[This post first appeared on my Medium site in 2016.]
I was lucky enough when I was 13 to get a copy of The Amazing Spider-Man #500 that was signed by John Romita Jr. It remains my most valuable of all my comics, even though I have others worth a lot more than that. And that’s because it opened my eyes.
Tracking back a few years, I recall going to a car boot sale (like an English garage sale, just in a field with lots of cars), and picking up collected editions of the 90s era Spider-Man. This included the Clone Saga. As this was my first exposure to the web crawler I still have a soft spot for that run, however I know it’s awful.
When I started getting regular issues of Spider-Man it was just as Straczynki and Romita were starting their run (#471 to be exact).
Peter Parker was teaching in the school he went to, and then had to deal with Ezekiel and his wild theories behind his powers, and a pretty good supervillian in Morlun.
The impact of starting here was that this was just after the first Raimi film came out, and even though I had been a Spider-Man fan for years previous (mainly due to the still really good Animated Series that FOX aired in the mid 90s), this was opening up Peter Parker being Spider-Man. He had to deal with these problems head-on with years of experience behind him. Compared with the 2002 film, which had Parker starting off as the Webslinger, the run started by Straczynski and Romita Jr. had Parker attempt to understand where his powers came from, which for me was fascinating.
During their tenure, there were 3 massive events.
One, 9/11. Marvel made the creative decision to have The Amazing Spider-Man #36/477, be the issue which has all the Marvel heroes reflect on the disaster. A truly powerful issue. The image left, barely does it justice.
Second, Aunt May. She finally finds out. ‘The Conversation’ still remains one of the most heartbreaking and reaffirming issues I have ever read.
Third, Happy Birthday. The issues #498-#500 had Parker lost in time due to an epic fight (helping the Fantastic Four) with Dormannu. He had to live through his end, his beginning, and all the moments and fights he has persevered through the years. Dr Strange guides him in this journey, speaking with Spider-Man about the gifts he has given and the sacrifices he has made. All this culminates in two interactions that are very audacious and yet completley convincing and obvious. We have him reunited with Uncle Ben, then after finally finding closure, MJ walks up to him. A simple kiss “Happy Birthday Tiger”.
The detail in John Romita Jr’s art is outstanding. The header image above is fantastically detailed. He makes the wall-crawler look at one in his environments, he has lived in them, make Peter portray that in his stance. I don’t have an art degree so I can’t really go on more, but just have a Google and see that he took up his fathers crown as the best Spider-Man artist and then some.
Simple stories and fantastic art made this run my favourite. The fights with Morlun, Spider-Wasp and Dr Ock were pretty cool, and I like Ezekiel for giving Peter something to consider with his powers; but those 3 events in their run cement it as the best overall.