First Published: December 1996
Contents: Lead story from Amazing Fantasy #15 (August/September 1962), Amazing Spider-Man #1 (March 1963) to #20 (January 1965), and Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 (1964)
Key Creator Credits: Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
Key First Appearances: Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Aunt May Parker, Uncle Ben Parker, Liz Allen, Flash Thompson, J. Jonah Jameson, John Jameson, Daily Bugle, Chameleon, Vulture, Tinkerer, Dr. Octopus, Sandman, Betty Brant, Dr Curt Connors/Lizard, Martha Connors, Billy Connors, Living Brain, Electro, Big Man/Frederick Foswell, Enforcers (Fancy Dan, Montana, Ox), Mysterio, Green Goblin, Kraven the Hunter, Anna Watson, Ned Leeds, and Scorpion
Story Continues In: Essential Spider-Man Vol. 2
Overview: Peter Parker, a nerdy high school student with few friends, is bitten by a radioactive spider, which gives Peter the proportionate strength and agility of a spider. Peter initially tries to use his new found abilities for profit but learns that with great power must come great responsibility following the death of his beloved Uncle Ben.
These stories follow Peter in his early days as Spider-Man. Peter remains a loner at school, but becomes quite popular as Spider-Man, becoming close friends with the Human Torch of the Fantastic Four. Peter takes a part-time job at the Daily Bugle, where he meets his first love, Betty Brant, and the bombastic publisher J. Jonah Jameson, who’s desire for the newspaper is to take down masked vigilantes like Spider-Man.
Re-occurring story points are introduced in this volume. Spider-Man is unmasked for the first time in public; Aunt May lays in a hospital bed at death’s door, forcing Peter to choose between being available as a loving nephew or to the world as the heroic Spider-Man; and Peter must sell photos of Spider-Man in action to the Daily Bugle, so that they may be used to discredit Spider-Man.
What makes this Essential?: These issues form the foundation for everything that is Spider-Man. For 50 years, thousands of comics have been published featuring the characters created in these 22 issues. I would consider these issues (either in the Essential TPB or the Omnibus edition) a must own for any comic fan.
If you like this volume, try: Untold Tales of Spider-Man by Kurt Busiek and friends. These stories were told in-between panels of the Amazing Spider-Man issues collected in this volume. Guides were provided in the series to show where each issue of UTSM fit in. Marvel has recently collected this entire series in an Omnibus edition.