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Comic Book / The Amazing Spider-Man (J. Michael Straczynski)

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Spider-Man, created in the Silver Age by Stan Lee has been written by various writers over the years. One of them was J. Michael Straczynski, who wrote over seventy issues of our favorite wall-crawler's adventures. His run was one of the most acclaimed by critics, controversial among fans and... screwed by Executive Meddling in the history of Marvel Comics publishing, despite the fact that Joe Quesada promised JMS very large creative freedom at the beginning.

This run, along with Ultimate Spider-Man, helped remake Spider-Man into one of the flagship characters of Marvel Comics in the early 2000s after the confusing and turbulent storylines of the mid-to-late '90s. Until confusing and turbulent storylines overtook the title again... Roughly about half of the complete run was a retool of the traditional Spider-Man mythos and character dynamics, the other half being ever more outlandish crossover events between other titles, and gigantic wrestling matches between "new and edgy" plot developments and the status quo of earlier.

Notable concepts brought about during the JMS run include: Spider-Man's (and many of his rogues') animal motif having potential supernatural origins, Spider-Man as a permanent and visible member of the Avengers (really a case of Brian Michael Bendis' New Avengers title bleeding over), organic web-shooters (to link up with the Sam Raimi films), "Iron Spider", and the public reveal of Spider-Man being Peter Parker.

Followed by One More Day and Brand New Day. Elements of this run also featured throughout The Amazing Spider-Man (Nick Spencer). Also in 2002, JMS and the team won an Eisner Award for Best Serialised Story in honour of #30-35, “Coming Home”.

JMS' Spider-Man provides examples of following tropes:

