The Best of Spider-Man Countdown #16-14

Posted by SMReviews Team 29 June 2012

Continuing our countdown of our favorite Spider-Man stories to date.

16. Spider-Man and the Green Goblin...both Unmasked (Amazing Spider-Man #39-40)

Creative Team: Stan Lee (Writer), John Romita Sr (Pencils and cover art), Mickey Demeo (Inker)

What Happened: The Green Goblin, the mystery villain who has been haunting Spidey since Amazing Spider-Man #14 has learned his secret identity. And he attacks Peter outside of his own house. Peter finds himself at a tremendous advantage, weakened by a cold, without even webshooters. And Aunt May is inside, recovering from surgery, so there's the additional possibility of a fatal shock for her. So things don't start out well for Spidey. And it keeps getting worse.

Why It's In The Top 50: Mike says
In some ways, I feel this story tends to be overlooked in comparison to other notable Spider-Man stories. Because I would argue that this story is one of the most pivotal moments that has ever happened in Spider-Man’s history. Prior to this, the Green Goblin was just your run-of-the-mill mystery villain with a goofy Halloween gimmick. But after this story is when he truly became Spidey’s arch-enemy. Everything that has ever happened between Peter Parker and Norman Osborn since resulted from the actions they took here, and would wind up having a profound impact, not just on them, but on every single one of the supporting cast in irrevocable ways--effects which are still resonating to this day. 
It’s also a pivotal moment artistically for Amazing Spider-Man as well, as this was the story in which John Romita Sr. would replace Steve Ditko as the artist for the series, a move which was controversial at the time but which would catapult the series into even greater popularity. With his more clean-cut, softer, “romantic” style, Romita wasn’t just seen as an artist for Spider-Man--he became the artist for Spider-Man whose work would influence future artists for decades.
Spiderfan001 praises John Romita Sr:
John Romita draws one of my favourite Spider-Man/Green Goblin throwdowns in issue #40, with the Goblin literally throwing everything in his arsenal at Spidey.  The fight moves very fluently from one panel to the next; a perfect example of Romita's storytelling mastery.
What the pros say: In his introduction to the Out of Print Spider-Man VS. Green Goblin TPB, which oddly enough, does not include his storyline, Stan Lee discussed the decision of how to unmask the Green Goblin.
But now it's time to let you in on another little-known bit of historical trivia about Ol' Gobby. When Steve and I first unleashed him on our woebegone web-slinger we hadn't the slightest idea who the Goblin would turn out to be. There was no brilliant master plan that we were following fighting never-ending deadlines as we did, we never had time to cook one up. It was only after months of Goblinating that we one day turned to each other and said, "hey, when he's finally unmasked, who should he turn out to be?" And y'know something? To this day, I can't remember whether it was Steve or I who decided to make him Harry Osborn's father! Of course, if you like the idea of him being Mr. Osborn, the idea was mine. If you don't, blame Steve!
In an afterword for the first issue of the Revenge of the Green Goblin mini-series, Roger Stern described the influence of the first Spider-Man comic he ever read: Amazing Spider-Man #40.

I knew Norman Osborn was crazy from the first moment I met him. 
There was something about his eyes... something in the way those baby blues went all wide and burned out at you. 
Then there was the way he gritted his teeth, the perspiration beading up on his forehead, whenever he went into a psychopathic rant.
And of course there was the way he dressed up as the Green Goblin and flew around on a straddling jet engine. Not exactly the fellow from down the block!
At the the time, the Goblin had just discovered Spider-Man's secret identity. He'd captured Peter Parker and had taken our hero- trussed up in a special steel alloy cable- to one of his secret hideaways. And then supremely confident, that he had Peter Parker right where he wanted him, the Goblin removed his mask! 
In case you're wondering all of this happened in the pages of THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (Volume 1) #40, which I found on a comics spinner rack at Hayden's Drugstore in the lazy summer of 1966. I had come in to the second part of a two-part story... not that it mattered, of course. Stan Lee and John Romita told the story so well, I could follow everything without any trouble. By the time, I'd finished reading the issue, I learned the origin of the Green Goblin, was quickly brought up to date on his previous run-ins with Spider-Man, and witnessed on fast and furious battle. After all that, I didn't need to read the previous issue, but I sure wanted to! It took me a couple of years in those pre-comic store days to track down a copy of ASM #39, but I finally did. And yes, it was absolutely worth the time and effort!

What others say: It was #6 on's list of the top Spider-Man stories. Mark Ginnochio of the Chasing Amazing blog remembers the difficulty hunting down Amazing Spider-Man #39. He had an easier time with Issue 40. He also wrote another piece about the mystery of the Green Goblin.

Related Stories: The Green Goblin had previously appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #14, 17, 23 and 26-27. Norman Osborn had become a recurring bad guy in Amazing Spider-Man #37-38.

