunderstrike (ugh) but there are some quality series like Peter David’s Hulk and X-Factor runs or Punisher War Zone or Wolverine drawn by Texeira or Quasar.

          Either I’m not far into the decade yet or too fresh into the hobby to be jaded. But yeah thanks for the heads up!

          Like

  5. These are some cool fights…I loved Spidey pounding the crap out of Firelord when I first read it back in the day…even the Avengers seemed impressed!

    Like

    • Says as much about Firelord as it does about Spidey. I don’t care how unconquerable Spidey’s underdog spirit may be — if Spider-Man can beat a herald of Galactus, you need to revoke that Herald License, no exceptions!

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  6. Based on Firelord’s specs in the Marvel Universe write-up, Spider-Man never should have been able to defeat him the way that he did. The guy crashes through meteors without a scratch. I always regarded that fight as just poorly written.
    What makes the Juggernaut battle so great is that Spidey finds (kind of lucks into) the one way he can slow his unstoppable foe. That is gold-standard Spider-Man, and puts the Firelord nonsense to shame.
    I would suggest the Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man run from #72-#79 with multiple Doc Ock battles. Mantlo/Milgrom did some great work for a while.

    Like

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