The character was created by writer-editor Stan Lee and artist and co-plotter Steve Ditko, and the pair produced 38 issues from 1963 to 1966. Since then, many writers and artists have taken over the monthly comic through the years, chronicling the adventures of Marvel's most identifiable hero.
The Amazing Spider-Man is the character's flagship series. Most of the major characters and villains of the Spider-Man saga have been introduced here, and it is where key events occur. The title was published continuously until 1998 when Marvel Comics relaunched it with a new issue #1 (Jan. 1999), but on Spider-Man's 40th anniversary, this new title reverted to using the numbering of the original series, beginning again with issue #500 (Dec. 2003)
By focusing on Parker's everyday problems, Lee and Ditko created a groundbreakingly flawed, self-doubting superhero, and the first major teenaged superhero to be a protagonist and not a sidekick. Ditko's quirky art provided a stark contrast to the more cleanly dynamic stylings of Marvel's most prominent artist, Jack Kirby, and Ditko's Spider-Man, slightly sinister yet affectionately cartoony, combined with the humor and pathos of Lee's writing to lay the foundation for what became an enduring mythos.
Most of Spider-Man's key villains and supporting characters were introduced during this time. Issue #1 (March 1963) featured the first appearances of J. Jonah Jameson and his astronaut son John Jameson, and the supervillain the Chameleon. It also included the hero's first encounter with the superhero team The Fantastic Four. Issue #2 (May 1963) featured the first appearance of The Vulture and the beginning of Parker's freelance photography career at the newspaper The Daily Bugle.
The Lee-Ditko era continued to usher in a significant number of villains and supporting characters, including Doctor Octopus in #3 (July 1963); the Sandman and Betty Brant in #4 (Sept. 1963); the Lizard in #6 (Nov. 1963); Electro in #9 (March 1964); Mysterio in #13 (June 1964); the Green Goblin in #14 (July 1964); Kraven The Hunter in #15 (Aug. 1964); reporter Ned Leeds in #18 (Nov. 1964); the Scorpion in #20 (Jan. 1965); and the Molten Man in #28 (Sept. 1965), an issue that also featured Parker's graduation from high school
Parker began attending Empire State University in #31 (Dec. 1965), the issue which also featured the first appearances of friends and classmates Gwen Stacy and Harry Osborn. Harry's father, Norman Osborn first appeared in #23 (April 1965) as a member of Jameson's country club but is not named nor revealed as Harry's father until #37 (June 1966). Probably the most celebrated issue of the Lee-Ditko run is #33 (Feb. 1966), the third part of the story arc "If This Be My Destiny", and featuring the dramatic scene of Spider-Man, through force of will and thoughts of family, escaping from being pinned by heavy machinery.
Although credited only as artist for most of his run, Ditko would eventually plot the stories as well as draw them, leaving Lee to script the dialogue. However, a rift between Ditko and Lee developed, and the two men were not on speaking terms long before Ditko completed his last issue, The Amazing Spider-Man Amazing Spider-Man 38 (July 1966). The exact reasons for the Ditko-Lee split have been a source of controversy ever since.
In successor penciler John Romita Sr.'s first issue, #39 (Aug. 1966), archnemesis the Green Goblin discovers Spider-Man's secret identity and reveals his own to the captive hero. Romita's Spider-Man – more muscular and heroic-looking than Ditko's – became the model for two decades. The Lee-Romita era saw the introduction of such characters as Daily Bugle managing editor Joseph "Robbie" Robertson in #52 (Sept. 1967) and NYPD Captain George Stacy, father of Parker's girlfriend Gwen Stacy, in #56 (Jan. 1968). The most important supporting character to be introduced during the Romita era was Mary Jane Watson, who made her first full appearance in #42, (Nov. 1966), although she first appeared in #25 (June 1965) with her face obscured and had been mentioned since #15 (Aug. 1964).