Creative Team: J. Michael Stracysnki (Writer), John Romita Sr and John Romita Jr (Artists)

What Happened: As the result of a battle with Dormammu, Spider-Man is unstuck in time and forced to relive the tragedies of his past, and witness the events of a possible future.

Why It's In The Top 50: Bulletproofsponge explains why he liked it so much:
While the absolutely spoiler free summary of three issues condensed into one sentence doesn't sound like very much, believe me, this is an issue that most Spider-Man fan's would want to read. 
Reason? Simple, it has pretty much the same reason as does Spider-Man: Reign - a possible future. The difference between the two is that in Reign, that future takes place in a different universe, and our Spider-Man is absolutely oblivious to it. 
This future is supposed to be what, at the time of the printing of this issue, would be the actual end of Spider-Man. I'm not sure how the events of OMD have changed this, or perhaps, they make absolutely no difference. We will never know. 
To me, as a reader however, I enjoyed this ending to Spider-Man, wanted by the authorities in true 'dark knight fashion ( about to face his last stand might I add); wearing a super cool, yet not impossibly different Spider-Man costume; and still married to MJ with a kid named Ben,( though about to die for them.. sort of. )
It's really hard to explain why this issue is so good without giving too many spoilers ( and yes, I apologize for the earlier spoilers )
Spider-Man is essentially lost in time and is given a chance to stop ever being bitten by the Spider and live a normal life. You can probably guess what Spidey chooses though. He also gets to have a heart to heart conversation with Uncle Ben ( he seems to be doing that a lot these days though).
By now you should know that the message I'm trying to get across is that this story was good because of the future Spider-Man. Might I add that the future Spider-Man also gives young Spidey some really good advice for his life in the future.  
What others say: The editors of spiderfan gave it an average score of 4.5 stars. Sean O'Connelll of Cinemablend uses this story to explain why he liked the Amazing Spider-Man film.

“But it’s just the origin story all over again!” Yes, I understand that. But Spider-Man fans don’t mind, especially when it’s told through an alternate lens. One of the best comics I’ve read in the past few years was J. Michael Straczynski’s The Amazing Spider-Man No. 500. An anniversary issues, it transported present-day Spider-Man to all of the benchmark moments from his past, forcing him to relive each one more time … and triumph, even as he grew more exhausted following each battle. The issue allowed us to revisit the seminal chapters in Spider-Man’s rich history, and never once did I feel, “Bah, we saw this already!” The moments were part of a different narrative quilt, and it was exhilarating to be able to see them from a fresh perspective, all over again.
Related Stories: There were hints of the future Spider-Man story in Amazing Spider-Man #502 and #510. Spider-Man sought Doctor Strange again during One More Day. The dark future was alluded to in Amazing Spider-Man #637, as Peter made a decision about whether he would go down that road in the future.

Creative Team: Matt Fraction (Writer), Salvador Larocca (Artist)

What Happened: This is probably the one issue, that made the Empire State building Peter and Mary Jane's special place. This issue takes place shortly after Civil War, with Spider-Man as a wanted fugitive. The world is against him, and neither MJ or Aunt May are safe.

Both MJ and Peter are at separate locations. Both, approached by the authorities, reminiscing about simpler times. MJ is caught in a position where she has to help entrap Peter or else she will be arrested. And she's placed in the situation by someone she once knew. Peter is contemplating whether it would be easier to just surrender himself, and stop fighting.

Why It's In The Top 50: Bulletproofsponge thinks one thing made this story stand out.
So what makes this issue so special? It's simple - Love. If there is any issue out there that portrays Peter and MJ's love for one another, it is this story. 
Apart from the actual story that has just been explained, more than half of the true story in this issue is in the thoughts and recollection of past memories going through the minds of the two. Each character remembers their past relationship from school days, to their pre-dating days and so forth. 
Peter's love for his wife is strongly portrayed here, as is Mary Jane's loyalty, love, and confidence in her husband, no matter what decision he makes. 
This issue, in my opinion was also the final straw for their relationship as it would be among the last issues in which the two are married. It was certainly a magnificent idea to write this story, just before the One More Day event. Fans of the Spider-Marriage, which according to CBR's latest poll is pretty much most of Spider-Man fans, absolutely loved this issue for obvious reasons.
It is one of the better romantic Spider-Man stories in my opinion along with Parallel Lives and Spider-Man: Blue.

What others say: It was nominated for an Eisner award for Best Single Issue of 2007. IGN ranked this issue no. 5 in their latest top 25 Spider-Man Stories. It was #37 on CBR's list of the top 50 Spider-Man stories.

Related Stories: This was part of the Back in Black era, which also included Amazing Spider-Man #539-543. The image of Peter and Mary Jane at the Empire State Building was referenced in One More Day and One Moment in Time. There was a reference to the period from Amazing Spider-Man Volume 2 #30-50 in which Peter and Mary Jane had separated.




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