For the Tangled Webs series on the Spider-Man Crawlspace website, I followed up on my list of the best Spider-Man stories for new readers with an argument for just reading the first 150 issues building on one of the recommended reading lists.
If the last list was the introductory course to Spider-Man, this is a class that can function as the second semester of the program or as an alternate introduction. It could be better for some new readers to stick to related and interconnected stories until they have a sense of the mythos. Otherwise, readers jumping around might end up getting confused. It’s not just about changes from Point A to Point B, but what happens if someone pick up lots of comics with different status quos (Points A, B, D, H, N, P and S.) The previous list included stories that had an impact on what came next, so there is a sense of continuity and an ongoing narrative. But there can be some confusing elements. A supporting character who tried to kill Peter in one story is his friend in another. Spider-Man gets married, something that’s reversed in the current comics. One of the stories was built on the emotional impact of the death of a character who doesn’t appear in any of the other tales. And then there’s the alternate universe of Ultimate Spider-Man.
Thinking back to how I became a Spider-Man fan, a big help was that the Fox animated series and the comic strip provided the equivalent of jumping into a Spider-Man run. Because of the marriage, the majority of readily available back issues (this was around the time the clone saga started) featured a relatively stable status quo, with Peter Parker as a happily married photographer. Things are a bit different now. The comic strip isn’t as widespread. The current cartoon covers a status quo that never existed in the comics. Peter Parker’s a CEO, working with characters introduced in the last few years. On the bright side, reprints and digital copies are abound from multiple eras and universes. The films do arguably serve as a decent introduction to the mythos. Wikipedia also makes it easier to figure out backstory; all I had was trading cards in the 1990s.
Recommending a stretch of issues isn’t necessarily the same as insisting that new readers should start in the very beginning rather than dive in at some other point. But in the case of Spider-Man comics, the beginning probably is the best place to start. These are the stories that have shaped the public’s perception of the character, and it was early in the series’s history that the writers and artists were able to take interesting risks. They had yet to seriously commit to the Illusion of Change approach, which may have been necessary to preserve the series for another few decades, but did mean that much of the remaining material just wasn’t as consistently exciting.