Lee and Romita toned down the prevalent sense of antagonism in Parker's world by improving Parker's relationship with the supporting characters and having stories focused as much on the social and college lives of the characters as they did on Spider-Man's adventures. The stories also became more topical, addressing issues such as civil rights, racism, prisoners' rights, the Vietnam War, and political elections.
Issue #50 (June 1967) introduced the highly enduring criminal mastermind the Kingpin, who would become a major force as well in the superhero series Daredevil. Other notable first appearances in the Lee-Romita era include the Rhino in #41 (Oct. 1966), the The Shocker in #46 (March 1967), the Prowler in #78 (Nov. 1969), and the Kingpin's son, Richard Fisk, in #83 (April 1970).
One such story took place in the controversial issues #96-98 (May-July 1971). Writer-editor Lee defied the Comics Code Authority with this story, in which Parker's friend Harry Osborn, was hospitalized after tripping on LSD. Lee wrote this story upon a request from the US Department of Health, Education and Welfare for a story about the dangers of drugs. Citing its dictum against depicting drug use, even in an anti-drug context, the CCA refused to put its seal on these issues. With the approval of Marvel publisher Martin Goodman, Lee had the comics published without the seal. The comics sold well and Marvel won praise for its socially conscious efforts. The CCA subsequently loosened the Code to permit negative depictions of drugs, among other new freedoms.
The "Six-Arm Saga" of #100-102 (Sept.-Nov. 1971) introduced Morbius, the Living Vampire. The second installment was the first Amazing Spider-Man story not written by co-creator Lee, with Roy Thomas taking over writing the book for several months before Stan Lee returned to write #105-110 (Feb.-July 1972). Lee, who was going on to become Marvel Comics' publisher, with Thomas becoming editor-in-chief, then turned writing duties over to 19-year-old wunderkind Gerry Conway, who scripted the series through 1975. Romita penciled Conway's first half-dozen issues, which introduced the gangster Hammerhead in #113 (Oct. 1972). Kane then succeeded Romita as penciler, although Romita would continue inking Kane for a time.
The most memorable work of the Conway/Kane/Romita team was #121-122 (June-July 1973), which featured the death of Gwen Stacy at the hands of The Green Goblin in the story which shocked readers, "The Night Gwen Stacy Died" (#121). Her demise and the Goblin's apparent death one issue later formed a story arc widely considered as the most defining in the history of Spider-Man. The aftermath of the story also deepened both the characterization of Mary Jane Watson and her relationship with Parker.
By late 1973, Gil Kane was succeeded by Ross Andru, whose run lasted nearly 60 issues, from 1973 to 1978. Issue #129 (Feb. 1974) introduced the Punisher, who would become one of Marvel Comics' principal and most widely recognized characters. The Conway-Andru era also featured the first appearances of the Man-Wolf in #124-125 (Sept.-Oct 1973); the near-marriage of Doctor Octopus and Aunt May in #131 (April 1974); Harry Osborn stepping into his father's role as the Green Goblin in #135-137 (Aug.-Oct. 1974); and the original "Clone Saga", containing the introduction of Spider-Man's clone, in #147-149 (Aug.-Oct. 1975).
Archie Goodwin and Gil Kane produced the title's 150th issue (Nov. 1975) before Len Wein became writer for two-and-a-half years.During Wein's tenure, Harry Osborn and Liz Allen dated and became engaged, J. Jonah Jameson was introduced to his eventual second wife, Marla Madison, and Aunt May suffered a heart attack. Wein's last story on Amazing was a five-issue arc in #176-180 (Jan.-May 1978) featuring a third Green Goblin (Harry Osborn’s psychiatrist, Bart Hamilton). Marv Wolfman, Marvel's editor-in-chief from 1975 to 1976, succeeded Wein as writer, and in his first issue, #182 (July 1978), had Parker propose marriage to Watson (who refused, in the following issue). Keith Pollard succeeded Ross Andru as artist shortly afterward, and with Wolfman introduced the likable rogue the Black Cat (Felicia Hardy) in #194 (July 1979). As a love interest for Spider-Man, the Black Cat would go on to be an important supporting character for the better part of the next decade.
