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  1. #1
    Ultimate Member Mister Mets's Avatar
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    Default Really good Spider-Man stories unusual for the series

    What are some really good Spider-Man stories that are not what you would expect from the series.

    I'm thinking of the latest issue by Spencer and Ottley, which is probably the first time in Spider-Man comics that we saw an issue-long origin story for an alien pet. And it was really good.

    So, what are some good unusual Spider-Man stories/ issues? These are stories that could be strange in the context of superhero comics, or that don't match what we usually see from Spider-Man in particular. With a few tweaks, the latest issue might not be out of place in Green Lantern Corps, or Hawkman.

    Some that come to mind for me...

    Amazing Fantasy #15: Spider-Man being used as a venue from stories that aren't like other superhero comics has been a part of the series' DNA from the very beginning, when Peter Parker was an ordinary teenager who wasn't anyone's sidekick, whose life at school wasn't that great, who used his powers selfishly, and indirectly got someone he loved killed. Clark Kent was seen as a wimp, but it was clear that he was largely putting on an act.

    Amazing Spider-Man #33: There's a few pages of Spider-Man taking on Doc Ock's goons, but this issue is devoted entirely to the aftermath of a battle between Spider-Man and one of his greatest enemies.

    Amazing Spider-Man #246: An issue mainly devoted to the dreams of Spider-Man and his supporting cast, as we learn some of their the secrets they're holding from everyone else.

    Amazing Spider-Man #267: When Spider-Man follows an ordinary criminal to suburbia, where he is very out of place.

    Peter Parker Spider-Man #20-21: Paul Jenkins and Mark Buckingham's first slice of life stories were pretty unusual in the context of Spider-Man comics, paving the way for a key feature of their run and stories that were even bolder (the focus on a private eye investigating Spider-Man's secret identity; the focus on a kid who is inspired by Spider-Man and never actually meets him.)

    Ultimate Spider-Man #1: Bendis and Bagley made the decision to spend a lot of time on Peter Parker before he realized that the spider bite had some consequences. And it worked really well. This was also copied by other origin stories which weren't as successful because the lead isn't as fully realized, and the reader doesn't know that it's Spider-Man.

    Amazing Spider-Man Volume 2 #38/ Ultimate Spider-Man #13: Entire issues devoted to pivotal conversations. And it was great.

    Amazing Spider-Man Volume 4 #32: The story where Norman Osborn considers magic. These villain spotlights have been done in other books, from John Byrne's Doctor Doom spotlight in Fantastic Four to Geoff Johns' Flash run, but this was bold in how it furthered the larger series arc, connected to the wider Marvel Universe, and showed a plausible new direction for the Green Goblin.

    I'm trying to stick to the regular titles, rather than mini-series and anthologies that are meant to allow for more experimentation (unless it's something unusual even in that context) as well as crossovers where every title was affected.

    What comes to mind for you guys?
    Sincerely,
    Thomas Mets

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    Glad that you mentioned The Daydreamers (ASM#246).

    My picks would be

    - ASM#96-98 aka The Drug Trilogy. A three-issue arc focused on a supporting character turning to drugs was certainly quite new for Spider-Man and comics in general. To the extent that people thought that drugs would be done in a Marvel title, I doubt anyone expected it would be Spider-Man. For sake of comparison, the "Speedy is on Heroin story" happened to second tier DC characters (Hal Jordan and Green Arrow) with a second tier DC sidekick (Speedy) whereas what Marvel did was use their version of Batman/Superman to feature Spider-Man's best friend on drugs. Admittedly the drug is LSD which Stan Lee wildly misinterprets (LSD is not habit-forming like cocaine or heroin) but it was still quite unusual.

    - ASM#100-105 aka the Six Arms Saga, followed by Roy Thomas' bizarre and nonsensical Savage Land issues where ASM suddenly becomes a remake of King Kong with Jameson as Denham, Gwen as Fay Wray and Peter as the boring male lead of those movies. It was certainly quite new for Spider-Man at the time, and also not quite good. The Six-Arms Saga had an interesting concept that gradually decayed into an excuse for Thomas to showcase his frankly stupid character Morbius the living vampire into a book even if he plainly doesn't belong in Spider-Man.