  • Age-Gap Romance: The forty-something Norman Osborn with the fresh out of high school Gwen Stacy in Sins Past.
  • And I Must Scream: Charlie's fate, although another writer eventually freed him.
  • Animal-Themed Superbeing: One of the more notable additions to JMS' Spider-Man is the addition of possible supernatural influences on the very odd coincidence that Spidey and a lot of his enemies are themed after animals.
  • Author Tract: Mostly well-handled as JMS made Peter a teacher, which allowed him to introduce many social problems he wanted to talk about. Not so good during the Civil War, through. Well, the Civil War in general was full of confused Aesops, but Captain America quoting Mark Twain's "river of truth" speech to Spidey is undeniably awesome.
  • Awful Truth: In Sins Past, Gwen Stacy had an affair with Peter Parker's nemesis Norman Osborn (the Green Goblin) and gave birth to twins prior to her death. It's this revelation that hurts Peter.
  • Bad Future: During time travel Peter saw one when his future self has been prosecuted by police (strongly hinting that he killed somebody) and shot to the death, while fighting policemen.
  • Betty and Veronica: Peter was this to Norman Osborn's Veronica over Gwen Stacy's Archie during the Sins Past storyline.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: In JMS' opinion, the entire reason Peter received his powers.
    Spider Totem: Who could be a better hunter then one who had been prey? Someone who would be driven to fight back against the dark forces sent by the world, who would never stop, even though they were bigger and more and perhaps even stronger than he was. Because once having been prey, he would never allow himself to become such again. Would never surrender. Would take death before submission.
  • Canon Discontinuity: The 9/11 issue, as it happens in the middle of a different story and is never mentioned again. Justified in that Marvel wanted to address the disaster, and for obvious reasons could not have planned the issue to fit into the current storyline.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Morwen, goddess of chaos. She actually wanted to ally herself with Peter, rather than Loki, because the former has chaotic character, while the latter wants to control others.
  • Character Development: All Parkers got a lot of it. Peter and Mary Jane got big amount of it with getting back together, Aunt May got a lot when she found out Peter is Spider-Man... and Joe Quesada removed all of it to make One More Day.
  • Characterization Marches On: JMS based his version of Aunt May on the more intelligent, sensible May glimpsed in stories by writers like Roger Stern and J.M. De Matteis, along with the fiery May seen in the Ultimate title. He also quietly let the "goofy old gal" characterization brought back by the Byrne run lapse into the past.
  • Combat Cue Stick: During the Other story arc, Mary-Jane uses a pool cue to fight off a Loony Fan who had been stalking her.
  • Cool Old Guy: Ezekiel. Right after they meet, Peter compares him to Uncle Ben.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Luke Carlyle seems to be a little of a deconstruction as he found out that being one is too much effort and trouble and decided that becoming a typical supervillain is much easier.
  • Corrupt the Cutie: Digger was trying to convince Spider-Man that gangster he was protecting is trying to do this to him. Spidey, fortunately, is in a completely different mindset.
    Spider-Man: Spider.
  • Crazy-Prepared: It's a bit of something superheroes don't talk about amongst each other, but apparently every time they meet up, most of them look for weaknesses the other has in case they would ever turn evil or something like that and have to be stopped.
  • Crystal-Ball Scheduling: One issue has Peter visiting the set of an upcoming Amazing Lobster-Man movie. Parts of the movie reflect his life even in aspects that the filmmakers presumably couldn't have known about, such as the movie's hero getting his powers after being bitten by a radioactive lobster — and even more so when it's changed to him getting his powers from being The Chosen One of a Lobster-God, reflecting the change JMS had just made to Spidey's own origin.
  • Daddy DNA Test: In Sins Past, Peter knows he's not the father of twins Gabriel and Sarah Stacy but tests his blood sample with the twins blood sample to find out for sure. Justified, since he and Gwen haven't even slept together prior to the twins conception and this leads to him to discovering that Gwen cheated on him and Mary Jane confirming his worst.
  • A Deadly Affair: In Sins Past, Gwen Stacy had an affair with Norman Osborn, Peter's worst nemesis. She regretted it, gave birth to twins and planned on raising the twins with Peter. It was this that caused the Green Goblin to snap and kill her.
  • Deadpan Snarker: JMS had a good handle on Spider-Man's well-known sense of humor.
  • Doing in the Scientist: Ezekiel tries to do this by suggesting it wasn't the radiation that gave Peter his powers, but a totemic spider-god called the Great Weaver.
  • The Dog Bites Back: After Spider-Man defeated Morlun the first time, his servant, Dex, shot him to death as revenge for bad treatment.
  • Embarrassing Cover Up: A purely accidental one had kept Aunt May from guessing Peter's real secret — she'd had the feeling that he was hiding something, and noticed that he seemed to be a bit awkward around girls, so she thought that he might be gay.
  • Enemy Mine: Spidey and Octopus during a fight with Carlyle.
    Spider-Man: Wait, you are helping me?
    Dr. Octopus: No. Hurting him.
