Hey, everyone, Spider-Man’s back! Or, more accurately, Peter Parker’s back in his own body, so Spidey’s gonna seem like less of a cocky tool.
Amazing Spider-Man #1 hits stands today, marking a return to status quo brilliantly delayed roughly 18 months by writer Dan Slott, a man who’s spent at least three-plus years masterminding a longform arc that almost – ALMOST – makes you forget about that "One More Day" business.
But that’s the funny thing about Spider-Man, isn’t it? For every story that’s critically praised, there’s one that even more mercilessly panned. For every death of Gwen Stacy’s, there’s Norman Osborn impregnating Stacy at some point in the past and turning the children into monsters. For every Superior Spider-Man, there’s "The Clone Saga." For every "Kraven’s Last Hunt," there’s Kraven’s resurrection. Look ’em up, kids!
So in honor of Spider-Man’s spectacular quality pendulum, let’s do a bit of time-traveling and look at where his books and other assorted media were this time each decade, starting with the presentmost present.
Amazing Spider-Man #1, April 2014
Written by Dan Slott, penciled by Humberto Ramos.
After spending a year and a half as a shell for Doctor Octopus, Peter Parker is back in his own body, and Marvel has an “Amazing” Spider-Man title again. And hey, I’m sure that wasn’t timed to the fact that the second installment in Marc Webb’s Amazing Spider-Man film franchise is set to bow next month, giving Marvel an accessible jumping-on point for new readers. It’s probably only a coincidence that the villain of the book is Electro, who also happens to be in the movie. Or that the movie will be out the weekend of Free Comic Book Day. You’d have to believe in Da Vinci Code-style conspiracies to tie all that together! All kidding aside, it’s a good time to be Spider-Man. In addition to the newly relaunched comic and the ongoing film franchise, there’s also the highly enjoyable Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon on Disney XD, in which Drake Bell voices Spider-Man as a SHIELD trainee alongside Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Nova, White Tiger and Agent Coulson as himself.
Amazing Spider-Man #504, April 2004
Written by Fiona Avery and J. Michael Straczinski, penciled by John Romita Jr.
Spidey teams up with a pre-he's-so-hot-right-now Loki to save Loki's daughter from Morwen, a mystical being whose first appearance was that issue. This was the same year Spider-Man 2 bowed in theaters, starring Alfred Molina as Dr. Octopus, generally considered the best installment of Sam Raimi’s Spider-trilogy. There was no Spider-Man cartoon airing during this time, though “Spider-Man: The New Animated Series” had aired the year before on MTV starring the vocal talents of Neil Patrick Harris as Spider-Man, Lisa Loeb as Mary Jane Watson and Ian Ziering as Harry Osborn.
Amazing Spider-Man #388, April 1994
Written by David Michelinie, Penciled by Mark Bagley.
Peter Parker finds out his long-lost parents, Richard and Mary Parker, who’d claimed to have been held prisoner overseas for years, were actually robots serving the Chameleon, who at the time was working with the Vulture, who himself was in the middle of a big “I’m gonna make myself young and stay that way” kick. (Interesting to note that the Chameleon and Vulture are the first two villains Spidey had ever faced, if you don’t count the guy who killed Uncle Ben.) And if you thought that was a weird storyline, a little something called "The Clone Saga" was but months away. The mystery surrounding Parker’s parents has played a key role in Webb’s Spider-movies. Fox’s Spider-Man cartoon aired that fall and would run for three years and change in an animation block that included X-Men for a one-two Marvel punch. Among the most high-profile members of its voice cast were Ed Asner as J. Jonah Jameson, Hank Azaria as Venom and Mark Hamill as the Hobgoblin (which wasn’t too far a stretch from his Joker on Batman: The Animated Series).
Amazing Spider-Man #251, April 1984.
Written by Roger Stern and Tom DeFalco, penciled by Ron Frenz.
The end of a three-issue story featuring the original Hobgoblin, arguably Spidey's hottest ’80s villain, pre-Venom. It also marks a handoff of writing duties from Stern to DeFalco. Stern had not revealed Hobby's identity during his run, so the task eventually fell to Peter David, who revealed it to be Ned Leeds, who was killed, to be replaced by Jason Macendale. Not willing to leave well enough alone, Stern would retcon the whole thing in 1997 with the Scooby-Doo ending. A month later, in issue 252, Spidey would begin wearing the black costume he acquired during the Secret Wars. This was also a year after the cartoon Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends ended its two-year run, in which the titular hero was teamed with X-Man Iceman and created-for-the-show character Firestar, who would go on in the comics to become a Hellion, a New Warrior, an Avenger and, as of a few months ago, an X-Man. There was also an adorable dog.
Amazing Spider-Man #131, April 1974
Written by Gerry Conway, penciled by Ross Andru.
That classic storyline in which Doctor Octopus attempts to marry Aunt May, who has inherited a private Canadian island rich in uranium, because those sorts of things should be gifted to frail old ladies who have made a career out of being on death’s door. The wedding, of course, never happens, and Doc Ock and Hammerhead end up presumed dead in an atomic blast on the island. Decades later, Doc Ock will again try to bond himself to the Parker family, by marrying his brain to Peter Parker’s body. That same year, PBS’ The Electric Company ran the first of three seasons’ worth of live-action shorts called “Spider Super Stories.” Our hero was played by puppeteer and dancer Danny Seagren. He remained in costume the whole time and did not speak, communicating solely via word balloon.
Amazing Spider-Man #11, April 1964
Written by Stan Lee, penciled by Steve Ditko.
Doctor Octopus returns for the first time since debuting in issue 3. This is also the first issue since Uncle Ben’s death that a key player is offed, namely Betty Brant’s brother Bennett. Betty, J. Jonah Jameson’s assistant at The Daily Bugle, was Spider-Man’s first love interest, and seeing as Betty blamed Spider-Man for her brother’s death, this of course threw a wrench in their relationship. At this point, Spider-Man the intellectual property was less than 2 years old. His first cartoon, the one with the catchy theme song, did not debut until 1967.