    - From Stern's run, I'd add ASM#248 especially for the second story, "The Kid who Collected Spider-man". A 12 page one-shot story in a backup to a main title, and one that's in a Will Eisner style was certainly quite bold and unprecedented in Spider-Man.

    - From Michelinie and MacFarlane's run,
    -- ASM#300-302 -- Venom, an entirely new kind of villain.
    -- ASM#328 -- the Cosmic Powers Saga which allows Spider-Man to go with the biggest names.
    -- ASM#39v2 -- The entirely silent issue 'Nuff Said by JMS and JRJR.

  3. #3
    Mighty Member Chubistian's Avatar
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    I think JMS and JRJR run has many elements that are unusual for a Spider-Man story, with the whole totem concept and the Happy Birthday arc. Spider-Verse used the totem concept as a base and so is also a weird type of Spider-Man adventure. But the oldest strange Spidey story I can think of is the retconned ASM #2, where the character stops an alien invasion. I think, for totally different reasons, Kraven's Last Hunt is a particular off the beat superhero story. There's no final confrontation between Kraven and the Wall-crawler, the hero spends a lot of time buried alive and the villain ends killing himself with a result that can't be consider a win to either side.
    "The Batman is Gotham City. I will watch him. Study him. And when I know him and why he does not kill, I will know this city. And then Gotham will be MINE!"-BANE

    "We're monsters, buddy. Plain and simple. I don't dress it up with fancy names like mutant or post-human; men were born crueler than Apes and we were born crueler than men. It's just the natural order of things"-ULTIMATE SABRETOOTH

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chubistian View Post
    I think JMS and JRJR run has many elements that are unusual for a Spider-Man story, with the whole totem concept and the Happy Birthday arc.
    Yeah it was the first time Spider-Man went magical realist. It also mixed genres and tones. So Peter is a teacher at a high school in a poor neighborhood which is dealt with in a down to earth way, but then you have cosmic and magical realist stuff, and Loki coming in and having a bro moment with Peter. A lot of it deals with Peter by himself but then Peter and MJ are at the Denver Airport (a real life place where I have been to) and in walks Doom and Cap.

    I think, for totally different reasons, Kraven's Last Hunt is a particular off the beat superhero story. There's no final confrontation between Kraven and the Wall-crawler, the hero spends a lot of time buried alive and the villain ends killing himself with a result that can't be consider a win to either side.
    Tom Defalco said KLH is the first Spider-Man story aimed for an adult audience. I'd argue that distinction belongs to The Kid Who Collected Spider-Man.

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    Formerly Assassin Spider Huntsman Spider's Avatar
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    Marvel Knights Spider-Man #1-12 by Mark Millar. It added some pretty solid dimensions to Peter Parker's ongoing blood feud with Norman Osborn, paralleling and contrasting them in that both held the other responsible for the deaths of their respective offspring (Norman's son Harry died trying to finish what his father started, Peter's daughter was stillborn as a result of Norman's machinations) and saw each other as having wasted their potential contributions to society on petty costumed adventurism, though where the contrast between them came in was, as Norman himself put it, "I don't give a rat's ass." That perfectly and succinctly summed up the difference between them, that as flawed as Peter was and could be, he cared about those around him, maybe too much for his own good, and Norman simply couldn't care less about anyone that wasn't himself, with even his anger about Harry's death being more rooted in resentment for losing his legacy rather than losing a son.

    Marvel Knights Spider-Man by Mark Millar also featured a more world-weary and somewhat more cynical version of Peter, who retained his values and morals, but nonetheless displayed, at least in his thoughts, a growing sense of disillusionment with costumed heroism and the cycle of (costumed) violence he felt himself trapped in by his own sense of responsibility. Of course, that weariness and cynicism would die down somewhat at the end of the story when Aunt May, having been rescued from Norman's latest plot to mess with Peter, showed Peter a website tallying the number of lives he'd personally saved as Spider-Man, a number at least six digits high.

