The Comic Book Inspirations For The Spider-Man Films

Find out where the blockbusters came from

If nothing else, the recent renaissance in comic book films will at least convince some folks that the source material is worth a look. The funnybook industry has been shrinking since almost its inception, but now that their big-screen adaptations are dominating the box office, there's got to a be a few cinema-goers curious about where they came from, right?

And considering a lot of the time the movies are drawing straight from the original stuff, you can make a pretty easy transition from watching to reading – and find yourself with decades worth of material to get on with. If Spider-Man's your guy, having seen him zipping around fighting bad guys on the silver screen, here are some suggestions about where to start with his comics to make that transition all the smoother.

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If You Liked Spider-Man...

amazing fantasy 15 spider man end
The tragic finale. Marvel Comics

Amazing Fantasy #15, Amazing Spider-Man #39-40

Sam Raimi's Spider-Man films were contemporary, but had a very old-fashioned sensiblity to them. That's partly down to the director, who rarely lets a film go by without sticking some Three Stooges gags in, and partly because his take on the character was drawn very much from the early Spidey comics – transplanting them into a modern context. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it got a bit cheesy.

That means that you can just jump right into the classic era of Spider-Man comics, which is a veritable treasure trove. The most direct inspirations on Raimi's first film were Amazing Fantasy #15 – which tells Peter Parker's superhero origin story in something like a dozen pages – and the two-parter “How Green Was My Goblin?”/”Spidey Saves The Day!” – where the Norman Osborn/Goblin vs Peter Parker/Spidey conflict gets played up for the first time.

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If You Liked Spider-Man 2...

ultimate spider man doctor octopus mark bagley
Marvel Comics

Ultimate Spider-Man #14-21

Otto Octavius is a truly tragic figure in the hands of a master character actor like Alfred Molina. In the comics, he has a similarly precipitous fall from grace, but he's also a chubby guy with a Beatles mop top in a orange-and-green spandex. It's hard to be sympathetic to somebody who looks so ridiculous. So in this case, I'm going to recommend the Ultimate Spider-Man incarnation of Doctor Octopus's origin as a nice companion piece to Spider-Man 2.

The “Ultimate” line of comics involved updating classic Marvel superhero stories to the modern day, and Ultimate Spider-Man was the cream of the crop. Spread out over seven issues instead of squeezing it all into one (as they did in the olden days), this new take on Doc Ock is visceral, dramatic and enthralling...with the added bonus of Parker high school shenanigans, the introduction of Gwen Stacy and the double threat of Kraven the Hunter prowling around for Spidey, too.

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If You Liked Spider-Man 3...

amazing spider man 300 venom todd macfarlane
Marvel Comics

The Amazing Spider-Man #300

Wow, you watched this film and you actually want more Spider-Man as a result? You're a braver man than I, Gunga Din. Well, considering that Spider-Man 3 hasn't much of a central focus and a lot of classic Spidey vs Goblin material has been covered already, let's say that you really dug Venom. He's a cool character, right? The voice, the design, the prehensile tongue – all pretty rad. In that case, your best bet is to check out his first proper appearance in The Amazing Spider-Man #300.

With the hyper-kinetic artwork of Todd Macfarlane rocketing it along, you get the origin story of Eddie Brock's psychotically violent supervillain along with his first major clash with arch nemesis Spider-Man. It's a classic for a reason. If you want more of Venom solo, the 1993 miniseries Venom: Lethal Protector sees him becoming a vigilante in San Francisco – because despite his hate for Spidey, Venom's actually more of an anti-hero...

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If You Liked The Amazing Spider-Man...

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Marvel Comics

Spider-Man: Blue #1-4

The Lizard is a great Spider-Man villain, yet stories featuring him in the comic don't quite align with the tone of 2012's The Amazing Spider-Man. They're either too dated, too goofy, or too gory; the most recent arc featuring him as primary antagonist, “Shed”, is particularly gruesome. So you can check those out if you want, but the main draw of the rebooted Spidey films was the pairing of Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone as the star-crossed Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy, right?

Everybody knows how that story ends, but for a particularly lyrical, romantic retelling of their doomed courtship Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale's Spider-Man: Blue is peerless. All the chemistry and drama of the on-screen coupling is fleshed out even more, here, and there's some gorgeous recreations of classic battles from the sixties comic books. Essential.

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If You Liked The Amazing Spider-Man 2...

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Marvel Comics

The Spectacular Spider-Man #180-200

Having learned nothing from Spider-Man 3, Marc Webb's second Spidey flick was an over-stuffed turkey: there's Peter and Gwen drama of the most fatal, Harry Osborn's conflict with his father seguing into his becoming the Green Goblin, plus the introduction of The Rhino and Electro. The latter pair haven't a whole lot of great, iconic storylines of their own, so the onus here is on Harry.

If you liked the fall from grace and the tragedy of former BFFs duking it out as super-beings, the younger Osborn's denouement is even more heartbreaking. Sure, it's twenty issues, but twenty issues of brilliantly-told superhero melodrama as a previously amnesiac Harry recovers his memories of being the Goblin and launches an all-out assault on his best friend that threatens to tear his new-found family apart.

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