  • Even Nerds Have Standards: In high school Charlie Weiderman was such a big nerd that even Peter once picked on him (though motivated largely by a desire to keep his bullies' attention focused on their new target and away from him for once).
  • Evil Counterpart: Ezekiel is essentially this. Whereas Spider-Man used his powers to help others and fight evil, he rejected his task and used his powers for selfish purposes. Ultimately he realizes this and sacrifices himself to save Spider-Man.
    • Charlie Weiderman is what Peter might have become if he hadn't had Uncle Ben and Aunt May. Both were highly intelligent but physically unimpressive kids who were bullied a lot, and both dreamed of one day getting back at their tormentors. But Peter had strong moral guidance from his parental figures to instill in him his sense of responsibility; while Charlie had little support from parents who were implied to be uninvolved and sometimes abusive, and always fell back on blaming others for his problems and actions, which persisted into adulthood.
  • Eye Scream: "The Other" has Morlun pluck out one of Spidey's eyes and eat it as he beats Spider-Man to close to death. Of course, Spider-Man got better.
  • Fan Disservice: The love scene flashback with Gwen Stacy and Norman Osborn in Sins Past. Especially when he morphs into the Green Goblin right in the middle of the act.
  • Heel Realization: Ezekiel when he tries to sacrifice Spider-Man to save himself.
  • Happily Adopted: In Sins Past, Gwen Stacy was hoping to raise her twins with Peter, knowing that he'll be a good adoptive father to them and better than Norman. This motivation gets her killed by Norman Osborn.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Ezekiel.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: As noted in Eye Scream, Morlun ate one of Spider-Man's eyes during their second battle. Possessed by the Other, Spidey then repays this and the beating by eating Morlun's face.
  • Guile Hero: Spidey is not averse to defeating his opponents with traps and science-y stuff. When he needs to throw down though, he can.
  • Heinousness Retcon: Norman Osborn killing Gwen Stacy just to hurt Spider-Man was bad enough but Sins Past retcons the reason behind this action to being even more heinous. It is revealed that Norman had an affair with Gwen Stacy while both were in emotional turmoil - Gwen due to her father's death and Norman because of Harry nearly dying from a drug overdose. This affair resulted in Gwen giving birth to twins which aged faster than normal due to a mutation in the DNA they'd inherited from Norman. After killing Gwen, Norman found the twins, raised them as assassins, and poisoned their minds against Spider-Man making them believe he'd killed their mother.
  • Last Stand: Peter witnesses an alternate self make a last stand against the police in a Bad Future.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: Spider-Man in his final battle with Morlun. He was perfectly skilled before, but there he finally drops the jokes to focus on teaching Morlun a lesson.
  • Implacable Man: Morlun — he's basically Spidey's Pyramid Head in the first story.
    Spider-Man: I hit him with everything I've got. He keeps coming. I hit him with everything I can find. He keeps coming.
  • Kick The Son Of A Bitch: The first act of Charlie Weiderman as a supervillain is to kill the Jerk Jock and Alpha Bitch who tormented him back at school. While they certainly didn't deserve to be murdered, it's hard to feel sorry for them.
  • Love Father, Love Son: In Sins Past, Gwen Stacy narrates how she used to date her old boyfriend Harry Osborn. Then, she had an affair with his father Norman Osborn.
    • Peter was in love with the late Gwen Stacy, then starts to develop feelings for her look-alike daughter Sarah in Sins Past and Sins Remembered.
  • Love Triangle: Peter/Gwen/Norman in Sins Past.
    • Mary Jane/Peter/Sarah in Sins Remembered.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Radiation-Induced Superpowers: The totemic motif is written in a way that allows fans to choose their favorite from multiple interpretations of how Peter got his powers. Was it all a Red Herring and his powers are caused by radioactivity? Is Peter a Chosen One of Anansi? And if he is, do his powers come from magic or is he the first one that got them from science? Did the spider bite him because it was scared, or because it wanted to pass its power on to a human before dying from radiation? Or maybe it was Ezekiel who was the Chosen One and because he refused the call, all his duties and status passed on Peter? And if so, did Anansi give him the power or are they two completely unrelated incidents and Peter could become the Chosen One because of already having the necessary personality and powers? You decide. The end of that story arc has Peter discussing this issue with a South American shaman, who answers that none of these possibilities are mutually exclusive.
    Tomorrow the sun will come up. You can tell me all the reasons of science that it does come up, the orbital mechanics, all the laws of thermodynamics. And I can say it will come up because it is meant to come up. I see no contradiction. Do you?
  • Minimalistic Cover Art: The cover for Amazing Spider Man #36 is completely black, with white lettering and no artwork. It was about the September 11th attacks.
  • Mob-Boss Suit Fitting: Used for humor. Morlun is introduced with grim foreshadowing in the captions — while he's getting fitted for a suit and wondering if it makes his butt look big.
