With Spider-Man: Homecoming hitting theaters, there’s more interest than ever in Peter Parker’s earliest years as the friendly neighborhood webslinger. That’s why we’ve pulled together a massive recap that looks at every single Spider-Man high school story set in Marvel’s central continuity (the 616, as it has come to be known). There are plenty of rebooted and updated tellings of Spider-Man’s origins, including Ultimate Spider-Man (set fully in high school) and out-of-continuity series like Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane and the recent Spidey. This guide focuses on two major titles: the first 28 issues of The Amazing Spider-Man and a later series, Untold Tales of Spider-Man. Although Untold Tales was published three decades after Spidey’s high school years, the stories were designed to fit in between original Spider-Man adventures and are presented here in the order they are meant to have occurred. Naturally, there are also a few surprise entries along the way. You can also scroll down to the bottom of this page for a cover gallery.
Spider-Man’s story began in August 1962 when Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s final issue of Amazing Fantasy hit the newsstands. The book, which began publication as Amazing Adventures, served as a monthly anthology of sci-fi, fantasy and horror stories. While superhero characters had been around for decades, it was only a few years prior that the Distinguished Competition rebooted The Flash, introducing the Barry Allen version of the Scarlet Speedster in 1956’s Showcase #4. Discovering a growing readership for superhero stories, DC Comics then introduced their iconic superhero team, the Justice League of America, in the pages of 1960’s The Brave and the Bold #28. Marvel responded soon thereafter with the introduction of their own “first family.” When Fantastic Four #1 hit the stands in 1961, what became known as the Silver Age of comic books was fully underway.
Amazing Adventures had, starting with issue 7, been retitled Amazing Adult Fantasy. In fact, the only issue to actually be titled Amazing Fantasy was Spidey’s debut in issue 15.
“A number of our teen-age readers have written to say that it makes them feel a bit awkward to buy a magazine which seems to be written exclusively for older readers,” reads a note from the editor in the original issue.
The origin of Spider-Man (or Spiderman as he’s referred to in his first appearance) has had more than a few alternate takes over the years, but in just eleven pages, Amazing Fantasy introduces timid high school outcast Peter Parker, his Aunt May and Uncle Ben, bully Flash Thompson and, unnamed until the fourth issue of Spidey’s eponymous book, Midtown High beauty queen Liz Allan.
Seemingly despised by everyone in the world except his aunt and uncle (even the adult scientists mock him), Peter Parker pays a visit to an “Experiments in Radio-Activity” demonstration. There, as fate would have it, a spider passes through a radioactive beam and immediately bites the teen, granting him power and abilities far beyond those of mortal men.
Seeking to profit from his abilities, Parker enters a wrestling competition, instantly finding acclaim as a mysterious masked figure. After his first bout with a wrestler by the name of Crusher Hogan, Peter designs the Spidey costume we’re all familiar with and, using his science skills, invents his powerful web shooters. Naturally, they’re a hit and the “Spiderman” immediately becomes a national tv wrestling sensation.
It’s not long, however, before Spider-Man learns the hardest lesson of his life. A few days after he willingly lets a thief escape, Peter comes home to find that his uncle has been shot. Donning his Spider-Man costume, Peter confronts the killer at the docks, discovering that it’s the very same man he let escape.
“And a lean, silent figure slowly fades into the gathering darkness,” reads Amazing Fantasy’s final panel, “Aware that in this world, with great power there must also come — great responsibility! And so a legend is born and a new name is added to the roster of those who make the world of fantasy the most exciting realm of all!”
It would be seven months later that Amazing Fantasy would relaunch as The Amazing Spider-Man, but here’s where we take our first detour. Thirty-three years later, Marvel Comics would return to Spider-Man’s earliest days with a three-issue continuation, written by Kurt Busiek with painted artwork by Paul Lee. Picking up right from where #15 ended, Amazing Fantasy #16, 17 and 18 finds Peter Parker just beginning to learn his place in a rapidly dawning age of marvels.
As Peter watches a popular television program, “It’s Amazing!” Spider-Man’s story is framed against the debut of other ’60’s Marvel heroes. The program reminds us that the Fantastic Four have only been around for a few months (events from the team’s sixth issue are shown as having just occurred) while the Marvel Universe is also beginning to get their first glimpses at the mighty Thor, the incredible Hulk and the X-Men.