The Amazing Spider-Man #200 (Jan. 1980) featured the return and death of the burglar who killed Spider-Man's Uncle Ben. Writer Marv Wolfman and penciler Keith Pollard both left the title by mid-year, succeeded by Dennis O'Neil, a writer known for groundbreaking 1970s work at rival DC Comics, and penciler John Romita, Jr.. Roger Stern, who had written nearly 20 issues of sister title The Spectacular Spider-Man, took over Amazing in late 1981. During his two years on the title, Stern augmented the backgrounds of long-established Spider-Man villains, and with Romita Jr. created the mysterious supervillain the Hobgoblin in #238-239 (March-April 1983). Fans engaged with the mystery of the Hobgoblin's secret identity, which continued throughout #244-245 and 249-251 (Sept.-Oct. 1983 & Feb.-April 1984). One lasting change was the reintroduction of Mary Jane Watson as a much more serious, mature woman who becomes Peter's confidant after she reveals that she knows his secret identity.
By mid-1984, Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz took over scripting and penciling. DeFalco helped establish the maturation in Parker and Watson's relationship, laying the foundation for the character's eventual wedding. Notably, in #257 (Oct. 1984), Watson tells Parker that she knows he is Spider-Man, and in #259 (Dec. 1984), she reveals to Parker the extent of her troubled childhood. Other notable issues of the DeFalco-Frenz era include #252 (May 1984), with the first appearance of Spider-Man's black costume, which the hero would wear almost exclusively for the next four years' worth of comics; the debut of criminal mastermind the Rose, in #253 (June 1984); the revelation in #258 (Nov. 1984) that the black costume is a living being, a symbiote; and the introduction of the female mercenary Silver Sable in #265 (June 1985).
Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz were both removed from Amazing Spider-Man in 1986 by editor Owsley under acrimonious circumstances. A succession of artists including Alan Kupperberg, John Romita, Jr., and Alex Saviuk penciled the book from 1987 to 1988; Owsley wrote the book for the first half of 1987, scripting the five-part "Gang War" story (#284-288) that DeFalco plotted. Former Spectacular Spider-Man writer Peter David scripted #289 (June 1987), which revealed the late Ned Leeds as being the Hobgoblin (although this was retconned in 1996 by Roger Stern into Leeds not being the original Hobgoblin after all).
David Michelinie took over as writer in the next issue, for a story arc in #290-292 (July-Sept. 1987) that led to the marriage of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21. Issue #298 (March 1988) was the first Spider-Man comic to be drawn by future industry star Todd McFarlane, the first regular artist on Amazing Spider-Man since Frenz's departure. McFarlane revolutionized Spider-Man's look. His depiction – large-eyed, with wiry, contorted limbs, and messy, knotted, convoluted webbing – influenced the way virtually all subsequent artists would draw the character. McFarlane's other significant contribution to the Spider-Man canon was the design for what would become one of Spider-Man's most wildly popular antagonists, the supervillain Venom. Issue #299 (April 1988) featured Venom's first appearance (a last-page cameo) before his first full appearance in #300 (May 1988). The latter issue also featured Spider-Man reverting to his original red-and-blue costume.
Other notable issues of the Michelinie-McFarlane era include #312 (Feb. 1989), featuring the Green Goblin vs. the Hobgoblin; and #315-317 (May-July 1989), with the return of Venom. After the editorial and creative turmoil that beset Amazing Spider-Man in 1987, the Michelinie/McFarlane team at the tail-end of the 1980s restored a sense of creative consistency and quality to the book, and set the tone for Spider-Man for the next decade.
Issues #361-363 (April-June 1992) introduced Carnage, a second symbiote nemesis for Spider-Man. The series' 30th-anniversary issue, #365 (Aug. 1992), was a double-sized, hologram-cover issue with the cliffhanger ending of Peter Parker's parents, long thought dead, reappearing alive. It would be close to two years before they were revealed to be impostors, who are killed in #388 (April 1994), scripter Michelinie's last issue. His 1987-1994 stint gave him the second-longest run as writer on the title, behind Stan Lee.
