Our fourth-favorite Spider-Man story was the very first.
Creative Team: Stan Lee (Writer), Steve Ditko (Artist)
What Happened: This one story does not need an explanation. You all know it by heart.
Why It's In The Top 50: Mister Mets thinks it's a remarkable improvement over the typical superhero origin story.
If you see lists of the best (and I'm talking about best, not the most influential) X-Men stories ever, X-Men #1 is usually not mentioned. Likewise Detective Comics #27 usually doesn't appear in lists of the best Batman stories. But, if you see lists of the best Spider-Man stories ever, this one is usually somewhere near the top. And it's not because the other Spider-Man stories are worse than the other X-Men, or Batman stories.
If this issue was the only Spider-Man story ever published (which it could have been, if fans weren't so immediately taken by the character) and I had a chance to read it somehow, Spider-Man would remain one of my favorite characters (if not my favorite comic book character.) It was groundbreaking to be sure (I don't think there were any superheroes who used their powers for selfish reasons before) but that's not why it holds up today.
It's a damn shame that the story's become so famous that everyone who reads it probably knows how the story ends. But there are other great moments that make me love the tale. Doesn't it make sense that someone with Spider-Man's powers would become a media sensation? Don't you love the scene with the little boy who sees a man crawling on the side of a building? Has there been a better reason for someone to become a superhero?
What others say: Wizard voted this the fifth best Spider-Man comic book in their Spider-Man Magazine. In Issue 105 they voted this the ninth best comic book ever (the only Silver Age comic book on the list.) In Issue 131 the first Ultimate Spider-Man Hardcover, which also reprinted this story was voted the fifth best trade paperback ever.
It was #5 on CBR's list of the best Spider-Man stories and #10 on IGN's list. The Comics Journal voted Lee & Ditko's run on Spider-Man the 35th best comic book ever. This was voted the best Marvel comic ever in the 100 Greatest Marvels poll a few years back, and is available as a reprint to commemorate its #1 status.
Elsewhere on this board: Brent looked at the issue for the Spider-Man classics series.
Related Stories: This eleven page story has been retold numerous times, most effectively in the first Sam Raimi Spider-Man movie and the first arc of Ultimate Spider-Man. The Burglar returned for an extended arc which concluded in Amazing Spider-Man #200. Ben Reilly had an ill-fated romance with the Burglar's daughter during the Clone Saga. Amazing Spider-Man #273 featured a follow-up to Crusher Hogan, while Tangled Web #14 looked at whatever happened next. Web of Spider-Man #90 featured the return of Peter's agent. Amazing Spider-Man #664 revealed how Peter had let Aunt May down during this horrible night. Amazing Spider-Man Family #4 featured JM Dematteis's take on the immediate aftermath of Ben's death. Amazing Fantasy #16-18 was a mini-series set before Amazing Spider-Man #1.
There's no better way is there to show how weak Peter Parker is by having his elderly uncle say to Aunt May "I can hardly outwrestle him now." It's a worthy introduction to the best comic book character ever. The guy's so happy with his family that it makes the most famous twist ending in comics especially dark.
We get an astounding amount of character in these eight panels. Peter Parker loves his family, and gets along with his professors, but he just doesn't have any luck with girls or with friends. And frankly, with his demeanor, it wouldn't be out of the quesiton for this guy to become a supervillain.
It's also worth noting that a guy who appears in three panels in this story now has his own book, a further testament to the genius of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.