One of the central characters in the Amazing Fantasy continuation is Max Shiffman, the talent agent that helped Spider-Man get his big TV break. Down on his luck, Shiffman is desperate to get in touch with Spider-Man, although he has no idea how to do so. Parker, meanwhile, blames his brief television career for Uncle Ben’s death, even during the funeral (which is, sadly, seemingly attended by no one outside of Peter and May).
No sooner is Ben in the ground when Peter Parker comes face to face with a non-superpowered, but nonetheless monstrous foe: a con artist has come to Aunt May with a lie about Ben having ordered some furniture as a surprise. Now, Ben’s “final gift” needs to be paid for. Initially duped and furious that he can’t help May with finances, Peter, as Spider-Man, soon learns not only of the scam but finds that it’s playing out on a massive scale, defrauding innocent widows and widowers all over the city. It’s all the work of an older gentleman in a suit, Conrad Eisenstadt, aka The Undertaker. Spidey makes short work of their base of operations and has soon caught his first gang of thieves!
In issue #17, Spidey meets his first super-powered individual in Joey Pulaski, a sick teen who, after being treated with radiation, developed the power to create psionic force fields, also allowing her the power of flight. Meeting in the middle of the city, Spider-Man and Joey develop an immediate rapport. Joey is so open about who she is that Peter even considers revealing his own identity. It’s not long, however, before their thoughts on morality clash. Joey has started working as a heavy for a mobster revealed to be the Kingpin. Given the choice to either do the same or die, Spider-Man is forced to battle Joey and, as the mobsters escape, Joey winds up getting arrested, deeply hating Spider-Man.
Having done some good in the world, Peter begins to wonder if he’s not wrong in blaming television for Uncle Ben’s death. He finally gets in touch with Shiffman, who immediately lines up an appearance on “It’s Amazing!” (Preempted from the lineup that night is Astronaut John Jameson, causing his father, the Daily Bugle’s J. Jonah Jameson, to fly into his first anti-Spider-Man rage).
Unfortunately, Spidey winds up getting booked alongside another costumed “hero,” Supercharger. Supercharger began his life as the son of a superhero-obsessed scientist. Trying to get powers for himself, the scientist died in an explosion that turned his boy into a living battery, capable of absorb and channel energy. Supercharger doesn’t share his father’s love of superheroes, however, and is furious at their exponential expansion. Although he plans to kill the entire audience of “It’s Amazing!” in the hopes of having the world turn on superheroes, Spider-Man saves the day and ultimately decides that his path as a hero is far more important than becoming a TV celebrity.
In March 1963, The Amazing Spider-Man #1 hit the stands with two different stories featuring the webslinger. In the first, Spider-Man finds himself the target of Jameson’s wrath as The Daily Bugle runs it’s first anti-Spider-Man headline: “SPIDERMAN MENACE”. But even that doesn’t stop Peter from saving the day when technical trouble strikes Jameson’s son’s shuttle launch. If you think that changes J. Jonah’s thoughts on Spider-Man, though, you’ve got another thing coming!
In the second story, “Spider-Man vs. the Chameleon,” Spidey decides that there’s a way to be a superhero and earn a paycheck: join the Fantastic Four! Unfortunately, his display of talent is misconstrued as an attack and Peter winds up doing battle in the Baxter Building only to eventually learn that the FF don’t get a paycheck: every dollar they earn from Reed Richards’ inventions goes to scientific research.
Unfortunately for Peter, his encounter with the Fantastic Four is noticed a by villainous master of disguise, the Chameleon. The Chameleon tricks Spidey into meeting with him so that the webslinger will be blamed for stealing missile defense plans. Spider-Man gets the upper hand, though, and the Chameleon is arrested. Peter is distraught, however, realizing that nothing goes the way he wants it to.
Spider-Man’s first encounter with the Fantastic Four was soon retold (and slightly expanded) a few months later in the pages of the first Fantastic Four Annual.
It’s in Amazing Spider-Man #2 that Spidey has his first “Death Duel with the Vulture.” Later named Adrian Toomes, the Vulture menaced New York City for days before his first encounter with Spider-Man. In fact, it’s the public menace of the aerial thief that makes Peter Parker realize that he can make some money by taking photos as Spider-Man and selling them to Jameson (who, here, is the editor of a publication called “Now Magazine”).
Spider-Man is nearly defeated by the Vulture during their first encounter, left to die inside a water tower. Luckily, Spidey escapes and decides to improve his suit, adding compact webbing cartridges and constructing a device that can nullify the Vulture’s ability to fly. Peter saves a diamond shipment, catches the Vulture and even manages to get some money from J.J.J.!
