As will quickly become apparent, although I try keep up with as many characters as is humanely possible, my true passion is for Spider-Man. Since buying Sensational Spider-Man #1 as a fresh faced four year old (And being confused by Spider-Man having blonde hair) I have been addicted, mainly following the webhead through the highly affordable UK reprints available in Astonishing Spider-Man. Over the years I have also made efforts to acquaint myself with some classic stories from the past. So without further ado, I present my favourite writer/artist combinations on Spider-Man.
10. David Micheline and Todd McFarlane: ASM #298-325, 328
Although inevitably, this partnership tends to be dominated by Todd McFarlanes groundbreaking artwork, there is much to be said for Micheline's solid scripting as well. Despite a distinct lack of classic stories (apart from the first appearance of Venom), Micheline clearly posseses a strong understanding of what makes the webhead tick, and seems to 'get' the characters a lot more than subsequent writers have. However, it is impossible to talk about this run without mentioning Todd McFarlanes artwork. Revolutionising many of Spider-Man's classic foes, most notably the Lizard who still has his McFarlane design in the modern day, he also dragged Peter and MJ into the 90's, giving them more modern hairdos and outfits. Although his art has its critics, it is impossible to deny his influence on Spider-Man.
9. Dan Jurgens: Sensational Spider-Man #0-6
Perhaps a controversial choice due to its status as part of the notorious 'Clone Saga', nevertheless Jurgen's criminally short run as writer and artist was primarily what introduced me to Spider-Man. The fact that it was Ben Reilly wearing the mask enabled Jurgens to get back to basics, to the root of what made Spider-Man a great character. Packed into his seven issue run is romance, mysery, drama and great villains, including a brilliant redesign of Mysterio that has sadly only been used sporadically since. This run would undoubtably be higher up on my list if not for its dissapointingly short length.
8. Mark Millar and Terry Dodson/Frank Cho: Marvel Knights: Spider-Man #1-12
Mark Millar is by definition, a blockbuster writer. When he takes over a comic, one thing that you can put your money on is wall to wall action, guest stars, and villains aplenty. His run on MK: Spider-Man does have its faults; It makes little effort to break new ground, some of Millars ideas are sketchy (Sinister Twelve, making Mac Gargan the new Venom), and the ending is poor. However, what Millar does do is create what is arguably THE definitive Spider-Man story (Even Ben Reilly gets a mention). Boasting one of the greatest fight sequences in Spider-Man history, twists and turns aplenty and some superb art from the Dodsons and Frank Cho, it is in my opinion one of the great modern Spider-Man runs.
7. Tom Defalco and Pat Olliffe/Ron Frenz: Spider-Girl #0-50, 52-100, Amazing Spider-Girl #1-Present
Although not technically a Spider-Man run, Tom Defalco has created what is in my eyes the definitive future for Spider-Man and his family in his Spider-Girl series. One of the longest running solo series starring a female in comic book history, May Parker, the daughter of Spider-Man has been able to become a strong character in her own right, and it is a testament to the quality of the series that it has never had to rely on her father to boost sales, even in the many dark times when it has been threatened by cancellation. Sadly the series has lost its way somewhat since the departure of Pat Olliffe, who was replaced by Ron Frenz. Although Frenz is a legendary artist, he brings a more cartoony, less serious feel to the book, which has led to a decline in overall quality since the early days of the title. Amazing Spider-Girl is currently due to end with May's #30, and I for one will be very sad to see it go.
6. Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley: Ultimate Spider-Man #1-111
Another alternative universe take on Spider-Man, but Ultimate Spider-Man could not be more different to Spider-Girl. Unlike Tom Defalco's retro storytelling style, Bendis uses his own, more modern, dialogue heavy, decompressed methods. Although this has led to many complaints and parodies, it cannot be argued that Bendis has had a huge influence on the way comics are today. Dragging Spider-Man into the 21st century Bendis reimagines him in the present day with spectactular results. Due in no small part to Mark Bagleys sleek, character defining artwork, their run on Ultimate Spider-Man is an integral part of any budding Spider-fan's collection.
