So you’re new to comics…or you’re new to the Marvel Universe…or you’re new to Spider-Man and you’re thinking to yourself, “Self, I’d like to immerse myself in the amazing world of our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man BUT there’s over sixty years of comic books out there. That’s intimidating! How do I just jump in with decades of characters and continuity?? Where do I even begin?!?” Well you’re in luck. I’m here to help in my new series, “My Comic Advice,” where I’ll outline the best place for any newbie to begin reading a popular comic series. What makes me the person for this job? Well, I’ve loved comics for over thirty years but, more importantly, you are here reading this so it seems like we already have a bond :). That being said…where do you begin reading Spider-Man? Let’s find out!
I felt it was only fitting to begin this series with Peter Parker, the Amazing Spider-Man. I first met him in 1986 when I was three-years-old in Web of Spider-Man #12. Mom bought it for me from one of those spinny racks grocery stores used to have and he’s been my favorite fictional character ever since. But that doesn’t help you.
YOU, as a newbie interested in reading about Spidey, should begin with Nick Spencer’s current run on The Amazing Spider-Man. I’ve given this a lot of thought and, trust me, this is perfect!
As an author, Spencer shines with small, quirky, humor-and-family-driven narratives (yet he can weave a complex, layered crossover too). THAT is exactly what Spider-Man needs! And his Peter Parker/Spider-Man is perfect. To start, he’s funny – quick-witted and quippy. Spider-Man’s humor’s is so important. No matter how dark it gets, he makes us laugh. It’s how he, as a character, manages the stress of a situation and how he helps us, as readers, manage the stress in our lives. So if you’re reading a Spider-Man comic and not laughing, something’s gone wrong. I genuinely laugh out loud when I read this comic – often several times an issue. Peter Parker is just who he should be too; a guy in his late twenties, struggling to pay his bills, trying to balance his social and professional life with superheroing, while still fitting in his education (he’s going back for his PhD). While the movies are obsessed with a high school-age Spider-Man, of the fifty-six years he’s been part of our pop culture, Peter was in high school for three of those years in the comics. So I think it’s essential – to understanding the Spider-Man who has captured the hearts and minds of millions of fans for decades – to read stories with an adult Peter Parker. The overwhelming majority of those who’ve read and fallen in love with Spider-Man have met him after his high school graduation.
Sure, Brian Michael Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man had Peter Parker in high school for longer, up until he died and Miles Morales took his place. But I really think, if you’re a Spider-Man newbie, you want to start with the original Spidey. You don’t want an alternate reality Peter or a clone or a villain controlling his mind or anything like that.
Spencer also knows how to handle the cast of characters who fill Peter’s world. When it’s at its best, The Amazing Spider-Man is an ensemble book. At the time of this writing, we’re only fourteen issues into his run and the book’s cast is already well developed. First, PETER AND MARY JANE ARE DATING AGAIN!!!!! YAY!!!! While it’s anyone’s guess if the relationship will last (again) or if it will end in heartbreak (again), as a newbie, you’ll meet Peter with the defining relationship of his comic career. In addition to Mary Jane’s return, Spencer’s already brought back many familiar faces – from the Black Cat (yay!) to the Kingpin (boo) to the Rhino to the Lizard to J. Jonah Jameson and Robbie Robertson and on and on. The tone of the narrative skillfully balances the light and witty with a stronger emotional core and ethical struggles too. The stories themselves have been goofy and fun, with a larger, sinister mystery building behind the main narrative.
All this is to say THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT A SPIDER-MAN STORY SHOULD BE. As a new fan, Spencer’s run delivers everything people have loved about Spider-Man for years. As a lifelong fan, he takes these familiar elements and presents them in ways that always feel fresh and fun. It’s everything you could want.
The art is fantastic too! The title’s two main artists, who alternate story arcs, are Ryan Ottley and Humberto Ramos. I enjoy Ottley’s work very much (even if his faces can be a bit too angular for me). But Humberto Ramos is one of the greatest surprises I’ve found since returning to comics! He quickly became one of my ALL TIME favorite Spider-Man artists. I love everything he does – from Spidey to Peter and MJ to supervillains to background characters. I love the way he renders this world.
So…why not start with Stan Lee and Steve Ditko? Yes, they created Spidey. But here’s the thing, to start there means you have fifty-six years filled with thousands of comics ahead of you. That is literally the most intimidating possible way to approach this character. And most Spidey fans fell in love with him as an already established character. I know I did. So, yes, go back to Stan Lee…but maybe do it once you’ve decided you love the character and want to see his roots. I think, if you’re new to the genre and/or character, you’d like more modern stories too. The Silver Age of comics was great…but 1962 isn’t as relatable or gripping for a newbie.
So…why not start with Dan Slott? Yes, he finished an iconic run on The Amazing Spider-Man, writing more Spidey stories than any author save Brian Michael Bendis. But that’s just it. I think it’s too much. I was intimidated to jump into the middle of his run. I love how daring Dan Slott was – the epic Spider-Verse crossover, having Peter run the multimillion dollar company Parker Industries, making Spider-Man an international hero, putting Doc Ock in control of Peter’s body for years, bringing EVERY CHARACTER EVER back to life, etc.. Those are all exciting stories…but they aren’t classic. I think Dan Slott will always, rightly, be remembered as one of Spider-Man’s greatest scribes. But I don’t think he’s the place for a newbie.
Lastly, whether you want to read The Amazing Spider-Man just in trade paperback form (volumes usually collecting four-to-six single issues) or start reading the single issues month-to-month, Nick Spencer’s run easily lends itself to either approach as it’s still at its beginning. His The Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1: Back to Basics and The Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 2: Friends and Foes are already out with The Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 3: Lifetime Achievement to be released on 14 May 2019 and The Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 4 to come out on 16 July 2019. As the name of the first trade – Back to Basics – implies, Spencer begins his run with a story designed to welcome newbies as well as lifelong fans.
Now that you’re ready to read The Amazing Spider-Man, where do you find comic books in either single issues or in collected trades? Well, I’d suggest – for the full experience – you check out your local comic shop. They are the best! They’re usually independent book sellers with knowledgeable staff and a great atmosphere. And if you don’t know where one is near you, you can click here to find it. If the chains are easier, Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million both have solid trade paperback/graphic novel sections. Of course there’s Amazon but, while they may be cheap, they aren’t always the most ethical of choices. Or, if you prefer the digital route, you can use Marvel Unlimited. For $5.83 a month, it gives you access to titles Marvel’s published as recently as six months ago and stretches back to Fantastic Four #1 from 1961 with more titles added monthly. And of course you can check out your local library! While a library’s selection of comics won’t necessarily guarantee you can find these trades specifically, you’ll never know until you look! And there are inter library loans and you’re supporting an essential local service so you should feel good about yourself, just like when you go to a brick and mortar store!
So what do you think? Are you ready to dive in?!? Are you read to start reading The Amazing Spider-Man for yourself?? Whether you came here because you fell in love with Into the Spider-Verse or you’re in love with Tom Holland in the MCU or your bestie has always loved Spider-Man and you just want to be able to talk with them about the webhead…I believe in you! Pick this comic up and just start reading. I know you’re going to love it. So treat yourself and just start reading! Trust me, you’ve got this ;).
What are you waiting for? It’s time to get to reading! Enjoy :). Oh, also, if there are any characters you’re interested in seeing featured in future versions of this series, please feel free to comment below! I’ve got lots of ideas but if there’s someone you’ve been dying to start reading but you don’t know where to begin, feel free to put my nerd knowledge to the test for you. I’m always happy to help.