55 years ago, friendly neighborhood Spider-Man was introduced to the comic world through Amazing Fantasy #15 (August, 1962). Following the success of the issue and the end of the Amazing Fantasy series, The Amazing Spider-Man series made its debut in March of 1963 with its first issue “The Chameleon Strikes!”
Since then, there have been enough comic series and spin-offs of the original Spider-Man to devote an entire Wikipedia page to, not to mention Spider-Man cartoons and movies based on the issues. In other words, tackling the Spider-Man comics can seem like an intimidating feat.
Luckily, there is a way–more than one, in fact–to start the series cold turkey. First things first, let’s get familiar with the two “main” universes Spider-Man is featured in: Earth-616 and Earth-1610 (or Ultimate Universe).
Earth-616, the primary universe for the Spider-Man comics including The Amazing Spider-Man, is our world with a twist. Marvel’s history of Earth-616 tells of a mighty Galactus creating the universe, which becomes home to mysterious God-like beings in its earliest days. Moving along a historical timeline nearly identical to Earth’s, Earth-616 is an almost-parallel universe with identical countries, celebrities, and historical events (with the exception of a few extra countries and organizations).
Earth-1610, or “Ultimate Universe,” was created in 2000 for the series Ultimate Spider-Man, which tells the universally known tale of high school geek, Peter Parker, turned superhero by a radioactive spider bite. The universe has a similar set-up to Earth-616, but maintains less contact with extraterrestrial forces throughout its history.
If the whole two-universe thing confuses you, we have some good news. In 2015, Marvel released a comic book storyline, “Secret Wars,” in which the two universes collide and mutually destruct, creating a single universe for both Spider-Man characters to coexist in. If you’re dying to find out what might happen, here is our list of good places to start the Spider-Man comics, by universe:
The Amazing Spider-Man #1 (1963)
As mentioned above, this issue is the first exclusive Spider-Man comic, which is an obvious start for anyone with plenty of time on their hands. Spider-Man’s character had been introduced a year before the release of the Amazing Spider-Man series in one of the final issues of Amazing Fantasy–an issue that sold more copies than any previous issues.
The Amazing Spider-Man #442 (renumbered as #1 in 1999)
In 1999, Marvel renumbered issues #442 – #449 to #1 – #9 to signal it was a good time for new readers to start the series. As street crime rates ascend in New York City, this issue begins to answer the question: where is Spider-Man? The issues returned to original numbering at issue #450.
The Amazing Spider-Man #546 (2008)
Post-Marvel Civil War, a lot has changed–especially in Peter Parker’s life. The amount of drastic changes that occur before this issue leads many fans to suggest this as a great starting point, as it’s the closest the series ever got to a reboot.
The Superior Spider-Man #1 (2013)
Vol. 1 of The Superior Spider-Man includes issues #698-700, the final issues of The Amazing Spider-Man series (at the time). Following the dramatic events in The Amazing Spider-Man, a mad scientist named Otto Octavius is living in the body of Peter Parker after letting the real Peter Parker die in Otto Octavius’ body. Determined to be a better Spider-Man than Parker and a better man than he once was, this series deals with the line between heroes and villains with this twisted character.
The Amazing Spider-Man #1 Relaunch (2014)
In a dramatic relaunch of The Amazing Spider-Man series, issue #1 is a part of a six-issue story-arc called “Lucky to be Alive,” in which Peter Parker returns as Spider-Man. The series immediately launches into an elaborate mission that involves Spider-Men across every dimension to band together in order to protect their existence. Their leader is Peter Parker, Spider-Man of Earth-616.
Ultimate Spider-Man #1 (2000)
Marvel reimagines the original Spider-Man in a brand new universe with the release of the Ultimate Spider-Man series in 2000. This series tells the familiar story of a teenage nerd, Peter Parker, who is turned into a superhero through a radioactive spider bite–a storyline the popular Spider-Man movie saga is based on and used for inspiration in the recent Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Earth-1610 exists separately from the Earth-616 that The Amazing Spider-Man takes place in while the two comic series was being released simultaneously by Marvel. In 2015, however, the two universes meet destruction–merging the two Spider-Men into a single universe.
All New, All Different Marvel
After the Secret Wars reshaped the Marvel Universe, the two modern Spider-Man comics were born.
Amazing Spider-Man #1 (2015)
This current series follows Earth 616’s Peter Parker in the new Marvel universe. Parker runs a worldwide corporation, Parker Industries, with the help of his “trusty bodyguard” who happens to be…
Spider-Man #1 (2016)
Back in Earth-1610 pre-Secret Wars, the original Peter Parker Spider-Man was replaced by a new Spider-Man, Miles Morales, after his untimely demise. Miles Morales had the similar experience as a high school student randomly bitten by a radioactive spider, and he sees it as his duty to replace Spider-Man.
Flash-forward to the All New, All Different Marvel Universe, where Miles is now serving as the bodyguard to Earth-616’s Peter Parker Spider-Man. This comic takes you on their journeys and allows you to get to know the new Spider-Man’s character.