    Finally, Marvel Knights Spider-Man by Mark Millar came up with a somewhat plausible meta-origin for the supervillains that had emerged with the dawn of the modern superheroes thanks to Marvel's sliding timescale doing away with the Cold War as an easy source of rivals and enemies. Namely, the supervillains were really products of a conspiracy by corrupt industrialists and politicians to preoccupy superheroes with more immediate threats to the public so they wouldn't turn their focus and abilities to resolving the greater problems of human society or to the greater crimes committed against that society by those same industrialists and politicians. Naturally, one of them was Norman Osborn himself, at least until he went nuts and decided to become a supervillain in his own right.

    The first paragraph, on its own, would be decent enough in a standard Spider-Man vs. the Green Goblin story, but there were elements of added maturity in the course of this particular saga. For one, Peter's musings would frequently center around how tired he'd become of the same old vicious cycle between him and his enemies and how much devastation and trauma it had brought on his life and the lives of his loved ones, especially Mary Jane Watson(-Parker) and Aunt May. Speaking of Mary Jane, though, the story did address her relationship with Peter and her relevance in his life somewhat more seriously than had become standard, especially given she obtained a gun for self-defense despite Peter's initial objections, and it came in handy insofar as wounding Norman Osborn and actually catching him by surprise when he tried to repeat what he did to Gwen Stacy with her. Then there was the portrayal of Peter's erstwhile love and crimefighting ally Felicia "Black Cat" Hardy, who was treated with a surprisingly refreshing amount of complexity, particularly regarding her feelings for Peter and her interactions with him and Mary Jane. Even a number of Spider-Man's rogues, who had somewhat fallen by the wayside and come to be treated as irrelevant has-beens and jokes in many cases, were reemphasized as deadly enemies for him, especially when organized by Norman Osborn near the climax of the story to take him down once and for all.

    All in all, Marvel Knights Spider-Man #1-12 by Mark Millar wasn't necessarily the usual kind of Spider-Man story, but in my view, it was still true to his character, even with a more "adult" framing. Probably the best thing Mark Millar ever did for Marvel.
    The spider is always on the hunt.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Huntsman Spider View Post
    Marvel Knights Spider-Man #1-12 by Mark Millar. It added some pretty solid dimensions to Peter Parker's ongoing blood feud with Norman Osborn, paralleling and contrasting them in that both held the other responsible for the deaths of their respective offspring (Norman's son Harry died trying to finish what his father started, Peter's daughter was stillborn as a result of Norman's machinations) and saw each other as having wasted their potential contributions to society on petty costumed adventurism, though where the contrast between them came in was, as Norman himself put it, "I don't give a rat's ass." That perfectly and succinctly summed up the difference between them, that as flawed as Peter was and could be, he cared about those around him, maybe too much for his own good, and Norman simply couldn't care less about anyone that wasn't himself, with even his anger about Harry's death being more rooted in resentment for losing his legacy rather than losing a son.

    Marvel Knights Spider-Man by Mark Millar also featured a more world-weary and somewhat more cynical version of Peter, who retained his values and morals, but nonetheless displayed, at least in his thoughts, a growing sense of disillusionment with costumed heroism and the cycle of (costumed) violence he felt himself trapped in by his own sense of responsibility. Of course, that weariness and cynicism would die down somewhat at the end of the story when Aunt May, having been rescued from Norman's latest plot to mess with Peter, showed Peter a website tallying the number of lives he'd personally saved as Spider-Man, a number at least six digits high.

    Finally, Marvel Knights Spider-Man by Mark Millar came up with a somewhat plausible meta-origin for the supervillains that had emerged with the dawn of the modern superheroes thanks to Marvel's sliding timescale doing away with the Cold War as an easy source of rivals and enemies. Namely, the supervillains were really products of a conspiracy by corrupt industrialists and politicians to preoccupy superheroes with more immediate threats to the public so they wouldn't turn their focus and abilities to resolving the greater problems of human society or to the greater crimes committed against that society by those same industrialists and politicians. Naturally, one of them was Norman Osborn himself, at least until he went nuts and decided to become a supervillain in his own right.