In the second issue’s second story, “The Uncanny Threat of the Terrible Tinkerer,” Peter Parker is sent by one of his teachers to pick up a repaired radio. It’s at “The Tinkerer Repair Shop” that Peter discovers an alien plot to take over the world! The Tinkerer is hiding monitoring devices in the radios he repairs. After battling with Spider-Man, it turns out that the Tinkerer isn’t even human! The villain and his alien crew leave the Earth, vowing never to return again.
The Amazing Spider-Man #3 introduces one of Spider-Man’s most popular villains as the webslinger clashes with “the strangest foe of all time,” Doctor Octopus! When a laboratory accident fuses a set of robotic tentacles to the body of the brilliant Dr. Otto Octavius, the Daily Bugle calls on Peter Parker to get some photos. Going in a bit cocky, Spider-Man soon finds that he’s no match for Dr. Octopus. Otto instantly defeats the hero and casually tosses him out a window, not even bothering to unmask him.
As Doc Ock takes over a power plant, Peter finds that his new biggest problem is his own insecurities. Obsessing over his loss to Otto, Peter is useless until happenstance leads to Johnny Storm, the FF’s Human Torch, paying a visit to Midtown High. Peter is so motivated by the Johnny’s words that he decides not to give up and, using his science skills, devises a way to stop Octavius and save the day.
It seems that “Nothing Can Stop… The Sandman!” in the pages of The Amazing Spider-Man #4. Escaping a maximum security prison, Flint Marko wound up escaping onto an atomic device testing range. An explosion wound up transforming his body and giving him the ability to turn into and reshape sand at will.
Parker, who has begun to feel the effects of Jameson’s editorial campaign against Spider-Man, finally has a date with Liz Allen. He winds up having to cancel at the last minute, though, because of the Sandman. As it turns out, Marko picks Midtown High as the perfect place to hide. Changing into Spider-Man, Peter battles Sandman in front of his friends, ultimately trapping the con with an industrial vacuum cleaner. Unfortunately for Peter, though, everyone mistook his absence for cowardice and Liz, furious about the cancelled date, would rather go out with Flash Thompson.
Peter makes an interesting moral choice here, too. Because he forgot to film his fight with Sandman, he dresses as Spider-Man and fakes a series of photos that he sells to the Daily Bugle. It’s here, too, that we meet a new series regular with Jameson’s secretary, Betty Brant. Unlike JJJ, she’s got a soft spot for Spidey.
One of nearly a dozen stories included in the second Strange Tales Annual concerns both Spider-Man and the Human Torch. Johnny, jealous that Spider-Man has so much media attention, decides to track down the webslinger when Spidey becomes framed for art theft by a criminal named Reynard Slinker, aka The Fox. Although Spider-Man and the Torch begin by quarreling, they wind up deciding to work together and ultimately bring The Fox to justice.
By The Amazing Spider-Man #5, Spider-Man has become so famous that he’s now “Marked For Destruction By Doctor Doom.” Doom, having continuously failed to defeat the Fantastic Four, decides that he can enlist the aide of the webslinger. Spidey, naturally, refuses to join with Doom, which enrages the supervillain. Coming after Spider-Man, Doom accidentally winds up capturing Flash Thompson, who was dressed in a Spider-Man costume as a gag. Peter rushes to the aide of the high school bully and, facing all sorts of mechanical traps devised by doom, saves the day. Flash is left with a cool story to tell everyone at Midtown High while Peter is able to only grumble to himself.
The Amazing Spider-Man #6 brings Spider-Man “Face to Face with… The Lizard!”. When reports begin of a human lizard terrorizing the Florida everglades, the Daily Bugle challenges Spider-Man to face the creature. Spidey accept, but only on the condition that they fly a photographer to Flordia to photograph the fight. Unfortunately for Peter, Jameson decides to come along on the trip as well.
Down in Florida, Peter decides to speak with a local reptile expert, soon learning that Dr. Curtis Connors and the Lizard are one and the same. In an attempt to regrow his lost arm, Connors subjected himself to experiments that caused him to transform into the evil reptile. With Connors wife and son in danger, Peter is able to administer an antidote to the doctor’s transformation just in time. Peter’s bad luck continues, though, when Jameson decides that the whole Lizard affair was a hoax in the first place and that he’s not going to be running any photographs after all.
