Jul 1, 2010

The Five Most Important Spider-Man Moments

Welcome to the fourth installment in our Spider-Man Week! Today, we list the five most important Spider-Man moments in history. These are five moments that really made its mark on Spider-Man history, to the point that they're still being homaged/referenced today. Ready? Let's go!

5. The Green Goblin unmasks Spider-Man

In Amazing Spider-Man #39, the first issue by Jazzy John Romita, the Green Goblin is finally unmasked as Norman Osborn, but not before Norman unmasks Peter Parker as the spectacular Spider-Man! This particular cover has been homaged several times in Spider-Man history, and it's also the starting point for Norman Osborn as being quite probably Spider-Man's greatest villain. In fact, he's the only Spider-Man villain that's been at the center point of the Marvel Universe, headlining the Dark Reign companywide storyline that just recently ended.

It's worth noting that the reason that this is the first issue done by John Romita is because Steve Ditko and Stan Lee couldn't agree about who the Green Goblin should be. Stan wanted someone that the audience was familiar with, but Steve wanted a complete unknown. For what it's worth, I think Stan was absolutely right, except I do think that with using Norman Osborn, he was going for a compromise. Although Harry Osborn had already been introduced in Amazing Spider-Man, this was actually Norman's first appearance as Norman Osborn!

4. "Face it, Tiger, you just hit the jackpot!"

For years, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko had run a subplot in which Aunt May tried introducing Peter Parker to her best friend's niece, Mary Jane Watson. And for years, it was delayed, as something had kept coming up, whether it was an illness or a prior commitment. But when John Romita took over the artistic chores, because of his background in romance comics, Mary Jane Watson was introduced by his fourth issue, in what was a classic moment. Proclaiming that Peter had "just hit the jackpot," Mary Jane made an immediate impact, and would go on to become one of Peter Parker's two most significant significant others. Depending on which continuity you subscribe to, Peter and Mary Jane eventually did or did not marry. But no one can deny that MJ is Peter's most well-known lady love, as she's been in the movies and two cartoons. This particular moment was homaged in both the 1990s Spider-Man animated series and the recent Spectacular Spider-Man animated series as well!

Fresh from Spider-Man: Blue, here's Tim Sale's version of the event:

3. Spider-Man finds the burglar that killed Uncle Ben

You can't tell the story of the wallcrawler without talking about the irony and tragedy of his origin. Virtually everyone knows it by now, but in case you've never been exposed to anything involving Spider-Man before, basically, he let a burglar escape (one that he could have easily tripped - he didn't even need to use his powers), and soon afterward, his uncle got shot and killed. He tracked the murderer down to an abandoned warehouse, where he found:

This classic moment from a classic story by the classic team of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko is Spider-Man's defining moment, and the moment that taught him that with great power comes great responsibility. This revelatory moment has been reproduced in some way, shape, or form, in practically every version of Spider-Man, including the movies and the cartoons. Here's Mark Bagley's version, from Ultimate Spider-Man:

I think that some versions try to up the ante by making Peter's lack of action toward the crook more deliberate. In the original version, it was driven just out of indifference, but in the movie and in Ultimate Spider-Man, it's driven out of spite. I feel that it actually dilutes the message. The original version teaches him that you can't be indifferent; the other two are more teaching him that he can't do things out of spite.

In any event, here's Erik Larsen on Marvel Team-Up #50 having fun with the classic moment:

2. Spider-Man lifts a whole load of stuff

This is the greatest Spider-Man moment on this list. It may well be the greatest Spider-Man moment on any other list. In fact, Comic Book Resources named this moment as its first in its year of Cool Comic Book Moments. (And I get the next few images from them.)

It's also the most obvious example of Steve Ditko's writing capacity, because he plotted this entire scene, broke it down, laid it out, paced it, drew it, and then sent it to Stan Lee for the dialogue (which, if anything, was more detrimental to this scene than anything). In the opening of Amazing Spider-Man #33, Peter Parker was trapped under a ton of machinery, and he couldn't get out. Calling on his immense willpower, Spider-Man finds it in himself to push his spider-strength to the limit, and lift everything off of him (which wipes him out completely).

By changing the size and frequency of the panels per page, Ditko masterfully heightens the intensity of the situation and pulls off what is quite probably the most classic Spider-Man moment of all time. In the documentary In Search of Steve Ditko, Neil Gaiman called it one of the top two or three superhero moments of all time. Homages include renditions by Alex Saviuk:

Mark Bagley:

Marcos Martin:

And this entire storyline - particularly this moment - was even adapted in the Spectacular Spider-Man animated series!

1. Gwen Stacy dies

There almost certainly isn't a moment in Spider-Man history that has had more impact on Spider-Man history than this.

In Amazing Spider-Man #121 by Gerry Conway and Gil Kane, Norman Osborn remembers that he's the Green Goblin and proceeds to kidnap Gwen Stacy, toss her off a bridge, and kill her.

The moment is so significant in Spider-Man's history that it's still being felt today. At the time, people thought that Gwen Stacy was Peter's Lois Lane - the girl he would spend the rest of his life with. So when Gwen died, people couldn't believe it.

Gwen's death kicked off much in the way of character development. It was the start of Mary Jane's evolution from happy-go-lucky party animal to the woman who would eventually become Peter's wife. It was the catalyst for what would be the Clone Saga. It was the capstone for the Green Goblin's claim to being the greatest Spider-Man villain, and even if he would "die" and disappear until 1996, his presence was felt in other ways, including Harry Osborn taking up the mantle of the Green Goblin. The bridge itself would become an important setting in the Spider-Man mythos, being referred to time and time again.

And Peter would continually remember the death of Gwen Stacy as the single worst moment of his life. In fact, the entirety of Spider-Man: Blue by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale is based on what happened between Gwen Stacy and Peter Parker.

This moment has been homaged so many times - including in the movie, where Norman threw Mary Jane off the bridge. And in Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross's landmark Marvels miniseries, which chronicled the history of the Marvel Universe up to a certain point, Gwen Stacy's death was that "certain point" - an effective argument about this moment being the official end of the Silver Age.

Well, that's that! I'm sure something can and probably should be said for the fact that the most significant Spider-Man moments ever all came before 1973 and that four of them involved Stan Lee, but that doesn't stop good stories from being told, since in comics, "important" isn't always synonymous with "good" (although in this case, they are).

Agree? Disagree? Let me know!

Check back tomorrow for the five most important Spider-Man writers of all time!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a great resource!

Post a Comment

All comments on The Comics Cube need approval (mostly because of spam) and no anonymous comments are allowed. Please leave your name if you wish to leave a comment. Thanks!

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.