    The first paragraph, on its own, would be decent enough in a standard Spider-Man vs. the Green Goblin story, but there were elements of added maturity in the course of this particular saga. For one, Peter's musings would frequently center around how tired he'd become of the same old vicious cycle between him and his enemies and how much devastation and trauma it had brought on his life and the lives of his loved ones, especially Mary Jane Watson(-Parker) and Aunt May. Speaking of Mary Jane, though, the story did address her relationship with Peter and her relevance in his life somewhat more seriously than had become standard, especially given she obtained a gun for self-defense despite Peter's initial objections, and it came in handy insofar as wounding Norman Osborn and actually catching him by surprise when he tried to repeat what he did to Gwen Stacy with her. Then there was the portrayal of Peter's erstwhile love and crimefighting ally Felicia "Black Cat" Hardy, who was treated with a surprisingly refreshing amount of complexity, particularly regarding her feelings for Peter and her interactions with him and Mary Jane. Even a number of Spider-Man's rogues, who had somewhat fallen by the wayside and come to be treated as irrelevant has-beens and jokes in many cases, were reemphasized as deadly enemies for him, especially when organized by Norman Osborn near the climax of the story to take him down once and for all.

    All in all, Marvel Knights Spider-Man #1-12 by Mark Millar wasn't necessarily the usual kind of Spider-Man story, but in my view, it was still true to his character, even with a more "adult" framing. Probably the best thing Mark Millar ever did for Marvel.
    Agreed on everything. Great write-up and tribute to MK:SM

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Revolutionary_Jack View Post
    Agreed on everything. Great write-up and tribute to MK:SM
    Thanks. That means a lot. I'd also throw in the Sin-Eater arc(s) from PAD's Spectacular Spider-Man, as that, too, was an example of an unusually "mature" story in a Spider-Man comic that nonetheless ultimately remained true to the character even as it explored his moral compass, emotional state, and psyche following the death of a trusted ally and friend by someone who had turned out to be another ally and friend, but gone off the rails and coming to believe it was his duty to punish not just "sinners," but those in the system who coddled them. It even followed up by actually focusing on the aftermath of Spider-Man venting his desire for vengeance upon the killer, revealing that the injuries he'd dealt out had left the killer limping and stuttering, as well as haunted by the mental voice that had spurred his initial rampage, to the point where he committed suicide by cop to stop himself from killing again. Oh, and the part Matt Murdock/Daredevil played in this story as the voice of reason trying to keep Peter/Spidey from going completely over the edge in his anger and grief was great as well, especially for how it solidified their friendship at the end.
    The spider is always on the hunt.

  8. #8
    Astonishing Member K7P5V's Avatar
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    Spidey going up against (and beating) a cosmically-powered opponent in Firelord:


  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by K7P5V View Post
    Spidey going up against (and beating) a cosmically-powered opponent in Firelord:

    Yeah, that was a great one, especially for how utterly stunned and amazed the Avengers were that Spider-Man beat Firelord unconscious without even realizing it.
    The spider is always on the hunt.

  10. #10
    Ultimate Member Mister Mets's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by K7P5V View Post
    Spidey going up against (and beating) a cosmically-powered opponent in Firelord:

    That one seemed kind of similar to "Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut" to me.

    Quote Originally Posted by Huntsman Spider View Post
    Thanks. That means a lot. I'd also throw in the Sin-Eater arc(s) from PAD's Spectacular Spider-Man, as that, too, was an example of an unusually "mature" story in a Spider-Man comic that nonetheless ultimately remained true to the character even as it explored his moral compass, emotional state, and psyche following the death of a trusted ally and friend by someone who had turned out to be another ally and friend, but gone off the rails and coming to believe it was his duty to punish not just "sinners," but those in the system who coddled them. It even followed up by actually focusing on the aftermath of Spider-Man venting his desire for vengeance upon the killer, revealing that the injuries he'd dealt out had left the killer limping and stuttering, as well as haunted by the mental voice that had spurred his initial rampage, to the point where he committed suicide by cop to stop himself from killing again. Oh, and the part Matt Murdock/Daredevil played in this story as the voice of reason trying to keep Peter/Spidey from going completely over the edge in his anger and grief was great as well, especially for how it solidified their friendship at the end.
    Good call.

