First Published: August 1997
Contents: Amazing Spider-Man #21 (February 1965) to #43 (December 1966), and Amazing Spider-Man Annual #2 (1965) and #3 (1966)
Key Creator Credits: Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, John Romita Sr.
Key First Appearances: Princess Python, Spencer Smythe, Spider-Slayer, Mary Jane Watson, Mark Raxton/Molten Man, Harry Osborn, Gwen Stacy, Miles Warren, Norman Osborn, and Aleksei Sytsevich/Rhino
Story Continues From: Essential Spider-Man Vol. 1
Story Continues In: Essential Spider-Man Vol. 3
Overview: The adventures of the Amazing Spider-Man continue in this second Essential volume. Spider-Man was an early breakout star of the Marvel Universe and quickly started making appearances in other books during this era.
Peter Parker graduates high school and enrolls at Empire State University, where he meets a new cast of friends like Harry Osborn, Gwen Stacy, and Professor Miles Warren. New villains such as the Spider-Slayer, the Molten Man, and the Rhino are introduced. Most dramatically, the identity of the Green Goblin is finally revealed as Norman Osborn, the father of his new friend Harry. And who could forget Peter hitting the jackpot when Mary Jane Watson showed up on his doorstep.
What makes this Essential?: One of the best story arcs ever runs from #31 to #33. As Peter begins his college classes, Aunt May is back in the hospital with a mysterious ailment. The doctors determine that May has absorbed a radioactive particle into her blood stream. Peter enlists Dr. Curt Connors to help develop a serum. Before the serum can be delivered to the hospital, it is stolen by the henchmen of Dr. Octopus. Peter must push himself to the limits to overcome obstacles and villains in order to retrieve the serum and get it to the hospital in time. This is the best work that Lee and Ditko did together, and it should be must reading for all Spider-Man fans.
If you like this volume, try: Marvel Visionaries: Stan Lee, which collects assorted from Lee’s legendary career at Marvel. There is nothing that can be written here that hasn’t been said before. I chose this book to highlight because the Essential volume sees the transition from Ditko art to Romita Sr. art. Other artists would come along, but Stan Lee was the writer/editor of Amazing Spider-Man for over 100 issues. Check out some of these other classics by Stan the Man!