5. J.M Dematteis and Sal Buscema: Spectacular Spider-Man 178-203
J.M Dematteis remains one of the most criminally underrated Spider-Man writers of all time, with an ability to seamlessley switch from deep, psychological storylines, dealing with real life issues such as child abuse, to more humorous storylines, such as Spider-Man's encounter with the Frog Man. Dematteis' character work remains second to none, and he has arguably done more to flesh out Harry Osborn's character than any other writer, in classic storylines such as the Child Within. Although Dematteis does have a tendency to overdo the psychotrauma, a defect that began to get annoying in his later run on Amazing Spider-Man, it is never apparent here. Sal Buscema's solid artwork also deserves a mention. With a knack for drawing spectacular fight scenes, and an ability to capture the kinetic energy of Dematteis' stories, his sterling work on the title is sadly often overlooked.
4. Paul Jenkins and Mark Buckingham: Peter Parker: Spiderman #20-41, 48-50, Spectacular Spider-Man (Volume 2) #27.
Perhaps made to look better by its appearance shortly after the horror of Howard Mackies twin run on both Amazing and Peter Parker: Spider-Man, Paul Jenkins and Mark Buckingham managed to bring some pride back to the struggling Spider-books, and at the same time produce some of the most touching Spider-Man stories in history. Jenkins has the ability to tug at the heartstrings like no other, and although his run is home to a fair few duds, the sheer quality of much of it cannot be ignored. Mark Buckinghams art, while being very understated is perfect for Jenkins' stories, and he even proves that he can do a decent fight scene in #25.
3. Roger Stern and John Romita Jr: Amazing Spider-Man #224-227, 229-236, 238-251.
Although this whole list has been very difficult to compile, the top three has been the hardest part by far, and could really be in any order. Roger Stern's run is Spider-Man as it should be, mixing Peter Parker's career as Spider-Man with his often chaotic personal life. A simple formula, that later writers have sadly found difficult to emulate. Stern effortlessley updates past villains, giving a backstory to classics such as the Vulture, while creating ones of his own, the most notable being the now legendary Hobgoblin. All this in addition to some of the most interesting subplots ever seen, and it begins to become clear why Stern's run is widely regarded as one of the greatest of all time. John Romita's artwork, while being passable is clearly a work in progress, this was one of the earliest runs of his career, and in my opinion does not hold up too well to his more modern work. However, this is a very minor criticism, and does little to take away from one of the all time greatest runs ever seen on Spider-Man.
2. J.M Dematteis and Luke Ross: Spectacular Spider-Man #241-258
Another surprise inclusion on my list, it upsets me that Demateis' second run on Spectacular Spider-Man never seems to get the praise it deserves. Very similiar to his first run, but with far more variety, switching for deadly serious tales of death, and misery to light hearted superhero romps. Dematteis' characterisation is second to none, his portrayal of Peter and Mary-Janes relationship is as believable and realistic as I have ever seen, and he defined the modern Norman Osborn, with his menacing, enigmatic take on the character. Luke Ross' art defines the run, moody and atmospheric, with superb, rich colours it is some of the best, most underrated art ever seen on Spider-Man.
1. Stan Lee and Various: Amazing Fantasy #15, Amazing Spider-Man #1-100, 105-110.
What is there to say about this genre defining run that hasn't been said before? Stan Lee and his many co-conspiritors, legendary names such as Steve Ditko, John Romita Sr and Gil Kane, were largely responsible for the modern age of comics. Revolutionising the genre, Lee popularised the previously unheard of notion of a teen superhero, one that had to deal with regular everyday problems that his readers would have had to deal with. Lee's often copied, never bettered style of mixing Peter's personal problems with his conflicts with supervillains had never been seen before in the 60's, and many of his and Ditko's imaginative creations are still present in modern day comic books. One of the most remarkable things is that it still stands up today. Sure some issues are less than wonderful, and show their age, but the vast majority of it is classic, and should serve as an example for all comic book writers today to follow.