  • Moment Killer: In #50, Peter and MJ finally attempt to reconcile despite complications like attempting to fly to each others' homes at the same time without calling first. Luckily, they bump into each other after a storm forces both their flights to make an emergency stop in Denver. It's all very dramatic and emotional, and just as they sit down to talk, Peter finds himself utterly speechless with a Deer in the Headlights expression on his face despite MJ questioning the life of a superhero's significant other... because GOD-DAMNED DOCTOR DOOM JUST WALKED INTO THE LOUNGE. Which of course precedes an attempt on the dictator's life.
  • Muggle in Mage Custody: The supernatural creature Morlun enslaves ordinary humans, making them do his bidding and take care of mundane arrangements for him, in a similar fashion as Renfield did for Dracula. His latest human is a mysterious man called Dex who manages to break free thanks to Spidey.
  • Myth Arc: invoked The search for answers about Spider-Man's powers, the "Spider-Totem", and the battle against Morlun. Sadly Executive Meddling resulted in the whole idea being screwed. At least until Arana/Spider-Girl's comic series tied into it, with the titular character working for a company founded by Ezekiel Sims and joining a cult worshipping the Spider-Totems, and Spider-Island brought back the Queen and Web of Life. It's come back with a vengeance in Spider-Verse, where Morlun's family and the Spider-Totems are central parts of the story.
  • Mythology Gag: During the story "Skin Deep," Peter heads to theater that Mary Jane is rehearsing a play for to warn her that she could be under attack, only to be kept out by an usher while the rehearsal is still going on, similar to a scene where Peter wasn't allowed into a play after it had started in Spider-Man 2 . As a bonus, the usher is drawn to look like Bruce Campbell.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: When Reed Richards used his device to stop Mindless Ones, he allowed Dormamu to escape from his prison.
  • Nobody Poops: Averted, first thing Peter does coming back home after defeating Morlun is go to the bathroom. In another story we see him coming out of the bathroom pulling his pants on.
  • One-Winged Angel: When Morlun goes to Stark Tower to finish Peter off and breaks Mary Jane's arm when she tries to stop him, Peter wakes up, partially transforms into Man-Spider, and kills him.
  • Parting-Words Regret: May reveals that the night Ben was killed, the two of them had been fighting - something small and inconsequential, just one of the disagreements that happen over the course of a long marriage and nothing they weren't going to easily make up over. But Ben had stepped outside to clear his head...and the reconciliation would never happen. Peter, she explains, isn't the only one who's been carrying guilt since that fateful night.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Spider-Man delivered one to Doctor Doom. Doom responds by saying that Spidey still lives only because Doom owes him his life.
  • Refusal of the Call: Because Ezekiel refused the call, Peter has to fight with all the supernatural villains he was originally destined to defeat.
  • Self-Deprecation: One issue has two guards arguing that Babylon 5 sucks because you have to watch the last season for the previous ones to make sense.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong: The way Dormammu was stopped.
  • Shout-Out: Upon meeting the Gatekeeper, Spider-Man references Ghostbusters (1984). JMS, of course, worked on The Real Ghostbusters.
  • Surprise Pregnancy: In Sins Past, Gwen Stacy discovers she's pregnant from her affair with Norman Osborn and gives birth to twins 4 months early.
  • Survival Mantra: When Spidey faces off a few enemies who have proven to be far stronger than he is, he reminds himself that while he is a man, he is also part spider, and spiders are hunters.
  • Thematic Rogues Gallery: Lampshaded, when Ezekiel pointed out that Spider-Man has many more animal-themed villains than any other superhero. After a few encounters with mystical villains, Ezekiel was trying to use this trope as a proof that Peter's powers are magical though it's implied at least some of those mystical enemies were actually after Ezekiel himself.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Spidey was very close to breaking this rule twice, with Morlun and Shathra both times he was spared from making the choice, because somebody or something else killed them. He actually killed Digger, but he was a zombie, so it doesn't count.
  • Treacherous Advisor: Ezekiel definitely plays this role. In Civil War tie-ins, Iron Man tends that way too.
  • The Trickster: JMS pointed out in one story that both Spider-Man and Loki are different examples of tricksters and explored differences between them. Particularly since the Totem story arc set Peter up as a kind of successor to Anansi, the spider trickster from African Mythology. Hence the parallel to Loki, the Norse trickster.
  • Troubled, but Cute: In Sins Past, Gwen Stacy narrates how she fell for Norman Osborn and had an affair with him because she felt there was another side to him that was broken and troubled and she felt sorry for him.
  • Villains Out Shopping: When Ezekiel tells Peter about Morlun, he talks about what "dark rituals" he's probably using to get ready. We cut to Morlun getting a new suit for two panels.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Two. New Digger has a little bit of it, being shocked by how much the world changed when he was dead. Charlie Weiderman is second.

Alternative Title(s): JMS Spider Man, Spider Man J Michael Straczynski