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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, "Iron Spider", a number of people knowing Peter Parker is Spider-Man/Spider-Man is Peter Parker.
JMS Spider-Man provides examples of:
- And I Must Scream: Charlie's final fate.
- 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.
- 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.
- Canon Dis Continuity: 9/11 issue as it happens in the middle of different story and is never mentioned again.
- Card-Carrying Villain: 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 because of his stupid idea 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Deadpan Snarker: JMS had a good handle on Spider-Man's well-known sense of humor.
- The Dog Bites Back: After Spider-Man defeated Morlun, his servant, Dex, shot him to death as revenge for bad treatment.
- Enemy Mine: Spidey and Octopus during a fight with Carlyle.
Spider-Man: Wait, you are helping me?
- Even Nerds Have Standards: In high school Charlie Whinerman was such big nerd that even Peter once picked on him.
- Eye Scream: "The Other" has Morlun pluck out one of Spidey's eyes and eats it as he beats Spider-Man to close to death. Of course, Spider-Man got better.
- Faux Symbolism: According to John Romita Junior, it was him, who wanted to do the crying Dr. Doom scene (JMS only wanted to put Doom there, the other villains and crying were JR Jr's idea). He also claims that it was only symbolic expression of how he feels about 9/11.
- I'm a Humanitarian: As noted in "Eye Scream," Morlun ate one of Spider-Man's eyes during their second battle. Possessed as the eponymous creature, Spidey then repays this and the beating by eating Morlun's face.
- 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.
- It Got Worse: Thanks to Executive Meddling. With the start of The Other JMS was pretty much forced to write pointless crossover, Civil War tie-ins, then Back in Black, another pointless event made only because Peter got the black costume in the third movie and One More Day.
- 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. It was probably meant to be a Moral Event Horizon, but considering how incredibly cruel were these two towards him, it felt like Laser-Guided Karma instead.
- Maybe Magic Maybe I Love Nuclear Power: Totemic motive 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 he was scared, or because he wanted to pass his 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. He says that a scientist would say that the sun rises in the morning because the Earth spins, while a mystic would say the sun rises because it is meant to, and they're both right.
- Minimalistic Cover Art: Amazing Spider Man #36, which came out in December 2001. It was about the September 11th attacks.
- 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.
- Old Shame: Two. JMS was so ashamed of Sins Past that he wanted to Retcon it out of existence and is so ashamed of being forced to write "One More Day" that he was trying to remove his name from the covers.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Spider-Man delivered one to Dr. 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 villains he was originally destined to defeat.
- Set Right What Once Went Wrong: The way Dormammu was stopped.
- Shout-Out: Upon meeting the Gatekeeper, Spider-Man references Ghostbusters. JMS, of course, worked on The Real Ghostbusters.
- Spin-Off: Doctor Strange: the Oath mini-series - new version of Strange's origin - written by Straczynski can count as one. In the Amazing Spider-Man #500 it's revealed that Stephen's and Peter's Time Travel allowed Baron Mordo to change Strange's history in order to made him easier to defeat.
- Self-Deprecation: First story has two guards arguing that Babylon 5 sucks because you have to watch last season for previous ones to make sense. Later there is annoying director of Lobster Man movie, arguing that being bitten by radioactive lobster is lame origin and ordering writer to change it so main character would be Chosen One of Lobster-God.
- Thematic Rogues Gallery: Lampshaded, when Ezekiel pointed out that Spider-Man has much more animal-themed villains than any other superhero. After few encounters with mystical villains, Ezekiel was trying to use this trope as a proof that Peter's powers are magical though its 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, in Civil War tie-ins Iron Man become a sort of this.
- Tricksters: 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.
- 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.
Morlun: Does this make my butt look big?