    That story was Peter David truly realized his vision of a title with less superheroics, and more like a TV crime drama (intentionally borrowing techniques from Hill Street Blues.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Chubistian View Post
    I think JMS and JRJR run has many elements that are unusual for a Spider-Man story, with the whole totem concept and the Happy Birthday arc. Spider-Verse used the totem concept as a base and so is also a weird type of Spider-Man adventure. But the oldest strange Spidey story I can think of is the retconned ASM #2, where the character stops an alien invasion. I think, for totally different reasons, Kraven's Last Hunt is a particular off the beat superhero story. There's no final confrontation between Kraven and the Wall-crawler, the hero spends a lot of time buried alive and the villain ends killing himself with a result that can't be consider a win to either side.
    KLH was also unusual in that you had a crossover by one creative team take over the book for two months.

    Quote Originally Posted by Revolutionary_Jack View Post
    Glad that you mentioned The Daydreamers (ASM#246).

    My picks would be

    - ASM#96-98 aka The Drug Trilogy. A three-issue arc focused on a supporting character turning to drugs was certainly quite new for Spider-Man and comics in general. To the extent that people thought that drugs would be done in a Marvel title, I doubt anyone expected it would be Spider-Man. For sake of comparison, the "Speedy is on Heroin story" happened to second tier DC characters (Hal Jordan and Green Arrow) with a second tier DC sidekick (Speedy) whereas what Marvel did was use their version of Batman/Superman to feature Spider-Man's best friend on drugs. Admittedly the drug is LSD which Stan Lee wildly misinterprets (LSD is not habit-forming like cocaine or heroin) but it was still quite unusual.

    - ASM#100-105 aka the Six Arms Saga, followed by Roy Thomas' bizarre and nonsensical Savage Land issues where ASM suddenly becomes a remake of King Kong with Jameson as Denham, Gwen as Fay Wray and Peter as the boring male lead of those movies. It was certainly quite new for Spider-Man at the time, and also not quite good. The Six-Arms Saga had an interesting concept that gradually decayed into an excuse for Thomas to showcase his frankly stupid character Morbius the living vampire into a book even if he plainly doesn't belong in Spider-Man.

    - From Stern's run, I'd add ASM#248 especially for the second story, "The Kid who Collected Spider-man". A 12 page one-shot story in a backup to a main title, and one that's in a Will Eisner style was certainly quite bold and unprecedented in Spider-Man.

    - From Michelinie and MacFarlane's run,
    -- ASM#300-302 -- Venom, an entirely new kind of villain.
    -- ASM#328 -- the Cosmic Powers Saga which allows Spider-Man to go with the biggest names.
    -- ASM#39v2 -- The entirely silent issue 'Nuff Said by JMS and JRJR.
    Good points on the drug trilogy and Roy Thomas taking the series in a different direction. He borrowed from horror in his first two issues with vampires, and exotic adventure stories in the next two.

    "The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man" (everyone gets the title wrong) was definitely stylistically unusual. When Stern came up with the idea he had to find a place for it, and it wasn't until the Assistant Editors Month gimmick that he felt free to play around with structure and tell two half-stories with one issue.

    I don't know if I'd count the silent issue by JMS/ JRJR as every title did it that month.

    Though the September 11 issue was definitely atypical.
    Sincerely,
    Thomas Mets

  11. #11
    Y'know. Pav's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Revolutionary_Jack View Post
    his frankly stupid character Morbius the living vampire
    *gasp*

    -Pav, who to can't wait to buy the upcoming Morbius omnibus...

