Due to strong sales on the character’s first appearance in Amazing Fantasy #15, Spider-Man was given his own ongoing series in March 1963. The initial years of the series, under Lee and Ditko, chronicled Spider-Man’s nascent career with his civilian life as hard-luck yet perpetually good-humored teenager Peter Parker. Peter balanced his career as Spider-Man with his job as a freelance photographer for The Daily Bugle under the bombastic editor-publisher J. Jonah Jameson to support himself and his frail Aunt May. At the same time, Peter dealt with public hostility towards Spider-Man and the antagonism of his classmates Flash Thompson and Liz Allan at Midtown High School, while embarking on a tentative, ill-fated romance with Jameson’s secretary, Betty Brant.
By focusing on Parker’s everyday problems, Lee and Ditko created a groundbreakingly flawed, self-doubting superhero, and the first major teenaged superhero to be a protagonist and not a sidekick. Ditko’s quirky art provided a stark contrast to the more cleanly dynamic stylings of Marvel’s most prominent artist, Jack Kirby, and combined with the humor and pathos of Lee’s writing to lay the foundation for what became an enduring mythos.
An early 1970s Spider-Man story led to the revision of the Comics Code. Previously, the Code forbade the depiction of the use of illegal drugs, even negatively. However, in 1970, the Nixon administration’s Department of Health, Education, and Welfare asked Stan Lee to publish an anti-drug message in one of Marvel’s top-selling titles. Lee chose the top-selling The Amazing Spider-Man; issues #96–98 (May–July 1971) feature a story arc depicting the negative effects of drug use. In the story, Peter Parker’s friend Harry Osborn becomes addicted to pills. When Spider-Man fights the Green Goblin (Norman Osborn, Harry’s father), Spider-Man defeats the Green Goblin, by revealing Harry’s drug addiction. While the story had a clear anti-drug message, the Comics Code Authority refused to issue its seal of approval. Marvel nevertheless published the three issues without the Comics Code Authority’s approval or seal. The issues sold so well that the industry’s self-censorship was undercut and the Code was subsequently revised.
Spider-Man ran for 98 issues from 1990 to 1998. The series was re titled Peter Parker: Spider-Man with issue #75, but only on the covers, the series was still under its original Spider-Man title in the comic’s legal indicia, printed on the title page, from #75 to #98; the comic book would not officially be titled Peter Parker: Spider-Man until the volume 2 series relaunch.
The series originally was conceived as a showcase for Todd McFarlane. McFarlane, who until then had only been known as an artist, was hugely popular at the time and the series was created by editor Jim Salicrup so that McFarlane could pencil, ink, and write a Spider-Man title of his own, starting with the “Torment” storyline.
The series was a massive sales success with over 2.5 million copies printed. McFarlane stayed on the title until issue #16 (November 1991) in which the story was printed in a landscape format. He would go on to create the character Spawn and help found Image Comics in 1992. He was succeeded on the title by Erik Larsen, who had succeeded McFarlane on The Amazing Spider-Man two years earlier, and would later join him in the founding of Image. Larsen wrote and drew the six-issue story arc “Revenge of the Sinister Six” (#18–23). Writer Don McGregor and artist Marshall Rogers crafted a two-part story in issues #27–28 dealing with gun violence.
Originally announced under the title Spider-Man Giant Size, the 1993 series was a quarterly series with double-length stories, which at the time was notable for being printed on glossy stock paper (a practice discontinued in later issues before being adopted by the entire Marvel line in the 2000s). Earlier issues played a part in Spider-Man crossovers; the first issue was the first part of Maximum Carnage and the second issue was the last part of Maximum Carnage. Issues #7-14 formed part of the Clone Saga. Later in the series, the focus shifted to stand-alone stories. Ron Lim penciled the lead story in the first 8 issues of the book. Most of the later issues were written by Christopher Golden and drawn by Joe Bennett.