The Most Important Spider-Man Comic Book of the Last 20 Years


For the Spider-Man Crawlspace, I wrote about my selection for the most important Spider-Man comic book fo the last 20 Years. It would also be my selection for the most important American comic book: Ultimate Spider-Man #1.

Because early issues of ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN sold out, the Ultimate brand had a positive reputation just in time for the debut of ULTIMATE X-MEN. It’s not the only reason that book was a hit, but it definitely made it easier. That helped make Mark Millar’s reputation, helping him with his later creator-owned projects. Millar would take a gamble on THE ULTIMATES, that universe’s version of the Avengers, which would become the basis for the Marvel Cinematic Universe versions of Iron Man and the rest of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. The Ultimate versions of Marvel’s first family would serve as the basis for Josh Trank’s FANTASTIC FOUR film (again, influence isn’t always positive.) The Ultimate Universe is coming to an end fifteen years later, although part of it is that the emphasis on accessibility spread to other Marvel titles, so it doesn’t serve the purpose it once did. At this point, the rest of the Marvel Universe has become more like the Ultimate comics.

These issues had a cinematic style that other comics would soon strive to replicate. This is now the norm in comics, described as writing for the trade, decompressed storytelling, or widescreen comics. The early issue had a manga-esque pace as five pages could be devoted to mood and characterization as Peter Parker has lunch alone in a mall, until Uncle Ben arrives and calls MJ over. There were no thought balloons, or even narration captions, although Bendis would incorporate those in the next issue. The rigid grid structure kept the book easy to follow, helping make this an obvious title to hand someone who hasn’t read a lot of comic books, and might not be able to follow more complicated storytelling.

Every issue of ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN would be collected in trade paperback form, something that changed how Marvel —and soon enough DC—made money, and how readers experienced comics. Marvel would soon hire a writer for AMAZING SPIDER-MAN who had a cinematic style, whose work didn’t depend on readers being familiar with prior continuity, and whose entire run would be collected in trade paperback format. The Brand New Day era would have a shorter storylines, as a response to the sense that comics were written for the trade, although that still suggests the influence of the comic that kicked off the style it was meant to provide an alternative to.

The first issue was 48 pages, but Peter Parker wouldn’t wear the costume until the end of the third issue. Bendis and Bagley were aware that they could have a new spin on one of the most famous superhero origins by exploring it in more depth than ever before, so that when Uncle Ben is murdered—at the end of Issue 4—the readers care.

More at the link.

About Thomas Mets

I’m a comic book fan, wannabe writer, politics buff and New Yorker. I don’t actually follow baseball. In the Estonian language, “Mets” simply means forest, or lousy sports team. You can email me at
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