Here, the Untold Tales of Spider-Man begin with a story called “To Serve and Protect?” After doing battle with a fire-powered supervillain called The Scorcher, Peter wonders if Spider-Man might not wind up doing the most good by becoming a police officer. He heads to his local precinct and has his first run-in with Captain George Stacy (Gwen’s father). Stacy tells him that the NYPD would be thrilled to make him an officer, but not unless he’s willing to go public with his identity. Unwilling to put Aunt May through that, Peter decides to keep his secret for now and proves his worth by bringing in Scorcher single handed.
Untold Tales continues with a second issue titled “Castles in the Air.” The story begins when a government official is attacked by a flying creature that the media dubs “Batwing.” With a $25,000 reward in place for the capture of Batwing, Peter Parker decides that he’s well suited to claim the money.
It turns out that the Batwing is really a boy named James Santini who, after seeing his father murdered for investigating toxic waste dumping, became lost in Carlsbad Caverns. Drinking from polluted water to survive, the boy began to mutate into a bat/human hybrid. He’s been “attacking” people just to find food to survive. Peter offers to help the creature, but it refuses, flying off into the night. It’s not the last that the Marvel Universe has seen of Batwing, however.
This issue also teases the existence of Sergei Kravinov in the Marvel Universe, mentioned on the Midtown High campus as a famous big game hunter. The famous foe, better known as Kraven the Hunter, won’t make his debut until Amazing Spider-Man #15.
“Castles in the Air” also fleshes the back story of a recurring Untold Tales character, Peter’s Midtown classmate Brian “Tiny” McKeever. Although he at first thought Tiny a bully, Peter discovers that his classmate has an abusive father and ultimately becomes his friend.
Spider-Man has his first recurring villain with The Amazing Spider-Man #7’s “The Return of the Vulture.” When Adrian Toomes manages to escape prison with an improved vulture suit, Spider-Man thinks he’ll be able to defeat him with the same trick as last time. His mistake costs him the full use of his arm and the sling causes Aunt May to worry harder than ever.
It turns out that Toomes isn’t hard to find. Peter runs into winged villain when the Vulture tries to steal The Daily Bugle’s payroll. Spider-Man wins this time, turning the vulture over to the police. He even finds a good excuse to web shut J. Jonah Jameson’s mouth and, as Peter Parker, sneaks back to share a moment with Betty Brant. She confesses to liking him and, while there’s not much of a followup in the pages of Amazing, the next issue of Untold Tales follows up this story with a look at the pair on a date.
“Sand Blasted” not only serves as a followup to “Return of the Vulture” but also to Strange Tales #115. The 1963 issue saw the Human Torch taking on Flint Marko. Now the con has escaped from police custody and is a fugitive from the law. We even get a glimpse at the Avengers of the day on his trail. He’s got it in for Spider-Man, though. After the pair clash, Peter is left badly beaten.
Distraught by his defeat at the hands of the Sandman, Peter manages to ruin his date with Betty. She nevertheless gives him confidence to take on Marko once again and this time defeats Sandman with the help of a massive aerodynamics laboratory turbine.
Peter Parker has a peculiar problem when it comes to “The Terrible Threat of the Living Brain!” Amazing Spider-Man #8 sees our hero’s strange face off with technological threat. An incredible robotic computer (the titular “living brain”) has come to Midtown High with the promise that it can accurately compute the answer to any question. It’s Liz Allan that asks, “What is Spider-Man’s real identity?”
Luckily for Peter, the answer is given in the form of a code that a student is tasked with decoding as homework. Although Peter tries desperately to get the code for himself, Flash Thompson wants to try his hand at decoding it. Their teacher (that’s Professor Raymond Warren, to be-brother of future Spider-foe the Jackal), tells the boys to settle it in a boxing match. (This is the same guy, by the way, who dispatched Peter to a radio repair shop that turned out to have been run by space aliens.)
Peter is scared to hurt Flash in the ring, but eventually knocks him out when Flash is distracted by calls for help. It turns out that some thieves are trying to steal the Living Brain and the robot has gone into rampage mode as a result of their meddling. Changing to Spider-Man, Peter saves the day and even makes people think that Flash might really be Spider-Man. Assigned with decoding the Living Brain’s message, Peter plans to claim he lost the code.
Amazing #8 also featured a backup story, “Spider-Man Tackles the Torch!” In it, Spider-Man decides to crash a party being attended by the Human Torch. The pair battle over who is the superior hero. The fight winds up seeing Spidey face off against the Fantastic Four until Susan Richards, the Invisible Girl, forces both her brother and Spidey to make up.