Spidey's Biggest Stories
Comic Book Events
In today's world of decompressed storytelling in comic books, stories that could have been told in two or three issues are just as often told in six or twelve issues, with stories that really stretch out events, subplots, and character development.
When you compare the comics of today to issues and events from the 1990s, however, it becomes clear that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Spider-Man comics, especially, frequently featured long-running main event stories with simmering subplots, whether that was the return of Peter Parker's missing parents or the rampage of Carnage across New York City.
Let's take a closer look at the big Spider-Man stories from the early 1990s, and see which, if any, are worth checking out today.
Return of the Sinister Six
And the Revenge of the Sinister Six
Spidey welcomed the 90s in his flagship title, Amazing Spider-Man, by duking it out with the combined forces of his most vicious foes. Led by Doctor Octopus, the Sinister Six included the Vulture, Mysterio, Hobgoblin, Electro, and Sandman, all of whom had long-running feuds with the webbed wall-crawler. Their plan, as go most plans by supervillain groups, was to launch a rocket filled with poison gas into the atmosphere unless their demands for world power were satisfied. Ah, they simply do not make plans like that anymore. Classic. In this six-part tale from Amazing Spider-Man issues no. 334-339, the Sinister Six was stopped by Spider-Man, Thor, and the surprise dissension of Sinister member Sandman, who decided he could not go through with such a dastardly plan. Good for him.
The Sinister Six returned a few years later in (Adjectiveless) Spider-Man issues no. 18-23, again with a plot to destroy the world, this time using a HYDRA satellite to bombard Earth with radiation. But they were simply no match for the combined forces of Spider-Man (with cyborg enhancements), Deathlok, Hulk, Nova, Ghost Rider, the Fantastic Four, and nearly-forgotten 90s antihero Solo. But, to be fair, no supervillain group could be a match for that gathering of heroes.
The Sidekick's Revenge
"Round Robin: The Sidekick's Revenge" is a story about a sidekick who seeks revenge. Oh, you guessed that? The sidekick in question is Midnight, who used to work with Moon Knight, who is essentially Marvel's version of Batman, so the title of this event has a bit of a tongue-in-cheek quality to it. Round Robin ran for six issues, from nos. 353-359 of Amazing Spider-Man, and featured Spidey teaming up with Moon Knight, Darkhark, Night Thrasher, Nova, and the Punisher to take down the evil Secret Empire, a shadowy organization that Midnight was attempting to infiltrate and subjugate. And we won't spoil the ending for you, except to say that one of these characters does not make it out of this one alive!
Hint: it's one of the guys you're hearing about here for the first time.
The Child Within
And The Osborn Legacy
Moving over to the secondary Spidey title for a moment, "The Child Within" is a story from Spectacular Spider-Man issues no. 178-184 that featured Spidey foes the Green Goblin and Vermin. Putting Vermin and Gobby in a story together makes sense, because these two villains have enough daddy issues to fill up a newsstand. You see, this Green Goblin, Harry Osborn, is the son of the original Green Goblin, Norman Osborn. After a losing bout with his own sanity, Harry decided to put on the Goblin gear and attack Spider-Man, at the exact moment the wall-crawler was incapacitated from a fight with Vermin, who hates his own father and punches superheroes to help work through those issues. Spider-Man was able to solve this problem like he solves most of his problems, by fighting.
However, mere issues later, starting in issue no. 189 of Spectacular and running as a subplot until no. 200, Harry's mental deterioration continued to endanger his life and family. Harry spent months threatening Spider-Man, and because he knew that Spidey was actually Peter Parker, he threatened Parker's family and friends, too. Spider-Man and the Green Goblin faced each other one final time at the Osborn Foundation building, fighting each other until the Goblin's strength-enhancing serum gave him a fatal heart attack and he died.
He did get better, though. Remember, in comics, no one stays dead except for Bucky and Uncle Ben.
The Return of Peter Parker's Parents
Not Really, Though
The final page of Amazing Spider-Man's 30th anniversary issue, no. 365, featured one bombshell of a cliffhanger: Peter Parker's parents, believed dead since the first appearance of Spider-Man in 1962, were back and in Peter's living room! Everyone had believed that Richard and Mary Parker were government agents who had died in the service of their country. And, in a story that lasted more than a year before being resolved in issue no. 388, it turned out that everyone was right. These two imposters were not Richard and Mary Parker, but artificial beings created by the Chameleon to mess with Parker's head. What's even wackier is that the Chameleon had no idea that Parker was Spider-Man: he was just being rude to this random guy because a video-recording of the Green Goblin told him to do it. Clearly, the lesson from this story is that if some people show up at your doorstep claiming to be your parents, they are probably robots.
More 90s Spider-Man
Thick With Melodrama
Spider-Man has a new movie coming out, but even with villains like the Rhino, Electro, and a new Green Goblin (the Harry Osborn version, natch), can it hope to top the epic mania of the typical Spider-Man event story line from the 1990s? We say thee nay! Anyone who wants to read the actual issues of some of these story lines for themselves (and that is understandable, some of these books must simply be read to be believed) would do well to check out all the great Amazing Spider-Man back issues here.
Finally, we will leave you with this great video mash-up, mixing the Spider-Man cartoon theme music from the 90s with the trailer for the latest film, The Amazing Spider-Man 2.