    Edit: Having taught the genre myself, I wouldn't call the "totem" stuff "magical realism" -- mostly because Spidey comics are already set in a sci-fi/fantasy world to begin with.
    Last edited by Pav; 03-29-2020 at 08:30 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pav View Post
    Having taught the genre myself, I wouldn't call the "totem" stuff "magical realism" -- mostly because Spidey comics are already set in a sci-fi/fantasy world to begin with.
    Taking just the JMS/JRJR run in isolation without reference to anything continuity related (before and after)...the totem concept is introduced by Ezekiel to Peter as a kind of mystical allegory but it's never outright confirmed. Meanwhile the totem and the concept of being one doesn't change or affect Peter's day to day, he still teaches at high school and so on. There's vague suggestions about spiders secretly guiding and protecting Peter but nothing more.

    So it's a magical/mystical concept set against a fairly realistic/scientific backdrop. That makes it magical realism to me.

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    Y'know. Pav's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Revolutionary_Jack View Post
    Taking just the JMS/JRJR run in isolation without reference to anything continuity related (before and after)...the totem concept is introduced by Ezekiel to Peter as a kind of mystical allegory but it's never outright confirmed. Meanwhile the totem and the concept of being one doesn't change or affect Peter's day to day, he still teaches at high school and so on. There's vague suggestions about spiders secretly guiding and protecting Peter but nothing more.

    So it's a magical/mystical concept set against a fairly realistic/scientific backdrop. That makes it magical realism to me.
    One of the major hallmarks of the genre, though, is the nonchalance at which the fantastic is treated -- a mere shrug of the shoulders towards the unexplainable.

    I get your argument, and to a degree I can agree -- but for me it's a real stretch.

    Also, I'm still in mourning towards your anti-Morbius stance

    -Pav, who is actually enjoying his current series...
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  14. #14
    Astonishing Member K7P5V's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mister Mets View Post
    That one seemed kind of similar to "Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut" to me.
    Agreed. Aside from Spidey's costume, the only differences were 1)how the opponents were defeated and 2)their power sets (Firelord being cosmic, while Juggy's powers were mystical in nature).

    Quote Originally Posted by Mister Mets View Post
    Good call.

    That story was Peter David truly realized his vision of a title with less superheroics, and more like a TV crime drama (intentionally borrowing techniques from Hill Street Blues.)
    Genius work from Peter David, as always.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mister Mets View Post
    KLH was also unusual in that you had a crossover by one creative team take over the book for two months.
    Very unusual, indeed. Almost similar to Frank Miller's Year One taking over Batman's book.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mister Mets View Post
    Good points on the drug trilogy and Roy Thomas taking the series in a different direction. He borrowed from horror in his first two issues with vampires, and exotic adventure stories in the next two.

    "The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man" (everyone gets the title wrong) was definitely stylistically unusual. When Stern came up with the idea he had to find a place for it, and it wasn't until the Assistant Editors Month gimmick that he felt free to play around with structure and tell two half-stories with one issue.
    Definitely a classic, Mister Mets.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mister Mets View Post
    I don't know if I'd count the silent issue by JMS/ JRJR as every title did it that month.

    Though the September 11 issue was definitely atypical.
    Agreed. It's not everyday you get to read about a super-villain of Doom's stature brought to tears.

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    Mighty Member Chubistian's Avatar
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    What about Amazing Spider-Man #18? Peter trying to leave his Spidey identity has become a sort of a trope, but this was the first issue where renouncing to his alter ego was a serious option, even when ASM #50 is way more popular, and it's an issue that stands out in the original Steve Ditko-Stan Lee run for how Peter avoids combat and doesn't have a proper climax against a villain
    "The Batman is Gotham City. I will watch him. Study him. And when I know him and why he does not kill, I will know this city. And then Gotham will be MINE!"-BANE

    "We're monsters, buddy. Plain and simple. I don't dress it up with fancy names like mutant or post-human; men were born crueler than Apes and we were born crueler than men. It's just the natural order of things"-ULTIMATE SABRETOOTH

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