With #389, writer J.M. DeMatteis, whose Spider-Man credits included the 1987 "Kraven's Last Hunt" story arc and a 1991-1993 run on The Spectacular Spider-Man, took over the title. From October 1994 to June 1996, Amazing stopped running stories exclusive to it, and ran installments of multi-part stories that crossed over into all the Spider-Man books. One of the few self-contained stories during this period was in #400 (April 1995), which featured the death of Aunt May — later revealed to have been faked. The "Clone Saga" culminated with the revelation that the Spider-Man who had appeared in the previous 20 years of comics was a clone of the real Spider-Man. This plot twist was massively unpopular with many readers, and was later reversed in the "Revelations" story arc that crossed over the Spider-Man books in late 1996.
The Clone Saga tied into a publishing gap after #406 (Oct. 1995), when the title was temporarily replaced by The Amazing Scarlet Spider #1-2 (Nov.-Dec. 1995), featuring Ben Reilly. The series picked up again with #407 (Jan. 1996), with Tom DeFalco returning as writer. Bagley completed his 5½-year run by September 1996. A succession of artists, including Ron Garney, Steve Skroce, Joe Bennett, and Rafael Kayanan, penciled the book until the final issue, #441 (Nov. 1998), after which Marvel rebooted the title with vol. 2, #1 (Jan. 1999).
While the arrival of J. Michael Straczynski saw the title regain lost readers, Stracynski oversaw additional controversial storylines; most notably his lengthy "Spider-Totem" arc, which raised the controversial issue of whether or not Spider-Man's powers were magic-based, as Spider-Man found himself fighting a string of supernatural based insect villains created by Stracynski. Less controversial was the resurrection of the plot point of Aunt May discovering her nephew was Spider-Man (Amazing Spider-Man #36) and the return of Mary Jane to both the franchise as the couple reunited in Amazing Spider-Man #50. Stracynski also gave Spider-Man a new profession, having Peter Parker land a teaching position at his former high school.
Issue #30 began a dual numbering system, with the original series numbering (#471) returned and placed alongside the volume-two number on the cover. Other longtime, rebooted Marvel Comics titles, including Fantastic Four, were given the dual numbering around this time. In October 2000, John Romita, Jr. succeeded John Byrne as artist. After vol. 2, #58 (Nov. 2003), the title reverted to its original numbering for #500 (Dec. 2003), with vol. 2, #1-58 considered #442-499 of the original run. Mike Deodato, Jr. penciled the book from mid-2004 until 2006.
Due to Iron Man's revoking of security protecting Mary Jane and Aunt May in the wake of Peter's denouncement of Iron Man, the two join Spider-Man on th run. However, the villainous Kingpin of Crime Wilson Fisk orders the Parker family killed, culminating in Aunt May being mortally wounded as a result. This, plus the death of Captain America, causes Parker to retrieve his long-unused black costume to wear (in truth, the costume is resurrected to tie into the release of the third Spider-Man movie, which features the black costume). After discovering that Kingpin gave the order that led to May being shot, he breaks into prison and delivers Kingpin a humiliating beating as a warning to leave his family alone.
One More Day is a four-part, crossover story arc, written partially by J. Michael Straczynski and illustrated by Joe Quesada, running through The Amazing Spider-Man #544-545 (Nov.-Dec. 2007), and Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #24 (Nov. 2007) and Sensational Spider-Man #41 (Dec. 2007), the final issues of those two titles. The demon Mephisto makes a Faustian bargain with Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson-Parker, offering to save Parker's dying Aunt May if the couple will allow their marriage to have never existed, rewriting that portion of their pasts.
This story arc crossover also marked the end of Straczynski's six and a half years run as writer (from 2001-2007) on The Amazing Spider-Man after 75 issues.