Spider-Man: Where Do I Start?

Although everyone knows who Spider-Man is to some extent, getting to the heart of the character in his home medium of comics is somewhat troublesome. With numerous ongoing series, one-shots, limited series and countless collections on shelves, it can be a daunting task to know the right place to start (one hint: no Clone Saga). To help the new reader induct themselves in the web-crawlin’ world of the webslinger, we’ve collected five essential stories that evoke the best of Peter Parker without getting bogged down in the details.

Ultimate Spider-Man, Ultimate Collection Vol. 1: Although Spider-Man’s origin has been ingrained in the public’s consiousness from numerous cartoon series and the first Sam Raimi film in 2003, Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley do it one better in this now-classic retelling. Bagley and Bendis became the quintessential Spider-Man comic creators of modern times with these issues, and once you read them you’ll know why. There have been numerous collections of this arc, but this edition gets your money’s worth with 13 issues for only $24.99

Spider-Man: Death of the Stacys: Spider-Man’s mantra of “with great power comes great responsibility”, and came into being after Peter saw Uncle Ben murdered due to poor actions by Peter. It seems death is a constant part of Parker’s life, pushing him to his limits but also teaching him valuable lessons. This hardcover volume brings out the death of Spider-Man’s first love Gwen Stacy and police captain father, and truly transitions Peter from the happy-go-lucky super-hero into a more mature force for good. Writers Stan Lee, Gerry Conway and artists John Romita and Gil Kane show some of the finest super-hero melodrama in these stories, and they’ve left an indelible mark on all Spidey stories since.

Amazing Spider-Man, Vol. 1: Although coming on fifty years old, Spider-Man first stories are one of the few of classic characters that have stood the test of time. Stan Lee and Steve Ditko were at the top of their game here, working on what would become the comic medium’s most beloved underdog. The duo tell it all in concise storytelling that still lives room for flair on both creators part.

Amazing Spider-Man by JMS Ultimate Collection, Vol. 1: We’ve all seen young Peter Parker — but what about Parker growing up? This collection shows Peter coming to terms with the life of a super-powered person, from getting a job to growing up. While some of the totemic mythology introduced here is worth forgetting about, all in all it’s a strong collection targeting Spider-Man’s second act in life. Although the title focuses on writer J. Michael Straczynski, the real attraction in this story is the phenomenal artwork of John Romita Jr. Carrying on a legacy with Spider-Man that his father began 30 years prior, Romita reached the peak of his abilities drawing Spider-man, Mary Jane, Aunt May, and the extended cast of Parker’s life here.

Spider-Man: The 10 Greatest Spider-Man Stories Ever: This is the book out of the lot, but that doesn’t mean its worth missing. This publication, released by Marvel in conjunction with Wizard, collects some of the greatest short stories in Peter Parker’s history under one roof. Top on the list is Roger Stern & Ron Frenz’ “The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man”, joined by “Nothing Can Stop The Juggernaut” and “The Death of Jean DeWolff”. One stickler about this — although the cover promises 10 stories,it only includes five — this was the first of a two-part volume.


  1. I would say everything from Brand New Day on is a great starting point. Even Gauntlet is a great starting point. JMS Amazing Spider-Man is pretty atrocious.

  2. I second the recommendation of classic Lee/Ditko Spidey. Totally timeless stories and the art is absolutely perfect. One of my favorite comic stories of all time is The Master Planner Saga from that run.

  3. Great choices, I have all of these in tpb or the actual comics and they are all very good reads.  If you were only going to stick with 616 and take out Ultimate I would replace it either with “Kraven’s Last Hunt” or “Spider-man: Birth of Venom”.  “Kraven’s Last Hunt” is just a great Spider-man story and “Birth of Venom” has the important stories from the symbiote costume and the orgin of Venom.

  4. Great list!  There are so many choices with Spider-Man.  I would suggest picking up all of the volumes of Marvel Masterworks Amazing Spider-Man.  I’m on vol.8 right now, and loving every story.  You gain a new perspective on every character (supporting, villian, guest) as they make their way into Spidey’s mythology.   I also never realized just how intensely Gwen and Mary Jane competed for young Mr. Parker’s affections.

    And, you really need to have a collection highlighting Ross Andru’s art.  What a great follow up to Ditko and Romita, Sr. 

  5. mostly due to this site and some recent articles and conversations i decided to take the plunge and go through the entire run of Ultimate Spiderman in trades starting at #1. I tracked a lot down through the library and i’m about 60 issues in. What an amazing series! I’d even venture to say its “the perfect comic”. 

  6. The list is ok, but i would think people would already know to pick up Vol.1 of something they want to start reading. The list needs a few obscure titles such as reign or blue

  7. Todd mcfarlane david mciline run from the 90s.

  8. @nastysnow I second that recommendation, especially since an omnibus collectng the first 35 issues of of that run is coming in September.

    also, Big Time isn’t a terrible place to start either, espeically if a reader wants to be caught up on current events.

  9. My way of getting back into Spider-Man was choosing from the post Brand New Day trades based on the creative teams.
    It would’ve been great to put Ultimate Spider-Man #160 as a jumping on point. Tee hee.

  10. @endigo already have it on my wish list

  11. whatever you do avoid the clone story line, I use to collect every Spiderman title and that was the story line the made me quit collecting comics till just recently.

  12. I just started reading Spider-Man recently with Big Time #648. Very easy to understand and no previous knowledge required imo.

  13. Torment was a beautifully drawn,inked and colored run and written by Todd McFarlane, self titled Spiderman with some great guest stars and classic villains in great portrayal, love that Hobgoblin cover on #6 I believe. I 2nd Jeph Loeb and Tim Sales Spiderman: Blue, stand alone stories can be great for new readers to gain insight and start to love a character. 1st couple volumes of Gauntlet too for sure but might well close out the story if you start it, I only have 1st two so can’t speak for the rest but love hot the art fluctuates back and forth from a very Ditko like throwback style w him more red n black than blue n black, smaller eyes and hardly any shading, very classic contemporary, then we also get the modern bigger eyes, in crazy positions Spidey. It was fun to go back and forth. And also I’d like to recommend (and I know a lot of ppl hated it but as a long time Spidey fan and it being a big relationship factor driven story) loved it and those four issues have beautiful covers. It gives some insight to some personal events in Petes life that might give a new reader some perspective without needing to read a mess of various older material to know whats being referenced.               

  14. i really just want to know where do i start with these where do i start articles

  15. When a character has such a long history and so many bright points over the years it has to be very difficult to choose where to start. This is a really good list for people looking for an introduction to Spider-Man. Bravo!

  16. You really suggested the JMS run over Kraven’s Last Hunt? Why not put Sin’s Past in there as well.

  17. Kraven’s Last Hunt is the best Spidey story ever.  Also, Best of Enemies’ power is maximum.

  18. @Tork  Beat me to it. Also BIRTH OF VENOM TPB!!!

  19. Spiderman is an odd one in that he’s in the pantheon of greats but he doesn’t have the big stories to back it up.  There are not really any Dark Knight Returns/ Year One/ Killing Joke style landmarks.  Most really good Spidey stories happen incidentally within runs and so are difficult to track down.  The big writers at the top of their game don’t really take on Spiderman.  I wonder why.

  20. Spider-man 500 is still the best ‘landmark’ issue I ever read.